Will the United States or China have an impact on the Asian narrative in the future years? This is a question that confounds geopolitical analysts and academic researchers on the continent that is home to the world's two most populous countries.
With a more commercial grouping like I2U2, this is a question that Israel is also concerned about, given its close security and commerce ties with India, as well as its strong ties with China. Above all, a dispute between the US and China forces Israel to choose between its strongest ally, the US, and China, an essential trade partner, reported The Times of Israel.
The narrative has acquired significant steam in the post-Covid period, despite the fact that the US-led Western onslaught against China over the origin of the Covid virus did not, as expected, turn into an isolationist prescription for China.
Rather, since August last year, when Nancy Pelosi, then-US House Speaker, visited Taipei as the West's most formidable challenge to Xi Jinping's leadership, Beijing has emerged from its Covid-induced shell to launch a counter-offensive in the form of projecting its soft influence through an expanding BRI in Asia and Africa, according to The Times of Israel.
To the consternation of the United States, China has since constructed an optic of pan-Asian acceptance. Several heads of state and government visited Beijing, including German Olof Scholz. If that weakened Europe's and hence America's armour, Xi's policy of involving himself in every bilateral or multilateral conflict scenario on the continent generated the perception of China becoming the go-to country.
It attempted to bring together Saudis and Iranians, made friends with various West Asian countries, and tried to play host to groups of countries from Central Asia, the ASEAN region, and the Far East.
With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu aiming to extend the Abraham Accords and formalise relations with Saudi Arabia, the China-mediated Saudi-Iranian reconciliation creates natural roadblocks. On the one hand, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may not want to jeopardise his newly found peace with Iran, which allows him to exit an expensive and never-ending war in Yemen, for official relations with Israel. On the other hand, Iran and its proxies have grown closer to China, and China regards Israel as a critical technology partner, The Times of Israel reported.
This lessens the possibility of an all-out Israeli-Iranian conflict. China's Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI) expansion to the Saudi port of Jizan strengthens its string of pearls of ports, adding a strategic chokepoint to the Indian Ocean. While this promises to prolong the stalemate and ensure security, it also delays the Israel-Arab reunion by years, if not decades, with Syria's and Assad's re-entry into the Arab League after a 12-year ban, according to The Times of Israel.
Concurrently, its BRI began to make advances into the Horn of Africa and other regions where China has military and natural resource interests. It made cordial overtures to the Taliban in Afghanistan through its friend Pakistan. It is now marketing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) not only as a Eurasian entity on global security and other issues but also as a venue for dispute resolution hosted by China.
The Russian invasion of West-backed Ukraine set China against the US once more, deepening the division between the two countries. China expects Americans to recognise that two Asian leaders, Russia and China, can drive the international narrative away from the United States.
On the other hand, the US is on the defensive in Ukraine, with sanctions on Russia failing entirely, to the point where even close ally India is seriously considering buying discounted Russian oil - despite a hot-headed China making avoidable noises at the Sino-India border, according to The Times of Israel.
It is in this context that China feels comfortable crafting a narrative in which Asia is for Asians. As if that isn't enough to keep the US at bay, leaving it free to launch an avuncular attack. This story is based on the assumption that a war over Taiwan would be terrible for Asia, rather than distant Europe or the United States.
Visits by European leaders to Beijing, as well as discussions with prominent Chinese leaders, are useful here. According to media accounts, European officials, for example, have been far more vocal about the island. In a recent comment, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen commented, "We stand strongly against any unilateral change in the status quo, in particularly by the use of force." Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared, "A military escalation in the Taiwan Strait....would be a horror scenario for the entire world."
According to The Times of Israel, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to play a de Gaulle and sought to grab the baton of rhetoric. But in doing so, he went overboard, probably over his head too. He said, "The question we need to answer as Europeans is... is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No. The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction," The Times of Israel reported.
Xi Jinping knows that most Asian countries do not remark on Taiwan because they are aware of the complications involved. Since Kissinger's time, the East-West status quo has seen numerous ups and downs. It's all over once someone rocks it. What would happen in the event of a conventional battle with any one side taking a decisive stance on Taiwan's future is merely a speculative conjecture.
The question that the China-backed narrative is forcing the West to face is whether increasing the voice for Taiwan's independence is placing the island nation's people at risk. After all of the gung-ho war cries from the West, Europe now realises that it is Ukraine that is bearing the brunt of Russian aggression.
Surprisingly, the West's ongoing reliance on Chinese trade undermines its moral stance on not only Taiwan's independence but also China's appalling human rights record against its minorities.
Finally, the narrative is about space for America's security, and with America's own security and power in the Middle East and Asia, it is about Israel's security and well-being, Times of Israel reported. (ANI)