Trump's China moves begin to embolden some Asian Pacific Rim states

President Trump's trade war with China is a multi-pronged thing, given how closely the east Asian states of the Pacific Rim are being affected. Those states are all U.S. allies, and the reason we project so much naval power in the Pacific.

While we are seeing a lot of doom and gloom talk in the endless 'analyses' you always see in Pacific Rim affairs on the economic side of things, including China itself declaring there will be 'no winners' (typical for the nation that is facing disaster itself), along with some stories of Pacific Rim states getting ready to profit from the whole thing, or else band together against the U.S,, there is a strategic trend that is worth watching: Some Pacific Rim nations are actually standing up to China.

I see two obvious cases, and think there could be more to follow.

Nation One, Malaysia. The news now is that President Mohamad Mahathir is telling China its lousy infrastructure deals have got to go. Bloomberg had the story a couple weeks ago and here's what MalayMail, via Yahoo! News, reports today:

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Putrajaya will attempt to cancel suspicious infrastructure projects previously awarded to Chinese firms, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ahead of his visit to China later this week.

The prime minister told the Associated Press in an interview that he was committed to keeping ties with China cordial, but said this must not come at the detriment of Malaysian interests.

Among items that he most intends to terminate are two gas pipeline projects worth RM9.4 billion awarded by the previous Barisan Nasional administration and which his finance minister previously alleged was almost fully paid despite no progress in work delivery.

“We don’t think we need those two projects. We don’t think they are viable. So if we can, we would like to just drop the projects,” he was quoted as saying.

For years, China has been rolling in to underdeveloped nations with investment promises in a bid to snap up resources, most notably in Africa and Latin America. Malaysia is not underdeveloped, but it has had a recent corrupt government that was thrown out, and it's in character for Mahathir, who is a nationalist like Trump, to take a cue and start seeking better deals. I suspect he's following Trump's lead and since this is Asia, a chain reaction quite possibly could follow. 

Here is Nation Two: Taiwan.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:

TAIPEI -- Authorities in Taiwan are considering countermeasures against foreign airlines that have bowed to Beijing and are now referring to the island as part of China on their websites.

The island's government is considering airport facility restrictions against airlines that have decided to appease Beijing, the United Daily News reported in its Monday morning edition.

However, many politicians appear reluctant to impose restrictions, arguing that applying political pressure on private companies is the same strategy Beijing used and has been maligned for.

Again, we see a nationalist move, with Taiwan defending its national interests. Let's face it, Taiwan is its own nation with much to be proud of and ought to be treated as such. They aren't going to reward nations that kowtow to China's bullying as it seeks to advance its interests in the South China sea and threatens tiny Taiwan to boot. One can say that too is a nation following Trump in his willingness to challenge the Chinese behemoth on another trade front.

The reason this sticks out to me is that up until now, the Asian Pacific nations have been all too willing to go along with China's 'let's get rich together' allure as a trading partner. Now that Trump has upset that apple cart, with the argument that the trade deals aren't actually fair, we see a breakup of that soggy stance. 

It certainly isn't universal at this point. Right now, we see Indonesia and Thailand simply saying to themselves that they will do their best to leverage the trade war and make off from it at this point. (Malaysia, too.) We see Europe doing some odd measures to align with Japan against Trump. We see Philippines and Vietnam just sort of despairing and hunkering down. We see Singapore and Burma affirming the status quo. 

But the little spike of self-interest that considers the full scope of the nation's interests - and includes not being mown down by China - is worth noting. If all of these nations got together and stood up to China as one, there really might be some free trade. China would either have to do really equal deals with Asia as a group or suffer the trampling of elephants going at it. And they do have reason to do so: China has been throwing its weight around in the South China Sea, interfering with vital sea lanes that are used for trade. They all know that is a problem. Now it's a bargaining chip and with the U.S. a part of this, they can all bargain together.

It's a good sign to see some of them standing up to China as a result of Trump's lead. I suspect it may be a trend and I am going to be watching the more nationalistic of them, Indonesia, along with Vietnam and Thailand, for comparable moves.

President Trump's trade war with China is a multi-pronged thing, given how closely the east Asian states of the Pacific Rim are being affected. Those states are all U.S. allies, and the reason we project so much naval power in the Pacific.

While we are seeing a lot of doom and gloom talk in the endless 'analyses' you always see in Pacific Rim affairs on the economic side of things, including China itself declaring there will be 'no winners' (typical for the nation that is facing disaster itself), along with some stories of Pacific Rim states getting ready to profit from the whole thing, or else band together against the U.S,, there is a strategic trend that is worth watching: Some Pacific Rim nations are actually standing up to China.

I see two obvious cases, and think there could be more to follow.

Nation One, Malaysia. The news now is that President Mohamad Mahathir is telling China its lousy infrastructure deals have got to go. Bloomberg had the story a couple weeks ago and here's what MalayMail, via Yahoo! News, reports today:

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Putrajaya will attempt to cancel suspicious infrastructure projects previously awarded to Chinese firms, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ahead of his visit to China later this week.

The prime minister told the Associated Press in an interview that he was committed to keeping ties with China cordial, but said this must not come at the detriment of Malaysian interests.

Among items that he most intends to terminate are two gas pipeline projects worth RM9.4 billion awarded by the previous Barisan Nasional administration and which his finance minister previously alleged was almost fully paid despite no progress in work delivery.

“We don’t think we need those two projects. We don’t think they are viable. So if we can, we would like to just drop the projects,” he was quoted as saying.

For years, China has been rolling in to underdeveloped nations with investment promises in a bid to snap up resources, most notably in Africa and Latin America. Malaysia is not underdeveloped, but it has had a recent corrupt government that was thrown out, and it's in character for Mahathir, who is a nationalist like Trump, to take a cue and start seeking better deals. I suspect he's following Trump's lead and since this is Asia, a chain reaction quite possibly could follow. 

Here is Nation Two: Taiwan.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:

TAIPEI -- Authorities in Taiwan are considering countermeasures against foreign airlines that have bowed to Beijing and are now referring to the island as part of China on their websites.

The island's government is considering airport facility restrictions against airlines that have decided to appease Beijing, the United Daily News reported in its Monday morning edition.

However, many politicians appear reluctant to impose restrictions, arguing that applying political pressure on private companies is the same strategy Beijing used and has been maligned for.

Again, we see a nationalist move, with Taiwan defending its national interests. Let's face it, Taiwan is its own nation with much to be proud of and ought to be treated as such. They aren't going to reward nations that kowtow to China's bullying as it seeks to advance its interests in the South China sea and threatens tiny Taiwan to boot. One can say that too is a nation following Trump in his willingness to challenge the Chinese behemoth on another trade front.

The reason this sticks out to me is that up until now, the Asian Pacific nations have been all too willing to go along with China's 'let's get rich together' allure as a trading partner. Now that Trump has upset that apple cart, with the argument that the trade deals aren't actually fair, we see a breakup of that soggy stance. 

It certainly isn't universal at this point. Right now, we see Indonesia and Thailand simply saying to themselves that they will do their best to leverage the trade war and make off from it at this point. (Malaysia, too.) We see Europe doing some odd measures to align with Japan against Trump. We see Philippines and Vietnam just sort of despairing and hunkering down. We see Singapore and Burma affirming the status quo. 

But the little spike of self-interest that considers the full scope of the nation's interests - and includes not being mown down by China - is worth noting. If all of these nations got together and stood up to China as one, there really might be some free trade. China would either have to do really equal deals with Asia as a group or suffer the trampling of elephants going at it. And they do have reason to do so: China has been throwing its weight around in the South China Sea, interfering with vital sea lanes that are used for trade. They all know that is a problem. Now it's a bargaining chip and with the U.S. a part of this, they can all bargain together.

It's a good sign to see some of them standing up to China as a result of Trump's lead. I suspect it may be a trend and I am going to be watching the more nationalistic of them, Indonesia, along with Vietnam and Thailand, for comparable moves.