Questioning the viability of a Pax Asia Pacifica
The Jakarta Post
Opinion and Editorial - July 13, 2006
An article written by Ralph A. Cossa, titled Is It Time for Pax Asia Pacifica? (The Jakarta Post, July 3, 2006), was very intriguing. The article says that the former Philippines president Fidel Ramos proposed the so-called "Pax Asia Pacifica". This kind of Asia Pacific political grouping is meant to replace the fading "Pax Americana", a grouping led by the U.S. versus the former Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War.
Ramos said the Pax Asia Pacifica was better than the proposed East Asia Community, which has received momentum in recent years.
Is the idea of a Pax Asia Pacifica as proposed by Ramos viable?
Since it is well known how close the relationship is between the Philippines and the U.S., Ramos' idea is then understandable. However, there are some factors that we must carefully observe in order not to go astray.
As mentioned earlier, the idea of Pax Asia Pacifica was meant by Ramos to replace the Pax Americana. The latter materialized during the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Within this period, the U.S. accrued its huge power and was able to gather together a strong alliance against the USSR. And the world witnessed the Soviet Union collapse in 1991. Yet it must be underlined that the collapse was not because of the Soviet Union's war against the U.S., but merely due to its domestic economic catastrophe.
Robert Cox (Production, Power and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History, 1987), a Gramscian or critical theory analyst on world politics, writes that the so-called Pax Americana was just another word for U.S. global hegemony. Cox argues that through this grouping, the U.S. extended its economic production and military capacity, and later its global hegemony.
Therefore, a proposal to establish a Pax Asia Pacifica can be considered as a new form of U.S. hegemony. If Pax Americana was designed by the U.S. to control its allies, the Pax Asia Pacifica, likewise, can be regarded as an attempt to overpower the Asia Pacific, and particularly East Asia.
The problem starts here. Will China, an emerging power in East Asia and the world, accept the Pax Asia Pacifica? I doubt it. With its incredible rise economically, politically and even militarily, China is just few steps away from reaching the status of superpower. China has been spreading its influence, not only in Asia, but also in Africa the Middle East and even in South America. It is difficult to imagine that China would follow U.S. leadership since it considers itself as another global leader.
The most important reason China would not go along with Pax Asia Pacifica is China's stance toward the U.S. China may not consider itself a close ally of the U.S. One blatant example is that China has often been upset by U.S. criticism of its human rights record. These criticisms are always responded to by China with similar attacks.
The other geopolitical constraint in materializing Pax Asia Pacifica is the rivalry between China (and South Korea) and Japan. The rivalry is deeply rooted from the events of World War II and, more than that, the overall Japanese occupation of Chinese and Korean land.
And, last but not least, the other constraint that can not be neglected is North Korea, which would also belong to the Pax Asia Pacifica geographically. The recent missile tests by North Korea have undoubtedly heated up the region, and even the world. Unfortunately, in the context of Pax Asia Pacifica, North Korea is just another "enemy" of the U.S.
With these kinds of rivalries and security dilemmas in the region, even the idea of an East Asia Community is still far from reality. Consequently, the idea of Pax Asia Pacifica is beyond imagining. At least, within the next 10 years, nobody can be very convinced that the idea is realistic.
Probably, the most viable vision, if the idea still wants to be pursued, is that first and foremost, the U.S. must reduce its hegemony by reconsidering its foreign policy. The U.S. must show more positive engagement, without the double standards in implementation.
The question now goes to the U.S. Will it be able to reduce its hegemony?***
The writer is a graduate of Oxford University in Diplomatic Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..