It has been awhile since I wrote about the ongoing Great Asian game (here and here) detailing the competition for resources, bases and prepositioning of weapons. It is all very much reminiscent of the pre Great War period in Europe. But Daniel Twining hopes that The New Asian order’s challenge to China may turn out to be more like post World War II Europe:
Big Asian democracies are building value-based strategic partnerships because they understand that peace and democracy are “inseparable”, as Indonesia’s foreign minister puts it. India’s prime minister says his country can only be secure in a region of democracies; Japan’s leadership wants to build an “arc of freedom and prosperity” across Asia; and south-east Asian leaders have declared that regional stability requires democracy at home and abroad. These are the stirrings of a different Asian century from the one China’s leaders envisage. The character of a country’s foreign policy cannot be separated from that of its domestic rule. China’s closest associates are autocracies in North Korea, Burma, Pakistan, Russia and central Asia. China’s favourite regional forum is the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which unites it with Eurasian strongmen. Beijing chafed when Japan, Indonesia and Singapore created a democratic counterweight to Chinese influence at the East Asia Summit by inviting India and Australia. . . .Growing pressure for democratic change in China - and the leadership’s intense debate over how to manage it - suggest that prosperous mainland Chinese will eventually demand the freedoms enjoyed by Chinese societies in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Until then, the key geopolitical dividing line in Asia will not be between China and America or east and west. It will be between an authoritarian leadership in Beijing, whose hegemonic ambitions are the foreign corollary of centralised domestic control, and a coalition of Asia-Pacific democracies that value pluralism at home and abroad.
The future of the world’s newest centre of power is being shaped by this contest while Washington fights fires in the Middle East and Europeans debate the future of their union. It could lead to military conflict. But as a senior Japanese official says, it could also lay an enduring foundation for peace when a free China becomes the natural leader of an Asian community of democracies.
I know, pessimists usually turn out to be more often right than optimists. Still, hope feels better as does the realization that the current American Middle Eastern preoccupation has led to the rest of the world democracies to act take on greater responsibility for their own well being.
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