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Indo-Pacific economic framework cynical manipulative tool of US: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2022-05-25 20:28
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An American flag flies outside of the US Capitol dome in Washington, Jan 15, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Karl Haushofer's theory of the "Indo-Pacific" has gained currency thanks to Washington's bid to erase Asia from the geostrategic map. He coined the term in a bid to forge an anticolonial identity among the British, American and Western European colonies in South, East and Southeast Asia with the aim of undermining the Western rivals of interwar Germany. In a somewhat ironic flip of that coin, Washington, with the intention of undermining what it regards as the US' rival, envisions its Indo-Pacific strategy as a sort of crypto-colonization of Asia.

Which explains why many Asian countries, including those hedging their bets by participating in it, remain wary of the strategy. And this remains the case despite the fanfare with which US President Joe Biden launched the latest vehicle for the strategy on Monday, as all involved know the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity is more political than economic, more unilateral than multilateral, and more exclusive than inclusive.

They are well aware that as a geopolitical tool to carve China out of the regional economic and cooperation pattern, what Washington wants the IPEF to bring to the Asia-Pacific is not unity and development but division and regression. A complex and multi-tiered network of economic cooperation has taken shape in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation regional forum, there are also the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is the world's largest regional free trade agreement.

The IPEF is not an addition to these, as rather than facilitating regional economic integration and cooperation, it seeks to cobble together an industrial and technological alliance that ostracizes China, and further exacerbates the "politicization" of the global industrial chains so that they exclude China. It is not a framework for regional prosperity, but a framework designed to bolster the advantage of the US by strengthening its leadership and control of the global economy in the coming decades. Rather than opening its market, the US aims to accelerate the transfer of industries from China to Southeast Asia and India in order to control the key industrial chains and core technologies.

Being intended as a means to reshape the entire global economic agenda to reflect the aims of political forces in Washington makes the IPEF "cumbersome, fraught with uncertainty, and far less likely to be successful", as the US Chamber of Commerce has pointed out. It also means that as the brainchild of the Biden administration, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership which was hatched in the same way by the Barack Obama administration only to be dumped by its successor soon after Donald Trump took office, the IPEF might also be short-lived.

The vitality of the Asia-Pacific economy is the fruit of win-win cooperation, and it will continue to be so. Relevant initiatives should contribute to the prosperity and development of the region and remain open and inclusive, rather than discriminatory and exclusive. Any initiative undermining regional economic cooperation and solidarity is destined to fall on stony ground.

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