As a geographical conception, the “Indo-Pacific” has existed for decades. As a political and strategic conception, the “Indo-Pacific” has become popular in some states’ foreign policy since 2010, notably in Australia, Japan, and India. In Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy, the Indo-Pacific was mentioned 11 times. It seems that Trump is developing an “Indo-Pacific strategy” to replace Obama’s “rebalance or pivot to Asia.” In recent years, the term “rules-based order” has also become widely used by political and military leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. These two new concepts appear to increasingly go hand in hand in various policy statements of many regional players. In the meantime, China’s economic and strategic ambitions seem to also move toward the Indo-Pacific as seen from the excessive scope of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) across the Pacific and Indian oceans.
On the 10 December 2018, the Griffith Asia Institute and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) with the support of the MacArthur Foundation held a workshop with leading scholars from the United States, China, Australia, Japan and Singapore to discuss and debate the Indo-Pacific and rules-based order develop theory-driven and policy-relevant research papers. .
Participants addressed if the Indo Pacific will become a new “strategic geography” for regional actors to redefine their interests as well as foreign policy strategies. The strategic implications of the Indo-Pacific concept for regional order transformation, especially the so-called “rules-based order”. There was debate around the Indo-Pacific becoming a battlefield if there is a power transition between the United States and China. Will the Indo-Pacific institutions influence ASEAN-oriented regionalism and multilateral institutions as well as the US-led hub-and-spokes security architecture in the Asia Pacific?