The Asia-Pacific geopolitical region includes all the countries of the Asian and oceanic continent whose coasts are bathed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean (with the exception of Mongolia and Russia). The region is divided into three sub-regions: East Asia, Southeast or Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.
East Asia is made up of China, Japan, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula (North Korea and South Korea), and Taiwan. Southeast Asia by Burma, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam. And the Pacific by Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia (Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Vanuatu), Micronesia (Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau), Polynesia (Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu ) and overseas dependencies, territories or departments.
There are countries that have been given the category of member to this region due to their geographical proximity, however, they are not part of it. Examples of this are Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Asia Pacific, Asia-Pacific, or Asia-Pacific region? Origin of the term
Today, it is very common to hear or read the term Asia Pacific, without even knowing that there are different variations.
The governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) coined the term Asia-Pacific in the 1990s. This region included the entire Asian continent and the entire Pacific region. However, it has also been called Asia Pacific and Asia Pacific, regions built by Australia's geopolitical and economic interests, comprising different countries within these two concepts.
On the other hand, there are other actors who consider that Asia-Pacific includes all the countries that have the Pacific Ocean as their coast. In this way, countries such as Russia, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile make up the region.
Even during the administration of President Donald Trump (2017-2021), the term Indo-Pacific was officially promoted, a region built from geopolitics by the United States in order to include India in its plan to include this country. in a regional strategy to counter China's growing influence in Asia and the Pacific.
China has a great orographic and landscape diversity, but Tibet stands out, one of the largest plateaus in the world, located at the foot of the northern slopes of the Himalayas. Birthplace of most of the great Chinese rivers, such as the Yangtze and the Yellow or Huang He. These rivers cross the country from west to east and pour their waters into the largest and most populated plain in the world. Another geographical area that can be distinguished in China is the great interior steppe that extends throughout the north of the country, from its western end to join the great Manchurian plain. It has a desolate appearance as it is a cold and deserted area that also extends through Mongolia.
The Korean Peninsula has lowlands to the west and south, with many islets; while to the east, the relief is mountainous, as the Taebek Mountains form the main ridge of the entire peninsula, from north to south.
Southeast Asia has tropical-type climatic characteristics, with warm seas and dense humid jungles, since it is located between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. There are thousands of islands in the region and there are large island blocks such as Borneo and Sumatra, as well as countless islets, atolls and tiny archipelagos.
The mainland, the Indochina peninsula, can be defined as a large delta formed by the Mekong flowing down from Tibet to the China Sea. The Tran-Ninh Plateau, in northern Laos, is part of the most prominent relief in the region. In the insular zone the reliefs reach more important heights such as the Barisan mountains, the tops of the Celebes islands and the Sudirman mountains, in New Guinea.
In the Pacific, Australia has a slightly rugged relief, formed by an immense low plain located to the east of which rises the Great Dividing Range. While a large part of the relief of the two New Zealand islands and Tasmania is mountainous. Melanesia is made up of larger, tall, volcanic, fertile islands located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. To the north of this group of islands is Micronesia, a group of 10,000 islands, islets and atolls with a large number of coral reefs. The islands of Polynesia are, in general, flat islands, coral atolls.
The tropical climate prevails in most of the Pacific islands.
The Chinese population presents a remarkable ethnic homogeneity, since 91% of the population is of the Han ethnic group, although they also coexist with 55 other ethnic groups, the equivalent of a little more than 100 million people. Koreans make up the majority of the population on the Korean peninsula, but they do not make up a strong cultural and national unit, given the historical and political differences that occurred during the 20th century. In Southeast Asia, most of the population are nationals of the respective countries that make up the subregion, with the exception of Singapore. The same case occurs in the Pacific with Australia, whose populations are made up of a large number of foreigners.
Statistics indicate that the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and Southeast Asia are densely populated, while the Pacific is the least densely populated subregion in the world.
Another element to highlight is the religious diversity throughout the region, as there are countries whose populations mostly preach Buddhism such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam; Islam is professed in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia; in the Pacific the majority are Protestants; in the Philippines they are Catholic; or in Japan they practice Shintoism.
What was once a region dedicated to creating low-quality products, where its population was identified as farmers, is now a region that is experiencing a particular process of growth and development in areas such as the economy, development, and technological innovation. . This has been possible in part due to the liberalization of the economy, the facilitation of trade and large investments in the means of production.
The outlook looks promising. Asia-Pacific will be, in the not too distant future, the center of free trade, finance and innovation and technological development worldwide, but it is also a region that faces great problems and challenges from different security approaches such as organized crime, terrorism , natural disasters and is the origin of pandemics. In addition, there are major conflicts of interest between the countries that make it up, which is observed in the power relations between the member states of the region.
As previously mentioned, just as this region has been called in various ways according to various political and geopolitical interests, the powers of the region seek to unite the countries of Asia-Pacific around their own political project through integration initiatives. centered on their respective economies. Examples of this have been the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC), the Trans-Pacific Agreement for Economic Cooperation (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
In accordance with the latter, important players such as China and Japan have their own vision of regional and world order. They each promote their own integration initiative and seek to obtain formal instruments, such as the signing of an agreement or treaty that is aimed at formalizing an integration process and, thus, achieving one or more objectives, such as extending their space of influence in the region.
APEC is the clearest example of the failure of institutions, of a regional organization or body in which, due to various factors, consensus is not reached, decisions are not made and, therefore, commitments end up failing. Being that the advances to form a united region are null. There is a difference of interests between the member countries, which is why the negotiations are stopped. And it is precisely in the meetings of senior leaders (heads of state, prime minister, head of government, etc.) where the exchange of complaints, denunciations, accusations, etc. takes place.
However, the actor that manages to impose itself in the region is China, despite the alliances forged between the States of the region with the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Also, these three countries have geopolitical and strategic interests in Asia-Pacific, since they have dependencies or overseas territories there.
Because of this, during the administration of President Donald Trump, the United States abandoned the use of the Asia-Pacific concept and built a geopolitical region called the Indo-Pacific, where, beyond an attempt at regionalism, the North American country intends to integrate India in its strategy to corner China.
The scope of the expansion of the Chinese presence in the world has caused some Western powers to view the rise of the Asian country with fearful eyes, since China promotes strong investments in countries of Africa, America and Central Asia with programs or infrastructure projects that represent generation of jobs for the people of the local country, provide training to local workers and share their knowledge on technological issues, innovation, etc. They also present solutions to connectivity obstacles in terms of communications and transportation, in addition to providing economic assistance to nations in various parts of the world.
However, not everything is honey on flakes. The Chinese government is accused of violating intellectual property, violating human rights, taking repressive measures in its regions and autonomous provinces, and carrying out anti-democratic activities. Western powers have taken action by opting for the application of economic and political sanctions. However, it is necessary to point out that most of the Asia-Pacific countries are economically interdependent with China, which is why they hesitate when they have to take sides with one of the two sides.
As for the complaints against China, the Asian giant tries to turn the page by rejecting over and over again any complaint against it. In any case, as long as the Chinese population sees the benefits of economic growth reflected in the form of prosperity, political stability is guaranteed.
On the other hand, Asia-Pacific has cities of great political and economic importance, in addition to being large entities with considerable amounts of population. Examples of these are Hong Kong, Bangkok, Macao, Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore. Also, these metropolises house the central offices of organisms, institutes or organizations of great importance in the Asian region. In addition to being the venue for major political, economic, cultural, sporting and tourist events.
Based on all these elements and context, it can be affirmed that the region is, without a doubt, an area of opportunities and investment, but above all of analysis and interest not only for the international community, but also in international relations.