US can’t shatter economic synergy of China, ASEAN
As China and ASEAN continue to promote regional economic development and win-win cooperation, US geopolitical gambit in the region increasingly seems to be facing a dead end.
The 20th China-ASEAN Expo and the 20th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit are currently being held in Nanning, the capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The theme of the key expo this year is "Working together for a harmonious home and shared future and promoting the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative and nurturing a new epicenter of growth." This focus indicates that cooperation between China and ASEAN will become stronger and deeper.
In addition to the exchange of traditional agricultural products and food, other issues such as advanced technology, energy cooperation, sustainable development, as well as trade and investment facilitation are high on agenda for this year's expo. Organizers have set up special areas for digital technologies and industrial design, aiming to boost cooperation on all fronts between China and ASEAN countries, according to Chinese media reports.
All of these are tangible demonstrations of China's and ASEAN's consistent focus on regional economic cooperation and integration, despite the complicated environment posed by increasingly fierce global competition and US interference in the region.
Those who have some knowledge of international events in recent years know well how the US has tried to convince Asia-Pacific countries to distance themselves from China by strengthening ties with regional economies. However, the fact that China has remained ASEAN's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years and that the two sides have been each other's top trading partners for three years in a row is sufficient to indicate Washington's failure to achieve its goals.
According to a report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, an analysis of data from bilateral trade flows from 2010 to 2021 provides clear evidence that most countries participating in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) are increasingly reliant on economic ties with China, despite efforts by the Biden administration to strengthen ties with its IPEF partners and wean them away from Beijing.
In May 2022, the Biden administration launched the IPEF, as part of its efforts to undermine Asian economic cooperation and exclude China. However, the economic framework now appears unlikely to become a serious or promising economic cooperation mechanism in the eyes of most people. Apart from some hollow promises, the US offers no substantial trade benefits to strengthen economic ties with ASEAN countries. The fundamental purpose of the IPEF seems to not be trade cooperation.
Crucially, China is an important trading partner in the region. Its position in regional supply chains and industrial chains is the result of years of cooperation and manufacturing development, which is not something Washington can change with geopolitical games. If the US wants to restructure the regional economic framework or supply chain, the idea of squeezing China out is unthinkable. This is also why US efforts to drive a wedge in regional cooperation have gone completely off target. The success of the Asia-Pacific economy has greatly benefited from open cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win results. No matter what the name of the regional cooperation framework is, it should not go against these basic principles.
ASEAN member countries have long said they have no interest in taking sides in any geopolitical game. However, what Washington has brought to ASEAN is often related to geopolitics, not economic cooperation.
The US cannot give ASEAN what the region wants, but instead continues to use the region as a pawn in its geopolitical gambit, turning itself into a regional headache that interferes with regional cooperation. Regional resistance to US pressure demonstrates that the US cannot undermine or shatter the economic partnership between China and ASEAN. Regional economic and trade cooperation is the general trend and serves the interests of all parties. It is this kind of cooperation that makes the region the most important engine of the global economy.