U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris paid a visit to Singapore and Vietnam last week.
Harris is the most senior U.S. official to visit Southeast Asia since Joe Biden was sworn in as president in January this year. Her trip came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to India and Kuwait, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia, all in July. (The U.S. later added China and the Sultanate of Oman to Sherman's visiting list.) Sending so many top officials to the same region in less than one month has shown the strong desire of the United States to drive a wedge between China and its neighboring Asian nations, especially after the superpower's hasty, irresponsible and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Actually, the U.S. administration announced that Harris would visit Singapore and Vietnam in late July. Yet it was not until Aug. 20 that she departed. And what had happened in Afghanistan prior to her departure has surely made her embarrassed and changed the tenor of her trip to Asia.
Despite the fact of bad timing, Harris did not want to go home empty-handed. In a bid to create an atmosphere that China is isolated in the region, Harris tried to portray China as an evil force eager to destroy the U.S.-ruled world order. She used her speech-making occasions to groundlessly attack China, pointing a finger at China and accusing it of "coercion" and "intimidation." While accusing China, Harris ignored her own and the U.S. hypocrisy in an attempt to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian countries to join its circle to contain China.
It is even more absurd that Harris said the United States "stands with all allies and partners" while defending its callous withdrawal from Afghanistan as "courageous and right." Facts speak louder than eloquence. Harris must be having a hard time persuading the audiences that the U.S. is a qualified friend and trustworthy partner.
Southeast Asia may not be a good place for the United States to sell its China containing theory. Washington should know clearly that the region bore the brunt of consequences of U.S. cold war militarism and countries in the region do not want to be its proxies. The Southeast Asian nations have witnessed robust and remarkable socioeconomic development during the past decades. Many countries in the region have realized that their stability and prosperity mainly stem from their close cooperation and intimate partnerships with China.
In a gesture to the superpower, Singapore offered the use of one of its refueling aircraft to help with U.S. evacuations in Afghanistan. However, while meeting with Harris, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong several times reiterated concerns about the region being forced into taking sides between the U.S. and China. As a veteran politician, Lee, like his father Lee Kuan Yew, is good at striking a balance between powerful countries.
Similarly, Harris' trip to Vietnam is, to some extent, disappointing. Hours before her arrival in Vietnam on Aug. 24, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh met with Xiong Bo, the Chinese ambassador to Vietnam. Hanoi assured the Chinese diplomat that it treasures the traditional neighborliness and comprehensive strategic partnership with China.
Many other leaders in Southeast Asia either echoed the response of Singapore and Vietnam or showed they were more difficult to be persuaded by Harris. Frankly speaking, all the countries that the United States is trying to draw to its side to contain China may share the same concern now. What have U.S. allies who sent their troops into the "graveyard of empires" two decades ago attained this time? They got nothing but the loss of lives and large amount of expenditure.
All countries are now fully aware that the U.S. is just trying to force them to abide by the rules unilaterally stipulated by the superpower. They also know exactly what to expect if they let themselves be proxies or puppets of the United States. Frankly speaking, what happened in Kabul (Afghanistan) these days and Saigon (Vietnam) in 1975 was not coincidental since the only purpose of the United States is to keep its hegemony and superiority in the world. To achieve such a purpose, any ally or partner country can be sacrificed when necessary. So when the going gets tough, the U.S. will undoubtedly withdraw and desert its partners without mercy as it habitually did in Afghanistan and Vietnam.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)