Campaigning for local elections in Taiwan delayed any progress toward resolving the deadlock in the Legislative Yuan over cross-strait issues. While emphasizing continuity in its peaceful development policy, Beijing is concerned over the Democratic Progressive Party’s increasing prospects and consequently has laid down markers aimed at the party.
Senior US officials at ASEAN-based meetings touted the Association’s centrality for the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia. Nevertheless, a US proposal at the East Asia Summit (EAS) in November that all South China Sea claimants “freeze” efforts to alter the status quo on the islets they control was not endorsed.
The closing months of 2014 saw new US vulnerabilities as North Korea purportedly leveled a massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. President Obama attributed the attack to the DPRK and promised a “proportional” response.
The United States and Japan pushed back the release of the newest version of the US-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines – a strategy that outlines common objectives and priorities of the two allies and how each country, and the alliance, can contribute to desired outcomes – until the middle of 2015.
The highlight of the final months of 2014 was the summit between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping, which produced agreements on visa extensions, military confidence-building measures, climate change, and information technology.
Weak economic data prompted Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to postpone painful tax increases and call a snap election to extend the window in which to advance his policy agenda. US-Japan negotiations on TPP slowed, but President Obama made his first significant public push in December on TPP.
A trifecta of international gatherings – the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting in Beijing, the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Nay Pyi Taw, and the G-20 Summit in Brisbane – had heads of state from around the globe, including US President Barack Obama, flocking to the Asia-Pacific as 2014 was winding to a close.
In PacNet #88, “Testing China’s – and the State Department’s – nine-dash line claims,” Sourabh Gupta challenged the US Department of State’s Study of China’s nine-dash line claims.
Any review of the major international events of 2014 would certainly include Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the rise of the Islamic State, and the Ebola outbreak. But the most epochal development of the year may turn out to be China’s claim to a leading role in running the world economy.
Confidence in the capacity of the Asia-Pacific region to preserve a flexible but fundamentally robust security order weakened noticeably over the past year. Despite being clearly anticipated and exhaustively studied for some 25 years, the management of the Asia Pacific’s strategic transformation is headed toward outcomes at the worst-case end of the spectrum.