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THE ROAD TO BALANCE IN ASIA PACIFIC

GEOPOLITICS OF AMERICAN RE-BALANCING AND CHINESE BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE, DR. ATIA ALI KAZMI

SYED SAMIULLAH HASHMI, RESEARCH OFFICER, RABITA FORUM INTERNATIONAL (RFI)

The relationship between the United States (US) and China has a complex history, with both adversarial and cooperative roles in the Asia-Pacific region to safeguard their interests. Dr. Atia Ali Kazmi, a Senior Research & Policy Analyst at NUST Institute of Policy Studies, emphasizes the need for a nuanced and adaptable coexistence between the two powers due to their hegemonic influence and interdependency.

The author argues that these intricate relations have the potential to shape or disrupt the global order. The book delves into the historical context and explores the geopolitical aspects of the American Rebalance and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), examining their impact on China-US relations, regional power dynamics, and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. The book is divided into seven extensive chapters:

In the first chapter “A Walk through the History of China-US Relations,” the book explores the historical background of the bilateral relationship between China and US. It begins by examining the significant Wangxia Treaty signed in June 1844, which marked a pivotal moment in their interactions.

Despite their political, economic, military, and ideological disparities, the two states, as emphasized by Dr. Kazmi, maintained relevance to each other in the pre-rapprochement era due to enduring connections among their people and corporate groups. The author also highlights the role of President Nixon’s visit to China as the catalyst for rapprochement, leading to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1979 (p.15).

However, in the post-rapprochement period events such as Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s visit to the US and North Korea’s Nuclear Program etc., brought them closer together, while episodes like the Tiananmen Square incident and US arms sales to Taiwan strained their relations to a nadir.

The book’s second chapter, titled “The Harvest of Détente,” examines the period following China-US rapprochement and showcases various instances of their interactions. Notably, the establishment of platforms like the China-US Joint Economic Committee in 1979, the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in 1983, the Global Issues Forum in 2005, and the Sino-American Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2009 are highlighted as positive advancements.

However, contentious issues of Taiwan, global outreach, human rights, the environment, and cyber security continue to create tensions between the two powers. Despite these conflicting interests, Dr. Kazmi elaborates that both the powers have deliberately avoided inciting conflicts, recognizing that cooperation and a mutually beneficial partnership are the only viable paths towards progress(p.52).

Chapter three of the book, “America’s Return to Asia Pacific,” explores the United States’ revitalized presence in the Asia-Pacific region through the notion of rebalancing. The goal was to assume a greater role in the region’s power dynamics.

Dr. Kazmi highlights that the US broadened its focus by fostering extensive cooperation on geopolitical, geo-economic, and geostrategic grounds with the key regional players such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, India, and ASEAN states. The Obama administration aimed to maintain a balance of power, promote regional stability, facilitate trade and investment, and uphold American core values and democratic principles, all while safeguarding its own political, economic, and strategic interests.

Chapter four, “Regional Power Dynamics and Imperatives of American Rebalancing,” expands on the previous chapter to explore the complex security challenges that emerge from the American rebalancing in the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Kazmi specifically focuses on territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. By integrating historical context and contemporary events, the author emphasizes the need to address these challenges promptly and highlights the potential consequences of inaction.

In the fifth chapter, “Belt and Road Initiative: Policy and Outreach in Asia Pacific,” Dr. Kazmi offers a detailed examination of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its impact on the Asia-Pacific region. The chapter explores the BRI’s policy pillars and connectivity structure, which involves 356 international transport routes established through 100 bilateral agreements with 47 regional countries (pp. 169-170).

It also investigates related sectors such as energy, telecommunications, and trade with an estimated value of over USD 2.5 trillion by 2025, fostering multi-lateral cooperation for collective growth in the region and beyond. The author argues that despite the ongoing border conflicts, the BRI has been embraced by significant regional actors which is helpful in enhancing China’s connections with Southeast Asian countries.

Chapter six, titled “Regional Impact of Belt and Road Initiative,” explores China’s commitment to promoting peace, prosperity, and communal growth through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The author contends that the BRI can bring about significant positive changes in the region’s political, diplomatic, and social dynamics if key regional players collaborate effectively.

The chapter assesses the success of the BRI, analyzes China’s increasing influence in different areas and regions, and discusses how American policymakers and academics perceive the initiative as a challenge. It emphasizes that the evolving China-US relationship will be influenced by the responses and strategic actions of BRI stakeholders (p.247). Additionally, the chapter addresses various mechanical, structural, political, security, and strategic challenges that the BRI might have to get the best of.

The final chapter, “At the Crossroads”, examines power dynamics in the Asia Pacific region, focusing on the US pivot to Asia policy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The author suggests that the US’s rebalancing of power may lead to other states gaining regional significance, potentially forming major powers. The author anticipates that rather than engaging in wars and conflicts, the states would choose to develop mutually beneficial strategies to coexist in a multi-polar world.

In conclusion, “The Road to Balance in Asia Pacific” by Dr. Atia Ali Kazmi is an insightful and a well-researched exploration of power relations between Washington and Beijing, focusing on economic, political, and security challenges. The book offers a deep understanding of these challenges and proposes potential strategies for achieving balance. It explores lesser-known aspects of China-US relations and countries’ policies in the Asia Pacific, emphasizing cooperation and healthy competition rather than escalating conflicts. Dr. Kazmi’s unbiased approach ensures an objective perspective on the diverse topics covered. Overall, “The Road to Balance in Asia Pacific” is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to enhance their understanding of the Asia Pacific region and its future prospects.

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