Asia and Competing Visions of Regional Order: Free and Open Indo-Pacific and Belt and Road Initiative

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Abstract

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States (US) pushed forward the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). Meanwhile, China is expanding cooperation across the Eurasian continent and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework. Since 2013, the BRI has expanded to more than 60 countries. Initially, the US watched BRI growing as the Obama administration sought to integrate China into the global order. However, now Washington is pushing back with the goal of limiting the growing Chinese presence in the Eurasia and Asia-Pacific region. Consequently, Sino-American competition in Asia-Pacific has been accelerating. This has the potential to affect the strategic and economic engagement of China and the Eurasian nations as the regional order evolves. Asian countries increasingly find themselves in a fix-either support a current superpower or align with the major power of the region which, in the long-run, can displace the US as a superpower. The third option for them is to hedge between Beijing and Washington by cooperating with both in selective economic and foreign policy endeavours. This can complicate successful implementation of both the Indo-Pacific strategy and the BRI.

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