Institute of Malaysian and International Studies


Indo-Pacific: What’s in a Name?

Speaker: Prof. Dr Paul Evans (UBC) (The 7th Pok Rafeah Chair)
Date: 12 October 2022 (Wednesday)
Time: 10.00 am – 11.30 am

Zoom Meeting: Click Here
Meeting ID:963 4640 0529
Passcode: 368002


The idea of “Indo-Pacific” has long been used by oceanographers and mariners as a region comprising the tropical waters of the Indian ocean and the western and central Pacific ocean. In the past fifteen years it has been used in hundreds of speeches by government leaders (usually in the United States and its regional allies) who use it as a central reference point in their conception of a regional frame supplementing and sometimes replacing the earlier concept of Asia-Pacific.The precise definition of Indo-Pacific is unclear and contested but is animated by a desire to bring India into more focus as an economic and diplomatic player, respond to a rising China, and underscore elements of geo-political rivalry.

If the earlier vision of Asia Pacific was about globalization, open regionalism, cooperative security, and inclusive multilateralism, Indo-Pacific connotes something different centred on responding to a rising China.  In most formulations it connotes a new nationalism, restrictions on open markets and global supply chains, alignments around blocs, cooperation among the “like minded”, and a commitment to a status-quo conception of an American-anchored rule-based system. If the Asia-Pacific idea that took hold at the end of the first Cold War in the late 1980s was born of optimism, Indo-Pacific reflects a mood of anxiety — geo-politics in command.

Naming not only reflects perceptions of reality, it shapes them.  The presentation will examine the ways in which the concept is being used and debated.  What is the place for China in an Indo-Pacific architecture?  How far should ASEAN and other middle powers, including Canada, embrace it?  What can it mean for policies of non-alignment and open regionalism?