Hegemonic nature of US Indo-Pacific Strategy exposed

By Qian Feng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/17 22:43:40

Photo: IC

The US Senate Committee on Armed Services approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act on June 11. The act establishes the so-called Pacific Deterrence Initiative - a new military fund to increase deterrence against China in the Pacific. The US also mobilized three aircraft carriers on June 11 to patrol the Indo-Pacific waters. The US has recently intensified its Indo-Pacific Strategy, ramping up efforts to contain China.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the global economic center has been shifting gradually from both sides of the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific region. Economic globalization has made the Indo-Pacific region even more integrated. This part of the world has become a global production center and a corridor of trade and energy. Regional countries have strong common needs for economic integration and strengthening connectivity. 

The US has been trying to get a share from the Indo-Pacific region. Some regional countries warmed to this at first. They had expectations for the US' idea of promoting "free, fair and reciprocal trade based on open investment, transparent agreements, and connectivity" and "sustainable economic growth." And with China's rise, some regional countries started having more doubts about us. They felt a need to use the US in order to counterbalance China.

In 2019, the US Department of Defense and US Department of State both released their own reports on the Indo-Pacific Strategy, further elaborating the US' overall concept and implementation of the strategy. The US claimed to be building a new framework on security, politics, trade and economy and values. It seeks to establish order in the Indo-Pacific together with allies and partners. But in fact, military has become the US' primary and even overwhelming policy tool, while the US has failed to meet regional countries' high expectations in economic cooperation and infrastructure construction. This has confirmed the outside world's view that the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy, in the name of cooperation and development, is only really aimed at containing China. Regional countries have also become more concerned that they will have to choose sides as the China-US strategic competition intensifies.

Objectively speaking, no matter Japan and India, which are key players in the Indo-Pacific Strategy, or ASEAN that sits in the center of the Indo-Pacific region, they cannot accept US actions. It is not in line with the interests of all parties as well. Trade has long been an essential part of Japan's national strength. Japan hoped the Indo-Pacific Strategy could focus on economic cooperation between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, hoping to build a larger market of regional trade and connectivity. As China-Japan relations have improved in recent years, Japan has become more prudent between China and the US. Tokyo even avoided using the word "strategy" to describe the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" in its Diplomatic Bluebook 2019, but "vision."

The US regards India as a key country of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. It wants to use India to contain China. Although India's China policy has long had a tough side, New Delhi's principle of strategic autonomy is contrary to the "America First" policy. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly confirmed that "India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members… a geographical definition, as such, cannot be."

I recently exchanged ideas with an ASEAN diplomat in China on the Indo-Pacific Strategy. He said that ASEAN does not support any policy that contains China, and ASEAN will oppose exclusivity and will not choose sides. He explained that the term "Indo-Pacific" was directly used in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific released in 2019, because this represents ASEAN's direct response to the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy and reflects ASEAN's position on the issue. Otherwise, the US may ignore that ASEAN was responding to the Indo-Pacific Strategy, he explained.

The 2020 US presidential election is on its way. The Indo-Pacific Strategy is a rare multilateral diplomatic framework endorsed by the Trump administration. The Trump administration can also use this strategy as a so-called diplomatic achievement to fight back domestic criticism. But the problem is, the more the US invests in military, the more vigilant China and other regional countries will be. The Indo-Pacific Strategy will generally show its true face and expose the hegemonic nature of the US military and the US dollar.

The author is director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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