Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Pacific Age: Entering a Troubled Phase

Yet just when the Pacific Age should be celebrating its half-century, the region is showing signs of strain, from increased rivalry between the superpowers and emerging nationalism in Japan, China and elsewhere to sudden squalls in places like Hong Kong, Thailand and, as ever, North Korea. “The shifting landscape in the Asia-Pacific and associated risks are about as challenging as they’ve been since APEC was established in 1989,” says Alan Bollard, the organisation’s executive director. 
There are complex counter-currents. Many East Asian countries worry that America’s commitment to the region could be put at risk by more immediate threats in the Middle East and Ukraine. At the same time they do not want America to provoke China by becoming too involved. The rhetoric has recently been turned up. Chuck Hagel, America’s defence secretary, wagged a finger at China when he told a gathering of military chiefs at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore in May: “One of the most critical tests facing the region is whether nations will choose to resolve disputes through diplomacy and well-established international rules and norms or through intimidation and coercion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the South China Sea.” In his own speech a day later, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong, head of the Chinese delegation, retorted: “Assertiveness has come from the joint actions of the United States and Japan, not China.”

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