Fire On The Water

By Phar Kim Beng
Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena
Twitter: @indo_pan

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The future of the Pacific rests on China’s behavior in South China and the East China Sea. Since intentions do change, and in most cases hard to discern, Robert Haddick is of the view that the US needs to get ready to face China head on. By 2010, China has an economy that is already 75 percent of the US; by the end of 2020, parity would have been achieved. Although China will have its weak spot, such as the massive need for energy imports, to satiate its consumers’ demands, it is precisely such vulnerabilities that make China, ever more determined, if not devious, in resolving its Malacca Straits dilemma: Some 75 percent of the goods that China requires pass-through this narrow channel controlled by three littoral states i.e. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

While Robert Haddick did not delve deeply into the Sino Indonesian, Sino Malaysian and Sino Singaporean strategy, he tried to focus on US’s overall strategy in the South China Sea and the Pacific that are in need of a quick readjustment, as US’s Asian Pivot has failed to somewhat arrest the rise of a militarily assertive China, especially since 2009. Among the things the US needs to be doing include, but cannot be confined, to securing space/aerial dominance but also maritime preponderance, and if need be cyber readiness.

This book is based on the warnings of several statesmen like Henry Kissinger, Kurt Campbell, and Kevin Rudd, that China is an incipient danger. Whatever other countries add on in their strength, China is likely to see it as a direct challenge. The maritime situation in South China Sea, and the Pacific writ large, have become a zero-sum game, despite the thousands of interactions between Chinese and American military officials each year.

The default option is to seek strategic reassurance; although it is not clear to the US if this is what President Xi Jinping meant when he spoke of the need to have a “new great power relationship” in 2014.

But regardless of what China wants, Sino US tie has to be based on “strategic reassurance” without which both sides will often impugn negative intentions, that can lead to a malevolent spiral of bad blood, or, conflict of interest, especially over concepts like “freedom of navigation” which US insists the rest of the world and itself must be able to exercise freely in the heart of South China Sea, given its nature as an ocean of global commercial importance.




Founder of Strategic Indo-Pacific Arena (

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Phar Kim Beng, PhD

Phar Kim Beng, PhD

Founder of Strategic Indo-Pacific Arena (

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