Harry Sarles/Army University
The Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted “China’s Influence in the Indo-Pacific” Jan. 27 in Arnold Conference Room at the Lewis and Clark Center. The panel — comprised of a Command and General Staff College scholar, an international officer and a nonprofit analyst — continued CASO’s focus on the Indo-Pacific area for this academic year.
Maj. Gen. Donn Hill, deputy command general for Education, Combined Arms Center and provost of Army University, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, CASO director, served as the panel moderator. Panel members included Russell Hsiao of the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, D.C.; Col. Francois Mariotti, French liaison to CAC; and Lt. Col. David Bell, instructor in the Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations, CGSC.
Hill introduced panel members and said the CASO panels are made up of different people with different perspectives.
“There is no easy button when it comes to geopolitics and the problem sets of the complex world we live in,” he said. “The question today is what are the potential threats from China to ourselves and our allies? What does and should competition with China look like in the Indo-Pacific?”
Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation provided an overview of China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. He introduced the concept of “Sharp Power” — the intent to sap the integrity of independent institutions; it limits free expression and distorts the political environment.
Three case studies formed the basis of Hsiao’s presentation: Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. Although methods vary from country to country, influence targets such as elites, political parties, diaspora, media, grass root organizations, cultural institutions and corporations are common among them.
Mariotti spoke remotely from his home because of COVID-19 precautions. He talked about the French presence in the Indo-Pacific.
“France is involved in the area with grounds, people and a significant economic exclusive zone,” he said. He said France has the global presence of a state, nearly 2 million French citizens, about 8,000 soldiers and 13 Navy vessels in the area.
“France sees three dynamics that are shaking the balance of tension in the area,” Mariotti said. The three areas are China’s increased strategic competition, the move back of multilateralism, and the shrinking of the geostrategic geometry.
Mariotti said France has four families of priorities in Indo-China — protect sovereignty, contribute to security around the French regions, preserve freedom and rights, and enforce strategic stability through multilateralism.
Bell spoke about the Indonesia perspective in the region. He is a Southeast Asia foreign area officer with experience in Indonesia.
Bell gave four key takeaways: Indonesia is a key partner in the Indo-Pacific no matter who you are; Indonesia values its relationship with the United States and China; Indonesia doesn’t want to be forced to choose between its relationships; and Indonesia is just as suspicious of the U.S. as it is of China.
“Indonesia sees itself as having a thousand friends and no enemies,” Bell said.
The country’s strength is founded on its economic growth, he said. Indonesia is currently the 10th largest economy in the world and within 10 years is expected to grow to be between the 5th and 7th largest. But, said Bell, territorial sovereignty is even more important than economic growth.
The panel is part of series of seminars and panel discussions on issues of operational and strategic importance to the United States that CASO, in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency organizations and other partners, conducts every two to three months, broadcasting them through videoteleconference and on CGSC’s Facebook page. YouTube sites. Videos of the sessions are available on the CGSC Facebook and YouTube sites.