Reporter Journal / Chen Weihua

Zero-sum mindset bad tack for 'Indo-Pacific'

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-11-03 11:34

During US President Donald Trump's upcoming trip to Asia, one word he will say a lot is "Indo-Pacific," in contrast to "Asia-Pacific", frequently used by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Senior White House officials on Tuesday described the trip as one to "reaffirm US leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region".

The goal, as seen by many pundits in Washington, is to draw India into a US alliance to counter China's growing influence in the region.

The motivation was evident when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on Oct 18 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), touting India and berating China. Tillerson seems to believe that given the border standoff between China and India this summer, India would be more than happy to be a US puppet in the region to counter China.

What Tillerson may not know is that the countries in the region have long made it clear they don't want to be forced to choose between China and the US.

Tillerson's words indeed came as a surprise because it was he who endorsed the new type of major country relationship during his visit to China in March. Although his words triggered a backlash at home, it reflected his positive view of future China-US relations.

Tillerson's words were both confusing and contradictory. So I consulted Stapleton Roy, who had served as US ambassador to China, Singapore and Indonesia.

Roy, a career diplomat, believes that one principal rule of foreign affairs is that when the US talks about India, it should never mention China. Otherwise, India will resent the US because it doesn't want to be used against China.

A Brookings India survey several months ago showed that while Indians are wary of a rising China, they also believe that ties with China must be improved.

The Indo-Pacific concept is not entirely new. Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former US vice-president Joe Biden all mentioned it several years ago.

Michael Green, senior vice-president of CSIS and Japan chair at CSIS, described it as an idea of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It is entirely OK for the US to propose an Indo-Pacific strategy. However, such a strategy should not aim at a third country, such as China.

For years, countries in the region are moving toward closer integration rather than disintegration. For example, China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have become a boon for the countries in the region looking to improve infrastructure and connectivity.

China and India also have strengthened ties despite their border disputes. The two countries are key members of the BRICS, which also includes Russia, Brazil and South Africa. Just in September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the BRICS leaders meeting in Hangzhou.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

Most Popular
Hot Topics
The Week in Photos