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Chinese aggression – paving way for Pan Asian solidarity

Chinese aggression – paving way for Pan Asian solidarity

PSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Chinese aggression:

  • India’s deadly encounter with China in the Galwan Valleyis not an outlier in Beijing’s recent behaviour in Asia.
  • China’s coronavirus “mask diplomacy”has given way to tense geopolitical confrontations with a growing array of its neighbours, from stand-offs with Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea to threatening Australia with boycotts of wine, beef, barley, and Chinese students.
  • Pan-Asian Solidarity:
  • There is a spurring support for closer coordination between other Indo-Pacific partners.
  • The Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, and Australian governments have all taken concrete steps to reduce their economic exposure to Beijing, spanning investment, manufacturing, and technology.
  • India and Australia recently inked a new military logistics agreement in the “virtual summit”, and a similar agreement between Delhi and Tokyo may follow.
  • The Quadrilateral Dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States is growing stronger and even expanding.
  • And recently as well, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)Foreign Ministers issued one of their strongest statements to date on the South China Sea, insisting that maritime disputes must be resolved in accordance with the UN Law of the Sea treaty.
  • Chinese cyberbullying of a Thai film star spawned a new “Milk Tea Alliance”, thus named after the popular beverage, to forge solidarity between Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and Southeast Asians online.
  • Overtly rejecting China’s attempts to play up support for the “One China” principle, online supporters quickly propelled a hashtag that translates as “Milk Tea Is Thicker than Blood” to nearly one million tweets in a matter of days.
  • It also garnered the praise of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, who called for “pan-Asian solidarity that opposes all forms of authoritarianism”.

Asian multilateralism:

  • Asian multilateralism has often been born out of crises.
  • The Chiang Mai Initiative — a financial swap mechanism between China, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia — emerged in the aftermath of the late 1990s financial crisis.
  • The grandfather of all Asian regional organisations, ASEAN, was created in 1967 but did not convene its first heads of state meeting until Southeast Asian leaders were shocked into action by the fall of Saigon in 1976.

Can US offer leadership:

Opportunities:

  • The ongoing crisis seems to have imbued countries in the region with a new seriousness of purpose about the risks of a slow slide toward Chinese hegemony.
  • This is handing the US administration openings it has long sought: more credible multilateral coordination among allies, pushback against online disinformation, and the desire to better integrate like-minded economies and supply chains.
  • Repeating mistakes:
  • Thus far, US President continues to make errors that create distance with U.S. allies and partners.
  • For example, the President’s focus on cutting support for the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • His assertion that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab alienated Australia.
  • This is when Australia was stepping up more forcefully to assert regional leadership, launch an impartial international investigation of the pandemic’s origins, and push back on Beijing.
  • Similarly, the administration’s suspension of various worker visas is a move that will almost certainly have serious repercussions in India.

What is needed:

To improve, the U.S. needs to make two major shifts.

  1. S. policy needs to start supporting, rather than attempting to commandeer, regional efforts to build a less China-centric futurefor the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. leaders need to remember that while Chinese aggression provides a powerful motivation for coordination, U.S. partners are seeking an agenda that is framed in broader terms than simply rallying to counter Beijing. 

Asian countries have strong, historically-rooted ideas about their own security and the future of the region — American leaders should recall the long-standing resonance of the Non-Aligned Movement in a region that resists a “new Cold War” framing.

Australia’s efforts to call for a COVID-19 investigation through WHO, as well as Japan’s desire to take the lead on a G-7 statement on Hong Kong, reflect not just an effort to push back on Beijing.

They also reflect concern that the current U.S. administration may box them into an untenable corner.

U.S. leadership would be far more effective if it worked with Indo-Pacific partners on the issues that they prioritise and provided them significant space for independent action.

  • Second, while China certainly has the power to coerce, it also has a tremendous abilityto be its own worst enemy by pushing too hard on its neighbours.

It is often China’s own overreach (rather than Washington’s entreaties) that stiffens the spines of other Asian nations. 

US should avoid repeating Beijing’s mistakes and offer a clear alternative in word and deed to China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy

Moves such as demanding that a G-7 communiqué refer to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” and blocking mask shipments to close allies are the kind of counterproductive bullying that the U.S. should leave to China.

What regional partners should do:

  • Regional partners should see that Beijing’s recent aggression is not an aberration.
  • It is part of a growing pattern.
  • Asian nations will not be able to avoid making difficult policy choices and investments to preserve their sovereignty and strategic space.
  • As Beijing’s confidence in its growing material and military power solidifies, its neighbours will need to think carefully about the long-term decisions necessary to preserve an open regional order.

Asian countries, too, have an opportunity to continue strengthening their own regional networks, which will challenge and complicate the views of those in both Washington and Beijing who would see the region only as a sparring ground in a bipolar U.S.-China competition.

India:

  • The current crisis in multilateralism could be a remarkable opportunity for India.
  • It is a country whose pluralism, democracy, and liberalism have often been underestimated by the West.
  • At an immediate level, the gains are obvious: India has also maintained a consistent reserveabout a blanket entrenchment in global value chains.
  • As some constituencies in the West seek a gradual decoupling from China, they would be well served to look toward India.
  • To make use of the opportunities, for itself and for the provision of certain global public goods, India’s cooperation with like-minded actors will be key.
  • Here, India could work closely with the Alliance for Multilateralism(an initiative launched by Germany and France) to shape both the alliance itself and the reform agenda at large.
  • Working together with a group of countries from the developed and developing countries could further amplify India’s voice.

Source:” The Hindu“.

POSSIBLE UPSC CSE MAINS QUESTION:

The recent Chinese aggression may act as a catalyst for Pan Asian solidarity. Discuss. What role do you see for India in it?