The Geopolitical Dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region in 2022

Feature Article The Geopolitical Dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region in 2022
JAN 14, 2022 LISTEN

The paradigm shift in the geopolitical dynamics in the Asia Pacific is in the offing since President Biden assumed the Office. The Biden Administration took an apparent deviation from his predecessor- Trump's foreign policy, so far this Region is concerned. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, which left the region open to Chinese dominance and Beijing took the opportunity to a full extent and exceedingly established its influence on Asia—Pacific. However, for now, Mr. Biden's emphasis on Democratic values and human rights as a security strategy, by reviving its leadership position in the Asia- Pacific theatre, is going to make a polarized world and may galvanise a shadow Cold- War 2.0.

The Biden administration is strengthening its alliances, especially the EU, and concentrating more on the Asia-Pacific region than his predecessor. During Donald Trump's presidency, the détente in the US-Russia relations raised the eyebrows of a number of US policymakers and allies. As a result, Trump was indicted by the congressional Committee on the accusation of Russia's meddling in his presidential election. But Mr. Biden has recalibrated the Washington—Moscow relationship. The US-led NATO military alliances are stoking tensions near Moscow's border. The West accosted Russia on the issue of forceful subjugation of Rule of Law and its opposition leader. Russia also retaliates with military-technical measures in both the EU's neighbourhoods (Eastern and Southern), through the gas pipelines and refugees being used as means of exerting pressure, which is understandably having an unnerving impact on the energy and migration sector.

In 2022, the world appears to be on the verge of re-orientating its long-held policy towards the US-China polarisation. The cash-rich Chinese announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has disrupted and unsettled the US traditional Asian allies. Chairman Xi's policy of 'deep pocket' for his neighbours made proselytisation of US loyalists towards Chinese pull in Asia-Pacific. Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia have gravitated towards China's orbit of influence which will jolt the geopolitical orientation of ASEAN nations. In Asia, China is investing approx 100 billion USD annually. China-backed North Korea's Sabre rattling makes US allies - Japan and South Korea concerned. China warned the Western Leaders on the issue of Taiwan and threatened not to 'play with fire'. The situation is increasingly deteriorating in the South China Sea, Korean Peninsula, the opening up of Arctic routes and trade wars. Thus, China is gradually becoming more assertive and is beginning to challenge the leadership of global power.

In 2022, the World's eyes will be on the US and its western allies; more specifically as to how they polarise the Asian states towards its orbit of influence. We experienced this political polarisation by the US during the Cold War and after WW-ll. US efforts to align Asia-Pacific countries are reflected by the 2021 trips of the US secretaries of State and Defence to this region. China's BRI is countered by the US initiatives to revive Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)- a strategic security dialogue between the US, Australia, Japan, and India and another strategic security pact within Australia, United Kingdom and US (AUKUS). The most important events in 2021 were the G-7 Summit, NATO Summit and Summit for democracy. The future threats from China and Russia were clearly spelled out by the US-led Western leaders in those Summits. Their rivals are also reverberating equally in every region. As a result, an ominous trepidation of another Cold War is looming over the horizon.

In the Indo-Pacific region, China has severe economic, political and military influences. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh are pursuing various multi-billion-dollars Infrastructural development projects funded by China. These South Asian States have billion-dollars military deals with China. So, Quad is a strategic posture for US presence in this region to curb and countermeasure China's influence. China exposed political rifts with India by border skirmishes or growing threats to India's "chicken neck". President Biden seeks to build a strategic framework to counter the growing influence of China in this region. Recent punitive actions by the US against Bangladesh and Myanmar are devised in the Indo-Pacific strategy against China and inducement for geopolitical polarisation. Meanwhile, China is expanding the horizons of its global influence in Africa and Latin America.

The Covid-19 pandemic is widening the chasm and pre-existing discontent for vaccine diplomacy. We will see the initiative of forming broader strategic alliances, more political destabilisation attempts in Vassal states. Future unpredictable technological and arms trade competition could revolutionise defence, cooperation, and economy among State to State, The Asian states are going to watch a confrontation between development and Rule of Law, That is why, the economic, political and military alliances may no longer follow the same trajectory as before. At this moment, this region offers China an edge over America, but one thing is for sure, things will never be the same as we are going to enter 'The Age of Uncertainty'.

M A Hossain, a political and defence analyst, writes on diversified topics in Bangladeshi and foreign newspapers. His Twitter handle is: @writemah71