The US has accelerated its containment strategy towards China by increasing its military bases in the Asia-Pacific. In recent months, Washington has focused on deepening military cooperation, especially with countries close to Taiwan, such as Japan and the Philippines. It is still a question that tripartite military cooperation (the US, Japan and Philippines) will spread towards other allied states in the region. For example, in December 2022, Australia agreed to increase the presence of the U.S. forces in the country and to establish a new defense industry base.
From this point of view, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views it received from Tom Switzer, the Executive Director at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), in order to evaluate the US’ encirclement strategy towards China and its effects on Southeast Asia.
- Do you think the US’ encirclement strategy of China has a negative impact on Southeast Asian countries?
Opinion varies, but I suspect most South East states would like to see the US more engaged in the region to keep the peace.
- Does the Southeast Asian countries’ economic dependence on China prevent them from supporting the US?
Again, opinion varies: the national interest of most states want to preserve the regional equilibrium that has existed for generations. So they want to ensure close access to their largest trade partner (China) while they want the most powerful strategic player (the US) to remain engaged. Anything that alters seriously this regional equilibrium is not in their national interests.
- Do you think that the region is moving away from centrist policies and adapting to the bloc politics of the US?
Only a few states — Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines — have openly made their choice and are no longer riding two horses simultaneously. Most — like Singapore, Indonesia — are hedging.
- Which countries in the region support the US and its policies the most?
The language varies but the following the most reliable US Allies: Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India.
- Which countries are most leaning towards China despite the disputes in the South China Sea?
Only North Korea, Laos, Cambodia are on the China bandwagon, but NK is considered a bit of a lone Woolf.
Tom Switzer is the Executive Director at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), and hosts Between the Lines on the ABC’s Radio National. He is also a regular contributor to The Australian, the Australian Financial Review and Sky News Australia.
He has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The Spectator, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, The American Interest and The American Conservative. He has also appeared on CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, Sky News, SBS, Seven, Nine, Ten and ABC radio and television.