New Biden Asia Doctrine: “I don’t want to contain China”
President Biden clamored for a nap during a rambling 26-minute international press conference in Vietnam on Sunday that capped off his whirlwind trip to Asia.
“I tell you what, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go to bed,” Biden, 80, joking during a rambling riff in response to a question about why he hasn’t spoken to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The president was in Hanoi following the multi-day Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, India, where he basked in the absence of Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I’ll just follow my orders here. Staff, is there anybody that hasn’t spoken yet? I ain’t calling on you,” Biden said at another point during the presser Sunday.
Biden dusted off some of his favorite one-liners and at times appeared to invent new ones as he fielded a barrage of questions from reporters.
“The Indian looks at John Wayne and points to the Union soldier and says, ‘He’s a lying, dog-faced pony soldier!’” Biden said in response to a question about climate change.
“Well, there’s a lot of lying, dog-faced pony soldiers out there about global warming,” he added.
Biden also came prepared for some quips from reporters.
“Thank you, Mr. President. I hope you didn’t think that calling only on women would get you softballs tonight,” Voice of America correspondent Anita Powell said at one point.
“If you sent me a softball I wouldn’t know what to do with it, I’d probably strike out even worse,” Biden joked in response.
The president also contextualized the geopolitical undertones of his trip to Asia, namely in relation to China, which loomed large even in Xi’s absence.
“What this trip was about — it was less about containing China. I don’t want to contain China,” Biden contended. “I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away.”
Four flashpoints in Asia to watch as US, China tensions rise
Tensions between the US and China can ignite four simmering disputes – in the South and East China Seas, the Taiwan Strait and the Korean peninsula.
How did these flashpoints emerge and how can they be managed?
Asian Insider reports.
The rising tensions between the United States and China threaten Asia’s peace and must be carefully managed to keep long-running flashpoints in the region from igniting into open conflict, said experts.
But the superpower rivalry is increasing the risk of military conflict between them in the Asia-Pacific, the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in a report on Friday (May 20) about strengthening US-China crisis management.
Making matters worse, their competition has become increasingly militarised in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Their diplomatic interaction has also dwindled in recent years, raising the risk of each superpower misjudging the other’s intentions in an accidental military collision, said the report.
Too Close for Comfort: Southeast Asia’s Attempt to Balance with Russia Against China
In recent years, Russia has openly pursued expanded ties to Southeast Asia and been welcomed by several countries in turn, most notably Vietnam and Myanmar. In a sign of the steadily advancing relationship, President Vladimir Putin met virtually with ASEAN counterparts in the 4th ASEAN-Russia Summit on October 28th. As a result of the summit, the two sides issued a Comprehensive Plan of Action—among other initiatives—to “strengthen partnership and cooperation across a wide range of areas, including political-security, economic, socio-cultural, and development cooperation.” Putin’s participation points towards the relatively high priority that Russia places on expanding its footprint in the region.
From Southeast Asia’s perspective, while Moscow may remain predominantly fixated on events in Europe and Central Asia, Russian involvement offers a great power to balance against growing and threatening Chinese influence. Myanmar and Vietnam in particular view China with considerable consternation as a direct security threat along their borders, and both therefore pursue stronger ties to Russia in response. However, Russia’s growing closeness to China mean that Moscow’s helpfulness for Naypyidaw and Hanoi has a low ceiling as, in the end, Russia will not jeopardize its relations with Beijing for Southeast Asia.
The Threat from China
China lies too close for comfort for Vietnam and Myanmar, and this history of both conflict and partnership necessitates a careful foreign policy alternating between appeasing Beijing and balancing against it. For Hanoi, deep-seated tensions in the China-Vietnam relationship loom large despite China’s wartime support for North Vietnam and ideological closeness. Indeed, Beijing and Hanoi fought a brief war in 1979 and Chinese naval forces seized Vietnamese-occupied South China Sea islands in 1974 (the former South Vietnam, in this case) and 1988. The dispute continues to this day in the South China Sea with periodic flare-ups and regular provocations from Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia units. In Naypyidaw, the new military junta finds itself in the awkward position of simultaneously relying upon Chinese support and battling Beijing-backed insurgencies along the border region, which brings to mind Myanmar’s complex history of Chinese interference. Chinese support for ethnic armed organizations along the border and its longstanding “double game” render it an intractable challenge to Myanmar’s military rulers even though it remains an important international backer.
As Beijing grows in power, Vietnam and Myanmar thus feel an ever amplifying sense of insecurity and vulnerability that drives them to seek extra-regional partners to balance against China. Russia, as an authoritarian power that is both physically distant and a ready-source of arms with few compunctions about human rights and democracy, is seemingly an ideal partner to balance with.