A new model of great-power relations?


February 14, 2018

A new model of great-power relations?

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/02/12/a-new-model-of-great-power-relations/

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Asia’s economic ascendancy over the past half century has depended on a period of remarkable regional peace and stability. This is not the natural order of the world: international relations theorist Hedley Bull reckoned that the natural order is prone not to stability but to chaos. The current international order was a product of political choice, framed fundamentally by the post-war choice to put in place the institutions agreed at Bretton Woods that guaranteed the evolution of an open, multilateral regimeThis regime fostered both economic prosperity and international political stability among those who chose to sign on to it.

Asia will continue to prosper and be secure if that framework can be sustained, but for that to happen, the order must evolve. We have with little thought simply taken the current order for granted. The advent of Donald Trump, the potential disintegration of Europe and how these two events interact with the rise of China and other powers mean that taking this framework for granted is no longer tenable.

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The ‘peace’ in Asia resulted from the situation that emerged in the early 1970s when China decided to follow Japan in accepting the United States as the primary strategic power in Asia and in emulating the West’s modern economic development. That choice eliminated major-power rivalry as a source of tension and conflict in the region.

China’s President Xi Jinping perhaps prematurely heralded a successor to the old model of great-power relations in his famous summit with America’s then president Barack Obama at Sunnylands in June 2013. There the focus turned to China-US relations. Xi proposed to inject ‘new momentum’, not satisfied with short-term gains but rather striving for long-term mutual benefit and the achievement of a grand geopolitical win-win. The new model, Xi urged, would promote world peace and the stable development of the Asia Pacific.

The Obama leadership did not reject this notion outright, but never embraced it. Obama himself gave it no traction at all. The model appeared to give Beijing too much space in defining its own core geopolitical interests. Policymakers and analysts in Washington remained in denial about the seriousness of China’s claim to more geopolitical space — a claim that had already become a reality because of China’s new economic and political power.

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy has discarded all pretence at defining the Sino-American relationship in cooperative terms: it has now cast it in terms of the contest for global geopolitical supremacy in all theatres.

China may no longer accept American leadership as the foundation of the regional or global strategic order, but Beijing is now confronted with explicit rebuff of its new model of great power relations, which stresses cooperation among the major powers. Few, if any, in Asia or around the world want China to get all it wants: US leadership has served the region well and no one wants to live exclusively under China’s shadow. But China is deeply embedded in the current global order both economically and politically, and it has accepted and incorporated into policies and institutions many tenets of the formerly US-led established international order.

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John Kelly is now White House Chief of Staff

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Kelly’s successor Kirstjen Nielsen 

Not many would see China’s engagement in the global system as an all-or-nothing game. The zealots in Mr Trump’s team and a deep current in the political security community that are innocent of the connection between economic openness and political security would do well to calculate the costs to global prosperity of trying to extricate China’s mutual engagement from the United States, it allies and partners.

The idea that Asia could be transformed economically by the biggest shift in the distribution of wealth in history without its also being transformed politically and strategically is a delusion. It would have been remarkable if China had not sought a bigger global role as its power has grown in the same way that every rising power before it has done. That it has sought such a small role relative to its weight and importance thus far has been remarkable and to the benefit of the international system (which has proven stubborn to change).

Given the stand-off, one might think that there is no future for a new era of great-power relations. Perhaps that will turn out to be so.

This week’s lead essay by Zha Daojiong at Peking University reminds us that short of military conflict — which even the hawks in the Pentagon and a few fledglings in Ichigaya and Russell Hill baulk at openly advocating — the choice will not be entirely Washington’s.

‘It is not difficult to understand the United States’ characterisation of China as “disruptive”’, says Zha. ‘It repeats US insistence on maintaining its own continuous primacy in the regional and global order’.

‘US security elites across the ideological spectrum have for decades argued that the pillars of recent Chinese success are made in the United States’, Zha notes. ‘They argue that Washington carved out this path by letting China into the World Trade Organization and that it continues to facilitate China’s success by providing their navies to help keep the Indian and Pacific oceans open for shipping in and out of Chinese ports’. But China had to deliver on the opportunity from its own starting point. And it has to find its own way through.

China has a right to choose its own path of development, given its own set of historical assets and liabilities, Zha insists. He concedes that some in Beijing are too enthusiastic about associating its ‘unique path’ with ‘superiority’ but notes that China rejects imposing its system of governance as a precondition for engagement through trade, investment or aid upon others around the world.

Zha’s message is this: China should not be tempted to the take up the competition on the terms that Mr Trump and (more tentatively) some of America’s partners appear to be spoiling for. It should stand back from the bully pit.

China would have the most to lose if it foolishly failed to put the new American security strategy rhetoric into proper perspective and to work hard at alleviating feelings of uncertainty about its intentions in Washington and elsewhere.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

BOOK REVIEW: A ‘Vulcan’s’ Version of Asia-Pacific History


February 11, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: A ‘Vulcan’s’ Version of Asia-Pacific History

by John Bethelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

Prosecuting an adequate foreign policy in Asia for the United States “requires mastering a strategic concept at least as complex as three-dimensional chess,” according to Michael J Green, who served on the National Security Council staff as a special adviser to George W Bush.

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“To use that analogy, on the top of the board, the United States must seek to reinforce a rules-based regional order underpinned by US leadership and backed by strong alliances, partnerships, trade agreements and multilateral engagement. On the middle board, the US will have to work toward a stable and productive relationship with China, constantly seeking new areas of cooperation based on a recognition of how much China can potentially contribute to global progress and prosperity. On the bottom board, the United States will have to continue ensuring that it has the military capabilities and posture necessary to defeat any attempts to overturn the current regional order through force.”

Think about the implications of that paragraph in connection with the government installed by President Donald Trump on January 20, 2016, and the astonishing damage the administration has done to the US position in Asia. The United States, Green writes, emerged as the preeminent power in the Pacific “not by providence alone but through the effective (if not always efficient) application of military, diplomatic, economic and ideational tools of national power to the problems of Asia.”  That 200-year campaign is now clearly over.

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The 45th POTUS is messing up US engagement with Asia– His All Options on the Table with North Korea Policy is creating tensions in Asia

Green, now a Senior Vice President for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC as well as a member of the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University, has written the most deeply-researched, cogent and important book I have ever read on the US experience in the Asia Pacific, “By More than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific since 1783,” published in mid-2017. It is also badly flawed and has to be read in recognition that Green was a Vulcan, a member of the foreign policy team that advised Bush prior to his election in 2000.

Containing 174 pages of notes, bibliography and index in its 723 pages, it is arguably the most exhaustive history of the US presence in Asia going back to the founding of the Republic with the landing in what was then Canton of the clipper ship Empress of China at the Whampoa dock.

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It is the most deeply-researched, cogent and important book I have ever read on the US experience in the Asia Pacific–John Berthelsen

The book is an invaluable resource, a history of President-by-President Asia policy from George Washington to through Barack Obama drawn from hundreds of official sources and Green’s own experience. After the chapter on the administration of Gerald Ford, it needs to be read extremely carefully and critically. Although Green served as an adviser in the Clinton administration and as a member of the NSC under Bush the younger, it is clear where his heart is.

Even before that there are some significant elisions. The 1965 Gulf of Tonkin resolution is dealt with in a single sentence without mention of the fact that the linchpin for the resolution was a supposed attack on the US destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy by North Vietnam patrol boats during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. But the fact is that no such attack ever took place. The justification for US entry to a tragic war that took perhaps a million Vietnamese lives and 57,000 American ones was built on a lie.

There are other shortcomings. President Clinton’s decision to send two aircraft carrier battle groups to intercede in Chinese rocket rattling against the Strait of Taiwan gets short shrift although many analysts regarded it as a courageous strategic move.  Barack Obama is accused of waffling – which he did – although Edward Luce, in his new book “The Retreat of Western Liberalism” gives Obama rather higher marks.

George Schultz and Henry Kissinger

Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz is called “the most effective Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific policy in the history of the republic, which be news to Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, Edward Stettinius, James F Byrnes and others.

While he gives George H W Bush his due – a far more effective President than most give him credit for – Green far overplays Bush the younger, whose administration “came into office with a clear strategic concept on Asia focused on shaping a favorable geopolitical equilibrium in the region, and that generally held through a series of short-term crises and the attacks of 9/11.” He gives only passing reference to the infamous Bush Doctrine, which included not only unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty, rejecting the Kyoto protocol, and a willingness to start preemptive wars, which meant that Asia cannot be considered separately from a long series of international disasters that reduced global approbation of US foreign policy.

His declaration of a “war on terror” included “rendition” of those suspected of terrorist activities to black site where they were tortured unmercifully.  The Bush administration also split its forces between Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting neither war very well. As a result, both countries ended up in a botch. In the wake of 9/11, when the world needed effective law enforcement and intelligence-gathering instead of the blunderbuss of twin invasions, Bush ridiculed John Kerry, his opponent in his second presidential race, as “fundamentally misunderstanding the war on terror.” The fact is that Kerry understood it a lot better than Bush did, to America’s deep misfortune.

Having said all that, the value in Green’s book is its deep wealth of detail about how successive governments – even the Bush 43 one – have conducted enormously layered foreign policies, not just in the Asia Pacific but across the world.  For those interested in foreign policy, it is a must read, especially given the tragedy that is being visited on US strategic interests by the current administration.

Trump, as Luce points out, “has chosen to drive America’s regional allies into China’s arms. Even Australia, which comes closest to US values, wants to enter China’s rival trade group, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”  He voided the Transpacific Partnership, arguably over pique at Obama. At a time when a rising China is setting out to return to the global pre-eminence it enjoyed up to the 17th Century, throwing its weight around in East Asia, enormously skilled diplomacy is called for. Instead, Trump has decimated the State Department, appointed an oil man with no government experience as Secretary of State – and won’t listen to him even when he tries to talk sense into him.

Image result for john berthelsen asia sentinelJohn Berthelsen

The current President is not a man for three-dimensional chess. He is not a man for chess at all. As Luce points out – and Green probably would if he could add a chapter – the US has entered arguably the most dangerous period in the country’s history when it comes to Asian policy, if not global diplomacy overall.

https://www.asiasentinel.com/book-review/book-review-by-more-than-providence/

 

Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (What the British did to India)


February 6, 2018

Book Review Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (What the British did to India)

Reviewed by Cyril Pereira

http://www.asiasentinel.com

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The backstory is the Oxford Union Debate of July 2015, on whether Britain should pay reparations to its former colonies. Shashi Tharoor’s team won handily, arguing that Britain should. The YouTube segment of his speech went viral, downloaded a stunning three million times. Hence the book Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India, published in 2017.

Asia Society Talk

Tharoor took the lectern at the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Dec. 2, not fully recovered from mobilizing relief in Kerala forr victims of Cyclone Ockhi. Beset by coughing fits, his practiced recitation of the ruination of India by the East India Company and the British Crown was matter-of-fact. He spoke without notes.

The result is a bitter indictment of colonialism and an argument that the UK gained far more from India than India ever gained from colonialism. Narratives of British rule in India, he said, rarely dwell on the rapacity of the 80-90 percent tax levied on farmers, the substitution of food crops by opium for export to China, the massacre of 1,800 unarmed civilians by General Dyer in Amritsar, or the systematic wrecking of then world-class native steel, ship-building and textile industries.

Choking Local Industry

Indian swords were forged from a special high-carbon crucible technique developed in south India in the 3d Century BC. Seaborne trade with the Middle East exported this knowledge, where it gained fame as the “Damascus Sword.” British troops were known to retrieve the superior sabers of the Indian warriors they shot in battle, Tharoor writes.

The Raj closed India’s iron and steel furnaces on the grounds that they constituted a threat of armed native revolt, Tharoor said. The techniques and the knowhow flowed into British steelmaking which boosted the Industrial Revolution. There is a repetitive pattern of appropriation of Indian techniques, while suppressing the local crafts and trade.

The textile cottage industry spun fine fabrics which were the rage even of the fashionable ladies of the ancient Roman Empire. As the industrial looms began to roll in England, Indian hand looms were smashed and in one tragic case, the thumbs of the master weavers were sliced off – recorded by a Dutch observer. Indians had to purchase Lancaster cloth imported tax free, while stiff tariffs were imposed on Indian textiles.

Indian teak and the tar derived from burning it, along with jointing techniques, outlasted European ships constructed from oak by at least five times seaworthy life, the former diplomat charges. Alexander the Great commissioned Indian ships to ferry his retreating army to Greece. Ma Huan, interpreter on Ming Admiral Zheng He’s voyages of the 15th Century, studied boat construction in Bengal. Historically, Indian shipbuilding was globally recognized.

In 1675, the East India Company built a shipyard in Bombay to use Indian teak. The British Navy commissioned hundreds of ships for its fleet. Indian ships, Indian loot, Bengal saltpeter (gunpowder), piracy, the slave trade from Africa, opium dealing in China, and the sugar canes of the Caribbean, enabled Britain to rule the waves.

When the industrial era of steamships began, punitive tariffs were imposed on Indian shipbuilding. Investment in modern development was blocked by British shipbuilders and the colonial government. The shipbuilding industry was forcibly strangled too. Eliminating competition to monopolize trade was standard colonial policy.

It is sometimes suggested that India would have fallen behind anyway, even without the destructive British policies, overtaken by the industrial revolution. To that, Tharoor asked: Why do you think Indian merchants experienced in international trade of textiles, steel and shipbuilding, wouldn’t invest in and adopt modern techniques from anywhere?

Rich Archives

The compulsive shopkeeper habit of the British, afforded a ready reference of dates, events, imports and exports. About 300 source documents are annotated in the book. “The task of validation was straightforward as the British maintained detailed records of policy, trade statistics, and parliamentary debates,” Tharoor said.

When the East India Company arrived in the 1600s, India’s global GDP share was 25 percent while Britain’s stood at 1.8 percent. Over 350 years of the Company and 200 years of the British Raj, Indian revenues financed the Industrial Revolution and critical maritime supremacy. By the middle of the 20th Century, the British GDP share had risen to 10 percent while India’s shrank to 3 percent.

Image result for Robert Clive of IndiaSir Robert Clive of India

 

Tharoor dismisses the hagiography and apologia of historians like Niall Ferguson (2003), Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World; Lawrence James (1997), Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India; and Andrew Roberts (2006), A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900. He exposes the  vile larcency of colonial rule.

Alex von Tunzelmann’s 2007 book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, has this passage: “In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.”

Vexed Legacy?

There are widely held positive appraisals of the legacies of British rule: the railway network, the civil service, the rule of law and a free press. Tharoor concedes these with ambivalence. Through his lens, these were incidental residuals of the Raj imperative to stamp efficient colonial rule – not gifts from a benevolent monarch.

Railway investors were guaranteed a minimum 5 percent return by the Indian taxpayer. In its first two decades, each mile of Indian rail cost nine times that of the UK & the United States. Public exposure of that scam lowered the cost to five times. The railways extracted raw material from the hinterland, and deployed soldiers inland to maintain order.

The civil service was a classic formula of British ingenuity: the clerical bookkeeping, stock tally and labor supervision were left to English-educated Indians, while policy direction and enforcement rested with British sahibs. The education system, supplemented by mission schools, supplied local recruits for the administration.

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Law and order was imposed to further East India Company operations and for the greater glory of the British Raj. Laws were framed to ensure compliance to rules and regulations for opium cultivation, plantation management, land tax collection and to enforce subservience of all subjects to the British Crown. It was a tool of colonial oppression.

The press (in English) grew in the port cities as commercial information vehicles to facilitate trade. When indigenous newspapers sprouted in response to rising nationalism after WWI, repressive sedition laws were used to detain editors and ban publications. Pro-establishment English press flourished. Press licensing tightened media control.

‘Let them starve’

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On the historic scale of mass murderers, where Stalin ranks at 20 million, Mao at 15 million and Hitler at 6 million. Tharoor reckons British colonial rule killed 35 million Indians over recurring famines. He is particularly scathing of Winston Churchill, who misappropriated food grain during the infamous Bengal famine of 1943, causing five million deaths. Churchill scribbled in the margin of his cabinet papers, “Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Tharoor attributes such callousness to three factors: the ‘free trade’ principle, the Malthusian sustainable-population theory, and the rigid colonial practice of disallowing humanitarian assistance as fiscal prudence. Mercy shown could be misinterpreted as weakness, and such indulgence would make the natives lazy anyway.

Tharoor, a former UN Under-Secretary General, author of four fiction and 12 non-fiction books, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, roasts British colonial rule to counter the contrived amnesia and disinformation, about what the experience really meant for India and Indians.

Should Britain pay reparations? Tharoor suggests, tongue-in-cheek, a token One British pound sterling per year over the next two hundred years, plus an apology. He urges colonial history be taught in British schools honestly. Colonialists vamp noble narratives about their mission, mostly fake.

Cyril Pereira is a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

Asian Century on a Knife-edge–John West


February 1, 2018

Asian Century on a Knife-edge

by John West

http://asiancenturyinstitute.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1362:asian-century-on-a-knife-edge&catid=9:economy&Itemid=111

Here is a quick introduction to my new book, “Asian Century … on a Knife-edge”, from John West.

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China and other Asian countries will dominate global politics and the world economy in the 21st century. Right? That’s the usual refrain.

Rising Asia

After all, Asia has stunned the world with decades of stellar growth, and by some measures, China has already become the world’s biggest economy. And while China’s economy has slowed sharply, it is still growing at the respectable rate of 6-7%.

The rise of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has only accelerated the global shift towards Asia. Trump’s America has relinquished global leadership, notably through its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, along with burgeoning protectionism, while China is positioning itself as a defender of the liberal international order.

Indeed, China is demonstrating remarkable global leadership through initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Today, China is increasing appearing to be a much safer and steadier global leader as Trump competes with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in the global hysteria stakes, and the White House and Washington have descended into turmoil, which is paralysing the capacity of the Trump administration to get things done. Washington’s allies in East Asia and even Australia are now questioning the reliability of the US.

Asian Century ‘hype’

But despite all the talk of the advent of an Asian Century, a closer reading of Asia’s economy and politics suggests that there is much “over-hyping” about the rise of Asia, as I argue in my new book, “Asian Century … on a Knife-edge”.

While most Asian countries have achieved stunning economic growth over the past half century or more, the harsh reality is that Asia is suffering from stunted economic development. No major Asian economy has caught up with global leaders like the US and Germany in terms of GDP per capita, and living standards, and there is little likelihood of such catch-up occurring over the foreseeable future.

What Asia does have on its side, however, is size. Countries like China, India and Indonesia, thanks in large part to their enormous populations, have some of the world’s biggest economies. And they have been able to transform economic weight into economic, political and military power, even though their GDP per capita, and their levels of economic, business and technological sophistication are modest. But without further economic, social and political development, these countries will remain fragile superpowers.

The hype about Asia’s dramatic economic rise has only been matched by similar hype about the emergence of Asia’s middle class. And while it is true that Asian lives have improved immeasurably in tandem with economic development, only a small share of Asian citizens could be described as middle class, and the middle class is receding in Japan and Korea along with rising inequality and poverty. Today, half of Asia’s population is stranded between poverty and the middle class, living in a zone of vulnerability and precarity.

Asia faces a raft of challenges in order to realise an Asian Century, seven of which are highlighted in my book.

 

Seven challenges for an Asian Century

Asia appears a global leader in international trade and investment. But the reality is that countries like China, India and Indonesia are mainly undertaking lower value added activities in global value chains like assembling electronics and automobiles, “cut sew and trim” of clothing, and operating call centres. Much greater efforts are required to get better value out of value chains by opening markets, and strengthening human capital, and technological and innovative capacities.

Many of Asia’s factories and call centres are staffed by poor migrants who have moved to towns and cities in the hope of a better life. But their dreams are all too often shattered as they wind up living in urban slums. In the case of China, most internal migrants are denied access to basic social services, and their children are “left-behind” in traditional villages. And Asia’s most advanced cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul lag sadly behind the West in the quest to become hubs of innovation and creativity.

Discrimination, prejudice and persecution are rife in Asia, thereby by preventing economies and societies to realise their full potential, as our review shows for the cases of: Asia’s LGBT community; Japanese women; South Asian women who suffer gendercide, forced child marriages and honour killing; Asia’s indigenous peoples like West Papuans, Tibetans and China’s Uighurs; Sri Lanka’s Tamil community; and India’s lower castes.

Most Asian countries face intractable demographic dilemmas. In much of East Asia, fertility has plummeted below replacement rates, populations are ageing, workforces declining, and in Japan the population has begun falling. And yet governments are slow to react. At the same time, in South Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines, a youth bulge is bursting into the workforce, but much of this youth is not well educated and there are not enough jobs on offer. A potential demographic dividend could easily morph into an explosion of social frustration. Connecting these two demographic realities is the potential for mutually beneficial migration, and yet ethnocentric Asia is barely open to migration.

Asia is crying out for democracy and better governance to improve the foundations for stronger economies and decent middle class societies. And yet, according to some measures, there would not be even one mature democracy in Asia. Contrary to the hopes of political scientists, economic development has fostered too few democracies in Asia. Asia’s political landscape is deeply flawed with: oligarchic democracies in Japan and Korea; pro-business soft dictatorships in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore; Chinese client states in Cambodia and Laos; weak and fragile democracies in India, Indonesia, Philippines, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal; military-dominated governments in Thailand, Pakistan, and Myanmar; and staunchly authoritarian states in China, North Korea and Vietnam.

One of the many consequences of these flawed politics is that, as Asia has moved towards the centre of the global economy, it has also moved to centre of the global criminal economy. Asia is a major player in many aspects of economic crime like counterfeiting and piracy, Illegal drug production and trafficking, environmental crimes, human trafficking and smuggling, corruption and money laundering, and cybercrime. And while flawed politics is one of the causes, this criminality is eating away at the integrity of the state, as state actors are very often criminals themselves or are colluding with criminals.

While many factors have underpinned Asia’s renaissance over the past half century or more, the relative peace that the region has enjoyed has been perhaps the most important. But today, the relative stability of postwar Asia, led by the US, is being shaken by the rise of China, as China is now engaged in a bitter power struggle with the US and its Asian allies for the political leadership of Asia. There is much debate about whether this will lead to military conflict between China and the US. In any event, the US seems to be losing its hold over Asia, something which will likely accelerate under the Trump administration. This means that it will become ever more necessary for Asian countries to cooperate better together. But this will be a great challenge in light of the tensions involving China, North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and India.

 

What next for the Asian Century?

The prospects for Asia overcoming stunted economic and social development, and realising an Asian Century with advanced economies and middle class societies, depends on how Asia responds to the seven challenges identified in this book. Unfortunately, there is too little evidence of Asia’s major countries seizing the moment.

Trump’s America will also shape the contours of a possible Asian Century. Regrettably, we will likely see a deterioration in key factors that have driven Asia development — an open US market, a relatively benign security environment, and a stable global economic system.

Even post-Trump, we should not assume a return to the US as a promoter of open markets and globalisation, and a friend of democratic partners and the liberal international system. America has been struck by a wave of populism, and in particular nationalism (make America great again), nativism (secure our borders), and protectionism (protect American workers), which is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

This is a tragedy for Asia, as China, the US’s competitor, is not a promoter of open markets, good governance, and the international rule of law.

But if Asia continues to muddle through, in some decades time, the region could account for over half the world economy, far outstripping the West in total economic size. In these circumstances, no major Asian economy would have approached world leaders like the US and Germany in terms of GDP per capita, or economic, business and technological sophistication.

Moreover, Asia could remain a democratic desert, with not one full democracy, and with continuing widespread human rights abuses and restrictions on personal freedoms. In other words, Asia would have the world’s greatest economic weight, and be a leading economic and political power, but would remain a pygmy in terms of economic, social and political development. Asia’s main power comes from its enormous population, currently about 55 per cent of the world’s total, compared with only 18 per cent for the West.

Needless to say, the incongruities of such a scenario could generate even greater geopolitical tensions than we see today.

These incongruities would test the capacity of the international community to cooperate on issues like open trade and investment, democracy and human rights, the global environment, protection of intellectual property rights, economic crime, international rule of law, law of the sea, and natural disasters. Why? Because forging consensus and working together requires shared interest and values, and a culture of cooperation and trust.

Beyond these incongruities, there are endless possibilities of economic, social, political and military crises in Asia — mostly due to the likely failure to deal with our seven challenges for an Asian Century.

Economic crisis is stalking several Asian countries, most notably Japan and China with their massive debt problems. And anti-globalisation populism could break one of the most important drivers of Asia’s rapid development, namely open trade and investment. Social crisis could be on the cards for India, Indonesia and the Philippines with their bulging youth populations, if they are unable to find decent jobs. Multi-ethnic countries like India and Indonesia could easily descend into violence as groups suffering from discrimination, prejudice and persecution mobilise themselves against dominant elites. And as natural disasters and environmental problems increasingly hit Asia’s overcrowded and badly planned cities, social crises will also accelerate.

Continued authoritarian politics and social repression in China, North Korea and Vietnam could provoke political crises as citizens demand cleaner government and democratic government. Social unrest is already rampant in China, and North Korea has thousands of regime opponents locked away in secret gulags. The corruption crisis that engulfed the South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Samsung shows how fragile even Asia’s most advanced countries can be.

The future of peace in Asia could be threatened by the great power struggle between China and the US. The US and China are unlikely to engage in a traditional military conflict, although the naval collisions involving the US Navy in 2017 show how easily accidents can occur, and possibly spiral out of control. They seem destined to remain “frenemies”, that is both friends and rivals, with conflicts taking place in the areas of trade, intellectual property, international rule of law, and cyber, rather than on the battlefield.

As China progressively displaces the US as Asia’s hegemon, it will become ever more necessary for Asian countries to cooperate better together. In a region which is bristling with tensions involving China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, ASEAN and India, this will be a great challenge.

And while China’s rise has been shaking Asia, the prospect of India’s economy overtaking China’s in the second half of the 21st century, will require further adjustments by all. By then year 2100, India’s population could at 1.5 billion be some 50% higher than China’s and there is every chance that the Indian economy will continue to outgrow China.

Asian Century … on a Knife-edge

Today, Asia is sitting on a knife edge. The potential of the region to generate good and happy lives for its citizens is enormous. But the requirements of success and the risks of failure are equally enormous. We cannot be sure of “what’s next for the Asian Century”. Indeed, anything could happen, and complacency of Asia’s elites could be the Asian Century’s greatest enemy.

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I just learned of the passing of my friend, Professor Emeritus Dr. Jean Pierre-Lehmann. I first met Jean at The INSEAD in 1989. He was introduced to me by another friend Dr. Henri-Claude de Bettignies, the Aviva Chair Emeritus Professor of Leadership and Responsibility and Emeritus Professor of Asian Business and Comparative Management at INSEAD, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Globally Responsible Leadership at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and former Director of the Euro-China Centre for Leadership and Responsibility (ECCLAR) that he created in Shanghai, at CEIBS, in 2006. Between 1988 and 2005, with a joint appointment at Stanford University (Graduate School of Business).

Professor de Bettignies started the development of the Ethics initiative at INSEAD, and pioneered a new approach (AVIRA) to enlighten business leaders. Over a 16 years period the AVIRA programme brought together – in Fontainebleau, California and Singapore. he started and developed INSEAD’s activities in Japan and the Asia Pacific region which led, in 1980, to the creation of the Euro-Asia Centre, of which he was Director General until 1988.

RIP Jean.

 

Jean-Pierre Lehmann (29 August 1945 – 21 December 2017) was a Swiss economist who was professor of international political economy at IMD and the founding director of The Evian Group at IMD. In August 2011, he was appointed senior fellow at the Fung Global Institute (FGI), a think-tank producing innovative thinking and research on global issues from Asian perspectives.

Biography

Lehmann was born in Washington, D.C. on 29 August 1945. He spent most of his childhood and adolescence between Japan and Europe. In 1966 he obtained his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and subsequently he did his doctorate at Oxford University (St Antony’s College), where he was from 1967 to 1970.

Lehmann’s areas of special interest include globalisation, global governance, trade and development, the role of business in reduction of poverty and inequality and the socio-economic, cultural, and business dynamics of Asia. He acts in various leading capacities in a number of public policy institutes and organisations, as an adviser to governments and corporations, and as a frequent commentator in the international media. He is the author of several books and numerous articles and papers primarily dealing with globalisation, modern East Asian history and East Asia and the international political economy.

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IMD Business School, Lausanne (Switzerland), the home of The Evian Group which Jean founded in 1995.

In 1995, Lehmann launched The Evian Group, an international coalition of corporate, government, and opinion leaders, united by a common vision of enhancing global prosperity for the benefit of all by fostering an open, inclusive and equitable global market economy in a rules-based multilateral framework. The Evian Group, based at IMD in Lausanne (Switzerland), has developed as a leading global voice on global trade and investment issues that acts as a forum for dialogue and a birthplace of ideas; it also engages actively in advocacy to counter the forces of protectionism and chauvinism. Lehmann works closely with a number of international forums and think tanks, including the World Economic Forum where he is a member of two of its GACs (Global Agenda Councils), on Trade and on the Future of China.

Prior to joining IMD, Lehmann’s journalist, academic and business careers encompassed activities in virtually all Asian and Western European countries, as well as North America. He was founding director of the European Institute of Japanese Studies (EIJS) at the Stockholm School of Economics (from 1992) and Professor of East Asian Political Economy and Business. He established and directed the East Asian operations of InterMatrix, a London-based business strategy research and consulting organization (1986-1992). During this time he was concurrently Affiliated Professor of International Business at the London Business School.

Previously, Lehmann was associate professor of International Business at INSEAD, visiting professor at the Bologna Center (Italy) of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, twice visiting professor and Japan Foundation Fellow at the University of Tohoku (Japan), and founding director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Stirling (Scotland), where he also taught East Asian history. He also directed the EC-ASEAN ‘Transfer of Technology and Socio-Economic Development Programs’ (1981-1986).

He died in Lausanne on 21 December 2017.

Lehmann frequently writes articles on key issues of the day in journals and online publications. This includes numerous and diverse contributions to the IMD Tomorrow’s Challenges series. He writes a monthly column for the Chinese language magazine China Entrepreneur (CEC). Many of his publications also appear in YaleGlobal Online, The Globalist and Project Syndicate.

Reflecting his PhD (D.Phil) at Oxford’s St Antony’s College on Japanese economic history in the late Edo and earl Meiji eras (1850s to 1880s), Lehmann has maintained his interest in Japan about which he has written several books, the most recent, in March 2009, was co-authored with John Haffner and Tomas Casas i Klett and is entitled Japan’s Open Future: An Agenda for Global Citizenship.

He has edited with his son, Fabrice Lehmann, a work commissioned by the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) Research Foundation, entitled World Peace and Prosperity Through World Trade – Achieving the 1919 Vision published by Cambridge University Press in October 2010. The book is composed of individual short op-ed style chapters from 58 contributors from 26 different countries and from diverse professions and disciplines.

References

  1. ^ “IMD mourns the loss of Jean-Pierre Lehmann”. IMD business school. Retrieved 2017.

The Uncertainty of Multipolarity


January 26, 2018

The Uncertainty of Multipolarity

by Bunn Nagara@www.thestar.com.my

ONE phrase captures the complex and often baffling world of international relations today: a shift towards multipolarity.

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This growing reality is experienced more than it is understood or even commonly perceived. The familiar notion of much in global geopolitics revolving around the US as major pole has stuck.

This is partly because old habits die hard. People everywhere have grown accustomed to the US as leading superpower, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, as sole superpower.

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The US global position remains unassailable: despite the hype, China is not yet able to compete for the global superpower stakes and is not doing so. A rising China is now focused only on regional big power status.

A real sense of competition may take hold if the US perceives China as a clear rival and acts accordingly. This would force a largely reactive China to define its own geopolitical space and thus be seen as defending or competing for it.

While much in the US or Western narrative still relates to fundamental changes in today’s world, too much is attributed to it. Many changes now lie outside its scope or tend to move away from it that in itself being a sign of growing multipolarity.

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A sign and a result of China’s rise is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Factors that prompted the AIIB included China’s marginalisation by major Western-led financial institutions the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank, despite China’s growing economic strength.

An obvious funding project for the AIIB is China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), although Beijing played down the connection initially. The bipartisan response from a Washington that saw China as a competitor was to snub or spurn them, even quietly pressing allies to do likewise.

However, before many countries could decide on their own response, closest US ally Britain announced its support for both. That triggered more Western countries to do the same.

Britain’s move is not surprising in historical context, despite the question marks it placed on the US-UK special relationship. For centuries Britain regarded itself as first among equals in the West, if not better, in forging profitable global relationships.

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The British Empire had bested all other European equivalents, holding sway long before any unique relationship with the Americans. But while London’s relationship with Asia then was one between colonial master and subordinate, today it is between partners.

Such adjustments can be tricky or elusive. For decades Australia, as another US ally, struggled and still struggles, with geopolitical changes that shift its centre of gravity from the West towards Asia.

Granted much of this shift is only economic, but economics defines much in the modern world. Since geography still matters, being located nearer to Asia than Europe or North America now limits Australia’s options.

To be at the “arse-end of the world”, as two of its Prime Ministers have put it, means Australia all the more needs to reconcile with its regional realities. But while its 2003 Foreign Affairs White Paper acknowledged China’s rise and the 2012 White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century embraced these trends, last November’s update longed for an Australia more closely tied to the West.

Other regions such as North-East Asia have been more realistic and forward-looking. Events there have also testified to change in the direction of multipolarity.

The Obama years had alienated both China and Russia, making them natural allies over a range of issues. This coincided with the re-emergence of both countries that are also among the five supposedly promising economies of BRICS, together with Brazil, India and South Africa.

The West’s snub of Russia leaned in favour of China and Russia’s subordination to Beijing, given China’s larger economy and vast schemes like BRI. Soon China’s prospect was seen to overshadow Russia’s role in Central Asia and Eurasia such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Meanwhile frosty Japan-Russia ties were a given, particularly with Japan’s status as a US ally and its dispute with Russia over the South Kurile Islands (Northern Territories). But Tokyo and Moscow are set for a change.

Among the prizes at stake are Russia’s oil and gas deposits in its Far East region sought by both Japan and China. This competition works in favour of Russia as energy supplier.

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With close China-Russia ties resulting unwittingly from US policies, Moscow now needed to reboot its relations with Tokyo. As projects like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline have shown, even costs are secondary to geopolitics as a consideration.

To Japan, it could only gain if Russia became a partner or if Russia-China ties loosened, preferably both. Japan is particularly spooked by a sense of growing military cooperation between China and Russia, and their common interests in North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Russia twice in 2016 to discuss energy and technology with President Vladimir Putin, who returned a visit in December. For years now Abe is seen to be the weaker of the two, so he hedged his bets by acknowledging the prospect of more cooperation with China.

Nonetheless Japan has the technology Russia seeks, and Russia has energy supplies Japan wants. Russia is also courting Japanese investment for its underdeveloped Far East.

Abe gave his Trade Ministry the added responsibility of developing economic ties with Russia, challenging Western-led sanctions against Moscow. For Japan the stakes would seem to be higher.

Visits and meetings between Japanese and Russian leaders continued throughout last year, with Japan as virtual supplicant. Russia did not budge in giving in to Japanese hopes of retrieving four disputed Kurile islands.

Instead, Russia proposed constructing a bridge between Sakhalin and Hokkaido, both as a symbol of peace and as practical infrastructure between both countries. Without the kind of progress in relations Japan has been yearning for, Abe plans to visit Russia twice this year and to invite Putin to Japan next year.

The two leaders will also meet on the sidelines of other summits elsewhere during this time, regardless of their bilateral limitations. Thus the much-presumed pact between Russia and China is not set in stone.

Neither is any prospect of a substantive Russia-Japan partnership. If indeed Russia is wary of a rising China, it is also wary of Japan’s firm alliance with the US.

Although President Donald Trump is supposed to be Russia-friendly, he is under continuing pressure from the same US Establishment keen on preserving the alliance with Japan and wary of both China and Russia.

Meanwhile Britain continues to build a cosy relationship with China unfazed, as Finance Minister Philip Hammond talked up mutual relations in Beijing last month.

Post-Brexit, successive Conservative and Labour governments are consistent in looking East despite the reservations of pundits at home.

And just in case China may seem to have things too easy, even its prized BRI project has already encountered problems with none other than staunch ally Pakistan.

Work on the Diamer-Bhasha hydroelectric dam is suspended over sovereignty issues while talks on railway and airport projects have stalled. Bumps in the road and knots in the belt have also surfaced in Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand.

All told, the other thing about multipolarity is its uncertainty.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/behind-the-headlines/2018/01/14/multipolarity-sets-in-the-world-looks-more-confusing-today-because-of-growing-democracy-among-nation/#ICGdqPylXqvyHEvW.99

Vietnam’s Hopes dashed as Trump exits TPP


January 21, 2018

Vietnam’s Open Trade Policy Hopes dashed as Trump exits TPP

by Thomas Jandl, TJMR Asia Consulting

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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After the 2016 election, hope remained in Hanoi that President Trump, once in office, would turn from firebrand protectionist campaigner into a leader who accepted the value of open trade — a cause in which the Vietnamese government had invested so much in preparation for Vietnam’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These hopes have given way to a hangover.

By now it is clear that Trump will govern as he campaigned: without long-term strategy and with little interest in any assessment of consequences. Not surprisingly, some 60 per cent of top US diplomats have resigned and key foreign policy positions remain unfilled. Clearly, Washington is in no position to chart a clear course for the United States’ key relationships around the world.

Vietnam’s carefully crafted policy of non-alignment — by which Hanoi has skilfully exploited big-power rivalries to balance economic and political interests — now requires a major update. During the APEC summit in Da Nang, Trump stood in front of the leaders of the foremost multilateral institution in the region and waxed about a free and open Indo-Pacific, at the same time heaping criticism on multilateralism. Trump offered bilateral deals to any takers but with the caveat that he wanted to see the United States ‘win’ what he considers a zero-sum game. That kind of deal is not likely to find many takers.

Unlike Trump, Xi Jinping has a plan to make China great again. Speaking at APEC after Trump, China’s President offered a vision of the shared benefits of a free-trading region. Vietnamese officials were smitten with Xi’s willingness to dispense with protocol during the APEC forum. In his speeches, with a wink at the United States, Xi offered a mutually beneficial deal in which trade and investment are not zero-sum games, and he assumed the leadership mantle on economic openness in Asia. While Trump adopts China’s earlier, failed approach of ramming bilateral trade deals down smaller countries’ throats one by one, Xi is on a charm offensive with a multilateralist agenda.

While China is clearly emerging as the leader of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, Vietnam may be a bright spot for Trump. Vietnamese diplomats hurry to say that Hanoi will pursue a bilateral deal with Washington, less for its economic gains than for its symbolic value. Vietnam’s US$32 billion trade surplus with the United States makes it vulnerable to a bad deal in Trump’s trade war. Yet Hanoi hopes to be able to appeal to Trump’s self-regard: if Vietnam is among the very few takers of Trump’s offer, then it may be rewarded simply for showing up and giving Trump something to gloat about. And then there is the symbolism of cooperating with Washington at the same time as Beijing aims for regional leadership.

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But this strategy is fraught with risk. Any deal with Trump is bound to be fickle. If the Republican Party is trounced at the mid-term elections in November 2018, congressional leaders and the Trump administration could set out on very different courses. Moreover, with no long-term strategy, any shift in domestic mood — or in his personal mood — may turn Trump against Vietnam in no time.

Traditionally, Vietnam prefers multilateral venues where no one party calls the shots. That is why any bilateral talks with Washington must be seen as bargaining chips for RCEP and TPP-11, to which Vietnam remains strongly committed. Having as many friends as possible is an important bargaining chip for a country like Vietnam, that traditionally punches above its weight, especially with respect to its big northern neighbour whose hegemonic impulses and significant claims on Vietnamese waters are cause for concern.

TPP would have made it easier for Vietnam to escape China’s orbit. That ship has sailed, at least for now. In the meantime, Vietnam is trying to improve its bargaining power for a position within that China orbit. Whether any deal with Trump is useful — or credible — is the risky bet Hanoi is now forced to make.

Thomas Jandl is a founding partner of TJMR Asia Consulting and a non-resident scholar at the Social Sciences and Humanities Department, Vietnam National University (VNU).

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.