China has raised concerns about US’s divisive politics in Southeast Asia, attempting to polarize the region with power play. At the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Chinese Premier Li Qiang sounded the alarm that a “new Cold war” is in the making, if bilateral conflicts and prejudice is made to sneak into multilateral forums.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused individual external forces of sowing discord within ASEAN to prevent a consensus over the South China Sea. He urged countries not to allow themselves to become pawns in a great power competition.
Moreover, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China and ASEAN countries are making active efforts to advance consultations on a code of conduct in the disputed sea. “Countries outside the region need to respect the efforts made by regional countries to develop rules and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
The spokesperson said the overwhelming majority of countries at the East Asia Summit believe in strengthening cooperation through constructive dialogue and friendly consultation to jointly foster a regional epicentrum of growth. “But the US deliberately deviated from the theme of the meeting to sour the atmosphere for cooperation. This runs counter to the wish of the people in the region. It reveals the actual role of the United States as a disruptor and saboteur of East Asia cooperation and regional stability. No one echoed the US’ false accusations at the summit anyway. What the US has done will only make itself look bad and backfire on itself.”
However, Beijing has now emerged as a hypocrite as its actions have forced countries in ASEAN to turn to the US for help. Recent incidents like Chinese coast guard ships firing water cannons at Philippine vessels in the South China Sea and bullying Vietnam in its exclusive economic zone is compelling the smaller nations to upgrade ties with Washington. And not forgetting China’s new map which claims sovereignty to more than 90 percent of the South China Sea, drawing irks from India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Nonetheless, ASEAN is committed to build a resilient, innovative, dynamic and people-centered regional bloc and economic center. It remains the epicenter of growth in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.