Just Another Paper Tiger? Chinese Perspectives on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy
By Joel Wuthnow
Strategic Forum 305
June 3, 2020 —
- Chinese officials have responded to the U.S. “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy through a regional counternarrative that raises doubts about the motives and sustainability of U.S. leadership in Asia while presenting China as a partner of choice.
- Chinese analysts perceive the Indo-Pacific strategy as a form of containment based on stronger U.S. relations with Japan, India, and Australia. They assess that, if left unchecked, the strategy will reduce China’s influence and increase regional tensions.
- Chinese observers identify weak regional support as the primary constraint on U.S. strategy in Asia and advocate responding by improving China’s own relations throughout the neighborhood.
- U.S. messaging needs to offer assurances of U.S. commitments and evidence of regional contributions. These messages should be regularly reinforced in regional gatherings, even those hosted by China.
- Washington needs to maintain key relationships in the region but need not respond in kind to every Chinese overture. The strategy may also create new opportunities to negotiate with China on certain issues from a position of strength.
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