China has announced the failure of the “Rebalance” strategy of the United States, and has invited Asian countries to join Beijing in framing a security governance model with “Asian features”.
China’s formal invite to neighbours to pursue a regional security doctrine that is led by Beijing, and not the United States, came during last week’s foreign ministerial Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Chinese capital.
Xi’s call to step up dialogue
A commentary in the People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper, pointed out that at the welcome ceremony of the CICA conference, President Xi Jiniping urged participants “to build consensus and step up dialogue” to foster “a security governance model with Asian features.” The write-up said that the “new model” is the latest contribution China has made to regional governance.
Details about what could emerge as China-centric collective security architecture in the Asia-Pacific is still a work-in-progress. The People’s Daily commentary, for instance, only mentioned that, “‘Asian features’ include openness and inclusiveness, and China strongly opposes exclusivity.”
“As ‘Pivot to Asia’ failed”
The write-up grounded the rationale for its new initiative, on the failure of the “Pivot to Asia” or “rebalance” doctrine of the Obama administration. It asserted that “the launch of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy by the U.S. in recent years did not bring Asia peace, but only uncertainty.” It added: “It proved that a U.S.-led alliance system is not the right option to safeguard the peace and stability of Asia. Instead, a system of security governance with Asian features, as suggested by China, will be best for Asian development.”
But stiffness in ties vis-à-vis SCS
Yet, the stiffness in ties with some of its Asian neighbours, especially Vietnam and the Philippines over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS),suggests that the Chinese may have flagged a new initiative, but they must now be prepared for the long haul, in order to achieve tangible results.
Tensions between the U.S and China have spiked, after the Chinese responded to the “Pivot to Asia” with fresh activism in the SCS, including construction of artificial islands within waters claimed and controlled by Beijing. Washington has dubbed the growing Chinese assertion as a danger to “freedom of navigation” which could hamper the 5.3-trillion dollar trade that passes through the SCS — a charge that Beijing hotly denies.
‘Frank talk on SCS issue’
Aware of the linkage between the SCS disputes and the acceptance of its doctrinal counter to the U.S. “Rebalance”, the commentary points out that Chinese leaders, during the CICA conference, had “ a frank talk about the South China Sea issue and reiterated China’s ‘dual-track approach,’ calling for relevant countries to work together with China to safeguard peace and stability.”
The write-up also stressed that China’s regional security model, will continue to strive for the integration of the Chinese Dream — China’s aspirational goal for energising “national rejuvenation” — and the Asian Dream “to create a brighter future for Asia.”
Regional diplomatic offensive
In the run-up to the espousal of its new doctrine, the Chinese have launched a regional diplomatic offensive to reinforce that an Asian homegrown solution was the best way to resolve SCS disputes, rather than interference by “outside” powers.
Last month Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a whirlwind visit to Cambodia, Laos and Brunei, to cull out, what the Chinese Foreign Ministry described is “an important consensus” on the SCS
issue, which would be relevant to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Ministry said that China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the South China Sea territorial
dispute should not impact on Beijing’s ties with the ASEAN.
Russia too kept in the loop
China’s diplomatic exertions have also paid off well with Russia, whose Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov stressed in Beijing on Friday that the SCS issue should not be “internationalized.”