China seeks integration, US seeks military expansion

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/8 23:48:39

The Pentagon has backed a proposal to beef up the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years by investing some $8 billion to upgrade its military infrastructure, conduct additional exercises and deploy more forces and ships to the region, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The move signals "US commitment to the region as Washington confronts an increasingly tenuous situation on the Korean peninsula," noted the report.

Yet the timing of the decision, which comes right before the opening of the Belt and Road (B&R) Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, indicates that the US appetite for maintaining its dominance in the Asia-Pacific as well as containing China remains very strong.

Nevertheless, the planning may turn out to be a thankless task. Despite having little cash to splash, Washington, whose budget deficit is expected to be $559 billion in fiscal year 2017, fails to grasp what the Asia-Pacific region is yearning for.

According to media reports, the emerging economies in East and Southeast Asia, which accounted for around 10 percent of global trade in 1985, constitute 25 percent of total global trade and 21 percent of world GDP now.

But Washington has been playing a declining role amid the region's rapid growth over the past years. The EU, Japan and the US, which used to account for 50 percent of the area's total exports in 1990, takes up only 29 percent nowadays.

Previously, most nations in the Asia-Pacific region tended to live under a US security umbrella. Yet today, development, wealth, prosperity and infrastructure are of equal significance to security and a US military presence cannot provide them with such global public goods.

That is why China, with cheap loans, low tax rates and infrastructure programs which promote joint development in the region, including the B&R initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, is attractive to other regional economies. It is the way China emerges as well as the reason why US containment will end up going nowhere.

The US proposal to spend added billions on the military in Asia is called the "Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative." Speaking of stability, the White House needs to wake up to the fact that the term is not purely equal to military power in the present age.

Washington is welcomed to make contributions to stability in Asia by meeting the demands of the region through investing more in local infrastructure, but containing Beijing should not be a part of this effort. The future security pattern in the region is supposed to be established upon cooperation between China and the US, not antagonism.

It is hoped that the White House and the Pentagon could pay some attention to the upcoming B&R forum and what opportunities it can bring to Washington.

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