By: Asfand Yar Bhutto
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” — Sun Tzu
The world politics is changing with the changing strategic environment wherein the international order is transforming from unipolarity to multipolarity largely due to the geostrategic integration among different countries. Amidst the changing dynamics, China is emerging, and rapidly rising, as a great power in Asia and is being perceived by the United States as the most potent threat to its strategic interests in the entire Asian region. The growing apprehensions of US policymakers precipitated Obama administration to launch its ‘Asia Pivot’ or ‘rebalancing strategy’ in 2011 which was focused on engaging with Asia Pacific countries including China, strengthening ties with its allies and ensuring and enhancing the US military presence in the region in order to secure the core US interests. On the other side, China pursues an independent foreign policy in which the norms of non-intervention and sovereign equality have been deeply embedded. The policy seeks to protect China’s territorial integrity and ensure its sovereignty and economic development. China wants to pursue soft economic and diplomatic strategies to hold its sway over the region. Therefore, China’s response to the US rebalancing strategy is based on a desire to counterbalance US presence in the region.
This article consists of two main parts. First it touches on the main characteristics of US’ Asia Pivot policy and then presents a brief yet an in-depth analysis of Chinese response.
Asia as a powerhouse of economic activities: Geostrategic significance
In the 21st century, the rise of Asia has exponentially drawn the attention of the United States to focus especially on Asia-Pacific region. Since Asia has a unique geostrategic importance as it is the economic hub of the world, its emergence as a powerhouse of economic activities can be related to the increasing business and trade activities in which emerging powers like China, India and Indonesia are playing a pivotal role. Asia’s share of global exports and imports almost doubled between 1980 and 2010 with the exports surging from 15.9% to 33.3% and imports soaring to 31.4% from 16.9%. The viable and stable economic activities rest upon the freedom of trade routes across the Indian and Pacific Oceans as these are the main regions of transportation of goods across the globe. About 50% of the world container traffic and 70% ship-borne oil transit the Indian Ocean, mostly destined to reach East Asia. Hence, any estrangement in the trade relations between China and India could bring the peaceful transit to a standstill.
Growing US interests and Chinese counterbalance
In Asia Pacific region, the US has huge economic, strategic and security interests. They include the economic connectivity throughout the region’s huge market, maintenance of regional peace and stability and securing its allies, especially Japan and South Korea, and ensuring the resolution of conflicts in East and South China seas. However, China’s emergence as a great power in this changing dynamics of international political structure did not stop; hence, it is inevitable to comprehend the US-China relations in the context of the Asia Pivot strategy of the United States.
There are multiple significant events in the recent history whereby it becomes discernable that China is emerging as a significant power. For instance, China, in collaboration with Russia, has successfully resisted the Western intervention in the Syrian civil war three times; it came up with the idea of establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from the platform of BRICS (an association of five developing countries; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); it played a key role in expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which is being dubbed as ‘The NATO of the East'; most significantly, it has come up with a revolutionary idea of ‘One Belt, One Road’ which is aimed at connecting a large number of countries on four continents. The OBOR reflects China’s growing soft power in the international political arena. However, with this changing strategic environment in the Asia Pacific, two things are important.
United States’ Asia Pivot
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