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Politics & Law

The U.S. to contain China by an ‘Indo-Pacific’ proposition

The Indo-Pacific Region (picture from CivilDaily)

This BBC video tells you that when the “US President Donald Trump continues his five-nation tour of Asia, one term crops up over and over again. ‘Indo-Pacific region’ is being used to define America’s new geopolitical view of Asia.”

In 2013, Rory Medcalf, Head of National Security College at Australian National University published an essay (almost 5,000 words) at ‘The American Interest’ to tell us that “Australia became the first country formally to name its regions the Indo-Pacific, which suits its two-ocean geography and puts the land down under near the center of things…..

The commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, does not even utter Asia-Pacific these days, though he marches to a slightly different beat: He calls it the ‘Indo-Asia-Pacific’ ……

“… it reflects changes in economics, strategic behavior and diplomatic institutions that are having real consequences regardless of who utters the words……. How maps are made and labeled matters too, as Robert Kaplan reminds us, because they affect how the powerful understand the world ……

“… the ‘Indo-Pacific’ label means recognizing that the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean are creating a single strategic system ……

“… This is no ordinary geographic region but rather a super-region in which sub-regions still matters… While the new name may suit India, the quintessential Indo-Pacific power will be China, and the indispensible one will remain the United States……

“… Continental connections across Asia, like the evolving ‘Indo-Pacific’ corridor comprising Burma and Bangladesh … The Indian Ocean is now the globe’s busiest and most strategically significant trade route, carrying two thirds of world oil shipments and a third of the world’s bulk cargo……

“… This region is Asia-centric, not China-centric, so a China-led order would not wash, even if Beijing were to seek one. Coexistence among the big powers, especially China, India and the United States, will obviously be vital to the super-region’s peace and stability, and a dialogue among the three would be a positive step…….

“… nor can China expect veto power over every exercise, every dialogue, or every act of cooperation among the diverse powers in its new Indo-Pacific setting …… ‘Indo-Pacific’ is both a reflection and an agent of major changes still in train.”

It was a brilliant analysis with splendid foresight for what are about to come. Apparently, having taken the recent development into account, we have at least four points to note assuming this containment could work out.

Firstly, with Australia’s participation and India’s worry about China’s influence over Pakistan, the U.S. is able to expand the horizon from East Asia to Indo-Pacific. This much longer border line can dilute China’s limited resources in managing this region.

Secondly, it will be the US-led alliance with Japan, Australia and India to keep the region in an order which is to be defined by them, not China, in the 21st century. China’s effort in promoting the ‘Asia for Asians’ concept has little chance to materialize. China will be prevented from “moving closer to center stage” of the world arena which is one of Xi Jinping’s visions highlighted in the 19th party congress.

Thirdly, China will pragmatically turn to focus on the westbound Belt and Road Initiative — Central Asia, Asia Minor (Anatolia), East Europe and Africa.

Fourthly, with less economic cultivation by China, I do not know whether this Indo-Pacific region — Japan, ASEAN, Australia, India — would benefit or suffer. I wish that after 50 years, someone would pick up this article at China Daily Mail and ‘tells’ the readers what had happened. Thank you in advance.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).


10 thoughts on “The U.S. to contain China by an ‘Indo-Pacific’ proposition

  1. I’ve lived and worked in SE Asia for the last 10 years. Interestingly, the only thing I see from China is goods made in China. No music, literature, movies, cartoons, logos, brands, t-shirts, sports etc etc that would identify as something that people want or admire from the people/culture of China. Yet I see a huge amount of the above from America and Europe. The local view of the Chinese is that they have money and they will steal and/or cheat you if they can, so the locals only want to get as much money from the Chinese as they can. How does China expect to dominate an area if their culture has nothing to offer other cultures? The Chinese I have worked with I have enjoyed their company and actually prefer their companionship than the locals of SE Asia. Intellectually and educationally the Chinese are far superior to the SE Asian locals. But that is about it. Until China actually has something to offer besides cheap goods they will never dominate the Indo-Asian region except by force and bullying such as we see in the South China Sea. The people of SE Asia KNOW the Chinese far better than the Chinese think they do. They know that the Chinese think only in terms of money and power for themselves, and that will limit their influence far more than active measures against the expansion of China. China is it’s own worst enemy.


    Posted by Fred | November 19, 2017, 5:23 pm
    • Quite agree. Firstly, Chinese culture is somehow too ‘Chinese’ to the extent that it is not easy for foreigners to understand and accept, let along appreciation. Secondly, over the past 300 years, Chinese culture did not have a sublimation similar to the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe, and is in need of a critical review of its ancient philosophy with modernization. Both the intellectuals and general public need to do more, and I am one of them working hard to do it (also writing Chinese articles in Hong Kong to urge for this). Thank you.


      Posted by keith K C Hui | November 21, 2017, 11:47 am
    • @Fred: Culture follows the power. Couple of thousands of years ago when China power was at its peak, major economies at the time (like Japan, Korea, Vietnam etc) adopted Chinese writing, architecture, customs & culture etc. US influence, although still dominant, is slowly & visibly eroding. Its pop culture is not as hot as it was 2-3 decades ago. On the other hand, the expatriate community in China is near exploding, studying mandarin & learning its culture – just like in the past. Come another 10 years when China grows even stronger, the next generation may not be as awed by things Western/US & opt to follow their leader’s preference to “Look East” where the new power is rising.


      Posted by TSENG Kin-Wah | November 24, 2017, 8:16 pm


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