When then US president Barack Obama launched his Pivot to Asia strategy in 2012, trying to drive a wedge between China and its neighbors, the Southeast Asian nations’ response was loud and clear: They did not want to be forced to choose between China and the United States.
The US has been a security ally for some ASEAN nations, while China has been their largest trade partner. So maintaining good relations with both makes perfect sense.
European nations also resisted US pressure in 2015 by joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Luxembourg will host the AIIB’s first annual meeting outside Asia next month.
After labeling China a revisionist power and a strategic competitor in its 2018 national security strategy, the US has intensified its efforts to curtail the rise of China.
Instead of letting countries make their sovereign decisions, senior US officials have been traveling the world to coerce them to take sides or face consequences.
The US has threatened to stop intelligence sharing with its European allies if they include Chinese technology giant Huawei in their 5G networks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has done this repeatedly during his trips to the region. This is despite the fact that Huawei is a world leader in 5G and enjoys deep market penetration, from Europe and Asia to Africa and Latin America.
To most major European countries, an outright ban on Huawei does not make any sense, since the US has not produced any evidence of the alleged national security threat. Besides, Huawei’s 5G technology is superior and affordable.
A ban on Huawei would cost Europe an additional $62 billion on its 5G networks, plus an 18-month technology delay, according to a report by GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
Some European nations look at the US strategy as a way to contain China in order to retain its own global technology dominance.
European nations are trying to find ways to counter the US. For instance, Instex, a special payment channel, was set up by Germany, the United Kingdom and France to bypass US sanctions on Iran after the US quit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Spain also is considering joining it.
The US has also violated other nations’ sovereignty, intimidating some small Caribbean and Pacific Island nations not to switch “diplomatic ties” from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland despite the fact that Washington recognizes Beijing as the sole legal government of China.
Expressing his concern at the Shangri-La Dialogue on May 31, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said small countries like Singapore don’t want to be forced to choose between China and the US.
Despite the US pressure, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was among the most unequivocal when he recently praised Huawei and called the US allegation “hypocritical”.
There are many global challenges that call for close cooperation between China and the US, including nuclear nonproliferation, climate change, global governance and epidemic diseases. Forcing nations to take sides, as the US government has been doing, will have an impact on peace in the world.
Chen Weihua is China Daily EU Bureau chief based in Brussels. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.