Why is this important: The strategy outlined in the ten-page report, written in early 2018, guided the US approach to China, India, North Korea and other countries in the Indo-region. peaceful over the past three years. Its publication highlights the geopolitical and security challenges that will soon be inherited by the Biden administration.
China is the main state actor of concern described in the document, followed by North Korea. The strategy emphasizes combating China’s growing influence abroad by seeking strategic alignment with its allies and partners, supporting a “liberal economic order” in the region and working to “inoculate” the United States and its partners against Chinese intelligence activities.
- The strategy also describes a major expansion of military, intelligence and diplomatic support to India as the main regional counterweight to China – an approach that is likely to raise eyebrows in Beijing and Islamabad.
What they say: “The declassification of the Framework today demonstrates, with transparency, America’s strategic commitments to the Indo-Pacific and to our allies and partners in the region,” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien wrote in a note dated January 5, 2021 and included with the strategy document.
Break down: The Trump administration has closely followed several of its stated goals regarding China over the past three years, including:
- Building an “international consensus that China’s industrial policies and unfair trade practices are damaging the world trading system”
- Expand U.S. counterintelligence and law enforcement to counter China’s intelligence activity in the U.S., and expand intelligence sharing with allies to help them do the same.
- Develop military and asymmetric warfare strategies to aid Taiwan in its long-standing and strained relations with China.
- Strengthening National Security Reviews of Chinese Investments in Sensitive US Sectors
- Work with allies and partners to try “to prevent the Chinese acquisition of military and strategic capabilities”.
Yes, but: Some targets faced headwinds.
- The strategy repeatedly calls for greater U.S. engagement with countries in the region, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In some instances, the United States has in fact withdrawn from the region, including through Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the snobbery of ASEAN summits.
- The goal of showcasing the benefits of US democratic values as a counterweight to China in the region has also taken a heavy blow with the recent armed insurgency on the US Capitol. These events prompted the resignation of one of the strategy’s main authors, former National Security Deputy Matt Pottinger.
To note: India is an important cornerstone of the aptly named Indo-Pacific strategy.
- The document says that enhanced U.S. assistance and intelligence sharing is expected to help India in key areas of conflict with China, including border disputes and water rights in the Himalayas. In 2020, India and China had their deadliest military skirmish along the border since 1967.
- But the American-Indian relationship is complex. During the Cold War, India refused to place itself squarely on the Western camp, opting instead for the leadership of the non-aligned movement. The United States, meanwhile, has often looked to Pakistan, India’s historic main rival in South Asia.
Context: The Trump administration has ushered in a new official framework for viewing China and India as part of the same strategic region, “the Indo-Pacific,” starting with its national security strategy in 2017.
- The U.S. Pacific Command was renamed Indo-Pacific Command in 2018, to an extent widely seen as a response to China’s rise to power.
Between the lines: Australia’s experience with China strongly influenced the drafting of the Indo-Pacific Strategy 2018.
- “In many ways, they were ahead of the curve in understanding influence operations and interference in national systems,” a senior US official told me. “They were pioneers and we have to give Australia a lot of credit. “
- The official singled out former Australian senior intelligence adviser John Garnaut for his praise, and said a 2017 report on Chinese influence operations by New Zealand specialist Anne-Marie Brady also influenced US strategy. .
Go further: State Department publishes plan to counter China.