US foreign policy in Asia Pacific has centered around the so-called “Pivot to Asia,” initially rolled out as an alleged means for the US to strengthen ties with Asia, but was incrementally revealed as the latest leg in a decades-long attempt to encircle and contain China by overrunning the socioeconomic and political sovereignty of its neighbors, thus maintaining what US policymakers themselves refer to as American “primacy over Asia.”
It is no surprise then that nations across Asia have responded negatively to the “Pivot.” What gains the US has made, have been made through coercion, political subversion, and even terrorism – and this is done in front of an increasingly geopolitically aware Asian population.
Yet despite this, the US appears to still be struggling against both Asia’s overall desire to cooperate among themselves, and their own “pivots” toward alternative centers of power, in Beijing, Moscow, and beyond.
Thailand’s English language newspaper, the Bangkok Post, has recently transformed its coverage almost entirely pro-Washington, London, and Brussels. It regularly posts op-eds lobbying for various US and European interests. A recent op-ed, published by regular Washington apologist Achara Ashayagachat, titled, “Despite gains, China still second fiddle to West, analysts say ,” claims:
Thai military rule may complicate and weaken Asean’s position in the international security setting, but the gestures made to date by the junta should not be seen as a shift from the western-allied camp to China, analysts caution.
Achara never qualifies why Thailand’s current government “complicates or weakens ASEAN’s position in the international security setting,” aside from implying that anything running contra to Washington’s interests, thus runs afoul of “international order.”
Achara attempts to conclude – based on several US-based analysts’ opinions – that several delayed deals between Thailand and China signifies a lack of any real shift from West to East for Bangkok. She also attempts to conclude that Thailand is increasingly becoming “isolated” as the US shifts its attention toward the governments and sociopolitical systems of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
However, in reality, the shift from West to East is not recent for Thailand, or many other nations in Southeast Asia. It has been gradual – in tandem with China’s growing influence and Beijing’s ability to provide equitable alternatives to US “free trade” and compromising military “partnerships.”
Indeed, large rail projects have been in negotiations between Thailand and China with several large deals remaining stalled. However, despite this, Thailand has made several smaller deals with China – deals it could not make with the United States even if it wanted to.
This includes the acquisition of 24 additional trains for Bangkok’s elevated mass transit system from China’s CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles. This would add to existing Chinese rolling stock already in use in Thailand.
The continued acquisition of Chinese weapon systems to replace aging US equipment continues as well. Despite rumors that Thailand was seeking to purchase Russian T-90s to replace its aging American tanks, it has decided instead to purchase MBT-3000 main battle tanks produced by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). These would be added to Thailand’s existing inventory of Chinese-made Type-85 Armored Fighting Vehicles which were purchased to replace aging US M113s.
Aside from China, Thailand is replacing American helicopters with Russian alternatives, which includes Mi-17s already seen flying over Bangkok where once US-made Blackhawks flew.
While Bangkok Post’s op-ed attempts to suggest these moves by Thailand’s government are meant to “bring back the US and EU,” in reality, they have been years in the making and they have already begun to transform Thailand’s infrastructure, economy, and military. It is the quantifiable, incremental uprooting of US and European influence in the region.
Additionally, and never mentioned in Achara’s op-ed, is the much contested tourism industry of Thailand – where the West has attempted to use its influence over public opinion to scare away Western tourism. In reality, however, this has been futile. For years, demographics have been shifting away from European and American tourists toward Chinese and Russian tourists. Signs in tourist areas once almost exclusively written in English and Japanese, now are also written in Chinese and Russian.
Despite these tangible realities, Western policymakers and pro-Western op-eds have attempted to portray this as recent and superficial. To understand this apparent detachment from reality, one must consider the source.
Consider the Source
The analysts Achara of the Bangkok Post cites are not primarily Thai, or Asian, but rather Americans. They include Tim Huxley of the International Institute of Strategic Studies – a Fortune 500-funded foreign policy think tank whose corporate sponsors include big-oil and some of the largest Western arms manufacturers on Earth. Also cited is Yun Sun of the Stimson Center – another Washington-based Fortune 500-funded policy think tank (.pdf).
Clearly Achara’s sources are not objectively interested in discerning what is best for international peace and stability, and instead in serving the special interests that transparently fund and shape the policy they promote. It is clear then, why they would insist on a paradigm that still favors Western economic deals and Western “military cooperation” (arms deals).
These are the same such interests that seek to encircle and contain China to prevent it from marshaling its human and natural resources together with its own indigenous industry to pose as competitors vis-a-vis Western monopolies currently dominating the planet.
The rise of an independent China surrounded by a stable and cooperative Southeast Asia represents an inevitable loss of market shares for the corporate-financier interests that truly drive both Western foreign policy and shape the opinions of low-level functionaries like Achara and the rest of Bangkok Post’s editorial board.
Considering this context, it is clear that op-eds like Achara, lobbying for Washington’s corporate-funded think tanks, is aimed to make up lost ground among public opinion where the US has failed to make up in economic and military relations.
However, like America’s economic and military influence in the region, its influence over public opinion is also facing growing competition and complications. However, paying compromised “journalists” like Achara to constantly repeat untruths is perhaps so effortless that US policymakers see no harm in trying, even if it is not effective.
And it is between the lines of untruth repeated by Washington’s functionaries, that the rest of the world can begin to discern the truth and see the cracks in the facade of American “primacy over Asia” begin to show.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. This work was published at the New Eastern Outlook and is reprinted with permission.