China, US co­op­er­a­tion is ‘ex­pected’

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

What we found was a con­certed de­sire for the United States and China to co­op­er­ate closely with each other...”

A team of Chi­nese and US think tank ex­perts has chal­lenged the zero-sum men­tal­ity re­gard­ing China-US roles in South­east Asia.

A re­port re­leased on Tues­day by the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress (CAP) and China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions (CICIR) showed that South­east Asian na­tions wel­come China-US co­op­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially when the al­ter­na­tive is a ri­valry be­tween the two largest economies.

It found that the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) ex­pects to re­main in the driver’s seat when China and the US col­lab­o­rate in the re­gion.

The CAP and CICIR ex­perts jointly con­ducted field re­search in the past two years across six na­tions in South­east Asia — In­done­sia, Malaysia, Thai­land, Myan­mar, Viet­nam and Sin­ga­pore — to iden­tify un­der­ex­plored op­por­tu­ni­ties for China-US col­lab­o­ra­tion in the re­gion.

The re­port said that mis­trust com­pli­cates US-China re­la­tions and can ob­scure ar­eas where co­op­er­a­tion might be pos­si­ble and ben­e­fi­cial.

While ASEAN coun­tries gen­er­ally wel­come the US re­bal­ance to Asia, look­ing at it as a sign of com­mit­ment of US en­gage­ment in the re­gion over the long term, many ex­pressed con­cern over the re­bal­ance that has cre­ated “big mis­un­der­stand­ings” and ex­as­per­ated USChina ri­valry, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Other find­ings in­clude that most ASEAN coun­tries see China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive as a big op­por­tu­nity and ex­pect to ben­e­fit from it, and China’s South­east Asia pol­icy is not as trou­bled as some ob­servers imag­ine.

ASEAN coun­tries also seek re­as­sur­ance that China will not be­come a hege­mon. While most ex­perts said that ASEAN na­tions view China as a power with which they need to and can live, they

Me­lanie Hart, CAP se­nior fel­low

also stated that China’s poli­cies in the re­gion re­main “un­clear and un­pre­dictable”, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“Most ex­perts with whom the re­search team met de­scribed China’s over­all South­east Asia pol­icy as pos­i­tive, with the re­gion as hun­gry as ever to ben­e­fit from eco­nomic re­la­tions with China,” the re­port said.

It also showed that while ASEAN na­tions have clar­ity on what China is bring­ing to the ta­ble, they have less clar­ity on the fu­ture US role.

CICIR Vice-Pres­i­dent Yuan Peng be­lieves that no mat­ter who wins the elec­tion, the US should have a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the re­bal­ance-to-Asia strat­egy and its China pol­icy.

“To­day, more and more Chi­nese and even some ASEAN coun­tries tend to think that re­bal­ance to Asia is to con­tain a ris­ing China. Even if it’s not 100 per­cent true, in par­tic­u­lar from the US per­spec­tive, many Chi­nese and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries think that way. Then you should dou­ble check and re­view this pol­icy,” he said at a talk at CAP on Tues­day morn­ing.

Yuan de­scribed the re­bal­ance to Asia and sta­ble USChina re­la­tions as two pil­lars for the US gov­ern­ment. “You can’t just use one pil­lar to sus­tain Asia pol­icy while ig­nor­ing the other pil­lar,” he said.

Vikram Singh, vice-pres­i­dent for na­tional se­cu­rity and in­ter­na­tional pol­icy at CAP, de­scribed the eco­nomic di­men­sions, rather than the mil­i­tary com­po­nent, of re­bal­ance as the cen­tral part.

“The trade de­bate and the fact that TPP (Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship) is likely not to sur­vive are play­ing into a feel­ing in this re­gion that the US re­bal­ance pol­icy is go­ing to fal­ter,” he said, adding that the re­gion wants to ben­e­fit from both Chi­nese and US poli­cies.

The re­port of­fers seven ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion for China and the US, such as ex­pand­ing China-US ocean co­op­er­a­tion to in­clude coastal na­tions and coastal cities in South­east Asia and ex­pand­ing China-US en­ergy and cli­mate co­op­er­a­tion to in­clude South­east Asian na­tions.

They also in­clude sup­port­ing sus­tain­able in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment in South­east Asia, ex­pand­ing bi­lat­eral peo­ple-to-peo­ple co­op­er­a­tion to be tri­lat­eral, deep­en­ing Chi­naUS co­op­er­a­tion in con­nec­tiv­ity and con­sid­er­ing em­bark­ing on a land­mark in­fra­struc­ture project. Also sug­gested is that the US and China find spe­cific ini­tia­tives to co­op­er­ate on within the ASEAN in­sti­tu­tions and de­velop a tri­lat­eral Track 2 process for co­op­er­a­tion.

“What we found was a con­certed de­sire for the United States and China to co­op­er­ate closely with each other as well as with the ASEAN na­tions, de­spite the un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity that the two gi­ants are of­ten at odds with each other,” said Me­lanie Hart, CAP se­nior fel­low and di­rec­tor of China pol­icy.

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