The US “Pivots” Back to Asia. How are the Region’s Major Powers Reacting?

In our previous blog post, we examined Asian reactions to the economic aspects of America’s “pivot” back to Asia strategy. Today’s post looks at what China, India, and Japan are saying about the geopolitical implications of US plans to strengthen its presence in Asia.


Official commentary specifically on this topic was expressed by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson during a regular press briefing: “In handling Asia-Pacific affairs, one should comply with the basic trend of peace, development and cooperation upheld by regional countries, and respect the diversity and complexity of the region.”

Similarly, the press has stressed China’s commitment to peaceful development and coexistence with neighbors. Commentaries characterize US intentions as reflecting a “Cold War mentality” aiming to encircle China, then explain why such plans are likely to fail:

  • China may also retaliate economically at neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, for cooperating militarily with the US. The Philippines is “walking a very fine line,” warned a Global Timeseditorial that recommended economic “punishment” such as postponing the implementation of investment agreements and decreasing imports from the Philippines. In the meantime, “China should enhance cooperation with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, allowing them to benefit more from the Philippine vacuum.”

For reactions by Chinese netizens, the Dutch nonprofit foundation Global Voices has a report here.



Across the board, commentary in India is welcoming of America’s plan to strengthen its presence in Asia, and sees this renewed attention on the region as a chance for India to assert its strategic role. Read more of this post

Time to invest in Indian-Australian partnership

By Amitabh Mattoo

The decision by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Perth in October has caused considerable disappointment in Canberra.

The absence of the head of the world’s largest democracy, and the Commonwealth’s largest member, will take the sheen off the forum and postpone an Indian prime ministerial visit to Australia after more than two decades into the uncertain future.

Commentators have been quick to identify the Labor government’s decision not to supply uranium to India as influencing Singh’s travel plans. The reality is more complex. Despite a growing convergence of values and interests, and the efforts of the countries’ two very competent high commissioners, there is still little real conversation between key players in Australia and their counterparts in India. New Delhi and Canberra may know each other, but they still do not have a nuanced understanding of each other. Thus in the absence of a sustained engagement at many levels, even a single issue can derail bilateral ties. This needs to change if the two countries are to work with each other and in the interests of the region.

Take the case of India. At the official level, there are no more than one or two officers in the severely shortstaffed Ministry of External Affairs who pay attention to Australia, and rarely for more than a couple of hours a week. It requires great persistence for Australian officials and diplomats to secure high-level attention from India.This lack of real communication even at the government-to-government level undermines the political relationship.

A recent private poll of the political and civil service elite in India suggests that while Australia may be a preferred tourist destination, and continues to rank quite highly for the quality of its tertiary education, there are few who would rank Canberra high in terms of political or strategic salience even among the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

And, unfortunately, the Cold War divide, Canberra’s strident response to India’s nuclear tests, and the uranium decision still seem to drive the Indian elite’s “limited” understanding of Australia and its potential as an ally. Read more of this post

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