Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific tactic’ as a way forward
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2017.11.12
US President Donald Trump arrived in China on Wednesday. This is the leg of his Asia trip that has attracted the most attention.
As White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro, a “China expert” who is anti-Beijing, was forced to be absent from the trip and Trump has not built a strong team to deal with China affairs, the rest of the world had been worried about how his visit would go.
The latest Time magazine cover features the words “China won,” in both English and simplified Chinese.
Meanwhile, China had intentionally curried favor with Trump so that he would be overwhelmed and forget to uphold US principles.
When then-US president Ronald Reagan visited China in 1984, the Chinese authorities gave him an “emperor’s dream” by letting him sleep on an emperor’s “dragon bed.” This time, they treated Trump with an extremely luxurious “emperor’s banquet” at the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Unlike all the previous visits, the two nations’ top aides did not reach a number of consensuses before the trip; they merely followed customs. As a result, what problems might arise during the process was unpredictable. Both sides faced a real test.
Still, it was reassuring to see that the US launched its new “Indo-Pacific tactic” before Trump’s Asia trip. Originally, the Asia-Pacific countries were anxious as he failed to reiterate former US president Barack Obama’s “Asia pivot” policy. Now, the scope of the Indo-Pacific tactic is even larger, and the term itself sounds more scientific, not to mention that it actually covers the second half of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project.
The new strategy originated from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s idea of a “diamond tactic” based on a diamond-shaped alliance of the four major democracies in the Indo-Pacific region — the US, Japan, India and Australia.
While the US tactic highlights the solidity of US-Japan relations, Taiwan can also benefit from the tactic, as it is in line with the nation’s New Southbound Policy. The US’ new tactic might even replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement from which Washington has already withdrawn.
As the name implies, the scope of the Indo-Pacific tactic includes other countries bordering the Indian Ocean apart from India, such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, as well as those bordering the Arabian Sea and the coastal countries of East Africa.
China has built ports on the Indian Ocean in Myanmar and Pakistan, and it owns a military port stationed with Chinese troops in Djibouti in East Africa. As a result, tensions are expected to rise in the Indian Ocean region.
Moreover, the term “Indo” in this context overlaps Indonesia and the Indochinese peninsula, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. This gives the name a special meaning, as the total population of those countries is higher than that of China.
Within the scope of the new tactic, the friendship of India, Vietnam and Russia has lasted for more than half a century, and all three are facing the threat of the expansion of a greater Chinese empire.
The US should promptly clarify Trump’s role in the alleged “Russiagate” scandal and improve US-Russia relations, while convincing its European allies to accept this. By doing so, it would be able to deal with the “red peril” that threatens world peace and universal values.
If Trump wants to make America great again, this is how he can do it.
Paul Lin is a senior commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang