US confrontation or Chinese cooperation? As the Asia-Pacific contemplates its future security, the choice is obvious
- As the defence chiefs of the US and China head to Singapore to promote their security strategies for the Indo-Pacific, countries in the region face a choice
- Given their desire for development and cooperation, the US’ focus on exclusivity and rivalry offers little compared to China’s vision of mutual understanding
In comparison, the Asia-Pacific – despite some uncertainties – has maintained overall peace and stability, with development and cooperation remaining the primary focus.
However, in the context of accelerating tensions among major powers and lack of strategic mutual trust, many are worried how long this peace and stability, and the upbeat momentum conducive to development, can last.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to deliver a major speech on US defence policy in the Indo-Pacific, while Chinese State Councillor and Minister of National Defence General Wei Fenghe will speak on China’s vision for regional order in the Asia-Pacific.
On May 26, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a speech at George Washington University, outlining the administration’s approach to China. It’s highly likely that Secretary Austin will comprehensively expound the military part of the US Indo-Pacific strategy in Singapore.
Though still in the process of formation, the strategy already has a clear structure. With the premise of China being the US’ strategic competitor, it is made up of three pillars.
This combination may help defend the hegemonic interests of the US to a certain degree, but in no way can it maintain regional peace and security beneficial to all countries in the region.
Military alliances are exclusive in nature, meaning that the security guarantees member states provide each other must target a third party. While safeguarding the security benefits of a small bloc, military alliances create unnecessary rivalry and risk stoking division, confrontation or even conflict.
Meanwhile, the IPEF is in essence a form of protectionism. It encourages inner circulation within a small bloc, jeopardising existing regional cooperative framework, impeding free trade and reversing the trend of regional integration.
Fanning the flame of security hotspot issues can be viewed as openly creating conflict, aggravating regional tensions and clouding the region’s development with heavy security burdens.
After all, behind the US Indo-Pacific strategy is a cold war mentality which applies obsolete perceptions to today’s prosperous Asia-Pacific. Yet the two world wars and Cold War of the 20th century are proof that confrontation and conflict can only lead to disaster, and a bright future is always driven by win-win cooperation.
Distinctly different from the outdated mentality of the US Indo-Pacific strategy, China has put forward a series of proposals full of Chinese wisdom, with the future of all humanity and current development trends in mind.
The Belt and Road Initiative, focusing on greater connectivity, is similarly guided by the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. As of April, over 200 belt and road cooperation documents have been signed between China and 149 countries and 32 international organisations.
These new ideas represent China’s meaningful efforts to explore an approach to promote the progress of human civilisation. They are more relevant than ever in light of the deep and complex changes in international security.
Now the Asia-Pacific is standing at a crossroads. The choice between a zero-sum game and win-win cooperation can lead the region down completely different roads, towards very different prospects. Whether to safeguard regional security benefiting all and maintain the momentum of development and prosperity, or to tread the beaten path of hot and cold wars by conniving confrontation, there is reason to believe that all regional countries can make the right choice.
Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo is a senior fellow in the Academy of Military Sciences, PLA, China