Badirujjaman

Geopolitical Important Issues of the
Greater East Asia: An Analysis

Introduction:

Greater East Asia refers to present-day East Asia and Southeast Asia. This greater region is very important in understanding international relations. This greater region has been significant geopolitically since history, from the Ming Dynasty to emerging competitors like China and the USA. Like other regions, Greater East Asia also experiences many shifts in its surroundings. And today’s structure of the region is going to depend on the US-China dilemma. However, in this writing, we will try to discuss the varying geopolitics of Greater East Asia.


Significance of Great East Asia:

Basically, the great East Asia means the present Southeast Asia and Easter Asia. This region has maintained significance historically, not only for its inhabitants but also for the overseas empires of Europe and America. But in this writing, we will try to examine why this region is important for global politics at present and what factors are responsible for such geopolitical importance.

However, scholars pointed out four important factors that make this greater region more significant in the international system, namely:

  1. Chinese emergence as a superpower + regional hegemon
  2. India-China Factor
  3. Nuclear proliferation like North Korea
  4. The relative decline of ASEAN


The emergence of China and the Greater East Asia:

It is essential to understand the rise of China as a regional and major global power in terms of its economic dominance and expansion policies in order to identify the geopolitical shifting of greater East Asia. The study of China is important because of her global presence in terms of trade, manufacturing industries, investments, and socio-technical aspects.

In addition, China is developing one of the major military strengths in both sea, land, and air that have consolidated its existence in both the regional and international systems. Therefore, to better understand the rise of China, we need to highlight two specific factors, namely  

  1. The rise of China’s economy and its indicators;
  2. The impact of this rise globally, in particular, is the greatest issue.

The economic transformation of China can be identified by three important factors.

China’s impressive economic growth in terms of GDP over the last five decades It started after an Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998 happened. After the crisis, the PRC almost successfully maintained growth above 6%. In 1996, before the crisis, the Chinese economy was above 6.5%, but in 2000, the economy rose to about 8.3% and then rose gradually until the global financial crisis in 2008.

Because of China’s mass interdependence on the American market, the crash in America was a great blow to the Chinese economy. But after that crisis, China gradually developed its economic rates. And now China is one of the biggest economies in the world in terms of GDP and PPP

The second indicator is China’s trade with the US, where China has enjoyed an enormous surplus over the last two decades. This has been going on gradually. Therefore, Donald Trump identified this large deficit in the balance of payments between Sino-US trade relations, addressing why the US domestic economy has been slowing down and suggesting reconstructing its economics. Therefore, in 2018, Donald Trump declared war on trade against China, and so did China.

The third important indicator of Chinese economic success is that China is trying to create some alternative institutions on how to help others. For a long time, the two giant global institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, provided all the funding that would support this region, including China, but the conditions for this assistance have not been as favorable as they had hoped.

So China needs to reconstruct the system to make its influence in the region. To change the situation, she established an Asian infrastructure investment bank with other great economic powers that allow many countries to access investment, assistance, and other opportunities. But importantly, it allows for the expansion of Chinese economic interests through an institutional set-up through international investment aid and debt.

So these three indicators show us how China became a very dominant economic player in the world, and in particular, in East Asia.

What are the influences and consequences of such an economic transformation in China? It can be identified by three faces:

  • It influences Chinese economic policies globally.
  • It influences Chinese policy at home.
  • It changes and influences Greater South Asia.

China, after such outstanding economic transformations, has adopted some aggressive economic policies, such as the Belt Road Initiative (BRI). This policy provides enormous funding to many countries in the world, as well as more investments and interest in development projects. But more importantly, it helps China expand her economic policies and political ambitions in greater East Asia.

Another example is the diversification of the business carried out by the PRC authority. Here, China not only develops manufacturing industries but also other different areas, such as low-energy-related products. This transformation also influences political affairs at home.

The central authority of the PRC becomes stronger, and the political freedom of outside communist parties remains low. This is carried out by banning any social and political activists countrywide and by the strong policy approach of the PRC in dealing with Hong Kong and other administrative regions.

The last influence of the PRC’s economic transformation is on the region. This is very important because China’s expansion in terms of economic rise has both contributed to tensions and hopes in the region. The complexities of Chinese economic growth advance Chinese military enlargement, and the immediate result of this is the South China Sea disputes, where the Chinese government has been very aggressive in dealing with the South China Sea.

In addition, China promotes more and more regional integration in both East and Southeast Asia. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is one of the initiatives promoted by China. It integrates China with ASEAN. It also contributes to incorporating more complicated and strategic relations between Sino-Japanese and Indo-China.


Sino-US rivalry and the Greater East Asia:

Greater East Asia, including South East Asia and East Asia, has suffered a lot from the historic rivalry between China and the USA. But in the recent era, this rivalry has intensified heavily, both economically and politically.

As I mentioned above, the great trade deficiency among Sino-US trade relations and US internal market exploitation of Chinese products facilitated Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Besides the trade war, competition for areas of influence over Great East Asia remains pivotal. South East Asia and East Asia since the beginning of the competition have been largely impacted because of it. 

And the COVID-19 pandemic has extended the rivalry. A blame game has been continued between these two states. In addition, this relationship is getting worse because of the Chinese expeditions over the South China Sea, known as “China Lake,” which established many naval ports and developed Chinese military industrial capacity.

However, the US has some political allies in Great East Asia, and Chinese emergence in the region with a new equation against the US has limited the US’s possession as a savior or strategic and security partner. The Greater East Asian States are basically happy about China as the regional economic superpower, and they emphasize entering Chinese markets, investing in them, and so does China. But Chinese huge economic existence with more expansion policies threatens the sovereignty of the regional states.

So popular discontent and an anti-Chinese mentality have gradually emerged throughout the region. An opposite mentality is also created for US policy in the region. Those states in greater East Asia (e.g., ASEAN states) are much more concerned about Chinese aggressive policy there and happy about US Indo-Pacific strategy in countering China’s concerns due to the US’s decline in the implementation of their commitments.

And Donald Trump’s uncertain features and withdrew from the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) consolidated US presence in the region lightly. In addition, the US domestic destruction due to COVID-19 and the Middle East repatriation policy would make her busy in the coming years. Thus creating uncertainty over the region, as they believe China would fill up the vacuum with her aggressive economic and South China Sea policies.

 

Indo-China rivalry:

Sino-US rivalry in Greater East Asia and the showing of US declining presence in the region have facilitated India’s engagement in the region besides South Asia. India’s outstanding economic transformation since the post-Cold War gives her a powerful position in bargaining with others.

Both China and India, with their economic development, have the potential to surpass the USA very soon. So this criterion of India also makes her a strong strategic partner in both East and South Asian development. In East Asia, though India has been a trading partner for both China and others, besides India has been a strategic partner of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan—that’s the region India sought against the Chinese aggressive policy toward Taiwan and Hong Kong, and in the matter of South China Sea disputes.

Though the Chinese government has since mocked Indian expressions as outsiders to the region, particularly the South China Sea, But India wants to extend its area of influence not only in South Asia but also in the greater East Asia. That’s why India becomes a great importance in her relations with ASEAN states and Japan, and simultaneously, these regional states supported India in going against the regional offensive giant, China.

However, India’s inclusion in the Indo-Pacific is going to be obvious under the strategy of the Indo-Pacific. Besides India, many powerful states, including the USA Japan and Australia are the promoters of this in the Pacific strategy. Besides, India’s great emerging as an economic power, India’s powerful naval force surfing over the Indian Ocean, and India’s great control over the region.

All the initiatives proposed for the region are about containing China from its regional ambitions, but not every state in Greater East Asia welcomes this as they have been largely dependent upon China. India has also developed her strategic relations with Indonesia and Australia, I want to Indian Ocean factors, and also engage with USA, Japan, and Australia in the Pacific Ocean. So India’s inclusion in the region will emphasize the geopolitical significance of greater East Asia.


Nuclear proliferation of North Korea:

In greater East Asian geopolitics, North Korea, or DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has been a powerful and ambiguous factor since the 1970s. Though the Korean War had a major impact on the region, the North Korean intention of developing nuclear powers consolidated their strong position in studying both East and South East Asian politics.

Since the beginning of the DPRK’s nuclear development, five legalized nuclear states, including China, the UK, France, the USA, and Russia, have done their best to de-escalate the nuclear proliferation of North Korea. But they failed, and North Korea successfully tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006. However, this testing is gradually developing.

Weapons capabilities are also advanced. This testing justifies how crucial and serious the tensions are among emerging countries like Japan and South Korea, and the present development of nuclear warheads is supposed to pose threats to the US mainland and other US allies in the region. 

Whether it seems like the US is taking back its containment policy by terming DPRK a rough state, North Korea can use the development as a tool of deterrence and a medium for minimizing sanctions against DPRK.

Even some scholars pointed out that if the USA is going to use the same objectives of toppling this historic DPRK region by installing pre-emptive attacks, that will be disastrous not only for the US and its allies in the region but also for greater East Asia.


ASEAN:

Since its inception, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been a key player in East Asian geopolitics. It commenced upon establishing both coherence and credibility among the nations of the region.

Since its beginning, it has become one of the most efficient regional organizations for various reasons, including managing diverse conflictual parties, promoting regionalism through above-all diversification, including religion, culture, linguistics, and others; establishing the region as more peaceful than ever in history; functioning according to the EU’s neo-functional processes for strengthening regional integration; and facilitating trade relations with all over the world, particularly in greater East Asia. But in recent days, ASEAN has faced some major challenges.

Sino-US rivalry is the major challenge for ASEAN. Though these ASEAN states are not unhappy with the Chinese’s huge emergence as regional economic powers as their internal existence is based upon a free market economy, the competition between China and the USA over the South China Sea for expanding their regional ambitions threatens the very objectives of ASEAN. The recent trade war between China and the USA has caused huge damage to these regional economies.

However, as with external forces, ASEAN has internal problems, such as a lack of adherence to general norms such as human rights, the rule of law, and democracy by some ASEAN member states. The continuous hypocrisy in the name of democracy in Thailand and Myanmar, the lack of accountability in Malaysia, the growing religious intolerance in Indonesia and Myanmar, the systematic persecutions of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the autocratic ruling in removing drug trafficking in the Philippines by the Military Junta are some of the core challenges against the continuation of successful ASEAN.


Conclusion:

East and Southeast Asia, which is termed the greater East Asia, has been significant geopolitically for the various issues. In the writing, I mentioned four such great factors that, since the 21st century, signify the very existence of the region. Though studying the geopolitical importance of any region, many may start with geography, population, topography, economy, politics, military capacities, etc.

But what I found significant is that all the above general indicators co-exist with the above-mentioned four factors. Sino-US rivalry, Indian inclusion in the areas, North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, and the fluctuation of ASEAN’s motives not only signify the present greater East Asian geopolitics but are also going to enhance regional significance in the future, as many scholars believe.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *