Power over Asia: China not far behind US, but in ‘arrested development’

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Power over Asia: China not far behind US, but in �arrested development�
US President Joe Biden arrives at Hagerstown Regional Airport in Hagerstown, Maryland, on February 4, 2023. Biden on Saturday congratulated fighter pilots for taking down a Chinese spy balloon off the east coast after it spent several days flying over the US. "They successfully took it down. And I want to compliment our aviators who did it," Biden told reporters in Maryland.
AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

MANILA, Philippines — While China continues to gain power over its neighboring countries, the United States remains as the most influential country in Asia “due largely to China’s setbacks,” the Asia Power Index showed. 

In this year’s report, the US led the list with 80.7 points, while China trailed with 72.5 points. Japan fell in third with 37.2 points, India with 36.3 points, Russia with 31.6 points, Australia with 30.9 points, and South Korea with 29.5 points. 

The Lowy Institute’s index measures a country’s power based on its resources — such as economic and military capability, resilience, among others — and the influence it has over other states, non-state actors and international events.

“China’s overall power still lags the United States but is not far behind,” the institute said in its report. “Washington is unlikely ever to re-establish a decisive lead. The age of uncontested US primacy in Asia is over.” 

The Australia-based think tank said Washington’s lead is largely due to Beijing’s weaknesses. 

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Comparing the top contenders, the Lowy Institute said China's place in the region is highlighted by its economic impact while the United States’ lead is due to its military and “unrivaled regional defense networks.”

Beijing’s influence over the continent is also lagrely affected by other countries' “distrust.”

China has active disputes with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. This is on top of its behavior toward Taiwan, where its military front got more aggressive with following visits from high-ranking White House officials last year. 

READ: After 6th Hague ruling anniversary, China insists tribunal decision is 'illegal'

“China simply does not have the trust of its neighboring countries to allow it [to] exercise the kind of role that Americans have,” Richard McGregor, a senior fellow for East Asia at the Lowy Institute said in a conference last week.

Despite China’s diplomacy efforts — setting up international meetings and working out disputes with other countries — the actions of its military tell a different story. McGregor said “they are more confident in using their military in a sort of arm in their diplomatic toolkit.”

China’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdown also affected how the country maintained its network and foreign trade, failing to take advantage of its geographical location. 

With the pandemic lockdown lifted, however, the Lowy Institute pointed out that China has a good chance  of catching up with the US’ influence, noting that its military capability is already at par with that of its Western opponent. 

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