There “is no such concept as Indo-Pacific” which was “created by the United States” to bring in partners such as India to “contain” China, a Chinese diplomat has said, reflecting Beijing’s hardening opposition to both Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy as well as regional groupings such as the Quad.
“In fact, there is no such concept as an ‘Indo-Pacific in geopolitics,” Chinese diplomat and Ambassador to France Lu Shaye said in an interaction with French journalists, a transcript of which was published on Wednesday by China’s Embassy in Paris.
“It is a concept created by the U. S.”, he added. “In the past, we used to talk about the Pacific or the Asia-Pacific region, never about the Indo-Pacific. Why did the Americans include the Indian Ocean? It is because they believe their Asia-Pacific allies alone are no longer enough to contain China, they want to bring in India and other U. S. allies, such as France, which considers itself an Indo-Pacific country. This is wrong.”
‘Cold War mentality’
Asked if it was “wrong” for France to consider itself as an Indo-Pacific country, he continued: “I think it is wrong for France to position itself in this way, because it is a confrontational mentality, a Cold War mentality, and that is exactly what we are against.”
His comments underline Beijing’s hardening view of both the Indo-Pacific idea as well as regional groupings such as the Quad. China officially does not use the term, and refers to the region as the Asia-Pacific.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who initially dismissed the Quad as an idea that was as transient “as sea foam”, also struck a harder tone earlier this year, when he equated the U.S., Australia, India, Japan Quad grouping with the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance involving the Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and U.K. and the AUKUS (Australia-U.K.-U.S.) defence pact.
“The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is becoming a byword for bloc politics,” he said during China’s annual Parliament session. “It professes desire for international cooperation, but in reality is stoking regional rivalry. From Five Eyes and Quad to AUKUS…. It is by no means a blessing but a sinister move. The real goal for the Indo-Pacific strategy is to establish an Indo-Pacific version of NATO.”
India has strongly pushed back against China’s invoking of NATO as a comparison, and pointed to the fact that India is not a U. S. ally and the Quad was not a military alliance. Indian officials have also rejected China’s argument that the U. S. was “stoking” recent tensions in India-China relations, which New Delhi attributes to Beijing’s aggressive posture along the Line of Actual Control. Most Chinese strategic experts, in contrast, attribute the downturn in relations to India’s increasingly close ties with the U. S.
‘Foreign forces’ behind China protests
Mr. Lu, in the interview, also accused unnamed “foreign forces” for being involved in November’s protests in China against lockdowns and restrictions under the “zero-COVID” policy, which were removed finally on December 7. Beijing had initially announced easing measures in early November, but an outbreak of cases around the country that month led to only more lockdowns, fanning public frustration and culminating in protests end-November.
“Some local governments did not fully understand the central government’s policies,” he said. “We had strict policies in the past but when the central government asked to ease them, they were unable to fully understand it in the first place.”
“In the beginning, the Chinese public initiated the protests to express their dissatisfaction with how local governments have failed to fully implement the central government’s policies,” he added. “But the protests were soon being taken advantage of by foreign forces… The real protests only happened on the first day. Foreign forces came into play already on the second day. Foreign forces want to destroy China and overthrow the Chinese Communist Party…. This has nothing to do with the political turmoil in 1989, it was someone who intentionally linked the two things up.”