While press attention focuses upon the challenges to worldwide stability from the Middle East and Africa, the US military is also contending with a second, more significant set of tests in South East Asia.
More than $5 trillion in trade flows through the South China Sea, and China’s has been investing heavily to build its influence in the region. Recently released satellite images show that China has almost completed an airstrip on one of the many artificial islands it has built in the Spratly archipelago over the past year and a half. “China’s actions in the area are intended to consolidate its claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea,” writes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. (These claims are disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan)
Zakaria points out that “there is an avalanche of cash behind China’s ‘Asia Pacific dream.'” Experts estimate the total of China’s promised investments in its regional ventures at $1.41 trillion. In contrast, the Marshall Plan cost $103 Billion in today’s dollars. Chinese President Xi Jinping has marked a break with his predecessors in openly embracing an activist foreign policy, speaking about the “Asia-Pacific dream” and announcing ventures such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “Maritime Silk Road.”
While US military assets are stretched thin across the globe, the military technology development programs in the South Pacific could provide something more valuable than cash— water– by piloting and financing proven advanced water tech.
Water is too cheap to justify distributed, tech-intensive water systems in most of the world. However, in the Pacific Islands water is scarce and desalination and pumping use even more expensive energy. Leading-edge water tech systems for low-energy desalination, water pumping and onsite waste processing provide critical solutions. Advanced water technology, much of it marketed by US companies, is struggling to gain a foothold in urban environments that already have centralized water infrastructure. Off-grid, these solutions provide energy efficient, resilient ways to desalinate, delivery, store and reclaim water.
Could the Pacific Islands provide a launch pad for the water tech industry of our future? Look at the Artemis Top 50 listings for some examples of a few of the leading-edge solutions that could rise to the Pacific resilience challenge.