The Asia Pacific is in a state of flux. Tensions between the United States and China are testing the region’s existing institutions and leading to informal state groupings, such as the Quad. The Trump administration is advocating for a ‘decoupling’ from China that could result in regional spheres of influence where middle powers, such as Canada, are forced to choose sides. China, in turn, is seeking a return to great power status in Asia and is willing to use coercion, in some instances, to increase its influence. Within these already fluid dynamics, the global COVID pandemic is fostering nationalism and xenophobia within some Asian states. In a region that prioritizes stability, such trends point to a potential for short- to medium-term tensions.
Canada must navigate these challenges to ensure its national interests within the Asia Pacific. Whether with respect to the U.S., China, or the COVID pandemic, Canadian policy-makers must be forward-looking in how best to approach the region. Learning from other states’ strategic views and foreign policy approaches to Asia is a critical part of Canada’s own strategic process.