Great Power Rivalry Threatens Smaller States in Western Pacific

Jun 25

This content was originally published by teleSUR Tensions in the Asia Pacific are escalating. The latest chapter in the superpower collision is Washington’s strategy of holding low altitude aircraft passes on spots in the South China Sea where China is building military structures over reclaimed land. With the central element of its Grand Strategy being the prevention of the rise of a regional power in the Eurasian landmass that would threaten its global superiority, the US under the Obama administration has put into motion the containment of China via military and economic means. The so-called “Pivot to Asia” has involved the refocusing of Washington’s strategic assets, especially its naval power, on the region, while the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” aims to constrain the rise of China’s economic might. Meanwhile, although China does not aim for global hegemony, it does aim for primacy at a regional level, and the US military assets and its allies on the East Asian littoral and island-chain pose a major obstacle to this ambition. Beijing’s clumsy moves to assert its regional primacy have given the United States the opportunity to reassert itself aggressively in the region, painting itself as an “indispensable” actor to “balance” China’s ambitions. Some smaller states in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, caught in the middle of this great power rivalry, seek to maximize their political and economic independence by playing off one against the other, though with a weak hand that, as in the case of the Philippines, leads to subordination to the goals of the power it chooses to ally with. Another middling state, North Korea, has chosen to ensure national survival not so much by taking sides but by developing its own nuclear arsenal and adopting a posture of deliberate unpredictability. Vietnam, in line with its traditional posture of self-reliance, has single-handedly challenged Beijing’s incursions into what it considers its maritime territory or exclusive economic zone, engaging in 2014 in a much publicized water cannon battle with Chinese vessels guarding an oil rig that the Chinese had installed in disputed waters. Then there is Japan, an economic power but military protectorate viewed with great suspicion by its neighbors owing to its bloody imperial past that is using the Chinese threat as...

Read More