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Rudd APC idea unlikely feasible

Comments on Hugh White “The Asia Pacific Community concept: right task, wrong tool?” 26/04/2009, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/04/26/the-asia-pacific-community-concept-right-task-wrong-tool/

Hugh White may be too kind to the Rudd APC concept.

I am not even sure the APC idea has any appeals to either China or the US. As the float of the G-2 idea, the bilateral relationship between the US and China, the world’s own superpower and a rapidly emerging and likely new superpower, is likely itself to take a course of its own. Unless they two can’t sort out issues they think important to both of them among themselves, there is not much left for others get involved in that important and far-reaching bilateral relationship for the next two decades or more. Leaderships in both countries and their advisors will be wise enough to realise that the only way forward to the benefit of both of them is close cooperation between them. Any other ways will be costly to both of them.

In that context, ideas from people to involve the US, China and Japan in another new regional forum do not appear to be realistic. For one thing, China is unlikely to accept that, because while the proponents may have good intentions, it is not too for China to see there is an element of using the US-Japan security relations to contain China. China is likely to be more suspicious especially when Australia is involved, given its emphasis on the tri-lateral security relations between the US, Australia and Japan and its role in the security in the Asia Pacific.

Yes APEC includes those three countries together. But it is mainly an economic forum and was created during earlier. The time now looks much different to then. Even from an economic perspective, the US economy is in great trouble, and is likely to experience a more rapid decline relative to those more dynamic developing economies, such as that of China’s and India’s. The US will have significant problems in terms of increasing savings and reduce government debts. While the US economy will remain a very important part to many economies including those dynamic developing economies, the coming decades following this great recession will see a world economy with less reliance on that of the US.

If Australia is to really look after its long term strategic interest, it has to recognise that it needs to stand as an independent member, not a deputy of the US. Any attempts to drag the US into a forum with China and to use the US as a protector is unlikely to have a market in China. To include Japan and the US will make the matter worse. One needs to have some perspective of how China perceives those ideas. Just as it is difficult for Australia to abandon its security alliance with the US, or for Japan and the US to give up theirs, it will be difficult for China not to feel threatened by their common presence in a new regional community involving security matters.

My guess is that China probably has every incentive not to see such a regional community such as the APC. If it can do without it, China is likely to do just that. That is why I have doubt to the feasibility of Rudd’s APC idea. Others may take it as a too much self-interest centred idea from Australia which is yet to demonstrate its maturity in its strategic approach to Asia.

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