At the current moment, the United States is focused inwards. The Presidental election and the crisis that comes with COVID 19 are pressing issues, and most Americans want to just look inwards. However, this is not done in isolation. Numerous countries have noticed this distraction and the likelihood that the US could move away from being as involved in world affairs. This comes as China becomes more assertive and wishes to power project outside of its borders. The environment in Asia is changing questions remain if the US has learned from its history or if it will walk the same path and suffer the consequences.
A Real Threat
While many would find it impossible to doubt the industrial prowess of China when compared to other countries, this does not extend to its military. Problems certainly exist within the Chinese military, and with its lack of freedom of the press and honest reporting, it is hard to gauge what the reality is. With the amount of money and resources that China can reach investment in its military is real. For decades this was ignored as the massive US defence budget created a feeling of safety and certainty. Yet defence is more than just money. If money won wars, then the battles in the Middle East and Vietnam would have been clear victories.
China is a real threat, and any conflict would disrupt the way that Americans live. Not forgetting the lives that would be lost even in just a small scale war it would change the assumption of peace between powers. Even if a country cannot win, it can still launch attacks, and they can be devastating. For US history in Asia, you need only to look at the Japanese attacks and World War 2. An ideological power if it misjudges or if it is not operating with not reason can start a devasting war. Even if the US resources bring an end to the struggle, this would be a great cost and full of horror.
American Trust Decreasing
Peace in Asia like Europe in many ways was due to American interests. However, less resources had been placed in Asia due to the fact it seemed that the nations within the region could get along. This was when China appeared to be becoming an increasingly normal partner and this created some calm. This started to change in the 2000’s and increasingly, the region seems more at risk. US policy was to pivot to the new threat in China and contain this within Asia. Yet the commitment and devoting of resources is still much less then the nations wish and pales in comparison to resources that are still in Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. Despite viewing China as the bigger threat, real commitment is still lacking.
With this inaction, three choices have been given to the nations. The first is to bow down to the new Chinese Empire and Emperor. Due to how harsh the Chinese government is and the memories of the nations around of past Chinese dominance, this has been avoided. The next choice is do nothing and hope that they left alone and can still function. Perhaps they hope that some power or the rest of the region can protect them. No country has admitted to doing this although perhaps the actions of New Zealand could be viewed as heading towards this position. The third has been taken up by most nations. It is to resist Chinese expansion and fight for independence. This fight, however, is uneven and this why it is not so clear cut. The resistance of free people against Communist China is the path many nations are choosing to walk.
Coalition Together In Independence
Asia is learning to work together. However, this is not like European efforts. The goal of working together is to preserve the independence of each state and not try to create a new national unity. It is a unity of purpose that respects each country own goals and beliefs. This allows nations that are quite different; India, Australia and Japan to work together. This is a strength and means the focus and resources are not directed at trying to make people the same but instead in stopping CCP control. It also means that the nations do not need to agree with everything or even most actions to stand up together.
However, the reason that this is being done is due to a humbleness with the reality that nations within the region have adopted. The population and power of China are larger than all but perhaps India. The technology and funding of the military even makes India concerned. Working together is the only way that they can prevent China from beating each one in their own battle. Standing together, they are stronger and standing alone would be next to impossible to prevent a war or get anything more than survival during one. Perhaps if China had been less direct and less forceful, it could have avoided this. Yet as seen with Hong Kong, modern China does not care who it upsets or crushes.
Standing Together means that each state will be able to be alone.Standing alone leads to not being able to stand again.