US, Australia step up warnings on China’s influence

By Liu Caiyu and Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/21 21:48:39

US, Australia step up warnings on Beijing’s influence

Hyping the China threat only shows the West's anxiety over preserving their global power status, as their influence in Southeast Asia is waning, said Chinese experts.

The US is expected to discuss with visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Washington its recent assessment of China, which states that China is a threat to the sovereignty of Australia's regional neighbors, The Australian reported Wednesday. 

A newly released US intelligence assessment of regional threats facing the US this year states openly for the first time that Chinese political and economic coercion is directly undermining the sovereignty of nations in Southeast Asia, including Australia's, the report said. 

"China's economic influence on South Asian nations is naturally growing following the country's development. It is unstoppable. But it is also a result of the 'America First' policy, proposed by President Donald Trump, which reduces its global influence," Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese economic and diplomatic coercion," states the US intelligence community's Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2018.

The issue is likely to be brought up at Turnbull's private lunch with the US Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats in Washington this week.

Their concern reflects that the influence of the US and its allies in Southeast Asia is waning. Many countries in the region have realized that they have to be independent to achieve modernization, so now they refuse to obey the West as they did before. This is not because of China, but because of the arrogance of the West, said Xu Liping, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China's cooperation with the countries in the region is based on real benefit, economic interest and mutual respect rather than ideology, and China's neighbors are voluntarily learning from China's experiences rather than China forcing anyone to copy its model, Xu said.

"So the US and Australia have to be aware that for other countries in the region, China's growing influence is not a threat, but an opportunity. Hyping the 'China threat theory' is useless, meaningless and groundless," Xu said.

It is traditional US philosophy to enlarge nonexistent facts and put pressure on themselves, Liu said, adding it might help to create external conditions for US politicians to adjust polices domestically and provide more leverage in diplomatic relations.

Maintaining global power

A report from The Australian Financial Review said Australia is discussing with the US, India and Japan the establishment of a joint regional infrastructure scheme to rival the Belt and Road initiative.

The report, citing an anonymous senior US official, said the plan was still "nascent" and "won't be ripe enough to be announced" during Turnbull's visit, but was being seriously discussed.

The official preferred to describe the plan as an "alternative" to the Belt and Road initiative rather than a "rival."

It is normal to understand why the US leads other nations to find "alternatives" to the Belt and Road, since the US has always considered it a challenge to its power in the globe, Liu said.

The US is the only country with experience of wielding strategic influence at a global level. The US is concerned that China would do the same due to the Belt and Road initiative's broad coverage, Liu said.

It is an effort by the US to maintain its global power, and not to lose its alliances, Liu added.

He further recommended that China ought to be a big country rich in strategic thinking when responding to such challenges.

Newspaper headline: China threat sign of anxiety

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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