Chinese soldiers take part in a rehearsal ahead of a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. AFP/Greg Baker, File

MANILA, Philippines — As China is expanding its strategic power in Asia, the United States might lack the resolve to retain its leadership in the region, an analyst said.

Sam Roggeveen, director of Australia-based Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, said the US is now facing an adversary much larger than the USSR in economic terms.

Speaking at a China forum in Makati City, Roggeveen noted that China is not developing its modern military capabilities at the expense of its overall economy.

The first reason that Roggeveen listed as Washington’s reason why it is likely to lack resolve in matching Beijing’s dominance in Asia is that it’s “too expensive.”

“China is becoming a military superpower and it’s barely breaking a sweat,” Roggeveen said.

Citing Australia’s 2017 foreign policy white paper, the analyst said China’s economy is projected to be worth $42 trillion by 2035 while the US economy at that time will be around $24 trillion.

“To match China in Asia while maintaining a global footprint is simply not realistic for the US even for a power of America’s size,” Roggeveen said.

Another reason that the Lowy analyst mentioned is that it might not be worth it for the US to match China’s strategic leadership in the region.

Even if it tries to do so, Beijing will not lock Washington out of Asia economically, the analyst said in the forum.

“As other European or Western powers have found, even once the strategic power in Asia has receded, the United Kingdom for example, even the Netherlands — they have still continued to benefit from Asia’s economic rise,” he said.

Roggeveen also cited the presence of other powers in the region, such as Japan, India and Russia that would constrain China’s ambitions.

“For great powers such as Japan and India and Russia, the rise of China is an enormous challenge but manageable even without the US,” he said.

Under the Obama administration, the US pursued an Asia pivot policy, which involved a deepening of ties with regional actors, including the Philippines.

Washington earlier stressed that the Trump administration remains extremely engaged” in the region despite the US leader skipping the recent ASEAN Summit in Bangkok.

Trump sent US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US national security advisor Robert O’Brien to the meeting, prompting at least seven ASEAN leaders, including President Rodrigo Duterte, to skip the event.

The US leader later on invited ASEAN leaders to a “special summit” in the US next year.