Lisa Curtis said China’s propensity to bullying has pushed countries in the Indo-Pacific region towards the United States.
China’s assertiveness on border with India has pushed New Delhi closer to the United States, said Lisa Curtis, the director of Indo-Pacific Security of the Centre For A New American Security, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2023. In a conversation with Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, South Asia Head, Eurasia Group, the foreign policy expert said the fact that Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — a grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, commonly known as Quad — is successful, manifests in China’s criticism of the alliance, which was formed to challenge the communist country’s ambition to dominate the Indo-Pacific region. Meanwhile, professor Minxin Pei, a Chinese-American political scientist, said the world overestimates China’s ability on the technological front and that the United States would eventually triumph in this sector.
“Quad is succeeding…We can say this because China doesn’t like Quad…it calls it Asia’s NATO,” Curtis said.
Curtis said some of the changes in China’s approach towards the border issue and the Indo-Pacific region, have contributed to stronger-than-ever India-US relationship.
“China may have been trying to signal India not to go too far with Quad, or US-India relationship. I think the border crisis had the opposite impact. I have seen India even more invested in Quad since then and more committed to the US-India relationship,” she said.
“Both the countries have a common interest that China doesn’t dominate the Indo-Pacific and on the technological front, and control the information flow,” she said.
She said China’s propensity to bullying has pushed countries in the Indo-Pacific towards the United States. She said the US is engaging with these countries to help them defend themselves better against Chinese aggression. She also said that alliances and partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region are crucial for the United States’ global strategy.
She also said that the US recognises India’s emerging role in the global semiconductor industry.
On India-US relationship, she said,” We had some hiccups but I think right now it is strong. The fact that we have weathered differences over Russia is remarkable… both Democrats and Republicans recognize that the US needs to have a strong relationship with India… We are not going to agree on everything though.”
She also said the US needs to keep realistic expectations from India regarding potential conflict with China over Taiwan.
“We are realistic with our India relations. If a Taiwan conflict happens, we are realistic about India’s response… US leaders need to recognise that India will do what is in its own interests…India has too much to lose in terms of the disputed border with China…India will be pretty cautious. It will support the US diplomatically and in other ways… but India is going to have its own calculations,” she added.
On the US-China power tussle, Minxin Pei said the two countries perceive each other as enemies but their leaders are not planning an immediate conflict. The overall direction, however, is hardly optimistic, he added.
Curtis said, “The goal of China is to undermine the US power in the Indo-Pacific and its goal is to deny access to the US… the US is attempting to counter this by forming alliances”.
Minxin Pei said the biggest driver for China’s foreign policy is the sense that the country is powerful “so it must be treated with reverence and its interests must be recognised by the world.”
“The second driver is Xi Jinping’s own views on the emerging world order…He believes as a great power, China’s interest should be recognised… The most profound change in China’s approach is the result of the change of leadership…Xi brought everything together,” he said.
He said at the moment, conflict avoidance is in the mutual interest of both the countries. “However, the circumstances today point towards a crisis in the future, like the Cuban missile crisis,” he added.
He said the US and its allies will win the war on the technology front.
“We are at a cusp of the technological revolution; it can change economies, wars and how we live. That’s why China is really interested and committed,” he said.
He said China achieved growth over the past decades because of its proximity with powerful nations.
“China has a dilemma that the old playbook can’t work and how to make the same amount of progress with limited resources. The rest of the world overestimates China’s abilities and even China does that…I think that the United States and its allies will win in the end,” he added.