Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 07:09 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 07:09 | SYDNEY

Asia in 10 years


Malcolm Cook

18 February 2009 11:42

CSIS in Washington has just released a very interesting survey of 'strategic elite' views about Asia in 10 years. The release is particularly timely as it comes during Secretary of State Clinton’s first overseas trip covering Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China (in that order), and the announcement that Prime Minister Aso will be the first foreign leader to visit President Obama in Washington. Canada, the largest supplier of energy to the US, welcomes President Obama today on his first foreign trip as President.

The survey holds a mixture of good and bad news for America's and China’s roles in the region, some good news and bad news for followers (like me) of regional architecture and Australia, and some good news for key bilateral relations:

  • Interviewees in every country except China and Thailand (US, Australia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea) view China as the most likely threat to peace and stability in Asia. Even the South Koreans rated China a greater risk than North Korea. These results match well with those reported by Andrew on views of Chinese soft power.
  • On the other hand, close to two-thirds of respondents believe China will be the most powerful country in Asia in a decade. Less than a third opted for the US.
  • The US seems to have problems with Thailand, the only country where respondents identified the US as the greatest threat to regional peace and security.
  • The view of China overtaking the US as the most powerful country in Asia is widely held, with its alliance partners — Japan, South Korea and Australia — the most reluctant to accept this.
  • The US was also identified as the greatest force for regional peace and stability, followed by China and Japan. 
  • As for regional architecture and Australia’s role in it, respondents, echoing the sentiments in Prime Minister Rudd’s Asia Pacific Community speech, showed a distinct lack of confidence in the range of existing regional organisations and strong support for the idea of a future East Asia Community.
  • When it comes to membership beyond the existing members of ASEAN-3, India and the US scored very highly. (Hillary Clinton will be the first Secretary of State to visit the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. I wonder if this is a precursor to the US signing the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation?) Australia was also seen as an important member. Japanese respondents were the keenest for Australia to be included. Chinese ones were the least favourable. 
  • As for key bilateral relationships, South Korean respondents were positive on Japan, with none identifying Japan as the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region. Japan and Korea also showed the strongest support for the US role in the region.
  • There was also good news for US-China relations, as China was above the weighted average of respondents when it came to seeing the US as the greatest force for peace and stability in the region. Only 17% of Chinese respondents opted for the US as the greatest threat to regional peace and stability, while 40% opted for North Korea. 80% of Chinese respondents also believe that it is important for the US to participate in an East Asia Community; only a bit over a half felt the same way about Australia.