Farewell to the West


December 7, 2016

Farewell to the West

by Joschka Fisher@Project Syndicate

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Now that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States, the end of what was heretofore termed the “West” has become all but certain. That term described a transatlantic world that emerged from the twentieth century’s two world wars, redefined the international order during the four-decade Cold War, and dominated the globe – until now.

The West shouldn’t be confused with the “Occident.” While the West’s culture, norms, and predominant religion are broadly Occidental in origin, it evolved into something different over time. The Occident’s basic character was shaped over centuries by the Mediterranean region (though parts of Europe north of the Alps made many important contributions to its development). The West, by contrast, is transatlantic, and it is a child of the twentieth century.

When World War I began, it was a European conflict between the Central Powers and the Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. It became a true world war only in 1917, when the US entered the fray. This is the moment when what we now call the West began to take form.

The West can be said to have received its birth certificate during World War II. In August 1941, after Nazi Germany had invaded the Soviet Union, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt met on a warship off the coast of Newfoundland and signed the Atlantic Charter. That agreement would later develop into NATO, which, for four decades, enabled an alliance of independent democracies with shared values and market economies to withstand the Soviet threat – and which has safeguarded Europe to this day.

More fundamentally, the West was founded on an American commitment to come to its allies’ defense. The Western order cannot exist without the US playing this crucial role, which it may now abnegate under Trump. As a result, the future of the West itself is now at stake.

No one can be certain what Trump’s election will mean for American democracy, or what he will do when he takes office. But we can already make two reasonable assumptions. First, his presidency will be highly disruptive to American domestic and foreign policy. Trump won the presidency by flouting virtually every unwritten rule of American politics. He beat not only Hillary Clinton, but also the Republican Party establishment. There is little reason to think that he will suddenly abandon this winning strategy come January 20.

We can also safely assume that Trump will stick firmly to his pledge to “Make America great again”; this will be the foundation for his presidency, come what may. Former President Ronald Reagan also promised this, but he did so while the US, still engaged in the Cold War, could take an imperial approach. Thus, Reagan pursued rearmament on such a large scale that it ultimately led to the Soviet Union’s collapse; and he paved the way for an American economic boom with a massive increase in the national debt.

Trump does not have the luxury of an imperial approach. On the contrary, during the campaign, he heaped criticism on America’s senseless wars in the Middle East; and his supporters want nothing more than for the US to abandon its global leadership role and retreat from the world. A US that moves toward isolationist nationalism will remain the world’s most powerful country by a wide margin; but it will no longer guarantee Western countries’ security or defend an international order based on free trade and globalization.

The only remaining questions now concern how quickly US policy will change, and how radical those changes will be. Trump has already pledged to scrap the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership – a decision that amounts to a gift to China, whether he realizes it or not. He could also bestow upon China another gift: reducing US engagement in the South China Sea. China might soon find itself the new guarantor of global free trade – and probably the new global leader in combating climate change, too.

With respect to the war in Syria, Trump might simply hand that devastated country over to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran. Practically speaking, this would overturn the balance of power in the Middle East, with grave consequences well beyond the region; morally, it would be a cruel betrayal of the Syrian opposition and a boon to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

And if Trump defers to Putin in the Middle East, one wonders what he will do with respect to Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus. Should we expect a Yalta Conference 2.0 to recognize Putin’s new de facto sphere of influence?

The new course Trump will chart for the US is already discernible; we just don’t know how quickly the ship will sail. Much will depend on the opposition (Democrats and Republicans alike) that Trump encounters in the US Congress, and on pushback from the majority of Americans who did not vote for him.

But we should not harbor any illusions: Europe is far too weak and divided to stand in for the US strategically; and, without US leadership, the West cannot survive. Thus, the Western world as virtually everyone alive today has known it will almost certainly perish before our eyes.

So what comes next? China, we can be certain, is preparing to fill America’s shoes. And in Europe, the crypts of nationalism have been opened; in time, they will once again release their demons upon the continent – and the world.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/goodbye-to-american-global-leadership-by-joschka-fischer-2016-12

Malaysia, the Philippines and ASEAN


December 7, 2016

Malaysia, the Philippines and ASEAN

by Trissia Wijaya

Will Malaysia and Philippines” tilt to China undermine ASEAN? Trissia Wijaya writes there are signs for optimism.

In the wake of a series of unprecedented statements from Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Rodrigo Duterte, many are casting doubt over whether ASEAN really does matter to its member countries.

The tilt of Malaysia and the Philippines towards China have reinforced the perception of China’s expanding influence in the region, stirring fresh concerns that Beijing will erode ASEAN and draw the organisation closer to its orbit.

Under Duterte’s administration, Manila’s approach towards China has changed dramatically, from previously fractious to now almost-kowtowing. Only a step behind Duterte, Malaysia has followed in embracing China, with Najib even calling himself a “true friend” of China and inking a naval deal that takes their relationship to “new heights”.

In light of these recent mind-boggling performances, it’s legitimate to ask whether this show of engaging China is the beginning of the end for ASEAN’s legitimacy in the region, particularly since Manila is about to take up the 2017 ASEAN chairmanship.

These changing regional dynamics and relationships set up a future with two foreseeable scenarios for ASEAN.

In the first scenario, ASEAN is imminently faced with a crisis of legitimacy and purpose. Although China’s chequebook diplomacy helps to fund regional infrastructure development, it could come at a price of fundamentally altering the power balance in ASEAN’s engagement with China

In the realm of realpolitik, Malaysia and Philippines’ shifts away from the US towards China may perhaps not be aberrant behaviour, as leaders generally assess the cost and benefits of their decisions. For both Duterte and Najib, the US pivot to Asia has been coupled with increasingly-troubled relationships with the superpower through the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia and the role of the US military presence in the Philippines.

Hence, mending fences with Beijing is less risky than holding onto long-standing maritime disputes against it. China issuing a “no-strings-attached chequebook” would indirectly support Najib in maintaining his grip on power amid the 1MDB crisis, and would allow Duterte to keep fuelling his war on drugs unchecked.

An old Chinese saying talks of “one bed, different dreams”. Throughout the years of ASEAN, despite each nation’s different dreams, members have at least slept in the same bed. Creating a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and engagement with China through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) during the early 1990s are some of ASEAN’s successes in its attempt to guide China to agree to a multilateral framework. When the South China Sea dispute became a principal agenda item for the first time at the 1997 ARF annual meeting, ASEAN’s confidence-building measures thawed China-ASEAN state relations. ASEAN successfully procuring China’s active participation in the ARF eventually resulted in the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, which reiterated Beijing’s commitment to prevent further escalation of tensions.

However, during the past few years, the inability of ASEAN to resolve maritime disputes has been challenging the “one bed” concept. The region is potentially about to be drawn closer to China, led on a rope to Beijing’s bed. In such a scenario, ASEAN is powerless, and the regional dynamic would be transformed into something akin to an imperial tributary system.

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Nonetheless, with Donald Trump’s US presidential election victory in mind, there remains room for optimism.

In the second foreseeable future for ASEAN, Duterte and Najib’s China lovefest could in fact strengthen ASEAN legitimacy. The pragmatic approach of Duterte could potentially lead to an important thawing of China-ASEAN relations. An ASEAN foreign policy independent from the US, a possible outcome of Trump’s isolationalist approach to the region, would be initially detrimental to balancing China’s assertiveness. However, as the next chair of ASEAN, this frees Manila to potentially bring China back on track – to the “bed of ASEAN” – in a manner similar to the early years of ARF, where ASEAN took the role of “policeman” in monitoring Beijing’s moves in the region.

Duterte and Najib’s engagement approach towards China could put pressure on that country to undertake a more benevolent policy approach to the region. China’s policy-making process has been traditionally reactive to the US’ presence at their doorstep. Despite years of criticism over China’s hostile expansionism, particularly in the case of the South China Sea, China would always defend their policy as a necessary defensive measure against an aggressive US presence. If Duterte and Najib are genuine about opposing US interference in the region, China’s assertive and expansionist policy has no legs to stand on, and ASEAN will understandably expect a shift in China’s policy dynamic.

Trump’s extraordinary victory may soon end the US’s rebalancing policy and downgrade the US presence in the Asian region. Thus, since China is likely to feel less contained, it may become more open to entertaining ASEAN’s dispute settlement mechanisms.

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D.J. Trump will unbalance Asia

All in all, although ASEAN’s future remains a puzzle, Duterte and Najib’s developing relationships with China need not erode the legitimacy of the regional organisation as long as they play based on rules, where engagement is not “the end”, but the “process” to ensure China is still in the game. ASEAN’s engagement of China must be underscored by confidence that the member states’ tilts towards China are not simply about pursuing ‘interdependence’ at all costs. Instead, these tilts should be seen as ways to create cooperative relations, strengthen a rules-based process, and find new areas of agreement.

Trissia Wijaya is a MEXT¹s scholar at the Graduate School of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. Her research interests primarily lie in international relations in the Asia-Pacific and foreign policy.

http://www.newmandala.org/malaysia-philippines-asean/

 

Trade, Facts, and Politics


December 7, 2016

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/trade-facts-and-politics/?_r=0

Trade, Facts, and Politics

“Part of the whole Trump phenomenon involves white working class voters rallying around a candidate who promised to bring back the coal and industrial jobs of the past, and lashing out at anyone who refuses to make similar promises. Yet the promise was and is fraudulent. If trying to get the analysis right is elitist, we’re in very big trouble — and perhaps we are.”–Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Krugman

by Paul Krugman

I see that Tim Duy is angry at me again. The occasion is rather odd: I produced a little paper on trade and jobs, which I explicitly labeled “wonkish”; the point of the paper was, as I said, to reconcile what seemed to be conflicting assessments of the impacts of trade on overall manufacturing employment.

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But Duy is mad, because “dry statistics on trade aren’t working to counter Trump.” Um, that wasn’t the point of the exercise. This wasn’t a political manifesto, and never claimed to be. Nor was it a defense of conventional views on trade. It was about what the data say about a particular question. Are we not allowed to do such things in the age of Trump?

Actually, maybe not. Part of the whole Trump phenomenon involves white working class voters rallying around a candidate who promised to bring back the coal and industrial jobs of the past, and lashing out at anyone who refuses to make similar promises. Yet the promise was and is fraudulent. If trying to get the analysis right is elitist, we’re in very big trouble — and perhaps we are.

So what would a political manifesto aimed at winning over these voters look like? You could promise to make their lives better in ways that don’t involve bringing back the old plants and mines — which, you know, Obama did with health reform and Hillary would have done with family policies and more. But that apparently isn’t an acceptable answer.

Can we promise new, different jobs? Job creation under Obama has been pretty good, but it hasn’t offered blue-collar jobs in the same places where the old industrial jobs have eroded.

So maybe the answer is regional policies, to promote employment in declining regions? There is certainly a case in principle for doing this, since the costs of uprooting workers and families are larger than economists like to imagine. I would say, however, that the track record of regional support policies in other countries, which spend far more on such things than we are likely to, is pretty poor. For example, massive aid to the former East Germany hasn’t prevented a large decline in population, much bigger than the population decline in Appalachia over the same period.

And I have to admit to a strong suspicion that proposals for regional policies that aim to induce service industries to relocate to the Rust Belt would not be well received, would in fact be attacked as elitist. People want those manufacturing jobs back, not something different. And it’s snooty and disrespectful to say that this can’t be done, even though it’s the truth.

So I really don’t know the answer. But back to the starting point: when I analyze the effects of trade on manufacturing employment, the goal is to understand the effects of trade on manufacturing employment — not to win over voters. No, dry statistics aren’t good for political campaigns; but that’s no reason to ban statistics.

Sarawak Report’s Clare to DPM Zahid Hamid: Get your priorities right


December 7, 2016

Sarawak Report’s Clare to DPM Zahid Hamid: Get your priorities right

by Sarawak Report@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Zahid Hamidi at UMNO GA

Instead of setting up a task force to investigate Sarawak Report, the whistleblower website’s editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown has challenged Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi to probe the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instead.

This was because the FBI was investigating the very same thing she had been reporting on.

“I find it very strange that the deputy prime minister and the Umno party wished to somehow vilify and attack me… for revealing something that has now been corroborated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies the world over.

“So why doesn’t Mr (Zahid) Hamidi decide to have a special task force to take on the FBI, why doesn’t he criticise the banks who have admitted that there are malfeasance that took place with respect to 1MDB money?

“Why not just take on the force of law and order in other countries, who have identified the crime known as 1MDB,” asked Rewcastle-Brown.

She also challenged Zahid to interview her. “Please do come and interview me. I would be very happy to give you my full mindful about why I am doing what I am doing,” she said.

Invited as speaker at anti-graft conference

Rewcastle-Brown said this in a video recording made at the sidelines of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) which is taking place in Panama City.

She was among three speakers at the IACC session titled “Investigations on Money Laundering” last Friday, where she spoke on 1MDB.

On Saturday, Zahid told the UMNO General Assembly that a special task force had been set up to probe local organisations, including the Malaysia-focused but London-based whistleblower website.

Zahid claimed that the organisations have allegedly received foreign funding and is under the sway of foreign powers who want to see the present BN-led Malaysian government fall through non-democratic means.

Overseas, 1MDB-linked banks and officials are being investigated by several foreign jurisdictions over alleged complicity in money laundering and embezzlement involving the state fund, which Sarawak Report frequently reported on.

However, Malaysian authorities have dismissed problems with 1MDB as being only consigned to management weaknesses and denied reports of monies being laundered out of the company, accusing the website of trying to destabilise Malaysia and its economy with such news.

Rewcastle-Brown has denied being complicit in any conspiracy to fabricate news to attack the Malaysian government.

The business of US economic diplomacy in Asia


December 7, 2016

The business of US economic diplomacy in Asia

by  Dr. Martin Parkinson PSM, Canberra

The outcome of the US election has created considerable uncertainty at the country’s future policy directions towards the Asia-Pacific. While it is difficult to predict how US economic diplomacy in the region will change, the rule-based order it has led remains crucial to regional security and stability.

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As a general rule, the United States has had more care for the development of the international system of global trade and investment than many other countries. Rather than acting unilaterally, the United States often deliberately constrains itself by acting through the IMF, WTO, the World Bank and other multilateral bodies. While it has used explicit economic levers at times — such as infrastructure spending, concessional finance or highly preferential trade deals — the United States has done so to a noticeably lesser extent than other powers for at least two reasons.

 

First, the great and successful US experiment with constitutionalism has led to clearly defined and separate roles for the public and the private sector. The constitution constrains what various US administrations may do in the short run. But in the long run this increases certainty and enables businesses to prosper through hard work and ingenuity. Separation of powers also limits the US government in its discretion on how to achieve economic ends internationally. The United States simply doesn’t have large state-owned enterprises or development banks that can be directed to international ends.

The second reason why the United States has been exceptionalist in economic diplomacy is pure realpolitik. As the dominant global power, the US benefited from economic activity almost irrespective of where it occurred around the globe. Immediately after World War II, the institutions set up with the support of the United States to regulate businesses around the globe to a significant extent set rules for its own businesses. But as we transition to a more multipolar world there is a risk that the link between US interests and the interests of the global economy is becoming less clear-cut.

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History shows that increased trade and investment delivers job opportunities and rising living standards. We have all benefited from the US inclination for international rules over the exercise of arbitrary power. Global rules and norms have allowed businesses, and even countries, to specialise in production and for investment to flow where it is most valued. As I have said elsewhere, the rules-based order effectively underwrote the massive explosion of regional incomes – from Japan, to the Asian Tigers of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and now China, India, Indonesia and others.

Despite some shortcomings, the US model of economic diplomacy is still the right bet for our region. First, it’s flexible. The rules-based order creates the conditions for markets to flourish — and markets pivot faster than governments. Second, it’s voluntary. Relying on markets fits neatly with the ‘ASEAN way’ of doing economic diplomacy which emphasises non-interference and relationship building.

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It is a strength of the system that the rising emerging countries now want to participate in setting the global rules. These aspirations are legitimate and the alternative scenario of competing trade and investment blocs is deeply unappealing.

The rules-based order encourages countries to implement best practice policy settings. For example, in recent decades we have seen US multinationals bring expectations around the rule of law and transparent regulations to markets around the world.

Perhaps most importantly, the US model of engaging internationally — with soft power and economic dynamism — is a success. Economic success is the foundation of economic diplomacy. Failing to pursue policies that foster dynamism, help manage shocks, and deliver citizens what they desire and value, risks the capacity to project power and sustain influence. Economic success makes US society attractive around the world, and it is US businesses abroad which help sell the American dream. US soft power remains unsurpassed.

Without a doubt, developments during President-elect Trump’s term will have a lasting impact on how the United States does business in this region. Yet if the United States retreats, whether in terms of economic, trade or military engagement, there is really only one other single player that could attempt to fill the vacuum. China’s economy is as big as the next 13 largest emerging countries combined, though its GDP growth is obviously slowing as it approaches the technological frontier, and with its ageing and shrinking working population.

It is clear that the United States needs help in maintaining support for global rule setting.

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The United States needs the support of its friends and allies to maintain its focus on this region and on far-sighted and open regionalism. This is in our interest — indeed, in the interest of all countries in the region. With the slump in trade growth, the world has lost a key engine of economic growth that benefits all in the world. This requires other countries to step up and do more of the heavy lifting to advocate for the promotion of open markets, the importance of foreign investment and trade, and the benefits of immigration.

While we all need to get used to US dominance being replaced by pre-eminence, continuing to develop the rules-based order could be the most important legacy bequeathed to our region from the US primacy of the 20th century. US president Calvin Coolidge famously said that, ‘After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world’. Since business is certainly something the new US President-elect knows a lot about, we should all aim to ensure that this legacy will continue.

Martin Parkinson is the Secretary of Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This is an edited version of an address originally delivered at the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia in Sydney on 16 November 2016

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/12/05/the-business-of-us-economic-diplomacy-in-asia/

Najib’s Vocal Defense of the Rohingya Backfire lacks credibility


December 6, 2016

Najib’s Vocal Defense of the Rohingya Backfire lacks credibility, given his domestic human rights record

http://thediplomat.com/2016/12/will-najibs-vocal-defense-of-the-rohingya-backfire/

Image result for Najib and The Rohingnya Protest

While Najib’s remarks at the Stadium Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur drew strong support from the Rohingya community in Malaysia, and marked the first time a Southeast Asian leader has condemned the Myanmar state’s actions in such strong terms, they should be treated with some caution.

A cynical reading of Najib’s address would see him reaching for the moral high ground at a time of immense domestic pressure. These, after all, have not been quiet months for Najib, who has battled corruption allegations over the 1MDB scandal since early 2015 – and has just emerged from a series of tense and highly visible protests led by BERSIH, a wide-reaching campaign for clean government. Despite winning a state election in Sarawak earlier this year, Najib’s ruling National Front has struggled to regain its former popularity, and was recently faced with allegations of human rights violations (from Laurent Meillan, acting representative of the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia, no less) over the arrests of several activists at the Bersih rallies.

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In this light, there is little doubt that Najib’s statements are at least partly designed to shore up his human rights record and regain much-needed political capital. State violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar has taken place since at least 2012, and it’s hard to overlook the particular timing of Najib’s unprecedented response. In a pointed statement ahead of the rally, the President’s Office in Myanmar called it a “calculated political decision to win the support of the Malaysian public.’”

But this was not simply the case of the wrong person saying the right thing at the wrong time. Najib’s statements reflect several political dilemmas that lie at the heart of the refugee question in Southeast Asia, and three elements of his speech deserve closer examination. First, it is worth noting that he chose to frame the issue with a moral vocabulary that other Southeast Asian leaders have, thus far, kept at arm’s length. He emphatically referred to the abuses as “genocide,” and called them, “by definition, ethnic cleansing.” With a characteristic rhetorical flourish, he asked the crowd: “Do they want me to close my eyes? Want me to be mute? […] What’s the point of a Nobel Peace Prize?”

Such statements, which not only imply that he is acting on a universal duty of response – and holding Suu Kyi to the global ideals that are seen to underwrite her Nobel Prize – are a deliberate departure from the position, long held among Southeast Asian policymakers, that regional and local values hold sway in Southeast Asian contexts. Building on the “Asian Values” discourse, Southeast Asian leaders  and diplomats have previously stressed the region’s “incommensurable differences from the West” as reasons to question the universality of human rights. Najib’s statements suggest a clear pivot away from the default Southeast Asian position, and besides voicing indirect criticism at his own region’s lackluster human rights record, they may also imply that the global community (and the support it can offer) seems somewhat closer to Najib at this point than his immediate neighbors.

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The Rohingya Issue is an ASEAN and International Challenge

Second, Najib’s comments on the ASEAN Charter raise difficult questions about regional cooperation in a time of fraught relations. In response to the Myanmar government’s statement – which framed the planned protests as an external intervention in its internal affairs, and reminded Malaysia to adhere to ASEAN principles of noninterference –Najib said: “There is an article in the ASEAN charter that says ASEAN must uphold human rights. Are they blind? Don’t just interpret things as you choose.” In any case, he added, “this is not intervention. This is universal human values.”

These remarks come in the wake of palpable friction among ASEAN members over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, and both the United States’ and China’s increasing involvement in the region. Noninterference by regional and global powers alike has been a core tenet of ASEAN’s institutional stability since its inception, and has been credited for promoting peaceful relations in Southeast Asia especially since the end of the Cold War. However, Najib’s comments have flagged up the uncomfortable truth that this insistence on traditional state sovereignty may be less and less tenable in the present global context, and especially with regards to transnational migration. From Malaysia’s perspective, with more than 56,000 Rohingya refugees already registered by the UN refugee agency within its borders, the question of what constitutes “external interference” seems especially urgent. Najib may have a point: that ASEAN’s ability to effectively tackle regional issues is not necessarily helped by its members’ sensitivities to others’ incursions on their turf.

Finally, Najib’s focus on the “root cause” of refugee flight – Myanmar’s internal abuses against the Rohingya – successfully presents the crisis as a national issue, and sidesteps the glaring evidence that countless refugees are trafficked across the region in horrific conditions, and fall victim to the combined effects of patchy law enforcement, organized crime, and Southeast Asia’s insatiable appetite for cheap labor. Many end up in Malaysia and Thailand, or in refugee camps in Indonesia; because none of these countries are signatory to the Refugee Convention, few enjoy the legal right to work or corresponding protections against abusive employers. In late 2015, the discovery of the mass graves of human trafficking victims in Malaysia brought the regional scale of the issue to global attention.

Najib’s call for Myanmar to cease crackdowns against the Rohingya, while valuable in itself, swept this wider incrimination of Southeast Asian governments, including his own, under the carpet. More than a choice of political convenience, it was perhaps a deliberate decision to downplay transnational aspects of the refugee question, and – by drawing on regional and global perceptions of Myanmar as a pariah state in transition – place the responsibility for regional crisis within the already-tied hands of an unstable administration. While raising his human rights credentials vis-à-vis his neighbors, thus, Najib simultaneously exempted them from adopting a concerted response.

For those concerned – as we should all be – about the increasingly dire situation facing the Rohingya in Southeast Asia, Najib’s decision to take the stage with firm words against the events in Myanmar offer limited consolation. Beyond achieving domestic political motives, his remarks have sharpened the existing tensions between global and local values, ideas of regional integration and national sovereignty, and questions of transnational and national responsibility. At best, we can hope that Najib continues to place valuable political capital behind his rhetoric. At worst, the ideals he has promoted may well be eroded by a failure to follow up with policy. It would not be the first time.

Theophilus Kwek is currently reading for a MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at Oxford University. He has served as co-editor of the Journal of Politics and Constitutional Studies, publications director of OxPolicy, and vice president of the Oxford Students’ Oxfam Group.