US admiral says Indo-Pacific is standing up against China
CANBERRA, Austrralia — Countries in the Indo-Pacific region are beginning to take a stand against Chinese attempts to manipulate them through debt-trap diplomacy, coercion and bullying, a senior U.S. naval commander said Thursday.
Adm. Philip S. Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told a foreign policy think-tank in Sydney that all nations in the region were involved in a strategic competition “between a Beijing-centric order and a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Countries that established closer ties to China in expectation of economic growth and infrastructure development “often find themselves worse off in the end,” Davidson said.
“Through excessive territorial claims, debt-trap diplomacy, violations of international agreements, theft of intellectual property, military intimidation and outright corruption, the Communist Party of China seeks to control the flow of trade, finance, communications, politics and a way of life throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Davison said.
“The Communist Party of China uses its economic advantages to force other governments to reverse positions toward agreements that benefit China,” he added.
China has scoffed at what it calls U.S. interference in the Asia-Pacific region and has denied linking aid to politics.
According to Davidson, more countries were now asking the United States for advice on dealing with China than they did five years ago.
“I am optimistic that the region is now waking up to that aggressive behavior, but more importantly, beginning to take a stand against it,” Davidson said.
He used Australia as an examples of China’s willing to take retribution against economic partners that defy Beijing’s will.
He linked recent trade blockages at Chinese ports of Australian exports such as coal and wine to Australian government decisions to outlaw covert foreign interference in politics and to ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from the 5G networks rollout.
“Beijing has shown a willingness to intervene in free markets and to hurt Australian companies simply because the Australian government has exercised its sovereign right to protect its national security,” Davidson said.
“It speaks extraordinarily ill of China and serves as a warning to all nations of the kind of economic retribution they take when they dislike another nation’s diplomatic or security response,” he said.
Davidson said Australia was rightly concerned that China could potentially use its growing influence in the South Pacific to build a military base there.
He described China’s Belt and Road Initiative to build trading infrastructure in the region as a “stalking horse to advance Chinese security concerns.”
“Beijing’s approach is pernicious. The party uses coercion, influence operations and military and diplomatic threats to bully other states to accommodate the Communist Party of China’s interests,” Davidson said.
“These actions often directly threaten the sovereignty of other nations and undermine regional stability,” he added.