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The Changing Reality in Asia Pacific

Aug 12 , 2011
  • Wang Yusheng

    Executive Director, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

Some international media outlets have been sensationalizing the "Asia-minus-one" concept, claiming that an "invisible alliance" is forming among countries neighboring China to prevent a Chinese "invasion". They have even held a debate on the issue and raised a series ofquestions such as "why" and "how China should respond" and what role the United States hasplayed and should play in the region.

The emergence of the concepts of "Asia-minus-one" and "invisible alliance" may appear to benew. But they are only a variant of the "Asian NATO" platitudes under new circumstances.

We live in times when accelerating development and globalization have changed all aspects ofinternational and geopolitical relations. Sino-US relationship is not similar to that between theUS and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War. Besides, the impact of China'sharmonious diplomatic policy is such that relations between China and its neighbors are gettingbetter, as is evident from a US mainstream media report saying that "no country wants to allywith the US against China".

China and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attach greatimportance to friendly cooperation. This makes the "Asia-minus-one" alliance against China atbest imaginary.

The reason for calling it a "variant" of the "Asian NATO" is that such a concept can only be theproduct of Cold War mentality with the overt purpose of containing China's rise in one way oranother. But the Cold War is history and no policy linked to it can work in today's world.

The two terms, "Asian NATO" and the Cold War, have not appeared coincidentally. Partiesinvolved have their own wishful thinking.

As for the US, first, it wants to create an atmosphere which will make "the US is indispensable"and demonstrate its "second-to-none" strategy. Second, it hopes to strengthen its control overits allies such as Japan and the Republic of Korea and prevent them from deviating from thealliance, which they have tried to do recently. Third, the US wants to prevent ASEAN memberstates from getting too close to China, because that can marginalize Washington. And last, itprovides covert moderate support to small countries to contest with China by using the "Chinathreat" theory to sow seeds of discord.

For example, the US media tend to play down or ignore news of almost all positive links andassociations between China and its neighbors, and sensationalize trivial frictions, magnifyoccasional discords and exaggerate or distort events to compel some countries to depend onthe US to "contest China". This is best reflected in a statement that US Secretary of StateHillary Clinton made during her recent visit to India urging India to not only "look East", but alsomake efforts to extend its leadership over the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan, on its part, has not reconciled to the fact that China has surpassed it as the secondlargest economy in terms of GDP and is worried about the possibility of the Asia-Pacific regionbeing jointly "controlled" by China and the US in the future. Also, influenced by Cold Warmentality, right-wing forces in Japan are trying to find a way to deal with China and advocatethat Japan should ally with ASEAN countries to check China's "maritime invasion". Japan hasestablished an "excellent" tacit cooperation – the so-called invisible alliance with the US – topromote its status and weaken that of China.

Other Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines have to some extent opted todepend on the US to take on China and raise their bargaining chips. People with maliciousintentions from some countries even try to stir up trouble between Beijing and Washingtonusing the pretext that China wants to replace US in Asia Pacific.

Though such wishful thinking is not beyond understanding, it is unilateral and unrealistic.

The US is still powerful but is no longer a superpower in the strict sense of term, and thus itcannot act according to its will. Besides, the US needs the support of and cooperation fromChina. After President Hu Jintao's visit to the US earlier this year, the new positioning of Sino-US relationship (which is of mutual respect and cooperation, and a win-win partnership) and theestablishment of the bilateral negotiation mechanism on Asia-Pacific affairs, Washington shouldexercise restraint in its policies if it understands the changing times and keeps its promise.

More importantly, China has unswervingly pursued the policy of independence and peacefuldevelopment, and developed good-neighborly and friendly relations with countries around it.Since China's comprehensive national power has grown considerably, the country's leadershipin recent years has made effective efforts to build a "harmonious neighborhood".

In dealing with maritime rights and interests, China's policy of protection of rights is firm but veryrestrained and matter of fact, for it hopes to resolve the issues through friendly and peacefulnegotiations and dialogues with disputing countries.

If relevant countries consider it to be China's weakness or perceive it as fear of the US andhope to take on China by joining the "invisible alliance", then they would be misreading thesituation and misjudging Beijing's position and policies. Such actions would not only go againstpeace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, but also harm their fundamental interests.

Wang Yusheng is executive director of the Strategy Research Center of China International StudiesResearch Fund and a former senior APEC official

Source: China Daily

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