All in all, though the Shangri-La Dialogue serves a useful purpose of getting Asia-Pacific leaders to talk to each other and establish the kind of personal links that could be necessary in averting crises, the region’s arms buildup and tensions continue to rise. Though some observers are hopeful that the current head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei (the chairmanship rotates each year), will be effective in moving ASEAN and China toward real negotiations over the South China Sea, this is doubtful. It is true that Brunei is a contestant in the South China Sea, and that it has some experienced diplomats, and is also small enough to be viewed as an impartial mediator. But as the subtext of the Shangri-La Dialogue showed, no one in East Asia seems to be in any mood for real concessions —on anything.
In the context of the pivot to Asia and the mess in the Middle East, is this collision with China a product of nostalgia?