What Trump's new policy means for China and Pakistan | China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

What Trump's new policy means for China and Pakistan


Category : Executive Director's Desk   Source : China.org.cn   Date : 21-12-2017   By : Mustafa Hayder Sayed 

The author is Executive Director, Pakistan-China Institute.

What Trump's new policy means for China and Pakistan

U.S. President Donald Trump [Xinhua]

The new National Security Strategy unveiled by President Trump on Dec. 18 outlines the U.S.'s vision for Asia and the rest of the world, unequivocally stating the country's unease with a rising China and the implications that the strategy will have for all international stakeholders that are engaging with the United States in one way or the other. While the policy covers almost all regions of the world, its continuous reference to China is most telling.

This National Security Strategy has three key implications for China and Pakistan. Firstly, the national security paradigm challenges the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of the BRI. India, a country which is openly hostile to the Corridor, is central to President Trump's Asia strategy, establishing a definitive and strategic partisanship towards India and promoting confrontation over cooperation. "We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region," it says.

In his reference to Central Asia and enhancing economic connectivity, Trump again made reference to India to engage more proactively and to "encourage India to increase its economic assistance in the region." India, which has a volatile relationship (and border disputes) with neighbors including China, Pakistan and, in the past, Sri Lanka, is being propped up as a counterweight to China. This is apparent in the aforementioned reference to the Indian Ocean, a vital part of both the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (with Pakistan's Gwadar Port as its pivot) as well as the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to connect South and Central Asia and create a more integrated region through investments from Chinese companies.

Next, the China-centric NSS defines the Asian country as a "revisionist" power, implying that it is challenging the status quo (of which the U.S. is a beneficiary) and not playing by the rules. Whether it is "preserving" innovation and American technology, the economy or national security, China is the common thread -- and common threat -- in all areas of the NSS. Trump explicitly stated that Russia and China "seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth," just short of defining them as enemy combatants. Calling for the U.S. to protect South Asian nations' sovereignty that it alleges may be compromised by China, the NSS gives legitimacy to further U.S. interference in Asia's geopolitics, escalating the risk of conflict rather than defusing existing tensions. Essentially, it seeks to proactively and aggressively contain and counter the rise of China.

Thirdly, Pakistan is seen through a skewed lens of terrorism and extremism, as is its relevance in the war against terrorism. The NSS reiterates the U.S.'s earlier misplaced accusations of Pakistan's tacit support of extremists, deflecting its own failures in Afghanistan. Rather than establishing a solutions-oriented mechanism to continue to work with Pakistan, which has played a formidable role in countering terrorism, the new policy is a decisive departure from any remainder of impartiality that the U.S had in dealing with Pakistan, India and South Asia as a whole. Naturally, the NSS effectively deepens the already existing schism in U.S-Pakistan relations and further dilutes the already shrinking common ground for cooperation.

This National Security Strategy reinforces the doctrine of "go it alone" and detracts from the U.S.'s status as a neutral, above-board international player that once had the credibility and leverage to engage with and resolve international disputes and issues. The policy seems to be premised on aggressive confrontation and divisiveness as opposed to engagement and cooperation. The NSS stands in stark contrast with China's vision for the world under the Belt and Road Initiative, which is based on cooperation, connectivity and inclusiveness. In a globalized world where all states and individuals are interconnected via social media, digital technology and commerce, it is natural to engage in results-oriented dialogue with all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the NSS will only isolate the United States in an age when we need to build bridges between ourselves instead of walls.