Fri, Sep 02, 2011 - Page 9 News List

China’s rise, the US and the Asian power squeeze

Aggression by Beijing in pursuing territorial claims, including on Taiwan, would be disastrous for peace in the Asia-Pacific region and for the prosperity on which China’s internal stability is premised

By Gareth Evans

Likewise, any aggression by China in pursuing its territorial claims, including on Taiwan, would be disastrous for its international credibility, for regional peace and for the prosperity on which the country’s internal stability is premised. In the South China Sea and the East China Sea, competing sovereignty claims should optimally be litigated in the International Court of Justice. Failing that, they should be frozen, and arrangements for mutual access and joint resource exploitation peacefully negotiated.

The region’s messages to the US need to combine traditional sentiment with some equivalent hard-nosed realism. Our appreciation for the security support given to us in the past, and which we hope will continue in the future, remains undiminished, but, paradoxical as it might seem, the Asia-Pacific region’s stability could well be put more at risk by the US’ continuing assertion of absolute primacy or dominance than by a more balanced distribution of conventional military power.

The wisest single message that its regional allies and friends could now give the US is one that I heard former US president Bill Clinton articulate in a private gathering in Los Angeles 10 years ago: “We can try to use our great and unprecedented military and economic power to try to stay top dog on the global block in perpetuity ... but a better choice would be for us to try to use that primacy to create a world in which we will be comfortable living when we are no longer top dog on the global block.”

Gareth Evans, Australian foreign minister from 1988 to 1996, is chancellor of Australian National University, a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne and president emeritus of the International Crisis Group.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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