The Casimir Pulaski Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion with special guest Professor Emeritus Roberto Rabel, Senior International Adviser at the Centre for Strategic Studies concerning the balance of power in South East Asia. A panel of experts of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation and representatives of various actors from the Asia-Pacific region took part in this deliberation.
Professor Rabel opened the meeting by declaring the Asia-Pacific to be the most dynamic economy in the world. The economic interdependence of regional states as well as great powers has led to economic prosperity and general peace. However, a rise in nationalism could lead to an increase in tensions in several areas of concern such as the Korean Peninsula, the Indian-Pakistani border, and the South China Sea.
A new area of uncertainty surrounding is the future of the United States in the region, given President Trump’s unorthodox approach to foreign policy. A diplomatically and economically withdrawn United States could lead to a higher risk of conflict and would throw into question the future of trade and economic interests, as well as opening the door to increased Chinese power. This could be why the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe was the first foreign Head of State to cultivate a personal relationship with Donald Trump by being the first to visit him in Florida.
The discussion emphasized the need for Japan and the United States to be concerned about the rise of China’s assertiveness and economic might. China, despite being authoritative and militaristic has encouraged free trade with New Zealand, whereas concerns regarding increased U.S. protectionism could alter the balance of power in South East Asia.
Professor Rabel also touched on India, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other concerns relating to trade. The panel asked the Professor if he felt China could go down a similar path as 19th Century Germany, being industrial expansion and military aggression. While he acknowledged this as a possibility, he maintained that China is currently playing by the rules and remain valuable trading partners to New Zealand.
The panel further discussed hypotheticals’ regarding China overtaking the United States as a the main power in the region, as well as China’s relationship with Russia and how that may strengthen or deteriorate in the future.