Not so long ago, many of US President Barack Obama’s detractors were heaping criticism on his administration for its alleged lack of engagement with Asia, which is rapidly emerging as both a source of wealth and a potential military flashpoint.
In books, articles and on talk shows, specialists like Simon Tay(戴尚志) and others warned of a vacuum as the US was brought to its knees by the global financial crisis and military adventures from which it has had difficulty extricating itself.
While analysts argued that the US had been displaced in the Asia-Pacific by its own weaknesses and the rise of China, they also warned against what they perceived as signs of isolationism in Washington under an administration that has been weighed down by intractable domestic matters.
It was that inattention — a continuation of former US president George W. Bush’s selective engagement of Asia, focused almost solely on the “war on terror” — that allowed China to expand its power in the region, to such an extent that the US genuinely fears its own influence there may be a thing of the past.
The unstable mix of nationalism and expansionism that has characterized China’s rise in the past few years, however, is now forcing many of its neighbors, which until recently had bought Beijing’s “peaceful” rise, to revisit the assumptions that underpin their national security policies. As a consequence, what is emerging is a rebirth of the “spokes” or bilateral agreements that marked US engagement in Asia for the past half century.
The most striking symbol of this development is the burgeoning military relationship between the US and a country that 35 years ago was its sworn enemy after years of traumatic war — Vietnam.
Washington and Hanoi are cozying up on a number of issues, from civilian nuclear fuel and technology to handling claims by China and other countries over the South China Sea.
As China’s power relative to its neighbors continues to increase, the many countries that have disputes with Beijing over islands, natural resources or territory, have had to devise a mechanism to address the China challenge.
One would be to gang up on Beijing, at regional forums such as ASEAN. The problem with this approach, is that Asia’s regional organizations have little experience addressing security issues, and its constituents are too disparate to converge into a single voice likely to make Beijing reconsider its position.
The other option is to turn to Washington as a security guarantor, a role it has performed, with much success since the end of World War II. The distraction of Bush’s “war on terror” and military adventurism gave every indication that the US was on its way out in Asia. Obama’s first year in office provided little to indicate a policy change was in the offing.
This situation might have held, as long as Beijing kept its part of the bargain and continued to behave as a responsible stakeholder. However, given recent signs that this may no longer be the case, Washington has little choice but to re-engage with the Asia-Pacific, as the region has become too important to the global economy to be left to its own devices.
Unfortunately, this development risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the US strategy exacerbates fears in Beijing that it is being encircled by US allies — the latest of which is Vietnam — in a bid to contain it.
A more multilateral approach to China’s rise might be a wiser course of action, lest containment compel the dragon to lash out and undo all the development that has made this region such a vibrant and promising one in recent years.
As the incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone intensify, the international community’s anxiety has risen over the question of whether the US military would become directly involved in the case of an attack on Taiwan. Washington’s long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” does little to ease the trepidation. The rationale universally espoused on “strategic ambiguity” is that an announced commitment from Washington to directly defend Taiwan would encourage Taiwanese independence and consequently bring forth a Chinese military attack and a possible nuclear confrontation between two superpowers. However, this line of argument could soon lose steam if the subject is viewed from
Having deceived the world about its nuclear capabilities while preparing for an arms race, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using its increasing nuclear forces for virtual nuclear coercion. This new threat will continue until the United States, Japan, and Taiwan can restore the CCP’s sense of fear. This dynamic is a familiar one for Taiwan. As the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities have grown, its inhibitions about conducting larger and more frequent coercive military demonstrations have shrunk. The PLA now more openly practices for the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and the murder of its citizens. In the nuclear realm,
The Tokyo Olympics will perhaps be remembered as one of the oddest Games in the event’s long and checkered history. Held amid a global pandemic, spectators are banned from most venues, leaving athletes to play out their feats of sporting brilliance in eerie silence. Meanwhile, furious Tokyo residents wave placards outside some venues, calling for the Games’ cancelation. Adding to the incongruity of it all, the entire Russian team is absent, banned due to a doping scandal. That the Tokyo Olympics went ahead at all has been extremely contentious in Japan. Critics fear a mass outbreak of the highly contagious Delta
Just a few days after an outbreak of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in May announced that a domestically produced vaccine against the virus would become available late this month. At the time, even though the government had placed orders for the Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, just 700,000 of the doses had arrived, and many Taiwanese were reluctant to get inoculated, in no small part due to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) disinformation campaign about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s alleged shortcomings. Before the outbreak, the government had been successful in keeping the number of infections to a minimum,