The U. S. role in the Asia-Pacific Region has been cooling over the past couple of years, and Donald Trump’s announced exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has accelerated that process. Trade and Defense Alliances go hand-in-hand! So, if we exit, that means that the U. S. would basically be handing-over the leadership role in the TPP to China, which had previously been excluded.
China has established a $1 trillion global infrastructure campaign, called “One Belt, One Road”, to help nations of strategic interest, thereby building partnerships. In the initial stages, that initiative seems to be focused primarily on Southeast Asian nations. It’s short and long-term strategic interests seem to be Energy Security and Control of the Regional Seaways, respectively!
Currently, China imports 85% of its crude oil from the Persian Gulf, and it must past through the Malacca Strait—between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore—as does its other imports. In a prior post, I had already described the importance of that major “choke-point”, since 50% of all global sea commerce passes through that narrow strait.
In wooing many of America’s friends in the region, with its One Belt. One Road initiative, China has directed its attention first on Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Additionally, it has seaports under construction in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and is awaiting approval of one in Bangladesh. The location of all three of these projects, around the Indian Subcontinent, might be of long-term strategic importance; since, India is considered by some experts to be the rising power in the Region.
No country is as important to China, however, than is Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma. Myanmar is nestled between India and China, and has an open seafront. Chinese President Xi Jinping is building a seaport in Myanmar, which would provide an oil terminal to connect the pipeline, which China already has under construction. That pipeline would avoid the Malacca Strait and insure China’s energy security.
NOTE: The linked article from the NY Times describes China’s efforts to woo Myanmar, as well as build partnerships with other nations in the Asia-Pacific Region.