Asia-Pacific: A Strategic Assessment

  • May 01, 2013
  • Dr David Lai



Dr. David Lai provides a timely assessment of the geostrategic significance of Asia-Pacific. His monograph is also a thought-provoking analysis of the U.S. strategic shift toward the region and its implications. Dr. Lai judiciously offers the following key points. First, Asia-Pacific, which covers China, Northeast Asia, and Southeast Asia, is a region with complex currents. On the one hand, there is an unabated region-wide drive for economic development that has been pushing Asia-Pacific forward for decades. On the other, this region is troubled with, aside from many other conflicts, unsettled maritime disputes that have the potential to trigger wars between and among Asia-Pacific nations. Second, on top of these mixed currents, China and the United States compete intensely over a wide range of vital interests in this region. For better or for worse, the U.S.-China relationship is becoming a defining factor in the relations among the Asia-Pacific nations. Third, the U.S. strategic shift toward Asia-Pacific is, as President Obama puts it, not a choice but a necessity. Although conflicts elsewhere, especially the ones in the Middle East, continue to draw U.S. attention and consume U.S. foreign policy resources, the United States is turning its focus toward China and Asia-Pacific. Fourth, in the mid-2000s, the United States and China made an unprecedented strategic goodwill exchange and agreed to blaze a new path out of the tragedy that often attends great power transition. Fifth, at this time of U.S. strategic reorientation and military rebalancing toward Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous consideration is that Asia-Pacific nations having disputes with China can misread U.S. strategic intentions and overplay the “U.S. card” to pursue their territorial interests and challenge China. Finally, territorial dispute is becoming an urgent issue in the Asia-Pacific.