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[00:00:07]

It's the third or Fourth of July Kopi Time, a podcast on economies and markets from the Pacific research team, big chief economist. Welcome to our twenty third episode. No geopolitical issue is perhaps more consequential to our times, and the simmering China was friction last week during our biennial conference, Eurasia Group's Robert Kaplan said the U.S. and China have diametrically opposed ambitions and goals in the South and East China Sea, and a conflict is inevitable. Professor Kishore Mahbubani, in the same conference, cast a discussion in a long term civilizational context, saying China's rise as merely a return to trend for an ancient power were to be established by a relatively young superpower.

[00:00:51]

The U.S. is struggling to come to terms with so clearly China, US strife is here to stay. But what does it mean for our region here in Asia? Today we talk about that with Dr. Lynn Kwok, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Dr. Cook oversees Asia Pacific Regional Security Assessment, one of the institute's signature publications, and the Southeast Asian Young Leaders program. She is responsible for developing research on key Asia-Pacific security issues.

[00:01:25]

Welcome to Copy Time, Dr. Cook.

[00:01:27]

Thanks so much for having me, Tamira. And it's great. Hey, you and your colleagues and I recently published the Asia Pacific Regional Security Assessment 20 20, just as an advertisement for your publication. Share with us some of the key themes explored in it. Well, I think that two overarching things, the first one is that of major power competition and how that continues to grow in the region. So within that broad theme, their assessments of the US China relationship, as well as an examination of the implications for Asian security, of the collapse of the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty, as well as a look forward at the trajectory of Washington's alliances and security partnerships in the region.

[00:02:17]

And also, of course, an assessment of the continuing challenge posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, not just to the security of the United States, but to Japan and South Korea as well. Under the second overarching theme that looks at the contributions that middle powers make to Asia-Pacific security. So within this broad heading, we look at, you know, Japan's increasingly assertive regional role, as well as the implications of worsening relations between Japan and Korea, as well as how Indonesian policy towards issues like the South China Sea continues to evolve, as well as the role played by Australia as well as countries in Europe in seeking to support the balance of power, as well as a rules based order in the region.

[00:03:11]

Well, that's a broad sweep, a critical sweep. And I wish we had the time and scope to go over each and every one of them. But this is just a short podcast, so I suppose we will stick with the first team in your annual assessment, which is the China US relationship. We have had quite a bit of exposure to this issue in the last week or so. In our Asia conference last week, we discussed this with Robert Kaplan of Eurasia and Kishore Mahbubani of National University.

[00:03:39]

We had a clarion call just a couple of days ago with Ambassador John Emerson, who used to be US ambassador in Germany. And although different people of different focus, it's been all back to this issue of the great power rivalry that we're seeing. And clearly it's been deteriorating over the last couple of years. So perhaps you can start off giving us your assessment of what has driven this deterioration in the US China relationship. Well, I think there's a tendency to pin the blame on President Trump, and certainly I think he's driven part of the problems.

[00:04:21]

He's taken a rather transactional approach towards China in terms of insisting that China purchase more from the United States of his trade. War hasn't helped relations. And now he's seizing upon the China threat issue to boost his re-election chances as well, has hurt US China relations. But my view is that we've basically had a slow fire burning in the US China relationship for quite a while, and it's now coming to a boil. We've seen relations, Rocky, of a whole range of issues, the South China Sea trade technology developments in Hong Kong and its implications for Taiwan and human rights.

[00:05:05]

I think there's a I think with so many issues which are problematic in the relationship, any relationship would be under some stress. But I think what we've seen with the relationship is that. These issues, in a sense, have become less thorn in the side of the relationship, causing its deterioration, say, in the last quarter of last year, but rather these these issues have become a means by which the other side has sought to gain advantage over the other.

[00:05:39]

And this, in turn, has at its heart great power competition and a fundamental anxiety about the other's intentions. And I think that, in a sense, is driving current US China relations, not trade with the South China Sea persay. Those those are certainly problematic issues, but the fact that both sides distrust each other and are seeking ways by which to keep each other in check. Now, I don't think US goals are particularly clear, but looking at.

[00:06:12]

Observing its actions or words over the last couple of years, I think we can identify three possibilities in terms of its goals. The first possibility and probably the most reasonable is to ensure that China plays by the rules. So we want powers to and to adhere to international law and norms even as competition becomes fierce between them. So that might be the best that the objective that the United States seeks. But as we've gone along, I think we've also seen increasing propensity for the United States as well to ensure that China does not surpass the does not surpass US power and influence in Asia.

[00:06:53]

And we see that in the fight in the US, in the South China Sea. I think we see China seeking to exclude the United States from the South China Sea and the United States signaling that it's a power that's here to stay. And the third possible objective, and we've seen that in the last month or so and this has been increasingly disturbing, is a possible objective that the United States wants to change the nature of the Chinese Communist Party or the CCP itself.

[00:07:25]

And I think I think we've seen us words and actions, I think increasingly suggest that it's either the second or the third goal that the United seeks, United States seeks to achieve. Lynn, while you've taken us to other challenging aspects of this matter quite quickly, so let's talk about the second and the third. The second one, I think it's clear even in areas of trade and tech, the sort of market access and investment restrictions that the US government has put in place, which in some ways have actually gotten pushback from the US business community, but they have gone ahead nonetheless.

[00:08:09]

But as far as areas beyond that, where the goal, ostensible goal is to get China to play by rules, but seems to be the real goal is not allow China to surpass the US. The one that I would like you to touch a little more on this issue of Asia, that there is this competition for Asia, soul and Asia's might between the US and the Chinese. What are the historical context which makes the US feel so strongly about holding on to this sort of hegemonic control over the region?

[00:08:41]

I think the US sees that it is a Pacific power or now it calls itself an Indo-Pacific power and it has a desire to. Reassured the allies to which it has given security commitments to Japan, the Philippines, that South Korea that it has it has the wherewithal to actually stay in the region and support stability in the region. And I think this is something I mean, we talk about U.S. hegemony, but this is as if it was something negative.

[00:09:20]

But in a sense, the US presence in the region has allowed the region to enjoy a security umbrella, which has kept Asia out of the rain for some decades now and allowed it to prosper. If we take away we take away that umbrella. What we might well see is, say, Japan, South Korea going nuclear, which which would destabilize, destabilize the region. And we might also see less of a balance of power in the region. And so we might have bigger countries in the region seeking to exert coercion on smaller countries in the region.

[00:09:59]

And I think that is a that is something that we will we should seek to avoid. So so the US is doing it both for its own interests, commercial and other interests in the region, as well as supporting its allies. But I think also the region appreciates the US presence here. And I think we saw that quite clearly in the recent foreign affairs commentary that prime minister did for the Foreign Affairs magazine. That's right. But when you see the US, do you mean that the US military, the strategic thinkers in the US military, the State Department, the Washington, DC intelligentsia, they all have this view or there is a tendency that the whoever comes to the White House gets swayed by the US military establishment, which is perhaps a little more hawkish on these issues than the civilians would be.

[00:10:55]

I don't think it's correct to say I don't think it's necessarily correct to say that there is a difference of opinion between the civilian and the military leadership on the issue of China, for instance. I think whether it's the White House, the State Department or the Department of Defense, I think they've all issued US policy statements since twenty six, twenty seventeen, all identifying China as common as a threat for the United States. And I think they're all working at Edom.

[00:11:31]

They're all working to to to the same set of policy goals, namely to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. And you see also is something that spans the political spectrum, that the fact that Trump and the Republicans are in power now and that Biden and the Democrats may be in power a year from now, that won't necessarily change the substance of this matter. I think, you know, we're still seeing some lack of clarity in terms of what the United States ultimate goals are, as we discussed earlier, but I think the view of China as a threat is shared across the aisle.

[00:12:11]

And we've seen Republicans and Democrats agree on precious little during this administration and we've seen great division within the United States. But I think on the issue of China, the voice, the main voices sing in unison. So I don't expect to see very much of a change, say, if President Joe Biden were to come into power and it will Biden administration, there might be marginal changes in terms of rhetoric. So perhaps rhetoric might be less inflammatory and that would be a good thing because that could bring about more stable relations between the two superpowers, even if this competition persists.

[00:12:52]

But I think we are going to see us China rivalry competition in a quite heated state, up for some years to come. And indeed, even under a Biden administration, we might actually see competition become fiercer. We if it's we generally see a Democratic administration place greater emphasis on human rights. And talking to some of the people who know his Asia advisers, these are. These Asia faces, I felt that some of them that are fairly ideological in their approach to so it's not so much know China's behavior is problematic, though.

[00:13:37]

It certainly is. But China with the CCP is evil. And we need to ensure that we we we push back against this evil empire. We saw hints of that in Secretary Powell's address at the Nixon Library, I think it was last week. That's right. And he adopted a very strident ideological stance, calling communists, communists liars and saying that we need to disbelieve and verify everything rather than believe, but verify. And we saw several I read several Democratic commentaries after that, and the objections were less with the ideological approach adopted by Secretary Compan, but more by the the objections made more in the double standards of the Trump administration.

[00:14:26]

That has undermined multilateralism, which could be a tool in men in pushing back against China and also its double standards in abetting and and an inevitable setting in destroying democracy at home. So it wasn't so much the content of the speech that some of these analysts objected to, but the double standards in the current U.S. administration, in their view, not walking the talk. Right. So like I was in a call with Ambassador John Emerson a couple of days ago, he served both under Clinton, Obama, and he did not come across as some sort of a dove as far as China was concerned.

[00:15:11]

And but one thing that he pointed out, and I think that's already implicit in what you've said, is that a Democratic administration may focus on the first pillar that you mentioned, which is the play by the rules aspect and also the other issues that you just touched upon, that maybe focus more on multilateral approaches to dealing with China as opposed to a unilateral approach in the third pillar that you talked about, which is the most troubling one and perhaps could create the most amount of global stress, is this notion that Secretary Pompeo and others would want to put so much pressure on China that it creates some sort of a change dynamic within the CCP.

[00:15:52]

Explore a little bit of that for us, please. Yeah, let me first have a look at the play by the rules in the multilateralism and multilateralism, I think we cannot stress enough how important these objectives are because I think we are seeing a situation where there is a complete lack of trust between the two superpowers, and we're not going to be able to restore that trust any time soon. So the mechanisms by which we ensure that, however heated competition is, it still takes place within a certain framework.

[00:16:28]

What that framework is, is first international law and norms. So playing by these rules and second, multilateral institutions, which and the rules that those set out and and how much competition takes place that should those frameworks, the competition must always take place within those frameworks to ensure that things don't get out of hand. So that is critical. And I think we as the international community need to look more closely, closely at these issues as mechanisms by which to keep competition in check.

[00:17:02]

Now, on regime change, I mean, it's important to stress that Secretary Powell never talked about regime change. He shied away from using those words, but he did talk about the Chinese people needing to change the CCP. And that change dynamic, as you pointed out, is hugely concerning. I think I worry about an overemphasis on that ideological approach first, because it unnecessarily deepens tensions between the two great powers. These powers, China and the United States, have legitimate grievances against the other.

[00:17:38]

And I think if we focus on those grievances, they are difficult to resolve. But once you start talking about the other side as evil, by the very nature, those issues which are thorns in the side of the relationship, become much, much harder to resolve. So first, an ideological approach deepens tensions unnecessarily, deepens tensions. And I think the other reason why I find this deeply concerning is quite apart from how China might view this, we also have to think about how other potential US partners and allies think about this issue.

[00:18:17]

Now, on the very day that Secretary Powell talked about communist being liars, the United States actually signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam, promising to help Vietnam in its fight against illegal fishing. And this was, of course, targeted or directed at China's encroachment or illegal encroachments into Vietnam's exclusive economic zone. But Vietnam is not a liberal democracy by any standards, and I'm not sure how it would have taken to the United States calling all communists liars. And I'm sure at the back of its mind, Vietnam must be thinking about how reliable a partner the United States can be given this push towards an ideological war.

[00:19:07]

The flip side, of course, of this is how the United States might think about its allies and partners in the region. Secretary Popiel talk about a coalition of democracies now a coalition of democracies, by its very definition, might exclude certain very important partners in the region. Vietnam is one. Singapore is another. If we look at Southeast Asia, I don't think there is a liberal democracy in sight. So is the United States by its an overly ideological approach, would it would it alienate potential partners to its own detriment?

[00:19:45]

And third, I think the problem the third problem I think would be if. It leaves. It could leave a strategic space open for China, which could, in a sense be counterproductive to the very objectives that the United States seeks to achieve, namely democracy. So if it decides that our partners can only be democracies and that hasn't happened yet, thankfully, then what does that mean for who countries choose to position themselves where if they go with China?

[00:20:19]

And what does that mean for any gains, any democratic gains in the countries moving forward? So I think on several counts, deepening of tension, alienating the potential partners, as well as opening strategic space to its China, to China. I think this is this hints at regime change or a movement towards more ideological approaches. Deeply, deeply troubling. Right. So that's the unintended consequence. If you push too hard and you have all these countries which are not keen on taking sides, then you inadvertently give China some space to maneuver.

[00:20:56]

So let's explore that a little further. You talked about the China, Vietnam, US nexus and how things are getting complicated there. So what does this worsening of tension mean for the other countries in the region, which are the ones you think are the biggest flashpoints going forward? Well, I wouldn't say flash points, I think it's quite clear that the tensions between the two superpowers are, first of all, clearly hurting prospects of recovery from the pandemic.

[00:21:30]

Just on a purely health perspective, from a health perspective, but it's also hurting prospects for growth, growth moving forward. That's right. And beyond that, I think less obviously, it's also worsening the worsening relations. So narrow country's strategic options. The United States often says that it's not forcing countries to choose between the two superpowers. But I think many will find it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid taking sides in a world that's increasingly decoupled, whether in economic or technological spheres, whatever the United States might say and.

[00:22:10]

As Paula pointed out in his recent article for Foreign Affairs, this places most countries in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, in a very difficult bind because the US security presence is critical for the region and China will find it very difficult to step into this role, even if it wanted to, and even if it were trusted by the region. Despite its increasing military strength, it's just nowhere near the United States at the moment. The United States will that continues to be the largest source of foreign direct investments in much of Asia and.

[00:22:46]

China, on its part, is the largest trading partner of most Asian countries, including all US allies in the region, and it has been our largest trading partner for over a decade. And countries looking out to its China US to look at China having the wind behind its economic sails. So in a sense, you know, having to choose between the United States and China is perceived in the region as having to choose between security and economic growth and prosperity.

[00:23:15]

And it's quite a difficult position to be placed in all countries in the region. Absolutely. I remember being in a dialogue with general of Indonesia and he echoed exactly what you said, that he felt that a country like Indonesia, for example, has found it very much to its interests to have deep military cooperation with the US Navy. And generally speaking, U.S. military, but at the same time that the trade relationship with China is an indispensable one. And I think he thundered in the top that I heard that nobody should ask Indonesia to pick a side because it is not a viable or realistic option for the quick aside from the other issues, of course, the 10 navies facing each other or their planes flying from their aircraft carriers and flying very close to each other in the South China Sea region.

[00:24:06]

And then there's, of course, all these challenges that the US and other countries in Central Asia have made towards China. As far as this overtures in the South China Sea is concerned, where are things going there? I mean, this worsening of relationship, could that spillover into military tension in the South China Sea? Yes, I fear it could. I think what we're seeing in the South China Sea is increasingly worrisome. We've seen even during the course of the past seven months during the pandemic, an increase in Chinese activities in the South China Sea.

[00:24:49]

And this has taken various forms. So the first the first type of activity that we've seen China increase as well. China has actually increasingly encroached upon the exclusive economic zone of Indonesia, Vietnam and most recently, Malaysia. And such incursions have sometimes been quite violent. It's sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat and it has harassed that. That wasn't violent, but it sought to harass the West Capelet drillship, which was conducting survey operations for Malaysia's state oil company, Capella.

[00:25:25]

This is in clear violation of international law. A tribunal in the Philippines case against China actually found that the. Coastal states in the south around bordering the South China Sea are able to enjoy the exclusive economic votes unencumbered by China's nine dash line or any claims exclusive economic zone from Fiji's beaches. So so that's been problematic. And the second reason, the second activity that China has been engaging in in the South China Sea has been to maintain a near constant presence around Fiji's ocupado administered by other countries, including the largest feature the Philippines occupies in the Spratleys duty to island.

[00:26:08]

It must send vessels to surrounded this feature in December. Twenty, eighteen. And since then, we've had at times, you know, hundreds of Chinese vessels surrounds this. So there are increasing numbers of Chinese vessels rubbing up against the vessels of other Southeast Asian countries. And that that that can pose potential problems in terms of incidents at sea. But China's activities in the South China Sea have not been confined merely to skirmishes with its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors.

[00:26:42]

It also continues to object to assertions of maritime rights and freedoms by the United States and its allies. And I think, as you point out, this is very worrying, given an environment of heightened tensions between the US and China and and including recriminations around covid-19. So it's a very bad environment. And the end just a couple of months ago in April, we saw U.S. and Chinese warships come within just 100 metres of each other, which greatly increased the risk of incident.

[00:27:17]

And the last time this happened was a near miss in September, twenty eighteen when against a backdrop of worsening US China trade relations with China, a Chinese warship came within forty one metres of a U.S. warship while it was conducting a freedom of navigation operation in the Spratleys. And that warship had to maneuver just to avoid a collision. So these these recent near misses, I think, are worrying not only because China decided to, too, in a sense, interfere in lawful assertions of maritime rights and maritime rights in the South China Sea, but also because they were in breach of a memorandum of understanding with which the United States Department of Defence and China's Ministry of National Defence entered into in November 2014, which seeks to regulate the behaviour of both parties so that they can safely encounter each other, both at sea and in the air.

[00:28:21]

So I think in an environment of deteriorating relations, an environment where agreements with safety, safe encounters at sea, an air of a breach, and an environment where there are increasing number of vessels of Chinese vessels rubbing up against both Southeast Asian vessels as well as US vessels and allied vessels. It's a it's a very bad environment and and one that is ripe for potential incidents at sea level. That's very helpful. And you have explained to us in great detail how this looks from the nations in Southeast Asia, how this looks from the perspective of the US, the exact same set of escalations and developments.

[00:29:06]

How are they looking in Beijing? Well, Beijing obviously has quite a different perspective on the South China Sea, it sees itself as sovereign over the beaches in the South China Sea and therefore entitled to reclaim or to transform small features into large artificial islands, air and naval facilities on them, as well as to militarize them, because those these are the prerogatives of a sovereign nation. However, I think a. It's wrong in that respect because these beaches in the South China Sea or 70 of these beaches in the South China Sea is hotly disputed.

[00:29:48]

And in the case of at least one feature in the Spratleys or two features in the Spratleys Mischief Reef. And second on the show, the tribunal in the Philippines case against China in 2016 actually found these to be low tide elevations within the Philippines, he said, and therefore within the Philippines jurisdiction and control. China also claims that it has historic rights around the in the South China Sea within its nine dash line. And this has been an argument that it's made to as it's as it encroaches on the exclusive economic zone of other Southeast Asian countries.

[00:30:32]

But I think that argument or that perspective has been rejected by the tribunal when it found that insofar as China was claiming historic rights to maritime zones recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, these were not valid. The tribunal also rejected any claim Chinese claimed exclusive economic zone from beaches in the Spratleys in the South China Sea. So, you know, that's that's not really a valid perspective. China also objects to US and allied assertions of maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea.

[00:31:17]

It's it's quite technical. So I'm not going to go into that. But again, these contravene the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. And these powers are perfectly entitled to exercise Heisey freedoms within the international waters of the South China Sea. There are also several narratives that China is pushing. One of them is that, you know, it's not China that has been destabilizing the South China Sea, but really foreign powers which are stirring up trouble in the South China Sea.

[00:31:49]

And I think that that has that is something that flies in the face of facts, because we've seen various countries in Southeast Asia actually to lesser or greater degrees, caution against or would decry worrying developments in the South China Sea. And I think those were very subtle, but clearly targeted at China. So from China's perspective, China does have certain perspectives on these issues. But where whereas it might have valid concerns into other areas of the belt and road where that the narrative is quite negative against these infrastructure projects, and perhaps China has a valid argument that these projects actually benefit the region?

[00:32:42]

I think in the South China Sea, its perspective, its perspectives don't quite gel with reality as well as the situation or the rights permitted under international law. Right. I recall Professor Molana addressing this issue in the context of China's sort of congenital insecurity, that it's a massive populous country with not enough natural resources, and hence it always feels that it needs to have some degree of buffer, something that the US pursued, I guess, in the last century or so, and hence enjoys hegemonic supremacy in the vicinity of the United States and North America.

[00:33:22]

So I thought so his point was that China sort of craves that. But you're right that from its regional partners perspective, I think also China has done a poor job of building friendships. It has a lot of eager economic partners, but genuine friends are hard to find. A little recently, both you and I were actually on a call with the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, in which I was struck, that he really strenuously highlighted the importance of the US India defense relationship.

[00:33:54]

And so far in this talk, we've discussed South East Asia. But I think it would be remiss to not talk about this issue where the US seems to be putting more emphasis. What role can middle powers like India play in this whole China US trade? I think with great power competition, which is dramatically worsening the strategic environment in the region, the importance of the contributions of middle powers increases. And I think I see that the role is twofold.

[00:34:25]

First, to maintain the balance of power in the region and second, to strenuously defend the rules-based order. I think India as a naval power or even the countries like Australia, Japan. They need to be able to continuously, regularly assert maritime rights and freedoms to ensure that the vital waters waterways of our region remain open. I think as a matter of law, this ensures that passage and other heisse freedoms are not lost through lack of use and as a matter of practice, ensures that international waters do not become a Chinese lake.

[00:35:05]

The other role that middle powers can do is to work with other allies and partners to build capacity in the region, whether in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or in enhancing maritime domain awareness, which helps to give coastal states greater confidence in dealing with coercive behavior or unlawful behavior in the waters around them. And I think finally, and perhaps most importantly, middle powers need to be able to keep in mind that when attempting to defend a rules-based order. In a region where development needs are very high, there are only likely to gain traction if they are able to afford development opportunities to the region as well.

[00:35:56]

Now, China is an attractive partner to many of the countries in the region, not because of ideology. Going back to the earlier arguments that we made, but because of the opportunity that China offers for these countries to, you know, to become more connected, to develop themselves, to lift themselves out of poverty. And I think this needs to be very much at the forefront of middle power's thoughts when they consider how they should be dealing with the region.

[00:36:26]

We must not forget that we're in the middle of a pandemic and post pandemic. Countries are going to be seeking to build, rebuild the economies they're going to need to bolster their health care systems. And this is something that middle powers can very much step into a role to play. So India probably has its own challenges as well and perhaps might not be able to play that strong role in terms of the development of healthcare systems. But India has certainly great medical expertise that can be offered to the rest of the region, and it can also work with its partners like the United States, Japan and Australia in terms of infrastructure, working on infrastructure investment in the Asia-Pacific.

[00:37:14]

It doesn't need to work alone, but it can work with its partners and allies. So I think India is clearly an important Indo-Pacific actor that's been identified in the various policy documents that the United States has issued. And while we've seen Australia and Japan very much step up to the plate in terms of seeking to play a greater strategic role in the region, I think it's still a big question mark over the extent to which India is willing to to engage more with the region in terms from a security or strategic perspective.

[00:37:56]

And I think it's recent withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or ASEP, has hurt its ability to shape and influence the region. But I think with recent clashes with China on their disputed border, there's a possibility that we might see India move beyond its traditional non-alignment policy, which has constrained to deepen security ties. There's already been reports of it planning on inviting Australia to join its high level naval exercise, Malabo, which usually involves the navies of India, Japan and the United States.

[00:38:33]

So it still remains to be seen whether or not recent developments on its border will lead to greater strategic engagement as to sustained strategic engagement in the region moving forward. Right. In my view, I think old habits of non-alignment will probably die quite hard. No, I absolutely agree. You've hit the nail with the hammer because, I mean, India has been a long line actor for a very long time and it's served itself pretty well. And as you were alluding to earlier, military trade partnership.

[00:39:10]

I mean, China is the biggest trading partner of India now. And the the recent strife, I mean, I sometimes wonder whether, you know, the bromance between Trump and Modi explains a lot of this sort of convergence between India and the US, or as you said, there are policy documents which are also identified India as a critical middle power. But, you know, the irony I mean, you were talking about how India can play a constructive role because of his expertise in pharmaceutical production and so on.

[00:39:37]

The country that had the biggest window with this was China. I mean, this is what I find amazing that the last four months was China's biggest window to impress the world with its helping hand, both in terms of fighting the pandemic as well as debt forgiveness for poor nations that have taken on Chinese debt. And it seems to me that window has narrowed and China really has not been able to exploit that. And and now, of course, you know, we have the situation where it is.

[00:40:05]

You have rightly said there is cause for alarm, that the rising tension and the no sign of backing down by these two strong nations is putting our region under a great deal of stress. Any parting words in terms of the very near term outlook in the next six months or so? What's your sense in the region? I think it's going to be a region that is will be looking at developments in some alarm. I think it's really a very rapidly deteriorating security situation and it's going to be a very watchful region, but it's also going to be a region that might be staying put because in the next few months, it's going to be what is the outcome of the US elections going to be?

[00:40:57]

And and thereafter, assessing whether this recent dramatic downturn in US China relations has been just a factor of the upcoming U.S. elections or something far different. And I suspect it's going to be they're going to find out that it was something deeper, more structural problems in the US China relationship. And then the region is going to be looking forward in terms of what is it going to do next. Like I mentioned earlier, the region has a narrowing set of options.

[00:41:31]

But I think what it should be seeking to do is to keep this keep his options open as as as as much as possible, not by failing to take any sides at all, but by adhering. It's by firmly. Planting itself themselves on the side of international law and norms, and I think in this way by. Taking a very principled approach, the region can thereby, you know, ensure that it doesn't anger China as much by, you know, by saying that this isn't about being anti China, but it's about adhering to the rule of law and also ensure that it still keeps us somewhat satisfied because it shows itself willing to stick its neck out for principles and therefore worthy of the support and assistance from the United States and its allies and partners.

[00:42:29]

Right. We all create rules based multilateral order. Thank you so much for your insights. Obviously greatly appreciate your time. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure talking to you. It's been great. Thanks also to our listeners, Martin Tuqay producer, Kobe Time, which is available on YouTube and major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple and Google podcast. You can also find our livestream webinars and research publications by Googling Resource Library. Have a great day.