As Ukraine crisis drags on, Asia must learn the painful lessons of Europe
Two months into the Ukraine crisis, Europe is still reeling from its impact. The United States, a good offshore balancer, lit the fuse of the Russia-Ukraine conflict by supporting Nato’s five waves of eastward expansion, starting in 1999, right up to Russia’s borders.
Even during the crisis, it has fanned the flames to heighten tension, casting a long shadow over peace and development in Europe. As former British member of parliament George Galloway put it: “Just as the US is ready to fight to the last drop of Ukrainian blood, in the end, it’s prepared to fight to the last drop of European blood.”
The painful lessons of Europe must be learned by Asia. The US is peddling its “Indo-Pacific strategy” in Asia to make the Asia-Pacific another Nato. If it succeeds, regional peace and prosperity will be under siege. Fortunately, Asia-Pacific countries are clear-eyed about the ill-concealed hegemonic thinking behind the strategy.
The US plans to install a new political security regime in Asia in which all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are American satellite states. Rooted in a binary world view and ideological animosity, the US has fortified the Five Eyes partnership, the Quad mechanism, the Aukus agreement and its bilateral military alliances to create an exclusive circle.
The US only claims to support Asean centrality but its actions run counter to Asean integration and the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, threaten the Asean-led regional cooperation platforms, and expose Asean to the risk of being marginalised in regional cooperation.
These tricks, inconsistent with the trend of peace, development and cooperation, will only intensify bloc confrontation and ideological conflict globally, upend the current international system and order, and provoke a new “cold war”. They will surely gain no support.
While Asian countries are protecting regional peace and stability, the US is increasing its military presence to turn Asia into a powder keg. Let’s recap US actions in Asia over the years.
The US is investing in beefing up its military capability in the Western Pacific through the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. This will strengthen forward deployment, but also incite an arms race.
It eased restrictions on arms sales and defence trade to regional allies, and agreed to export nuclear submarine manufacturing technology at the risk of nuclear proliferation by emphasising the “integrated deterrence”.
It carried out joint military drills in the East and South China seas, which strain regional relations and are an intervention in regional affairs.
It dispatched military ships and aircraft for intensive proximity reconnaissance and even intruded into others’ territorial waters and airspace in the name of “freedom of navigation”.
It repeatedly hyped disputes in the South China Sea, damaging the efforts of regional countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties and to produce a Code of Conduct in the sea.
It crossed the red line on the Taiwan question and sold arms to Taiwan, causing tensions to spike across the strait.
There are more examples on this list, all of which hammer home that the US is the biggest destabiliser of peace and security in Asia.
Asia is our common home. We must not allow it to be an arena of great power games where the Ukraine crisis might be repeated. Asian countries should together maintain the hard-won regional peace and stability by opposing camp antagonism and group politics, guarding against the “Indo-Pacific coterie” and pushing back against US attempts to muddy the waters.
This year will witness China, Indonesia and Thailand holding the rotating chairs of the BRICS grouping, G20 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum respectively, marking the “Asian moment” of global governance. The global family expects Asia to play a leading role in multilateral affairs.
Asian countries should seize this historic opportunity to carry forward the vision of a community with a shared future for Asia and Asian values, advocate multilateral dialogue and cooperation, and promote world peace, development and global governance.
China has placed Asean high on its diplomatic agenda and has made great contributions to building an Asean community. At the summit commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Asean-China Dialogue Relations last November, the leaders of the two sides agreed to elevate ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, demonstrating the leading role of the China-Asean relationship in regional cooperation.
Asean has become China’s largest trading partner for two straight years. In 2021, China-Asean trade grew by 28.1 per cent, a continuation of their strong economic cooperation momentum.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement has become a new engine of regional growth after entering into force at the beginning of the year.
The fundamentals of the long-term growth of China’s economy remain unchanged as China is fully implementing a new development philosophy, creating a fresh development dynamic, and pursuing quality development, which will provide a robust driving force and booming dividends for Asean, Asia and even the global economy.
Facing the complex landscape in Asia and beyond, President Xi Jinping proposed a global security initiative at the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia last month – China’s plan to cope with global security challenges and protect regional peace. The initiative is in line not only with China’s foreign policy, but the spirit of regional cooperation in East Asia.
China will work with regional countries to follow through on the initiative, uphold the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and defend Asean-centred regional cooperation frameworks.
Regional counties must join hands to build a new regional security architecture of mutual respect, openness and inclusiveness, and find a path for Asia that ensures security for all, by all, and of all.