By Caleb Newton
The United States leadership has perceived, since the demise of the Soviet Union, that it is the locus of power in a power centralized world. Although the accuracy of that perception is open to debate, retaining such a position has for the past decades been a key feature of United States foreign policy. In Realist thought, conflict occurs when the locus of power is threatened. Power, for our purposes, is defined as the status of possessing the ability to compel others to do as one pleases. With the definition of power as including status, China with its economic prowess has grown to perceptually possess significant power that the United States feels as threatening.
Naturally, the previous focus of power in the United States acts as though it feels threatened, and it seeks to thwart confrontations that could result in losing perceptual hegemonic status, i.e., war. Acting as such, the LMI presents a productive opportunity for the US to assert authority over China without direct confrontation and is primarily focused in areas that support the general United States agenda. The focus areas of the Eighth Ministerial Meeting included the programs "Connect Mekong" and "Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM)."
Connect Mekong, as described by the US Department of State, is a program "promoting regional economic integration." The irony of the goal to establish forced free trade gives it away as a plan to push American goals. Just a short while earlier, the US helped push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, otherwise known as the TPP, a huge "free" trade zone. "Free" trade zones represent the effort to encourage populations to be free by the force of law, an effort which reeks of power centralization.
SIM is a program pushing for environmental sustainability in the Lower Mekong Region. The goal is again transparently Americanized, since although the United States has put out many times the amount of carbon dioxide of the Lower Mekong it is pushing for reforms in Southeast Asia. Reforms in SE Asia mean that the US can keep it in submission, since if it produced anywhere near the amount of carbon emissions of the West than it would develop like the West. Development like the West would mean consumption of goods like the West and a threat to no longer have economies that serve the West.
Since China is not actually present at the LMI, being a part bodes well for the US to avoid conflict that could result in the US being unseated. Where China is present is in the BRICS forum of nations, another manifestation of the fear that the USA and the West feel over potentially losing their status as head of the world. The BRICS, 5 nations including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, are an increasingly formal coalition of developing countries that in 2014 announced their organization of a development bank. First grouped together by an investment analyst in the early 2000's, the nations of the BRICS represent the force of rising power and make the West very uncomfortable. The United States' involvement in the Lower Mekong Initiative is an important step towards the Western goal of no power to China and the developing world.
(Image: originally from Google Images)
[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]