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US – China rivalry in Indo-Pacific region and Chinese energy security


Amina Khan |

Historically, the region has been most important for the US, having its naval bases one of which is Diego Garcia being located in the center of Indian Ocean. And knowing the fact that region holds great importance for maritime economy and resources, consists of gas and oil reserves.

Rivalry between the US and China can be seen on different hotspots like strait of Malacca, South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and the East China Sea. The US has serious reservations at the South China Sea since China has made huge investments and is building artificial islands for its military, the regional allies of the USA like Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea perceives this huge investment as a threat for them. Further Japan and South Korea claim that China will use these islands for its military purpose.

Quad claims that China is violating the trade, territorial and maritime rules, so the coalition is expected to ensure free and open region and give respect to international law.

China imports oil and coal from Middle Eastern and African countries and exports them to Europe, Africa, and Middle East nations by using Strait of Malacca and Gulf of Aden. ISDP claims that China is heavily dependent on Strait of Malacca because 80 percent of its energy supply passes through this strait. In order to be less dependent on this strait, China is looking for other routes because both Strait of Malacca and Gulf of Aden are controlled by the US strong naval might.

A2/Ad Vs Quad Strategy 

A2/Ad is a strategy given by Chinese officials which restricts Chinese rivals to a strategic location in the South China Sea. The adoption of Anti-access, Area denial and Aerial defense strategy displays uncompromising behavior by China over the South China Sea. China’s President while addressing its cabinet indicated that China would never tolerate any misadventure by any country. And that the South China Sea would be protected and secured by any means, including the military. Thus asserting a zero-tolerance policy at the South China Sea.

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Quad, on the other hand, is a formation of four like-minded countries, Japan, India, Australia, and the US to stop China’s influence. This group will have a China-centric strategy agenda because China has tried to change the geopolitics in IOR with strategies like economic investments, building up more military muscles and enhancing relations with its neighbor countries.

Quad claims that China is violating the trade, territorial and maritime rules, so the coalition is expected to ensure free and open region and give respect to international law. Also, the coalition would keep a check on China’s moves in the region and would try to limit China’s influence.

Militarily, China is building an aircraft carrier and equipping the naval soldiers with the modern weapons system. Economically, China has invested so much in other countries increasing its allies in the region.

Analyzing A2/Ad strategy and Quad comparatively, Quad can create some problems for China in the upcoming years because Quad consists of developed countries except for India, which is also on its road of developments. China can be encircled by American 6th fleet which is stationed in Japan. Also, China does huge exports to these countries, if they boycott the Chinese products, China will thus be in trouble.

Chinese Strategies for Ensuring its Energy Security 

In order to ensure its energy security, China is investing on bases in other countries. The west calls this strategy as a string of pearls though China denies this claim. China is investing in Pakistan on Gawadar, which is 240 miles far away from the Strait of Hurmuz, strategically of great significance.

Gawadar is expected to be the best alternative for China getting her less dependent on the Strait of Malacca. Similarly, China is investing in Bangladesh at Chittagong, Hambantota at Srilanka, ports in Burma and some important island, which is near to the US naval base Diego Garcia, to serve its energy routes and keep safe from Malacca dilemma.

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China is advancing its military and has a plan of investing about 142 billion dollars particularly on its navy because strong naval abilities will ensure the security of Chinese energy routes and give space action to China in this region. China is equipping its naval soldiers with modern weapons, sophisticated missile system, and radar system. Building of a 4th aircraft carrier for this region which will be full of 36 fighter jets and some helicopters. Also will deploy ships at a small level for patrolling and securing the bases.

Politically, China is playing its cards very carefully at a regional level. China is engaging with regional countries with the help of economic agreements and investments. China is trying to increase its allies with trade agreements, economic investments and removing trust deficit.

A2/AD strategy has been given much importance in China’s foreign policy because it gives a signal to other countries that China would never tolerate any misadventure at the South China Sea.

The best example of which is the resolving of issues with Philippines and signing of about 24.5 billion dollars trade agreement. Although the Philippines is considered to be the chief ally of the USA in the region. China is also trying to engage Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore in BRI which would increase the political influence of China in the region.

Findings and Conclusion 

The rivalry between China and the US is going over in controlling main hotspots in the Indian Ocean region. China has put many efforts at a regional level. Politically, China is increasing its relation with regional countries. Militarily, China is building an aircraft carrier and equipping the naval soldiers with the modern weapons system. Economically, China has invested so much in other countries increasing its allies in the region.

Read more: CPEC: Pakistan’s quest for energy security

A2/AD strategy has been given much importance in China’s foreign policy because it gives a signal to other countries that China would never tolerate any misadventure at the South China Sea. It is relatively weak than Quad. To conclude, China should engage all regional countries to become part of BRI, trade agreements and economic investment after that China can pull the regional states into its orbit.

Amina Khan is pursuing her MPhil in International Relations from Bahria University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.