USA’s counter to China in ASEAN – UPSC GS2

Context: Both China and the U.S. are trying to attract ASEAN countries to their sideThe US wants to overcome the Chinese domination in the ASEAN by pitching the issue of ASEAN Centrality and by countering China’s aggressive rise.
Concerns of ASEAN nations about China’s aggressive actions, such as:
  • Claiming open seas as their own,
  • Distorting open markets through subsidies to its state-run companies,
  • Denying the exports or revoking deals for countries whose policies it does not agree with,
  • Engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing activities.
USA’s attempt to counter China’s rise directly in the Indo-Pacific:
  • South China Sea:
    • The U.S. has continued its Freedom of Navigation Operations in the disputed waters of the South China Sea to challenge unlawful maritime claims by China.
    • The US has also brought up the 2016 international tribunal ruling which had rejected the Chinese nine-dash-line claims.
  • Infrastructure development
    • Through infrastructural investments under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has attracted many ASEAN nations. For instance, Chinese investments have driven countries such as Cambodia and Laos to do China’s bidding in the ASEAN, even at the cost of compromising ASEAN’s unity.
    • To counter this, the US has reiterated that it remains committed to closing the infrastructure gap.
    • The US has pointed out that the members of the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S.) have provided more than $48 billion in government-backed financing for infrastructure for the region.
    • Further, the U. S is promising to do more under the Build Back Better World initiative and the Blue Dot Network.
    • The U.S. is also trying to showcase a comprehensive economic framework in the Indo-Pacific.
Way forward:
  • Providing proper alternative models of investments for development in sectors such as infrastructure, digital economy, supply chain, and health for the Southeast Asian nations will be critical.
  • The economic framework, investment plans, and promises outlined by Mr. Blinken need to be made operational quickly if the US is to show that it is indeed serious about sustained commitment toward the Indo-Pacific.

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