Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Thaw in US-China Ties and Impact on India

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations

 

Source: IE

Note: The article is in continuation to yesterday’s article USA’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

 

Context: As the Indian PM prepares for his official state visit to Washington DC, India and the US are considering building their relationship in light of a greater alignment in Asia and the Indo-Pacific.

 

Need for greater alignment in Asia and the Indo-Pacific:

  • Rise in China’s assertiveness:
    • China has been grabbing disputed territories from its neighbours.
    • However, there is a reluctance in the region to jeopardise the deep economic relationship with Beijing and avoid politically offending China.
  • US-China conflict: The 20th edition of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore highlighted the deepening tensions between the US and China.

 

USA’s Indo-Pacific strategy:

  • Despite the continuing crises in the Middle East and a major war in Europe, Washington has repeatedly reaffirmed that the Indo-Pacific remains the highest priority.
  • Removing the Asian fear by explicitly challenging China’s claim to regional hegemony has been at the core of the US Indo-Pacific strategy.

 

USA approach towards China:

  • National actions include measures for control of technology exports to China and growing military support for Taiwan.
  • The US is mobilising a broad-based coalition to balance China. For example, it has drawn (the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) into the grand regional coalition.

 

Change in USA’s approach:

  • However, at the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, the US President appeared to suggest a change of approach by using the word “de-risk” for their economic engagement with China instead of the more combative “decouple”.
  • The US is also resuming high-level talks on confidence-building measures to prevent the tensions from escalating.

 

Why a change in USA’s approach?

  • Economic engagement forms a substantial part of the US-China relationship.
  • Bilateral trade was almost $700 billion in 2022. The US imports more from China than any other country.
  • American companies have long seen China as a top investment destination.

 

China’s suspicion:

  • China is unwilling to accept the US terms of engagement and sees USA’s persistent call for high-level dialogue as a trap.
  • China criticises the resurgent “cold war mentality” and demands that “mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony”.
  • It sees the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) as a mechanism to contain it in the Indo-Pacific.

 

The current state of US-China relations:

  • A Cold War-style détente emerged between today’s two superpowers.
  • The détente reduced tensions and led to a period of cooperation (between the then superpowers – the US and USSR), even as proxy conflicts played out in their respective spheres of influence.

 

Where do other Asian countries stand?

  • Many Asian nations have stepped up political and military engagement [trilateral coordination with Seoul and Tokyo, a local quad (Australia, Japan, Philippines)] with the US despite Chinese warnings.
  • Japan: The US has been encouraging Japan too –
    • Raise its military capabilities,
    • Modernising the military alliance with South Korea,
    • Revitalising military partnership with Manila and
    • Enhancing security cooperation with Indonesia.
  • India:
    • The US and India have come closer over a shared perception of China’s rise.
    • India’s embrace of Quad and the US Indo-Pacific strategy came after the Doklam standoff in 2018 and the PLA’s incursions into eastern Ladakh in 2020.
    • The shared interests in stabilising the Asian balance of power are objective realities demanding a solid India-US strategic partnership.
    • Currently, both are in talks for a significant elevation of bilateral defence cooperation, including technology transfers and joint defence industrial production.

 

How would an improvement in US-China relations play out for India?

  • It would be “counterproductive” to India’s interests.
  • India’s worst nightmare in the years to come would be the emergence of a US-China G2 for global stability.

 

Conclusion:

  • The USA’s recent approach towards China is seen as an attempt to build a ‘New Asia’, where two superpowers (US and China) indirectly accept each other’s spheres of influence.
  • India requires a counterbalancing strategy against China that involves cooperating with the US and others with similar interests, while also maintaining strategic autonomy and national interests.

 

Insta Links:

USA’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

 

Mains Links:

“The USA is facing an existential threat in the form of China, that is much more challenging than the erstwhile Soviet Union.” Explain. (UPSC 2021)