America’s strategic deficit in the Asia–Pacific region was in plain sight during the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Although North Korea was a key concern for all participants, many—especially those from Southeast Asia and Australia—found China’s strategic intention a more serious long-term challenge than North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles program. But this year, with the new Trump administration in Washington, they couldn’t count on the US to alleviate their anxiety.
What, exactly, is China trying to do with the vast Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, formally known as One Belt, One Road) by building connectivity across the whole Eurasian continent? Since President Xi Jinping launched the project in 2013, three narratives have dominated discussions about it—two from China and one mainly from the outside world.
On March 18, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, delivering some sparse public remarks. Tillerson characterized the U.S.–Chinese relationship as a very positive one built on “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.” (more…)