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East Asia Summit: Game of great powers

2014-11-26 11:33:59       source:CCTV

By Du Xiaojun

November 14, 2014

"The East Asia Summit, held following the Beijing APEC meeting and before the Brisbane G20 Summit, serves as a platform for major powers in the Asia-Pacific region to show their commitments to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is a field of competition for these great powers.

The Chinese premier, U.S. president, and leaders from Japan, India, Australia and South Korea have gathered in in Nay Pyi Taw, putting Myanmar into the spotlight again, not long after it opened itself up to the outside world.

China: building Silk Road to strive for a promising future with its neighbors 

In September to October 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building 'the Silk Road Economic Belt' and 'the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.' These diplomatic concepts show that the Chinese government values its neighbors and is determined to strengthen ties with them.

The ASEAN is the starting point and the pivot point of 'the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.' From January to September, bilateral trade between China and the ASEAN grew by 7.5 percent compared with last year and China's trade with the ASEAN accounted for more than 10 percent of China's total foreign trade volume. The East Asia Summit is an important opportunity for China to deepen its cooperation with the ASEAN, promote interactions in East Asia, and expound its concepts of peace and cooperation.

Past editions of the East Asia Summit have been eventful because some countries tried to use the platform to contain China under the pretext of the South China Sea disputes. But their schemes were foiled by China every time.

Under the multilateral mechanism, it is easy for participants to form factions and group, leading to many-to-one confrontations. China, accustomed to the bilateral mechanism and bilateral thinking, needs to accumulate its experience in carrying out its diplomacy under the framework of the multilateral mechanism. And China's engagement in the East Asia Summit will greatly enhance its capability to integrate with the international community. 

U.S.: roping in the ASEAN and containing China with multilateral mechanism

Since Barack Obama took office, the ASEAN has been elevated to an important status in the U.S. overall strategy. The U.S. is reshaping the roles of its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region while carrying out its 're-balancing' strategy in the region. Its alliance with Japan is regarded as the cornerstone of the strategy and its partnership with the ASEAN is an important starting point.

In July 2009, then U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declared that "the U.S. is back." In 2010, the U.S Secretary of State participated in the East Asia Summit. From 2011 to 2012, the U.S. pushed hard for the discussions of the South China Sea issue during the summits, even though China clearly stated that it was improper to include that topic.

In 2013, Obama was absent from the East Asia Summit because the summit overlapped with the shutdown of the U.S. federal government. His absence aroused concerns from its allies and partners about the U.S. 'strength' and 'pledges'. In April, Obama visited Asia to dispel these concerns.

With many Asian countries turning to China for economic interests and the U.S. for security, the U.S. has two plans to weaken China's influence. On economy, it pushes forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement(TPP) to undermine China's cooperation with the neighboring countries. On security, it strengthens commitment to its Asian allies and partners. For example, the U.S. and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in April.

The East Asia Summit is also a playground for the U.S. to employ legal tools. With its increasingly important role in the summit, the U.S. intended to rope in many partners to contain China with the help of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Japan: reaching out to many countries to strengthen its existence 

Japan and the Southeast Asian countries have maintained close economic and trade exchanges since the end of World War II. The 1977 Fukuda Doctrine made a clear statement that Japan and the ASEAN had mutual affinity. Japan has also established a good image among these countries with its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the region.

With the implementation of U.S. re-balancing strategy and growing South China Sea disputes, Japan and the ASEAN countries have strengthened their political and security ties. Japan's strategic goal is to become a 'normal country,' and the ASEAN is an important external testing field for it to realize this aim.

In 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited all 10 ASEAN countries. Abe advocated his 'active pacifism' and support for the ASEAN at this year's Shangri La Dialogue.

The East Asia Summit is an important platform for Japan to enhance its influence in Southeast Asia and build closer relationship with the ASEAN countries. Compared with China's Silk Road funds and the U.S. security commitment, Japan seems to have fewer public products to offer, but it cannot be ignored. On its soft side, Japan keeps in step with the U.S. in advocating international law and peaceful solutions to territorial disputes. On its tough side, Japan is committed once again to helping Southeast Asian countries reinforce their coast guards.

What concerns Japan the most is that the notion of G2 will come true and it will be marginalized in the Asia-Pacific region. So Japan follows the U.S. to strengthen its existence and embeds its national strategy in its alliance with the U.S. The Japan-U.S. coordination will be more prominent in the upcoming East Asia Summit."