asia

'Chinese power blunted in Asia' as Australia defies trade sanctions – 9News


The Biden Administration has clawed back US influence in Asia, while domestic troubles have blunted China’s regional ascendancy, according to an Australian think-tank.

The Lowy Institute’s annual Asia Power Index measured 26 countries or territories across 131 indicators including economics, military might and diplomatic leverage.

For 2021, it found the US remained the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific region. China was placed second after steadily expanding influence on the index in recent years.

China is the dominating military power in Asia but it has lost ground in other key indicators of influence, a think tank report said. (AP)

Biden wins back influence

The US power revival in Asia is largely due to President Joe Biden’s attempts to build coalitions with regional allies and his efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic at home.

And efforts to mitigate climate change, vaccine donations to poorer countries and overseas development funding also helped the US pull ahead of China.

But the report also warns that relative US military power in the region is waning as China’s armed forces expand.

It also says Asian countries are less economically dependent on the US.

Australia weathering Chinese pressures

Australian exports to China, including wine, barley, coal and seafood, have been hit with punitive measures over the past 18 months.

“Australia has weathered China’s growing power better than most US partners. Despite coming under sustained trade sanctions by its primary trade partner, Australia has improved its resilience in 2021,” the report said.

Australia has weathered Chinese trade sanctions against key export industries. (AP)

But on a key marker of defence capability, Australia has lost ground.

This is despite joining the AUKUS security pact with the US and Britain under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

But the Australian navy faces a wait of 20 years before it receives the advanced weaponry.

Australia continued to be ranked sixth in the power rankings for Asia, behind the US, China, Japan, India and Russia.

While China’s influence declined for the first time since the index started in 2018, its military might continues to grow.

Chinese military spending is now 50 per cent bigger than India, Japan, Taiwan, and all 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) combined, the index authors said.

Global shoppers face possible shortages of smartphones and other goods ahead of Christmas after power cuts to meet government energy targets in China. (AP)

The rising superpower has also expanded its nuclear forces and developed advanced weapons that can threaten American and allied bases in the region, as well as the US mainland.

But China is also losing influence because of its high national debt, energy shortages, an ageing population and an inward-looking political system.

Vaccine diplomacy wins influence

The donation of COVID-19 vaccine to countries has become a major instrument of foreign policy, the report said.

Australia’s donation of vaccines to countries in Asia have been generous but the Federal Government’s prolonged international border closures have set it back in diplomatic stakes.

Japan – $66.3 billion

Countries with the highest military expenditure in the world

Question marks over the effectiveness of Chinese-made vaccines had blunted China’s soft power ability, the report said.



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