By Dr. Subash Kapila
United States and China have played out competing narratives in the earlier Asia Pacific ever since China emerged in October 1949 as a Communist giant monolithic State. Competing narratives of United States and China in mid-2020 have assumed hotly contentious confrontational contours in the now enlarged Indo Pacific Region.
United States and China’s competing narratives spin around fundamentally on the respective strategic goals of these significant major rivals on the security and stability of the Indo Pacific Region.
United States-China competing narratives are now no longer determined by ideological considerations of the Cold War era but now stand graduated to an intense geopolitical and military confrontation between China and United States as they jostle for power and influence over the vast maritime expanses of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and adjoining littorals with littoral countries nudged into taking sides.
Notably, the United States narrative on Indo Pacific draws many Asian capitals to United States point of view as in mid-2020 China suffers from ‘Severe Strategic Distrust’ in Asian capitals arising from its South China Sea military adventurism in wake of switching to ‘Hard Power’ strategies.
The United States attaches prime importance to the Indo Pacific Region as the Western Pacific nations of Japan. South Korea and the Philippines tied in bilateral security alliances with the United States provide the Outer Perimeter of the defence of the US Homeland.
China perceives the Western Pacific as its maritime backyard and perceives Japan, South Korea and the Philippines (not now) with US Forces Forward Military Presence as springboards for possible US military interventions against China.
It needs to be highlighted that outweighing the above is the maritime significance of the Western Pacific sea-lanes traversing the South China Sea from the Straits of Malacca to the East China Sea in proximity of Japan and South Korea.
Conversely these sea-lanes traversing South China Sea are also the lifelines for China’s energy needs and commerce. Besides the economic dimension the Western Pacific is perceived by China as its natural sphere of dominance as an aspiring Superpower challenger competing against the United States.
Tersely termed, the United States stands firmly embedded in the Western Pacific ever since August1945 with sizeable forward deployment of US Military Forces, US Air Force and US Navy and China as an aspiring Superpower wishes to prompt a United States military exit from the Western Pacific leaving the field open for China’s political and maritime aggrandizement.
The pursuit of respective United Sates and China’s strategic narratives has reduced the Asia Pacific Region earlier and now the enlarged Indo Pacific Region in United States and China in varying states of confrontation and conflict.
China’s propensity to engage United States in armed conflict extends from the Korean War of 1950-53, the Vietnam War of the 964-1972 and interspersed with military brinkmanship in the Taiwan Straits, against South Korea and Japan.
The United States contrastingly under the misperceptions of President Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger initiated a China Appeasement policy till recent years, followed by decades of ‘Risk Aversion’ policies against China.
China resultantly for decades stood emboldened to advance its Grand Strategy by intrusive political and military strategies in East Asia, South East Asia and South Asia. All this resulted in dents in US image all over Asia as a guarantor of security and stability in Asia.
Sensing the above but tied down by pressures of US ‘Risk Aversion’ strategies, the United States passed through various stages of its China policy formulations ranging from ‘Engagement’ to ‘Congagement’ and now in mid—2020 to teetering over ‘Confrontational Conflict’.
The better part of the 21st Century seems destined to witness political and military turbulence in the Indo Pacific Region as the United States and China play out their competing narratives in a region which witnesses in mid-2020 a China facing a hostile isolation from Major Asian Powers whose national security interests have a strategic convergence with those of the United States as regards China.