Asia has long been regarded by practitioners and commentators as the new global geoeconomics hub. There are two simple reasons why what happens in Asia matters to the world. First, Asia is where more than half of the world’s people live and where two-thirds of the world’s business is done. As a result, Asia drives global expansion.
Asia isn’t just a pretty garden with nice people. Because of its vastness, it is home to seven of the largest militaries in the world. As a result, Asia is a contentious region with a wide range of nationalities and ethnicities. In Asia, nationalism is not frowned upon, unlike in Europe. The majority of Asian nations have mostly decolonized in the last seven decades. They are optimistic and savagely defensive of their personalities. The likely outcome is vibrant and dynamic politics in Asia. As a result, Asia is a crucial geopolitical theater in addition to geoeconomics. This geopolitical dynamic has been further complicated by China’s rise.
The US is recalibrating its traditional hubs-and-spokes alliance system and expanding the capabilities of its regional allies and trusted partners in light of the recent shift in Asian geopolitics brought about by China’s rise.
Beijing kept its ambitions a secret for a considerable amount of time and talked sweetly throughout. The Americans were implicitly convinced by shrewd Chinese leaders that economic reform would naturally lead to political liberty. This was what Washington truly wanted to hear. After all, it’s impossible to resist the urge to mold other people into your teflon.
Therefore, China secretly sided with Washington against the former Soviet Union following Nixon’s 1971 outreach to Mao. Deng Xiaoping, a former Chinese leader, was well aware that American technology and capital were the key to China’s economic transformation. Millions of its inhabitants would be lifted out of poverty and into the middle class if Washington rode pillion.
In hindsight, the strategy paid off handsomely. China became a phenomenal economic powerhouse thanks to domestic reforms implemented by the Chinese and Western capital as well as manufacturing expertise. Other regional players also saw China’s economic sprint as an opportunity to grow their economies. The Chinese economic umbrella and American security cover helped institutions like the ASEAN prosper. The US-China bonhomie’s equilibrium served as the foundation for regional economic prosperity.
However, Beijing now believes that its time has come, as do all great powers. It wants to use its economic strength to gain political influence. As a result, Washington is revising its Asia strategy by giving its regional partners more power and strengthening the spokes of its alliance system.
Many were compelled to strike the United States from Asian waters in the 1970s as a result of Washington’s humiliating failure in the Vietnam War. Vietnam was a severe example of pragmatism over passion. Be that as it may, Washington misunderstands over and over demonstrated downers by reevaluating itself and recalibrating its part on the planet. Practitioners have noted, for instance, that the Vietnam War forced the United States to shift its Asia strategy from onshore containment to offshore balancing. To put it simply, Washington decided to pursue a relatively more hands-off strategy for safeguarding its interests and those of its allies rather than engage in direct intervention.
Offshore balancing also means that Washington would use its military might in a situation where a regional conflict threatened the position of an American ally. This kind of strategy’s primary objective was to stop any one power from dominating Asia. The United States of America was content to remain neutral as long as no single power posed a threat to American interests or the interests of its allies.
However, the old regional equilibrium has been shattered by China’s stupendous rise and its explicit plans to overthrow the American-led Asian order. As a result, Washington is changing the way it looks at Asia from a strategic perspective. It is doing this by giving its regional allies and partners more power and making it easier for the spokes of its alliance system to work together.
Some would argue that China’s assertiveness is directly related to its perception of itself as the region’s dominant power and demonstrates its dissatisfaction with American superiority in Asia. However, the region’s atmosphere is rife with mutual suspicion, so Chinese assertiveness has also raised concerns about an accidental conflict.
The US is trying to adjust its traditional hub-and-spokes alliance system in this way so that it can work with its larger offshore balancing strategy. But the logic stays the same: pursuing a multipolar Asia, or preventing a China-dominated unipolar Asia. This sentiment is also felt by American partners and allies in the region.
There are two essential components to America’s Asia reorientation. Enhancing the technological and military capabilities of regional allies and partners, as well as strengthening the spokes—also known as its partners and allies—by facilitating increased engagement between them.
A reorientation of this kind makes the role of regional allies and partners more important, decentralizes the sharing of responsibility, and provides a brief respite from American attention being consumed by other issues. As a result, India is encouraged to collaborate more with Japan and Australia on a bilateral and minilateral level, Australia and Japan are encouraged to work together more, and the US helps to patch up tensions between Japan and South Korea. Another effort to establish adaptable regional arrangements in Asia is the Quad arrangement between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. It stabilizes the regional order during a time of significant geopolitical change.
The other side of these initiatives is that America’s regional partners and allies are more willing to take on responsibility for their own safety and stability. For instance, the AUKUS arrangement, in which Washington and London provide Canberra with nuclear-powered submarines, suggests a greater devolution of capabilities. Additionally, AUKUS demonstrates a greater regional willingness to assume additional responsibility for regional security. As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if similar developments continue in the medium term. To begin, the expanding defense cooperation between Washington and New Delhi further suggests an altered Asian landscape.