Categories: Economic News

US-China tensions spark economic concerns in Indo-Pacific region: NPR

There are growing fears that the rift between the US and China could lead to economic instability in the wider Indo-Pacific region.


Chinese and US officials have been discussing a possible meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Biden. If that happens, it would be their first face-to-face meeting since Joe Biden took office, and could come as a relief to countries in the Asian region, where there are concerns that friction between the US and China could upend decades of profitable stability. . NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned his country of imminent danger from the growing rift between the United States and China.


PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG: Around us, a storm is gathering. Relations between the US and China worsen with intractable problems, deep suspicions and limited engagement between them. Also, miscalculations or mishaps can easily make things worse.

MCCARTHY: As he spoke, Beijing was wrapping up its largest military exercises to date near Taiwan following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. However, Singapore-based foreign policy and security analyst Aaron Connelly says countries in the region are worried not about war but about the economic damage from an unchecked US-China rivalry.

AARON CONNELLY: And what matters is more about how they manage that rivalry.

MCCARTHY: Connelly says Southeast Asia has enjoyed increasing prosperity as its economies have become more integrated with the United States and China. He says the recently signed US CHIPS Act, aimed at reducing the region’s reliance on semiconductors, could be seen as a sign that the US is decoupling from an interconnected system that has helped maintain stability.

CONNELLY: And if this world that we’ve lived in for the last 50 years and that has made this region so much richer, if it ends now, that’s a cause of deep concern for Singapore and the region.

MCCARTHY: By contrast, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed no alarm at China’s recent show of force. Amidst the noise of shaky cameras…


PRESIDENT FERDINAND MARCOS JR: I don’t think so, to be perfectly honest…

MCCARTHY: Marcos told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Manila this month that he saw no increase in the intensity of tensions between the US and China. Filipinos have become accustomed to stumps. He acknowledged the volatility. But Manila-based defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio says the Philippines depends on its ally, the United States, to deal with external threats while fighting its own local insurgencies. Custodio also says that a policy that sees the Philippines as a straddle between China and the US, a friend of both, as Marcos says, is undermining the country’s preparedness and is, quote, “delusional.” In the South China Sea, he notes, China sank the Philippine fishing vessel and is ignoring an international ruling that protects the Philippines’ maritime rights.

JOSE ANTONIO CUSTODIO: He is not caught in the middle. In fact, it is being victimized by China itself, regardless of our alliance with the United States.

MCCARTHY: Custodio says the Philippines faces neighbors like Japan and Korea, whose ties to the West are unequivocal. US ally Australia is undertaking a historic review of its own defense capabilities as China strengthens. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles told Australian Public Broadcasting that China’s military expansion is shaping the strategic environment of the region, possibly the world.


RICHARD MARLES: And this accumulation is not being done in a transparent way. It is not being done in a way that gives any sense of reassurance to its neighbors in the region. And it’s a huge concern.

MCCARTHY: Beijing’s growing influence among Pacific island nations and its aggressive policy towards Australia itself – Beijing slapped tariffs on Australian goods after a dispute over the origin of the coronavirus – raise the stakes . Although China remains Australia’s largest trading partner, public opinion has taken a sharp turn against China. Natasha Kassam analyzes public opinion at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

NATASHA KASSAM: In Australia, as of 2018, 88% of Australians saw China as more of an economic partner for Australia than a security threat. This has now tilted completely the other way. Most Australians see China as a security threat, as a military threat, and there is almost no trust.

MCCARTHY: Kassam says the Australian public’s anxiety reflects a dilemma shared by many governments in the region.

KASSAM: Not wanting to give in to an aggressor and an aggressor, which is how most Australians see China at the moment, and between not wanting to give up peace and security in our region.

MCCARTHY: Analysts agree that countries don’t really care who started the tense standoff in the Pacific or who has to back down. They just want it to end.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News.


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