Struggling Indo-Pacific between the US and China
Struggling Indo-Pacific between the US and China
  • 박재아 기자
  • 승인 2019.10.25 12:31
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A camera captured a black hole recently. We have known and heard its existence but the camera confirmed it really exists. It proved that somewhere far away in the galaxy, there is a place where the time and the space run different from the planet earth in which human beings are living on. According to the Special Relativity of Albert Einstein, the more an object moves the slower the time lapses. In other words, time changes by the speed of an object. It can mean the time runs slower for a person moving than a person standing. Can this also mean that a more time is given to a person diligent than a person lazy?

There is no such thing as forever?

In the movie <Interstellar>, if we can reach to the border of black hole where the time stops still, we can be able to be shifted into some place in the future faster than others. Based on this assumption, we might use time machines to travel the future and the past freely sometime in the future. It was just about 100 years that the world superpowers like the US and China have grabbed the supremacy over the world. The Great Britain enjoyed its golden day around 1910 influencing about 600 million people on earth. The king of Austria once enjoyed its title ‘great emperor’ and more than 2 million people lived in the capital city Vienna. The Empire of Japan also once enjoyed controlling vast lands.

Where are we?

All wars in a way are a matter of preoccupying the foothold like Chess. In the same respect, the location for a country requires different strategies and actions. Korea is located at 124~132 degrees east longitude and 33~43 north latitude; it has a continental climate and tropical monsoon climate weather-wise and a logistic hub of North East Asia and a peninsula geographically; politically, Korea is stuck between the two superpowers of Asia: China and Japan. It is important to throw questions like “Where are we?” “Where should we belong?” and “Where do we have to belong?” What is more important than these questions is to give wise answers.

The US-led Asia-Pacific

During the cold war, these regions were under division of the east communism and the west liberalism; some of them remained as ‘non-aligned movement’. The cold atmosphere in these regions started to see changes at the entrance of 1980 and the term Asia-Pacific was coined during this era. Scholars interpreted this term in the boundary of ‘geopolitics’ and ‘topography’. The east part of Asia-Pacific spreads to the countries in North East and South East and the west part of Asia-Pacific spreads to the countries in the Americas; as towards the south part, it is Oceania. Asia-Pacific is more of a term of ‘economic interest’ than of ‘military’. But its US-led influence in this region experienced a downturn by the countries seeking autonomy which started to get out of the US-led the Uruguay Round and the blocked economies of North America and Europe. Thus appeared was the concept of ‘East Asia’.

The rising China and the East Asia’s getting out of US influence

The East Asian countries became doubtful about the leadership of the US when the financial crisis hit Asia including South Korea in the late 90s. The doubt was escalated by China’s rise as a superpower of the world. They were skeptical about the American capitalism where democracy and capitalism were dealt with as a package. As a result, they started to turn their eye to the Beijing Consensus from the Washington Consensus. And they, including South Korea paid close attention to whether China would play the engine of the global economy. The advent of the ASEAN+3 ascribes to this shift and the new form of this regional cooperative bond embraced North East Asia and South East Asia with China as the leader. China poured a considerable level of aid and support for its neighboring countries and nicely settled down the concept of ‘the East Asian Region’ which seemed to exclude the traditional powers of the region such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. To check China and its move, the US brought up ‘The Pivot’ or ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy which shifted the center of the American diplomatic military policies from the Middle East to the Far East and the surrounding regions; the policy was first revealed by Hilary Clinton, the then secretary of the state, through the American diplomatic magazine <Foreign Policy> in 2011; the White House called this as ‘Rebalancing’. But the rebalancing seemed to have an intention to check China.

The collapse between the pearl necklace of China and the diamond US in Indo-Pacific

The term Indo-Pacific is a reflection of the power game between the US and China. It is also a term to be interpreted as a shift from the China’s continent-center policy to the ocean-centered. Because the term Indo-Pacific includes the Indian region and ocean, it is interpreted as a more inclusive term than Asia-Pacific. And the center of Indo-Pacific is Australia position-wise. Thererfore, who earns the favor of India can create a significant impact and influence as India itself is vast in terms both of the mainland and the ocean as well as its population and economic and military scales. Also, the sea is an effective route of trade. The difference between Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific is that the power is not wholly controlled by the US and China when it comes to Indo-Pacific but also affected by the surrounding countries such as by India, Australia and South Korea and more.

Unstoppable soaring of China

The financial crisis in Asia turned the countries in the region to reduce their dependence on the US which was backed up by China’s unsparing economic support. And the support has been strengthened by the China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ and ‘Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank’. Now the China’s influence is marching onto the Central Asia, South Asia and some of the Middle East regions over the Far East which China calls it ‘the Sphere of Influence’. These expansions of China will certainly face the resistance of the US at several points. As for the South Korea’s stance, the government keeps its principle of ‘free and open Indo-Pacific strategy’ like the US and Japan which also embraces inclusiveness, transparency, and abiding the international norms. The latter two are implicitly criticizing the China’s ungentlemanly foreign policies and actions. In this situation, South Korea is taking a stance to embrace the China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy within the boundary of the South Korea’s New Northern and Southern Policies. For some, it might be interpreted that South Korea seems to be avoiding upsetting the two superpowers but then it is a tendency of Koreans to pacify instead of making troubles.

The status of South Korea today in the world

South Korea rose from rags to riches through the Miracle of the Han. As the 11th economic power in the world, according to the World Bank, it has been quite a while that South Korea has turned to be a nation to ‘support’ rather than a nation to be ‘supported’. Indeed, South Korea is actively engaging in international affairs through ODA (Official Development Assistance); South Korea already has donated around 25 million dollars and has kept increasing the amount. It is notable that the yearly donation rate of ODA has jumped to 79% from 30% for the last 20 years. The percentage especially was soared to 90% between the years 2009 and 2012. Also notable is that South Korea and Australia were the two countries which increased the amount of their donations in 2012 as the members of the DAC (Development Assistant Committee); South Korea increased 17% while Australia 9.2%. As of 2017, South Korea’s donation through ODA was around 2.2 billion dollars and ranked 15th among the 29 member countries. If we are not too much spoiled, we might be allowed to be enjoying our pride.

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