US stirring trouble in SE Asia with security investment

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/7 20:08:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged Saturday on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore that Washington will provide about $300 million in new security funding for the Indo-Pacific region. He said the money will be used to strengthen maritime security, develop humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping capabilities and counter "transnational threats."

Earlier last week, the US also announced to invest $113 million in technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region. But Washington itself is too embarrassed to say that the small sum is a challenge to China's economic investment plan. Compared with the huge demand of emerging Asian economies, the $113 million is a drop in the bucket. According to the plan, about $30 million will be spent on infrastructure. If all the $30 million is used to build roads, the highway will not be longer than 10 kilometers.

When it comes to investing in security in the Asia-Pacific region, the US is more generous. In the meantime, the new investment triggered speculation about Washington's strategic intentions, especially because the White House's China policy is getting increasingly tough. As a result, some analysts think the investment is another option to counter China's rise.

Washington has three purposes. First, continuing to fan regional conflicts, goading countries in the region to counterbalance Beijing's influence as a form of strategic subterfuge for the US to keep its presence in the Asia-Pacific. Second, boosting US arms sales by strengthening defense cooperation. Third, consolidating US dominance in the region, especially in military security.

Emerging Asian economies welcome more US investment for regional development and construction. For a long time, Washington's investment in the region has lagged major powers in the region such as China and Japan. This is inconsistent with the US' status.

China has become a main driving force for Asia's development. The Beijing-led Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is an open platform to promote the formulation of a new regional development chain. Infrastructure construction projects under BRI will also benefit the development of US companies in the region. However, development can only be achieved if there is peace.

US strategy obviously runs counter to the common needs of the region. If the regional security architecture crystallizes toward the goal of containing China, the entire region will be once again caught up in deep divisions like during the Cold War. Interactions and industrial chains between Asian nations and China will be destroyed.

China's reform and opening-up over the past 40 years has fundamentally changed relations between ASEAN and Beijing. China has become the largest trading partner of almost all ASEAN members. For the moment, Southeast Asian countries are more concerned about the negative impact of the US-launched trade war against China, rather than how much Washington would invest in them.

The US is hoping to gain more benefits from Asia by investing more there. However, if the US refuses to let down its guard against China and tries to contain it, its hegemonic image will take a beating, because any attempt to block the Chinese economic network will disrupt the entire development chain of Asia.

The situation in Asia today is fundamentally different from that during the Cold War. China never wished to make an enemy of Washington. No force can stop the emergence of China. The country has accumulated enough energy for development as well as a firm determination to keep reform and opening-up. It will promote collaboration and stability in Asia and its periphery at its own pace. Beijing has no time to give the US company in playing this game which might lead to loss on both sides.

Washington may be consumed by extreme mania caused due to strategic anxiety about China and it can only find the right cure in its own medicine chest.

The article is an editorial of the Chinese edition of the Global Times Tuesday.

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