There Will Be No Great War In Asia – US Academic
By Saiful Bahri Kamaruddin
Pix Abd Ra’ai Osman
BANGI, 12 August 2015 – Asia will not become like Europe in the late 19th century when changes in the balance of power brought European states to take sides in the first World War.
Despite recent tensions between China and some countries over the South-China Sea, in Asia there are no alignments between divided countries facing off over territory, although there are territorial disputes between China and individual states in South-East Asia, said Prof Amitav Acharya of the American University in Washington, D.C. in his lecture at The National University of Malaysia (UKM), here today.
There is an interdependence in Asia, especially in South-East Asia based on a wide range of trade, said Prof Acharya in his lecture titled Can Asia Challenge Chinese Dominance and Avoid Europe’s Past? organised by UKM’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FSSK).
He said Asian nations are not going down the path to war between two sides as was in the case of Europe between 1914 and 1918.
“There is interdependence in Asia, more broad-based, such as trade, investment, production and finance, than simple trade-based interdependence in Europe before World War 1.
“In Asia, there is no NATO (North Atlatic Treaty Organisation), because NATO can be divisive. It’s good not to have a NATO in Asia. China’s role is not hegemonic. Only ASEAN survived. ASEAN has no single leader, unlike European Union (EU), where Germany and France call the shots,” he explained.
In the case of China, he said Beijing does not intend to pursue a Sino-Centric policy although it claims the South-China Sea and the islands there.
“China today is much more open than during Mao’s (Tse Tung) time,” he stated.
At the same time he believes that Asia is becoming more democratic with no major ideological fault lines in Asia.
However, Asia’s democracies are still not very liberal with the capitalist nations being authoritarian,
Nevertheless, there are no alliances between democratic governments or authoritarian blocs as was with Europe in the early 20th century, Prof Acharya clarified.
He pointed out that ASEAN is the most effective regional cooperation organisation so far, and it does not involve defence or security hegemony, unlike NATO.
“Asia never had a balance of power until recently. Once the USA was the only power in Asia, where it had dominance. People talk about creating a balance of power in South-East Asia to counter China. They don’t understand that now China is actually balancing the power in the region (to counter the USA),” he said.
Although China had been rebalancing the balance of power in South-East Asia, he acknowledged that Beijing has been quite assertive in the South-China Sea.
“China will achieve all its foreign policy objectives if it drops its claim on the South China Sea,” he declared.
He believes that China will be seen as a restrained and respected power if it does not flex its muscles in the waters that are shared with many ASEAN countries.
Eventually, he added, The United States and China will arrive at an understanding as far as the rebalancing of power and hedging in Asia is concerned.
Present at the lecture were IKMAS Director Prof Dr Rashila Ramli, who acted as moderator and Head of The School of History, Politics and Strategic Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Assoc Prof Dr Sity Daud.