Will Asia’s peace endure? The answer depends on how policymakers cope with growing structural pressures that increasingly encourage miscalculations, arms races, and reckless foreign policies.
A number of well-known yet largely overlooked regional trends make conflict more likely than in the past: mistrust; uncertainty; and widespread military modernization. The greater risk of conflict over time comes from the convergence of these trends with Asia’s longstanding flashpoints.
Now more than ever, Asian states express twin uncertainties about the intentions of a rising and increasingly assertive China on the one hand, and the willingness of the United States to maintain its stabilizing role in the region on the other. Apart from great power uncertainties, Asian states are wary about each other’s long-term capabilities and intentions as well — especially as much of the region undergoes a transition to larger and diverse militaries with more advanced capabilities. All of these insecurities become compounded by the limited ability of Asian states to forge deep security cooperation because of enduring mistrust of one another. Binding agreements are incompatible with the prevailing regional norm of consensus-based cooperation, yet even non-binding but transparent and predictable patterns of behavior are also largely absent from the regional security landscape.
Read the full op-ed at The Diplomat.