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.

CHINA

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.

 

INDIA

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

Popular Uprisings in Southeast Asia: Is there an Egypt or Tunisia in the Region?

Southeast Asia is unlikely to see an Egyptian-style popular protest leading to regime change in the near future, though it still offers lessons to the current wave of uprisings taking place across the Middle East and North Africa, said Southeast Asia expert Catharin Dalpino at a public lecture organized by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

Catharin Dalpino, who is also an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at GWU, outlined five main reasons that the recent experience of Tunisia and Egypt will not be replicated in Southeast Asia:

  • The region is not prone to contagion effects. Historical experience shows that political disturbances in one country have had limited impact beyond borders. Even during the Vietnam War, the ripple effect extended only to Cambodia and Laos, despite what the domino theory of the time had predicted.
  • Southeast Asian countries have little in common. Whereas the Middle Eastern and North African countries generally share an anti-Western sentiment, there is no such “regional angst” in Southeast Asia, said Dalpino. In contrast, Southeast Asia is “more at peace with itself and the outside world than ever before.” However, it is possible that anti-China sentiments are brewing in the region, as seen by recent tensions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, or reactions to China’s economic maneuvers throughout the region. Read more of this post

Egypt and East Asia: drawing lessons from each other

By Amitav Acharya

Many people wonder if the crisis in Egypt, leading to Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, might spur similar popular upheaval for regime change in Asia. Asia has no shortage of potential candidates, including the biggest of them all: China. Then there are also Vietnam, Burma and North Korea.

In East Asia, one finds many recent assertions of ‘people’s power’ that one saw in the streets of Cairo: the Philippines in 1986 and 2001 when surging crowds ousted presidents Marcos and Estrada respectively, and Thailand in 2008, when protests ended the remnant of the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. But the situation in Asia is quite different. Asia has already seen more transitions to democracy than the Middle East. Although many Asian countries are not paragons of liberal democracy, outright dictatorships in the region have fallen in number relative to the past and to democratic or semi-democratic governments.

At 30 years, the Mubarak regime held power far longer than any regime in Asia under the same leader. The leader’s persona matters, as change of the top leader may mitigate popular anger even if the regime remains in place. China and Vietnam have replaced their top leadership before they became lightning rods for popular anger. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: