Will Trump continue to rise along with Xi Jinping or allow China to trample on Asia? It all depends on the unfolding of multiple events which pressed in operations
Dr Satish Kumar
The world politics is moving fast, creating new waves and
parameters. It is the longest ever overseas visit by an American President. He went to China, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. He met the strong leader of China. The talk zoomed on trade and economy. The US major emphasis was North Korea which has been poached by China. The current epoch is fundamentally tumultuous. This is age of strong leaders in the world politics. The fundamental posturing is native first. These changing contours have inbuilt contradictions. The coronation of Chinese President in 19th Congress was a point to be taken seriously in the world politics. Historically, world order is shaped by the rise and fall of great powers over times. The rise of China and Xi Jinping in the 21st century will be one of the dominant forces that reshape world order. But it will have many competitors. Russia’s Putin, Japan’s Abe and India’s Modi could be game changers, either separately, or jointly.
Trump publicly reminded Xi about the need to stop arming, financing and trading with North Korea—most of which takes place from Beijing. At the end of his talks, Trump tweeted that he looks forward to “an even STRONGER relationship” with China in the coming years. Xi was even more effusive in emphasising the partnership with America. He declared that “The Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States”. He insisted that Beijing and Washington need to “jointly” promote peace and stability in Asia. This is one of Xi’s core demands on Trump — to share the leadership of Asia on Beijing’s terms.
Every US President promised to accuse China during his electoral debate of presidency and passed a statement of a tough stand against China. The moment he came to the functional part, his approach and tenor changed suddenly. Therefore, Trump is no exception to his predecessors. He is also said to have asked China to adopt a tougher stance towards North Korea and sought the suspension of oil shipments. That Trump’s praise of China was 'a marked contrast to his previous criticism' of the country, particularly on the contentious issues of North Korea and trade. His dilemma raises larger questions about the US-China policy. Since Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit, successive Presidents have adopted engagement as their default China policy, notwithstanding occasional and short-term deviations from that policy. Admittedly China has benefited immensely from the US engagement.
Under Trump, China’s trade surplus with America has actually widened to US$223 billion in the first 10 months of this year—a double-digit increase from a year earlier. The challenge is to further the US interests which has been designed by his predecessor, Obama. Barak Obama spent eight years formulating a foreign policy vision that called for a central US role in Asia to ensure the region’s stability, growth, and prosperity. Known as the “rebalance to Asia,” the policy involved coordinated efforts to boost the US defence, diplomatic, and economic ties with the Asia-Pacific. The Obama administration’s pivot to Asia was felt in South East Asia on three fronts. First, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was an effort to bind the region’s economies more permanently to the United States. Four nations—Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam—signed the deal.
The US leadership is waning. The Asian countries cannot bear a confused status of the US foreign policy stand and lull on the part of its multilateral agreements and initiatives in Trans-Pacific partnership. Asian countries will not stand still in the face of the US rejection of multilateral economic agreements, but rather will likely work together on trade deals and set pan-Asian rules for investment and technology standards. China’s economic statecraft throughout the region will continue to win friends and wield influence.
India-US Joint Ventures
In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons, and then-Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee justified this new posture in secret correspondence to President Bill Clinton as a response to China’s military build-up and Beijing’s arming of India’s enemy Pakistan. In a striking turnaround, Vajpayee called India and the United States “natural allies” with shared interests in managing Chinese power. This led to the forging of a US-India strategic partnership in the 2000s cantered on military cooperation and acceptance of India’s status as a nuclear-weapons state through the US support for normalising civilian nuclear trade with India in the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is again reaching out to the United States to maintain balance against China, by strengthening the Indian armed forces and promoting India’s economic development. The meeting point of the US-India is Asia. It is not merely South Asia but South East Asia as well. The best is to see how this strategic partnership is unfolding to defeat Chinese stratagem.
The Trump’s visit to East Asia and Indian Prime Minister’s visit to ASEAN have coincided and narrate a similar story. The two different waves with different orientations are criss-crossing each other. There are similar concerns and conditions. The concern is China and domains are East and South East Asia. China demands the pivotal role in Asia without any hindrance from America. If these demands are accepted by America, most of Asian countries who are allies of the US will have severe implications for the new World Order. India is equally engaged with South East Asia and East Asian countries. The ties between India and ASEAN have been on an upswing for the last few years with focus being on ramping up cooperation in the areas of trade and investment as well as security and defence. Every single country in the ASEAN region wants India to be more engaged in the region in every possible way. The US, France and Japan have been pitching for a larger role by India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region where China has been trying to increase its military presence.
The contours are changing. Chinese strong President, Xi Jinping’s aggressive foreign policy has to cross many hurdles. Many other countries which he wants to beat have similar strong flavour of indigenous popularity. India and Japan are such powers. Japan is eager to discard its peaceful constitution and adopt an aggressive nuclear posturing. Indian leader has shown its mantle. Therefore, it all depends on the US acceptance of Chinese call. Will Trump continue to rise along with Xi Jinping or allow China to trample on Asia? It all depends on the unfolding of multiple events which pressed in operations.
(The writer is professor at Central University of Haryana)