US and China Must Commit to Dialogue To Prevent Conflict

With the international order shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we cannot allow tensions to intensify in Asia, given that the area would likely become the front line of any conflict between the U.S. and China. Both the U.S. and China bear a heavy responsibility.

Defense ministers from Asia and Europe met recently at the Asian Security Conference in Singapore.

The security challenges faced by the region are becoming increasingly severe. There has been an increase in military-related activity, with China recently deploying several fighter jets close to Taiwan, while the U.S. has committed to providing Taiwan with new weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the conference online and warned that what is happening in Ukraine “could happen anywhere in the world.”

It seems likely that officials in the U.S. and China share this sense of crisis.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met in person for the first time at the conference and agreed on the importance of maintaining communication and mutual understanding to avoid conflict.

This was an important step toward easing tensions.

Still, the mutual distrust between the U.S. and China runs deep as they compete for supremacy. It is not something that can be resolved by one conversation.

Throughout the conference, both sides were focused on the fundamental principles of the Taiwan issue.

Austin criticized China’s actions, saying they “threaten to undermine security” in the region, while Wei took issue with the Biden administration’s policy on China, calling it a “strategy to create conflict and confrontation.” It is clear that each side views the other as the destabilizing force.

These circumstances leave the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations feeling forced to choose between the U.S. and China.

The political systems in Asia are diverse and do not easily fit into the “U.S. and Europe versus China and Russia” paradigm. It is essential to take into account the reality of this diversity to ensure stability in the region.

If the U.S. wishes to use its alliances and relationships with friendly countries as a tool to exclude China, many Asian countries will be left behind. Likewise, if China flouts international rules and relies on its strength, it will only earn the distrust of neighboring countries.

Rather than creating a survival of the fittest situation where superpowers act as if they own the world, it is essential that we respect each country’s sovereignty and strive for coexistence. Should the U.S. and China choose not to do so, peace will be beyond our grasp. It is essential to persist with dialogue to avoid conflict.

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