Or at least, that’s the take from one Asia-watcher, Rory Medcalf, who, writing in the WSJ, calls the international response to the disaster a “potential inflection point in the contest for influence” in the region.
“The rapid and large-scale response already underway by US military forces is sending a signal that will be noticed across the region. It will give new meaning to the rebalance to Asia, at a time when some were starting to question Washington’s commitment. This will more than compensate for President Barack Obama’s absence from the East Asia Summit in Brunei last month.”
Medcalf observes that even the Communist Party-leaning Global Times has warned the Chinese government to be more generous and active in relief for the disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese reverse course.
The Japanese are using it as an opportunity to generate goodwill. The Australians have been uncharacteristically generous. The British have sent a ship. Even Israel has sent 148 search and rescue people. In a region where perceptions matter so much, many countries are going out of their way to make gestures, to be seen, to be perceived as active and welcome.