China’s rise to power, its assertion and the ambition it projects in the world have an immediate, shattering and irreversible impact on the countries of the region that surround it, and in particular these tigers and dragons of the East Asia, enriched by decades of Western relocation and for the most part protected by the American security umbrella.
This is the immense merit of the summer issue of the quarterly review of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Foreign politic, to take a close look at how Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and finally Australia have suffered, but too negotiated the emergence of the Chinese giant, because, as Marc Julienne, responsible for China activities at IFRI’s Asia Center, writes, they “Concentrate at the same time the most tensions, military and strategic policies and the most interests, commercial, financial, technological”, while finding each other “Caught between the two fronts of the Sino-American rivalry”. Coming from China, the Covid crisis is indicative of all these tensions and has exacerbated a growing distrust of Beijing.
“Cooptation, corruption, coercion”
The case of Australia, radiographed by Nadège Rolland, is revealing among all of the strategy deployed by China vis-à-vis countries of Western culture outside the United States: a poisonous mixture of “Cooptation, corruption and coercion”, of which Canberra ingests a full dose, before identifying it and developing antibodies against it. The countries of Southeast Asia, like the Sophie Boisseau du Rocher analysis, are considered by China as its “First field of experimentation”.
Torn by their own contradictions and the structural weakness of their imperfect or strongly thwarted democracies, these countries are much less resistant to the Chinese juggernaut, but most nonetheless develop their own strategies of coexistence and counterbalance.
Northeast Asia is a battleground at daggers drawn, or almost: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are at the same time too powerful, too close to the United States, and too economically linked to the United States. China so that it cannot change the balance in its favor without major consequences – at least as long as the American superpower is watching.
From South Korea, Beijing ” fails to make a neutral country and distance it from the United States Writes Antoine Bondaz, who analyzes the strange three-way waltz that Seoul, Washington and Beijing have performed around the issue of the denuclearization of North Korea under Trump. Pressured by China, Taiwan is a textbook case of resilience against Beijing: the island has deployed unsuspected resources, especially during the Covid-19. Everywhere in these countries, a common dynamic: the younger generations are deeply suspicious of China and its authoritarian model.
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