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U.S. President Donald Trump has arrived in Asia at a moment when the region’s security situation is practically white-hot. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, recognizing that the world’s “center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific,” called on the region’s democratic powers to pursue “greater engagement and cooperation.” They — including Trump’s United States — should heed that call. In fact, only an alliance of democracies can ensure the emergence of a strong rules-based order and a stable balance of power in the world’s most economically dynamic region.

In recent years, as Tillerson acknowledged, China has taken “provocative actions,” such as in the South China Sea, that challenge international law and norms. And this behavior is set to continue, if not escalate. Last month’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China effectively crowned President Xi Jinping — who has spearheaded a more muscular foreign policy, in service of his goal of establishing China as a global superpower — as the country’s emperor.

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