Wed, Aug 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Chances for Taiwan in Indo-Pacific strategy

By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙

In a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in Singapore last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed his counterparts to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific region to ensure peace and stability.

His gesture resonated with the direction of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) New Southbound Policy, as well as a policy speech by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Kenya in August 2016, as Pompeo called on democratic nations to safeguard a trans-Asian world order that arose from the convergence of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

This development signifies Washington’s determination to incorporate the Indian Ocean into the longstanding framework of Asia-Pacific security, and to globalize universal values, norms and institutions that underpin international governance.

The US perceives China and Russia as formidable competitors, threatening to weaken the US-led security system and globalization. China and Russia have forged strong political, economic and diplomatic partnerships to reaffirm their interests.

Since 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) have held more than 20 summits, but have revealed few details of any bilateral agreements.

While the US has been concentrating its counterterrorism efforts in central Asia and the Middle East, China and Russia have been reaching out to developing nations with appealing rhetoric about diplomatic non-intervention and authoritarian governance.

First, China has identified with Africa and Latin America, because Chinese modernization was launched from a position far inferior to that of Japan and the West. Beijing endorses the importance of labor-intensive industrial development and dismisses governance reform as a prerequisite for economic growth.

Second, the search for raw materials and new markets has driven China to deepen its ties with Africa and Latin America. Beijing has contributed to technology transfers and infrastructure projects, and has constructed and managed business zones, agro-technical parks and telecom centers in these continents.

Third, China is determined to become a global leader. It has offered unmatchable financial assistance under the Belt and Road Initiative. While investing abroad, Chinese state-owned enterprises can make long-term decisions without worrying about immediate losses and gains.

Chinese universities and research institutes offer generous scholarships to students and officials, nurturing the next generation of elites and projecting China as a land of opportunity.

China’s growing clout has presented an irresistible attraction to US allies. Given the severe challenges of a globalizing China and the US’ attempts to hold onto its status as the sole superpower, there are bound to be intense power rivalries.

Cognizant of China’s outreach, Pompeo’s Indo-Pacific strategy provides a template to reimagine US alliances in these two huge maritime zones.

Striving to promote free trade, democratic governance and innovative development, this strategy not only solidifies links among Indian and Pacific nations, but also questions China’s top-down autocratic system, which favors collective interests.

Along the same lines as the New Southbound Policy, the US’ Indo-Pacific framework expands the scope of cooperation by integrating many liberalized economies of East Asia into South and Southeast Asia.

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