Asian Century must begin with great-power accommodation

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Retreat in California. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

US geo-strategic leadership has been the foundation of peace and stability in Asia for so long that most people can hardly imagine anything different, and many certainly don’t want anything different. But the Asia-Pacific is going to get something different, whether we like it or not. Geo-strategic leadership in Asia is changing fast, in ways that have profound implications for the political and economic future of the entire region. How that change occurs, and where it leads, matters deeply to everyone. Yet most are still in denial about the fact that it is happening and are therefore doing nothing to try to steer it in directions that might suit their interests or at least reduce the risk of disaster. Read more…

Don’t go wobbly on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea

US warship SNS Safegurad is anchored at a port on the island of Palawan, western Philippines, 23 June 2015. The Philippines are holding separate naval drills with two of the country's top military allies, the United States and Japan, near the disputed South China Sea. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, United States Department of Defense

In a recent East Asia Forum article, Sam Bateman criticised a decision by the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to develop military plans for more assertive freedom of navigation (FON) operations in the South China Sea (SCS). Specifically, Bateman asserts that ‘there are significant legal, operational and political risks involved with these operations’. While there may be risks associated with conducting FON operations in proximity of China’s man-made islands in the SCS, much of what Bateman states in support of his position is misplaced. Read more…

Why is the US upping the ante in the South China Sea?

An aerial photograph made available by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows construction at Chigua (Kennan) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on 19 February 2015, appearing to show extensive land reclamation and building done by China in disputed territories. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nick Bisley, La Trobe University

Since March 2015 the US has hardened its attitude toward China’s activities in the South China Sea. Beijing appears genuinely surprised by the shift in tone and behaviour. In the past, the US has taken a more measured approach. So why has it escalated its language and flagged risky military exercises in the South China Sea? Why does the US risk upsetting the tenor of Sino–American relations over rocks, islets and reefs? Read more…

The risks of US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea


Author: Sam Bateman, RSIS

The US Secretary of Defense has ordered the US military to develop options for more assertive freedom of navigation (FON) operations around China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea. There are significant legal, operational and political risks involved with these operations. Read more…

The rights and wrongs of US overflights in the South China Sea

A dilapidated Philippine Navy vessel anchored near Ayungin Shoal, with Filipino soldiers onboard, in the Spratly Islands, the South China Sea on 11 May 2015. The Spratly Islands are a flashpoint for ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

Over the past six years, unilateral and escalatory actions by claimants to territories in the South China Sea have exacerbated tensions in the region.

China has not been the precipitator of the tensions in these waters — whether it be in initiating resource exploration activities in disputed areas, introducing military vessels to enforce jurisdictional claims, or conducting land reclamation work in the adjoining waters. Read more…

Best to get the TPP done right, not done fast

A demonstrator protests against the legislation to give US President Barack Obama fast-track authority to advance trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during a protest march on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, 21 May 2015. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Richard Katz, Oriental Economist Report

Unless the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks are concluded soon, they risk dragging on interminably. If that happens, the United States’ capacity to function as a benign world hegemon will be diminished.

To avoid this, the White House is determined to get the pact signed and ratified by the end of 2015. Read more…

Getting trade and currency policy instruments and objectives mixed up

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on trade and the economy from in Oregon, USA, 8 May 2015. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

Trade flows are clearly linked to the value of national currencies. This is the innocuous starting point that leads the political classes and lobbyists in America into a pickle over the incorporation of clauses that seek to protect against ‘currency manipulation’ into trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that is being pushed by the Obama administration as the economic arm of its pivot towards Asia. Read more…