China, US Tug-of-War Tightens as Both Try to Cement Friendships around Asia

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SAN FRANCISCO – China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Asia this month will intensify a superpower tug-of-war after two US officials visited the same region. Analysts say smaller countries can get plenty of aid from both China and the United States, as long as they avoid offending Beijing.

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Countries in Asia stand to receive economic aid from Beijing as well as military equipment and training from Washington, which is already building core infrastructure across much of Eurasia. Both countries are doing COVID-19 vaccination. Scholars agree that smaller, sometimes poorer nations are rewarded by both sides, until they become very comfortable with Washington.

Alexander said, “This soft power competition between the US and China has some benefits for smaller countries, where they may be an object of engaging in the soft power competition, but at the same time the scope for maneuver for them is also sharply narrowed.” It’s happening,” said Alexander. Wuwing, at the American Defense Institute, Hawaii, Daniel K. Inoue is a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.


Wang arrived in Vietnam on Friday, the first of his four stops to discuss trade, economic ties and political trust. Vietnam said it was “taking its relationship with China as a top priority in its foreign policy.” This could lead to tensions with the US, which has insisted on a strong partnership with Hanoi since 2017.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chin and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi walk into the meeting room in Hanoi, Vietnam, September 11, 2021.

The visit of the Chinese foreign minister coincided with an agreement signed by Vietnam with Japan to allow the export of Japanese defense equipment and technology. The acquisition of these goods by Vietnam appears to be in response to China’s growing aggression and influence in the region.

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The United States looks to Asia for allies in checking China’s expansion, although analysts say it is not known to punish smaller countries that move to Beijing.

Vaccine Diplomacy

Wang promised 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses after the US government offered 1 million new doses in August. The US also agreed to establish the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regional office in Hanoi. The case of Vietnam shows a “competitive taste” between the superpowers, said Yoon Sun, co-director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center in Washington.

Over the weekend, Wang delivered another 3 million doses to Cambodia, which also accepted a $270 million grant from China, reports the Granthshala Khmer Service. Cambodia is already leaning strongly toward China over the United States, Wuwing said, and Wang hopes to lock in that preference.

the balancing Act

In Singapore on Monday, Wang said on his ministry’s website that China looked forward to “deepening practical cooperation”. Both China and the United States view Singapore as a neutral, sometimes analytical force in Asia, with China particularly happy when the city-state calls for calm, Sun said.

Vietnam and Singapore have achieved a “balancing act” between the superpowers, Vuwing said. An analyst told Granthshala that earlier this month, China deepened ties with the Philippines through an aid pledge after the Southeast Asian state agreed to reinstate a visiting force agreement with the US government. .

The US military has helped train Filipino counterparts for any possible operation in the South China Sea, parts of which Manila and Beijing dispute.

consequences of american relations

South Korea, where Wang visited on Tuesday and Wednesday, shows what China can do when a country is too close to the United States, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of politics and international studies at the International Christian University in Tokyo. .

After Seoul agreed with Washington in March 2017 to set up a missile detection system that could look into China as well as its arch-North Korea, Beijing banned package tours from South Korea and banned Chinese visits. led to a double-digit decline in

Negi said China has also carried out “economic coercion” against Australia and Taiwan at a time when once-friendly relations were strained.

South Korea this month became one of the few countries in the world to have the ability to fire ballistic missiles from “very quiet” submarines. Steven Kim, a visiting research fellow at the Jeju Peace Institute in South Korea, said it was part of a “strategic arsenal” that would cause concern in China given Seoul’s longstanding alliance with Washington.

Wang will probably speak to Korean counterparts about health and economic cooperation “with the strongly implied remark” that it should value its economic ties with China, Nagy forecast.

“I think holistic diplomacy is one that will be characterized by trying to create constructive engagement, but of course, stating that Wang Yi’s visit will give him caution in terms of the kind of relationships he’s building. There is a need to move on from the United States,” he said.

one-on-one diplomacy

Wang’s visit follows US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visits to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines in July, as well as US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visits to Vietnam and Singapore last month.

US and Chinese officials have carried out back-to-back diplomacy in the past, including the Chinese defense minister’s whirlwind Asia tour a year ago this month following anti-China statements by then-US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

Sun said recent visits reflect the growing “rivalry” between the US and China. For smaller countries to “maximize benefits and minimize risks, it’s going to be harder because, taking into account great power competition, neither Beijing nor Washington will spare any effort to advance their own agenda.” Not leaving,” she said.

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