The fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit is to be held in Shanghai from May 20 to 21, 2014 under the theme of increasing dialogue, mutual trust and collaboration to build a new Asia that is peaceful, stable and cooperative. Delegations from nearly 40 countries and international organizations will attend the Conference Summit, with 14 heads of state and heads of government, and 8 chiefs of international organizations that have confirmed their presence. It is the largest multilateral security forum in Asia and voices will be heard comprehensively from Asian countries with different social systems, religions, cultures and economic development stages. If the United States, as an observer country, could carefully listen to the views expressed at the Conference Summit, and go along with the tide of development and common aspiration of people in Asia, it could receive a lot of help and draw valuable inspiration from them so as to re-adjust its strategy of rebalancing to Asia, and to truly play a constructive role. If the US would pay attention to what the Conference Summit participants say on the following vital issues, it would possibly help the US avoid making disastrous blunders in its relations with Asia.
Firstly, whether the vast majority of Asian countries welcome the US military alliance strategy, and whether it promotes peace and stability in the region. The US is a Pacific or Asia-Pacific country, but definitely not an Asian country. However, due to historical reasons, it still has bilateral military alliance treaties with a few Asian countries, such as Japan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea (ROC) and Thailand. During US President Obama’s trip to Asia last month, arrangements had been made to especially strengthen the US-Japan and US-Philippines military alliances despite the fact that they do not have a formidable enemy in Asia, and that such old alliances cannot solve, but rather will create new problems. In his public statements on those military alliances, Obama particularly stressed that the US has no intention to contain China, but what he actually did during the visit contradicted his rhetoric. It is high time that the US listen to what Asian people say on those US military alliances in Asia, and what role such alliances should play. The US can no longer ignore the fact that most Asian countries don’t like to see US establish its military bases, or station its troops permanently in their countries. It is clear that they don’t think those military alliances promote peace and stability in Asia, nor do they believe in the so-called “China threat” fabricated by Japan, the Philippines and the US. When the US realizes that its true intention is to make trouble in Asia by bolstering those military alliances and can no longer deceive anyone, it would probably have to think about the serious consequences of its obstinate implementation of the military alliance strategy in Asia.
Secondly, whether the US has come to understand that the promotion of sustained, healthy economic development is the strongest common aspiration of all Asian peoples, and it should take this into full consideration when working out its policy on Asia. Except Japan or probably the ROC, all countries in Asia are developing countries. It is their prime task to promote economic development in a peaceful and stable environment through increased exchanges and collaboration. People in Asia want to see more US imports from Asia; more US investment; more economic and humanitarian assistance to Asia; as well as more cooperative programs in cultural and educational areas. Regrettably, statistics show that there has been no significant increase since the US started to implement its strategy of rebalancing to Asia three or four years ago. If the US truly wishes to work together with Asian countries for the common prosperity, it should do more to meet the needs for economic and social development in Asia instead of focusing on rewriting trade rules through negotiating economic and trade treaties, on selling weapons and military equipment, as well as advantageous agricultural products to Asia.
Thirdly, whether the US is playing hegemony and power politics at the expense of the interests of Asian countries is to be tested. Asia is a region with diversity and dynamism, and is full of development opportunities and potential. It may be natural or understandable in a certain sense that the US, as the sole superpower in the present world, wants very much to draw as many benefits as possible from this fertile region. Asian countries appreciate very much US constructive role in Asia, but they have a very strong desire to be treated as equals. It must be pointed out that what the US did in collusion with Japan and the Philippines during Obama’s trip to Asia last month concerning the territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea means imposing US will on China and other countries, which is seriously disrupting peace and stability in the region. It has constituted a serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The continued wanton support by the US for Japan’s efforts to speed up military expansion will prove to be very dangerous. It tells people in Asia that the US is trying by every possible means to dominate Asian affairs, or to “shape the future of the Asia-Pacific and beyond” by projecting military power through its military alliance strategy. Asian affairs are not to be dictated by the US, but to be managed by all Asian countries in cooperation with the US and other countries on an equal footing.
The US has gone further on the wrong track through its misguided military alliance strategy in Asia. In order to avert further damage to peace and stability in Asia, or potential calamity for the whole world, it has become an urgent mission for the US to listen to what participants of the CICA summit say so as to draw helpful inspiration and change its course. The US will find it in its own interests to respond positively to the CICA’s call for a new outlook on Asia security by giving up Cold War mentality and zero-sum game logic. After all, the CICA Summit seeks cooperation, not confrontation, with the US.
Wu Zurong is a research fellow at the China Foundation for International Studies.