Europe is all eyes on the Middle East and at home!
However, how should Europe respond to China expansionism in Asia?
In responding to China in Asia, currently, there is only the American “Pivot” to Asia. How should European Union and also NATO respond to an increasingly turbulent Pacific?
Nikkei, a Japan news unit, reported on China’s growing sway, with an article: “Beijing builds infrastructure and influence in Asia.” Nikkei said, Looking to up its influence in the region, China is using its growing financial clout to fund infrastructure development throughout Asia.
“This is a transit hub for automobile trade,” said a port official at Hambantota, a southern port town in Sri Lanka. Looking down from a harbor side building, 3,000 or so vehicles could be seen waiting to be loaded onto a ship. “All those cars will be shipped to the Middle East and Africa,” the official explained. Hambantota was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which left its port decimated. But modern facilities are now going up, with loans from the Chinese government covering 85% of the $1.3 billion redevelopment cost, reported Nikki.
Beijing has been assisting in port development projects in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. It is all part of China’s plan to build a shipping network — what it calls a “pearl necklace” — to enable it to go toe-to-toe with India, its major rival in Asia, says Nikki.
“Let’s deepen our ties,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during a meeting with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in November in Myanmar. Describing the past 10 years as a “golden decade” for China-ASEAN relations, Li told the leaders that he wants to make the next 10 years a “diamond decade.” His comments were accompanied by an announcement that the China Development Bank would create a $10 billion line of credit specifically for infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. The state-owned bank, which has been spearheading China’s efforts to boost its influence in the international community, held assets totaling 8 trillion yuan ($1.28 trillion) as of the end of 2013. Its foreign currency-denominated loans exceeded $250 billion.
Nikkei reported China is stepping up its role as a supplier of funds for infrastructure development in the region by making the most of its foreign currency reserves, which, at nearly $4 trillion, are the largest in the world. The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or AIIB, is expected to be launched by the end of the year, with 26 countries participating. And last year, Beijing created the $40 billion Silk Road Fund to complement the new bank.
Nikki, reported that The Asian Development Bank, whose main backers are Japan and the U.S., has long been a main provider of funds for economic development in the region. “Considering how big infrastructure development demand is, it is quite understandable” that China decided to establish the AIIB, said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. The bank reckons that $8 trillion would be needed in the 10-year period through 2020 to meet infrastructure demand in Asia. Since the ADB alone cannot meet such a huge funding need, it does not openly take issue with the creation of the AIIB. The bank has already listed up $30 billion worth of projects in Indonesia, Myanmar and other countries to showcase its highly transparent lending regime. By differentiating itself from the AIIB, the ADB aims to maintain its relevance and influence in the region.
Nikki gave an opinion: “For Asia, increased rivalry between China and the Japan-U.S.-Europe camp is a welcome development as long as it is a healthy competition that leads to better infrastructure development in the region.”
However, while Nikki hopes for constructive & positive competition, already, China’s expansionism and aggression is threatening the region, for example, China claims in the Pacific Waters has took the China on a confrontation path with Vietnam & Philippines, among others. And the political and security structure in the South East Asia region is shifting. China has also went on an island transforming binge, turning atoll into major naval and air base, in the Pacific Waters. Furthermore, near Japan, China is aggressively looking for oil and gas.
Military wise, Russia & China are operating joint drills, and both Russia and China’s military, conducting highly aggressive actions.
ASEAN is in a difficult position. In the Philippines, for example, is in dispute with China over territories in the South China Sea, but President Benigno Aquino was observed approaching Chinese President Xi Jinping with a big smile during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November in Beijing. The Philippines had announced its decision to join the AIIB shortly before the meeting.
And in Thailand, for example, traditionally, a strong ally of the USA, in a 17-page blueprint outlines the country’s future relations with all major powers including the US, China, Russia, Japan, India and the European Union. Reports said, the draft presents a bifurcated view of the role the US and China will play in Thailand’s future. However, for years now, Thai land’s military Generals, have been saying, America is a great friend, but China a close relative.
While both superpowers remain pivotal to the preservation of the country’s national interest, China’s potential for overall cooperation is much better than the US. In evaluating the state of Thai-US relations, Thailand still gives high value to the Thai-US alliance that has provided security and economic development. The positive perception immediately turns negative when analysing Washington’s attitude towards the Thai political situation. It remains the biggest stumbling block to promoting bilateral ties because “it does not coincide with American values.”
In the Sino-Thai case, there is no antagonism. Thailand wants to maximise its relations with rising China in all areas as “Thailand and China do not have territorial and national conflicts at all.” The draft reiterated that China places a high premium on Thailand as a leading Asean member with a central location in the continental Southeast Asia with links to South Asia and East Asia that would enhance its connectivity.
Thailand’s position towards America can be seen from the following statement on Thailand: “Washington and Beijing have different approaches when it comes to the principle of non-interference and national treatment. In comparison with the US, China treats Thailand better as an equal partner without any interference in domestic affairs. From the Thai perspective — a rather cynical one — the more powerful and stronger the US becomes, its power to intervene in domestic affairs of other countries also increases.”
What Should be Europe Response?
Take France as an example!
Can France regain influence (France losing influence) in the Indian Ocean Region and the Pacific, and to help counter China, which is pushing hard into countries, such as Thailand. Of note is that Russia and India are moving closer on military equipment exchanges and Russia, have sold some advance defense equipment to the South East Asia Region.
With this effort, apart from helping to counter China, France could gain, economically, with ASEAN. Within ASEAN, Indonesia, Philippines & Vietnam sees China as a threat, and these three ASEAN countries are economic power-house, with much economic analysis of ASEAN members sees Indonesia, Philippines & Vietnam as having incredible growth opportunity and undeveloped great potential in disputed energy resources, as the rest of ASEAN members, face uncertain, medium to long term, macro level, political stability risk & governance risk.
UK is starting to make very aggressive moves on ASEAN, such as with UK’s Financial Times heading starts an annual top ASEAN economic meet. A more important France, as a stabilizing force in Indian Ocean & South China Seas, could positively impact France position Europe. This first, top level ASEAN economic meet, headed by UK’s Financial Times will be held in a former Colony of UK, being Singapore. Strategic wise, while Singapore & USA, enjoy close military relations, Singapore, however, is a fierce supporter of Thailand’s junta.
& Thus, in effect & reality, Singapore, is an indirect, supporter, of the China, through Thailand & thus on National Security, Singapore cannot be trusted 100%, as an ally to stabilize region, meaning country poses strategic risk.