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Major Countries’ Responsibilities in Asia Security

Feb 01, 2019
  • Wang Fan

    Vice President, China Foreign Affairs University

While the international situation is undergoing a transitional period, the order in the Asia-Pacific region is also reshaping process. Against such a backdrop, it’s likely that the existing hot issues or crises could escalate. Asia is the global center of economic development and the strategic focus of major countries. The Korean Peninsula issue has got off to a good start, but there’s still a long, bumpy road ahead, and risks may also arise from the South China Sea and Taiwan issues. In the region, traditional and non-traditional security issues are closely intertwined, with the United States-dominated alliance system and nuclear proliferation as two predominant traditional security questions.

Amid the current developments, major powers in Asia or beyond should take a responsible approach, and should not be obsessed with own interests while neglecting their responsibilities.

Conflicts between major countries always have an impact on the stability of other countries and regions. This explains why major-country relations are of extreme importance to regional stability. If big countries have unstable and shaky relations, flashpoints would likely flare up, which will cause spillover effects. And if conflicts between China and the United States emerge, conflicts among other countries are also likely to deteriorate.

Whenever big countries like China and the United States deem each other as strategic rivals, are less willing to cooperate, and lock horns in a winner-takes-all approach for global competition, some conflicts would usually be and felt by third parties. Therefore, it would be critically important for major-country relations to remain calm and stable.

Uncertainties in big countries’ strategies could fuel regional crises, particularly uncertainties with the United States strategy. What is the intent of its Indo-Pacific strategy? Could it touch off new regional changes? It’s unclear whether President Donald Trump has intentionally set an uncertain strategy or simply does not have a certain strategy at all. If he doesn’t have a certain strategy, risks of misjudgments will run high between and among major countries and smaller countries.

When the United States is talking up China’s growing military power, China is more concerned about United States’ stubborn addiction to the Cold War mentality and its traditional alliance mindset. China calls for an open, inclusive and multilateral security mechanism, while the United States adheres to the traditional security system. In this sense, it would be inevitable for them to have long-term disputes regarding the regional security system between major powers, particularly between China and the United States.

Furthermore, the sovereign concept of Asian nations should not be neglected or underestimated, otherwise unimaginable consequences may arise. The issue of disputed territory is extremely sensitive, because it might trigger wars. It would be impossible to avoid a war if the loss of sovereignty occurs.

Sovereign disputes in Asia not only involve related countries, but are also subject to interference by countries outside the region. Consequently, it may lead to escalation or deterioration of crises. Countries in the region should work together to manage regional hot issues.

Therefore, it is critically important to avoid strategic misjudgment. China and the United States have a series of channels for strategic dialogue. After the United States adopted a new strategy, particularly after it began considering China as its strategic competitor, bilateral strategic trust and efficiency of strategic dialogues started to wane, and the possibility of strategic misjudgment rises accordingly. Misjudgments could be caused by a slew of factors, including domestic and personal factors, mindset, and deep-rooted concepts about culture and values.

The United States should not be too sensitive to every global issue. In the past, misjudgments by the United States in Asia all landed the country in regional wars, and consequently caused disasters to relevant countries and the United States. This is a lesson for all. Of course, China should try to prevent strategic misjudgment, and should not easily get involved in a winner-takes-all competition pattern so as to prevent crises from developing into hot wars.

For Asian security, the most important thing is to build a sound mechanism for risk prevention and management. At the same time, development is top priority for Asian countries, and many regional hot issues are caused by imbalanced development. Therefore, a mechanism must be in place to ensure that development trends will continue even if crises frequently occur in the region. Also, it is important that any risks to political security or stability must not have impact on cooperation for economic development. Development in the region takes the driver’s seat and other tasks and issues are supposed to serve this goal. If any country attempts to hinder or obstruct regional development with so-called hot political issues, the country would in the end be abandoned in the region.

To evaluate whether or not a country is friendly or hegemonistic, the most important criterion is to determine if it supports development and if its policies are conducive to regional development. The ones which offer the strongest support to regional economic development will naturally become the leaders of the region.

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