Watch the war: Turkey boosts peace hopes, Zelensky wants Israel’s help, Mariupol siege drags on, hypersonic missiles
The first step? Ensuring China’s “limitless” friendship with Russia is, in fact, limited. Unfortunately, Friday’s meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping – the first contact between the two most powerful men in the world since the start of the war – did not go as smoothly as some suggested. Instead, Biden, who was due to enter with firearms amid reports that China was considering a request for military support from Putin “detailed what the implications and consequences would be if China provided material support to the Russia,” said White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki.
But no breakthrough was announced, and while China’s reading said it “represents peace and opposes war”, it notably did not condemn Putin, and instead referred to abstract Chinese expressions: “Whoever tied the bell to the tiger must remove it”. and “it takes two hands to clap,” suggesting that the United States and NATO must deal directly with Russia.
Is Beijing’s Deliberate Shutdown on Russian Aggression America’s Fault? Washington sees China as its main challenger globally, but the United States has “stepped out of the playing field by moving away from its traditional role as a rule-maker and norm-setter”, it said. Evan A. Feigenbaum, vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment. for international peace.
Two examples are the major trade agreements covering the Indo-Pacific region, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Neither India, the world’s sixth largest economy and an obvious “Indo” power, nor the United States, the world’s largest economy and a self-proclaimed “Pacific power”. In fact, the United States withdrew from the RCEP negotiations and took of of the TPP in 2017.
Feigenbaum therefore believes that Washington “has crippled its own ‘rebalancing’ with Asia by ceding rule and normalization space not necessarily to Beijing but to a broader set of pan-Asian actors.”
These actors include South Korea, with the recent return of a less respectful conservative leadership towards China; the possible end of Pakistan’s pro-Beijing (and newly pro-Moscow) nuclear-armed government; and India, Washington’s beloved quadruple partner but also immune to Russian aggression. These developments in the Indo-Pacific (and the upcoming elections in the Philippines, which will influence Chinese politics in Manila) should attract Washington’s attention.
But with a war in Europe, the Biden administration has even less room for leadership in Asia, which means that those third parties listed above become even more important. “Because the US won’t have the luxury of focusing solely on China and the Indo-Pacific, it will place even greater emphasis on coalition strategies and third-party players in Asia,” Feigenbaum says.
Despite the unpredictable challenges of an unbridled foreign policy, the United States could already be making progress in the area of coalition building. “It’s impossible to ignore cataclysmic world events,” says Sameer Lalwani, senior fellow in Asian strategy at the Stimson Center. “The Biden administration has carefully shown leadership – whether in Afghanistan or Ukraine – while avoiding becoming embroiled in a new conflict that could distract its attention from China.”
Lalwani believes work is progressing on the Asian pivot. “The Biden administration seems very focused on the Indo-Pacific,” he says, “but it won’t look like an explosive summit or Beijing suddenly collapsing to its knees.” Instead, it will be largely invisible but a “constant methodical process of regularly showing up in the region, rebuilding alliances, distributing vaccines, and improving and pooling everyone’s capabilities.”
A year after Biden’s maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific, the record shows some hits and misses. There is the Quad, a security agreement between the United States, Japan, India and Australia, which is reluctant to declare itself an alliance mainly because of India’s concerns for its strategic autonomy. There’s AUKUS, the security pact between Washington, London and Canberra, which has touched a nerve in Beijing, but it only aims to strengthen the Indo-Pacific front lines against China through defense and a strong deterrent.
In Ukraine, Washington has proven that it can still assume a strong leadership role when needed. He beat the drum on a Russian invasion for months and led a unified Allied response, which led to crippling sanctions and a stronger NATO. “In Ukraine, you see the power of American training, military assistance, and the overwhelming power of financial sanctions when the United States and its European and Asian allies act in concert,” Lalwani said. “The techno-democratic coalition that the Biden administration has gradually built to implement significant export controls on Russia can now also be deployed for future challenges”
Lessons learned from Ukraine, he thinks, “will have benefits far beyond European security”.
There won’t be a perfect time for this, but the pivot to Asia must prevail. The Middle East will continue to fester. Europe will need help in the face of the fallout from this war. But the biggest challenge, China, will prove to be the most pervasive and persistent. Thus, the “strategic” part of the pivot – public diplomacy, coalition building, defense transfers, trade regimes, technology sharing, military bases – will have to be imagined, calibrated and executed, but only if patience and perseverance are displayed in this area and future administrations.