By Phillip Orchard
Defense chiefs from more than 40 countries gathered at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last weekend. Such high-profile gatherings usually come and go without producing any meaningful outcomes, but two emerging realities were on display at this year’s event. The first: Beijing is losing the rhetorical battle over the nature of its rise. A dominant theme in Singapore was that China has little interest in preserving the established order, and it’s becoming less and less useful to pretend otherwise. The second: Indo-Pacific states aren’t waiting around for the U.S. to contain China on their behalf, but uncertainty about the U.S. is breeding reluctance to form a cohesive front.
In his keynote speech, for example, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi obliquely criticized China’s disregard for the rules-based order and said the U.S.-India relationship is becoming a pillar of regional stability, but he also decried the U.S. retreat into protectio