(Photo: Global Times)
Any nation, the US included, is welcome to invest in infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region, but development programs should be vigilant to mounting strategic confrontation among Indo-Pacific nations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced $113 million in new investment focused on digital, energy and infrastructure connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region. The announcement comes at a time when China is establishing a strong economic presence in the Indian Ocean region, and is thus seen by many observers as a response to China's investment policies under the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.
China is pleased to see the US increase engagement in the Indo-Pacific infrastructure connectivity. The B&R initiative is an open initiative that welcomes companies from all countries to join on the principles of equality and voluntary participation.
If the Trump administration is committed to expanding US trade and investment in the Indo-Pacific region, that would give US companies more opportunities. US enterprises are welcome to join projects under the B&R framework and compete fairly with their counterparts in the local markets.
It doesn't matter if the US declines to work with China, and Washington's Indo-Pacific economic strategy can be pursued as an independent platform. There will still be a big infrastructure funding gap in the region, which cannot be filled by one country alone. As long as the business competition is benign, it will help boost economic integration in the Indo-Pacific region and allow everyone to have a piece of the economic cake.
According to Pompeo, the US will not seek domination in the Indo-Pacific, and "will oppose any country that does." China shares this view. The Indo-Pacific region is a key area along the B&R route, but China will never play a dominant role in the region.
Benign competition will be conducive to development in the Indo-Pacific region, but we don't want any development program to evolve into a strategic game among big powers. China and the US need to seek common ground while strengthening cooperation with other countries in the region to promote economic integration.