Event ReportsPublished on Jan 23, 2013
As the power of the US is declining, China, the US and India will have to work together for peace in the region, according to Prof. Huang Jing, Director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
China, US and India should work together for peace in region: Prof. Huang Jing
As the power of the United States is declining, China, the US and India will have to work together for peace in the region, according to Prof. Huang Jing, Director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Prof. Huang said this while delivering a talk on ’Political Changes in East Asia and Implications for India-China Relations’ at Observer Research Foundation on January 23, 2013. Prof. Huang said as emerging countries, India and China have a lot in common. He pointed out that India and China are the only two emerging powers whose rise has been through integration and not through expansion and the only emerging powers which do not have a global reach and military capability. So they have to find a way to revise the system and not challenge it as they are already stakeholders in the present system. Prof. Huang said the dynamics of power in the region is changing. Ten years ago, the US was the yardstick for all the Asia-Pacific countries. But today China has become the centre of economic dynamics not just in the Asia Pacific but all over the world. Thus, the situation in the region is uncertain. So all the countries in the region are adopting the policy of hedging. On the issue of India-China relations, Prof Huang drew attention to the fact that there is trust deficit between the two countries. This is because they were in two camps during the Cold War, have unresolved border disputes, the Pakistan factor, Tibet and because of their competition for natural resources. The border dispute, according to Prof Huang, is not a bilateral issue but a domestic issue, which was created by the British. Both sides know there is no immediate solution to this issue and have agreed to manage the issue for now. The Pakistan issue is one which maters not just for bilateral relations, but for regional stability. Instability in Pakistan will affect the whole region. So India and China have to work together to manage Pakistan. They should also work together in the maritime area, said the professor, pointing out that the Chinese and Indian navies are that the forefront of cooperation since 2007. It is therefore inevitable that China and India will meet each other in Asia and their strategic interests will merge into each other. Therefore they will have to pay attention to each other. This is the rational choice for both countries. US-China relations are uncertain because while China needs the US for modernisation, it also sees the US as a fundamental threat. Interestingly, while India sees China as a fundamental threat, China does not think of India as a fundamental threat. Moving on to the US’ rebalancing strategy, Prof. Huang characterised President Obama’s policy as being inconsistent. He says there are two problems with the strategy of rebalancing. The first is that when one uses the term ’rebalance’, the implication is that the balance has already been lost. Second, there appears to have been no discussion within the Obama administration about this policy. China is nervous about this policy of the US and therefore responded prematurely in the South China Seas. There has obviously been a miscalculation by the US with regard to this policy. While the US wanted to reinforce alliances to show that it is still the top power in Asia, it expected the Asian countries to pay for this. On the other hand, Asian countries expected the US to pay for this. Countries like Philippines and Vietnam tried to challenge China, hoping that the US would back them. The US’ credibility, more than Vietnam and Philippines, suffered due to this incident. Prof Huang felt that the crisis over the Senkaku Islands was unexpected as there is an unwritten agreement between China and Japan to maintain the status quo. According to the professor, China did the US a huge favour by challenging Japan over the islands as the Japanese were starting to become more assertive with the Americans over Okinawa and other issues. Though in public, it would seem that the US was tough on China, it has said that it won’t take sides in any territorial dispute and will honour the US-Japan security treaty if Japan’s territory is attacked. The catch in this is that Japan has not said that there is a dispute over the Senkaku islands. If China prevails in the dispute, US credibility will suffer. It is time for the Obama administration to pay a leadership role in the East China Seas because what is at stake is US credibility. However, Prof Huang pointed out that neither China, nor Japan nor the US wants a fight. They can all still afford to compromise now. But if bullets are fired, the CCP will not be able to compromise as otherwise it will collapse as it cannot afford to go against people’s sentiments. Prof Huang outlined four steps through which tensions can be managed. The first is that China and Japan come to an agreement that there won’t be any landing on the islands. The second is that there is no military manoeuvring in the waters around the islands. The third is that there should be no construction on the island. The fourth is that there should be no unilateral exploration in the waters around the islands, including fishing. Earlier, Prof. Huang said the fifth generation leadership in China have a strong personal attachment to the regime. He said they are all fathers of the founding fathers of the Chinese Communist parties. And, they had all suffered as youngsters during the Cultural Revolution. The term ’princelings,’ which many use to describe them, is unfair, according to the professor because they have had to work their way through to the top of the leadership. They have also spent considerable time abroad and are aware of what is happening in the world. Due to these reasons, these new leaders are likely to be more ambitious and competent though they also have to face huge challenges. This new leadership is the result of one of the most fierce leadership struggles since Deng Xiaoping’s time. Prof. Huang pointed out that five out of the seven Politburo members are either 65 years old or over 65 years old. This means that they won’t be able to serve a second term. Thus, the transition to the next generation of leaders has already started. But the members of the military leadership i.e. the Central Military Commission are mostly under the age of 65 and will therefore serve a second term. The military leadership is likely to be more assertive due to two factors, according to Prof. Huang. The first is that the Chinese military was humiliated by the US during the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1995-96. The second is the bombardment of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Those who were front commanders in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at that time are now top leaders in the PLA. So, over the next few years, we are likely to witness an explosive expansion of China’s military capabilities. At the same time, the US’ battleships and submarines are getting outdated and have to be replaced. The talk was chaired by Mr. Alok Prasad, former ambassador.
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