WANG YUE/FOR CHINA DAILY
China needs to take practical actions to expand cooperation in East Asia to dissolve hostility and enhance trust
Amid the mounting concerns of the United States and its allies over China's rise, the security situation in East Asia is becoming more volatile.
On Feb 11, 2022, the Joe Biden administration released the Indo-Pacific strategy, which sets out the goal of a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure and resilient 'Indo-Pacific region'. In practical terms, the US did not move its resources to Europe after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but instead increased its resource investment in the Indo-Pacific region due to concerns over China. It hopes to promote the Indo-Pacific strategy through its bilateral military alliances, the Australia-United Kingdom-US and US-Japan-Repubilc of Korea partnerships, the Quad alliance, as well as the Five Eyes alliance.
The US has been encouraging Japan and the ROK to put aside their past grievances and move closer together. Recently, Japan and the ROK were making frequent exchanges in efforts to achieve a historic reconciliation and to strengthen their bilateral security cooperation. A de facto US-Japan-ROK trilateral alliance has taken shape as the three countries frequently engage in diplomatic and military interactions regarding regional hot spot issues.
The US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, made progress in 2022, enabling significant enhancements in the US-Japan-Australia, US-Japan-India, Japan-Australia, Japan-India and India-Australia security cooperation.
It is worth noting that other alliances involving the US are also raising their attention on security affairs in the Asia-Pacific, especially in East Asia. At the end of June 2022, four Asia-Pacific countries, Japan, the ROK, Australia and New Zealand, were invited to a NATO summit for the first time.
It can be seen that as the US is strengthening the transatlantic and Indo-Pacific alliances, it is also making efforts to enhance the interaction between the two to build a global security alliance system with the US at its core.
However, while the US is fiercely competing with China, it has repeatedly stated its commitment to manage the competition responsibly, stressed its willingness to work with China where interests align and not to let the disagreements stop us from moving forward on the priorities that demand that we work together, for the good of the people and the world. Therefore, while effectively responding to the strategic pressure from the US, China also needs to recognize the layers and flexibility of the US strategy.
The balance of power in East Asia is complex. The region is home to three major economies — China, Japan and the ROK. It involves three nuclear-armed powers, namely China, the US and Russia, as well as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is actively developing nuclear weapons. Additionally, it is where the US-Japan and US-ROK military alliances are based.
In recent years, regional security uncertainties have been further exacerbated due to the volatile security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the changing security dynamics in the Taiwan Strait, East China Sea and South China Sea, as well as the uncontrollable slide of the China-US relationship into strategic competition between big powers.
In the fiscal year 2023, the US defense budget increased by 10 percent compared to the previous year, reaching $858 billion. This double-digit growth is unprecedented in recent years and reflects the rapidly rising costs of its security commitments in response to actual and potential wars in Europe and East Asia.
For a long time, Japan has refrained from aggressive increases in defense spending and kept it at around 1 percent of GDP, which has been regarded as a key indicator of Japan's principle of pacifism. However, the past decade has seen the continuous growth of Japan's defense spending. Its Defense Buildup Program formulated at the end of 2022 announced to raise defense spending for 2023-27 to 43 trillion yen ($332 billion), which is a 56 percent increase compared with the previous five-year plan and 2 percent of its expected GDP by 2027.
In a world undergoing profound changes, China needs to identify its fundamental strategic interests and regional security trends to create a favorable international and neighborhood security environment. China advocates peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, freedom, the common values of humanity, as well as the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. Standing firmly against the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, China is committed to implementing the Global Security Initiative.
In East Asia, China aims to attract and unite all relevant parties with security interests in the region, take practical actions to manage competition, prevent conflicts, expand cooperation, dissolve hostility and enhance trust. This is the way to lead the countries out of the security dilemma, prevent regional conflicts or even wars, and jointly build long-term peace in the region that is stable and sustainable.
The author is the deputy director of the Institute of International Studies and the director at the Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies at Fudan University.