In the face of China’s “coercive tendencies”, is  it time for NZ to shape its own “Indo-Pacific strategy”?

Earlier  this  week  Point of  Order  carried  a  post  by Geoffrey Miller  on  how Japan under  a  new security blueprint is doubling its defence spending. The plans see Japan buying up advanced weaponry – including long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US – and spending more on developing hypersonic and cybersecurity technology.

Miller writes that Japan’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) openly calls out China, describing Beijing a ‘matter of serious concern for Japan’ and the ‘greatest strategic challenge’ to the country’s security.

The NSS also alleges China is developing its ‘strategic ties’ with Russia and is seeking to ‘challenge the international order’.

Meanwhile The  Economist  offers insights  into what it defines  as “Reinventing the Indo-Pacific”.

It says a new super-region is taking shape, “mainly to counter Chinese aggression”.

The  Economist  says until a few years ago the term “Indo-Pacific” was hardly uttered in international affairs.

“Now many countries have adopted Indo-Pacific strategies, including America, Australia, Britain, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and even Mongolia. South Korea joined the pack in December.

“The main Asian holdout is  China, which scorns the phrase. That is  key to understanding what the Indo-Pacific is all about.    

“China’s  rise has long  been a  given. But the countries embracing the Indo-Pacific, nomenclature, most of them more or less democratic, have grown increasingly concerned about China’s coercive tendencies.Australia is a victim of Chinese economic boycotts  and insidious political -influence campaigns. Sri Lanka has seen its sovreignty eroded by indebtedness to China under the infrastructure-led Belt and Road initiative.

“Huge Chinese fishing fleets encroach on the territorial waters of states in Asia and beyond.China’s growing fortification of the South China Sea unnerves South-East Asians. Both Japan and India have  faced  Chinese aggression at their frontiers. Chinese military threats towards  Taiwan unsettle not only that self-governing island but the  whole region.

“China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy reflects the nationalist grievances its  president, Xi Jinping, is stoking at home.  Thus, the Indo-Pacific defines not only a space. It represents  the  greatest geopolitical challenge: how to respond to Chinese aggression without  resorting to ‘capitulation or  conflict’.”

The Economist says that challenge has been sharpened by periodic  concerns  about the capacity  and staying power of the United States, the pre-eminent power in the region since the second world war.

“It was Japan, America’s principal ally in Asia, that  first divined the importance of engaging traditionally aloof  India, a move that helped crystallise  the Indo-Pacific concept….Chinese  border incursions  in the Himalayas have  tilted India, once insistent that it would not be part of anti-China bloc, towards the Western camp. It is now a more engaged member of the Quad, not only militarily, but also,  for instance, offering to work with the other members  to get Covid-19 vaccines to the region. Still, drawing proud, cautious India deep into a  Western network of security alliances is going to require   a long courtship—assuming it is possible.”

For all the  hard  power   America  and India bring to the region, they are largely absent from regional  economic initiatives…..

There is also no  Indo-Pacific NATO  in the making.

So in  its  concluding  paragraph   The  Economist  notes  that China’s outgoing  foreign minister  Wang Yi, once scornfully predicted  that that talk of  a free and open Indo-Pacific  “will dissipate  like ocean foam”.

The  Economist opines:

“Maybe. Yet the likeliest thing to prove him wrong is China’s own relentlessly provocative behaviour”. 

New Zealanders tend to think   that  because our country lies so  deep  in the  South Pacific  it is out of  sight  (and of mind?), there  is  little need  for  defence spending.

Certainly, successive  governments  have  focussed  more  on  China  as a  market  for  NZ’s  exports. They  have   been  slow  to spend  money  on  modern defence equipment.        

 Is it time, then,  for  NZ  to  follow  in  Japan’s footsteps and   start  thinking  how it can strengthen  its  security  arrangements?

As  Point of  Order sees it, no time  should be  lost  initially in  absorbing  the lessons of the war in the Ukraine,  and equipping the army  with drones  and  missiles, including, like Japan, long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.

One thought on “In the face of China’s “coercive tendencies”, is  it time for NZ to shape its own “Indo-Pacific strategy”?

  1. Of course it’s time we rethought our defence policy, we’ve been freeloading for decades. Ukraine is a wake up call. NZ must get real.


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