Trump,Putin and Asia


December 5, 2016

Trump,Putin  and Asia

by Artyom Lukin@ Far Eastern Federal University

The US vote in favour of President-elect Donald Trump was a shock for Russian leaders, though a delightful one. According to public opinion surveys, Russia was the only country in the world that preferred Trump over Hillary Clinton. Post-election, the Kremlin argued that Trump and Putin’s views on major issues were very close and expressed cautious optimism that Russia–US relations could improve. In turn, Trump has repeatedly said that he would like ‘to get along with Russia’.

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Putin and Trump seem to have chemistry absent in the Russian leader’s relations with both current US President Barack Obama and with Hillary Clinton. Trump is a pragmatic deal-maker, not an ideologue. He is not going to call Russia out on democracy or human rights. If Clinton had won, confrontation with Russia would have continued, and may have even escalated considering that Clinton’s foreign policy entourage included many figures with strong anti-Russia and anti-Putin views. Trump does not have any preconceived notions about Russia. He is therefore more likely to succeed in making a fresh start with Moscow — or at least in avoiding dangerous clashes in places like Ukraine and Syria.

But most importantly, the  incoming Trump administration has a fairly good chance of getting along with Russia because of the president-elect’s foreign policy philosophy.

Trump is keen to scale back the United States’ international commitments in order to concentrate resources on domestic priorities. Putting the United States’ own house in order is much more important to him — and, it seems, to his supporters — than performing the role of global policeman.

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Trump’s views appear to be close to offshore balancing, a concept promoted by American realist thinkers such as Christopher Layne and Steven Walt. The offshore balancing grand strategy calls for eschewing costly onshore commitments and getting other states to do more for their own security.

Offshore balancing emphasises that the current US policy of maintaining global primacy is unsustainable because it can lead to imperial overstretch. Instead, it envisions a multipolar system in which the United States will still be the strongest player, although not a preponderant and overbearing one. Offshore balancing also stresses that the United States’ comparative strategic advantages rest in naval and air power. This is very much in line with Trump’s stated desire to build up the US naval forces.

If Trump follows at least some precepts of offshore balancing, this will relieve much of the current tensions in US–Russia relations. After all, a multi-polar world is exactly what Russia wants. Moscow may even agree to grant Washington the status of ‘first among equals’, provided Russia is given due respect as a great power. If Trump shifts military investments from the continental theatres of Europe and the Middle East toward the naval theatre of East Asia, this will only please Moscow. Historically, Russia has seen its main security concerns as lying to the west and south of its borders. The Asia Pacific is still of secondary importance.

If the Trump administration avoids lecturing Moscow on democracy (which is very likely) and strikes a grand bargain with the Kremlin on Ukraine and Syria (which is less likely but still possible), that would usher in a period of rapprochement in US–Russia relations.

But the most interesting question in all of this is: what impact will the Russian–US détente have on Russia’s ‘strategic partnership’ with China? Since 2012, ties between Moscow and Beijing have been expanding and deepening, especially in the political–military domain. Russo–Chinese alignment has mostly been driven by shared opposition to the United States, which they accuse of hegemonic pretensions and suspect of seeking to subvert their political regimes.

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Moscow’s estrangement from the West in the wake of the Ukraine crisis has made it increasingly dependent on Beijing — and deferent to Chinese interests in East Asia. But if Moscow normalises relations with Washington, it will be less interested in pursuing a far-reaching entente with China. This will remove the risk of the Asia-Pacific being divided into two camps: the Beijing–Moscow axis versus Washington and its allies. The Sino–Russian partnership will continue, but it will shed much of its current anti-US overtones, with the emphasis shifting to economics and trade. Moscow will feel less obligated to support China on contentious issues in East Asia, such as the South China Sea.

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Russia will also act as a more independent and proactive player on the Korean peninsula. It is an open secret that Moscow’s harsh protestations against the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea were caused not by immediate concerns about its impact on Russian security, but rather at the behest of Beijing. On the North Korea issue, Russia is interested in the resumption of the Six Party Talks, which may be possible if Trump decides to reopen a dialogue with Pyongyang. With relations between Beijing and Pyongyang marked by growing distrust, Russia is now the only neighbour with whom North Korea remains on more or less friendly terms, which could enable Moscow to play a mediating role.

The Trump victory will also affect Russia’s relations with Japan. The stark fact that US alliances can no longer be considered ‘ironclad’ has now been laid bare. Even though Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to be granted an audience with the president-elect, Japan is unlikely to regain full confidence in the alliance. This makes it imperative for Tokyo to look for more partners in order to hedge against a rising China. Russia is one obvious choice. After the Trump win, we may expect Prime Minister Abe to re-double his efforts to court Putin.

Artyom Lukin is Associate Professor at the School of Regional and International Studies, Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok.

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/12/02/53330/

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis


November 25, 2016

 

Malaysia-China Relations: A New Turn? – Analysis

Malaysia’s Najib Razak. Photo by Malaysian government, Wikipedia Commons.

Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China especially in economic relations reflects Malaysia’s foreign policy of hedging major power influence in the region and globally. While it seeks closer ties with China, it does not imply that Malaysia is shifting away from the US.

By Johan Saravanamuttu and David Han Guo Xiong*

Since Najib Razak assumed the premiership of Malaysia in 2009 China has featured significantly in his foreign policy. It was Najib’s father Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s second prime minister, who was the first leader in Southeast Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic in 1974.

That said, Malaysia’s foreign policy has been one of hedging against major powers in the region and globally. While Malaysia has shown great awareness of China’s rise and importance in the Asia Pacific region, it remains highly cognisant of the political and economic role of the United States in the region.

Malaysia’s Perceptible Tilt Towards China

Thus, Malaysia is among the 12 countries that have signed the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand, on 5 February 2016. The TPP is interpreted by some observers to be a crucial pillar of US rebalancing in the Asia Pacific to check China’s rising political and economic influence.

However, it is uncertain whether the US would commit to the TPP after the Obama administration. Thus, seemingly as a hedge to the signing of the TPP, the Malaysian parliament approved on 20 October participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — thought to be China’s brainchild — just prior to the Malaysian premier’s seventh state visit to China this week.

Recent developments in Malaysia demonstrate a perceptible tilt towards China, particularly in economic relations. When President Xi Jinping unveiled China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road or “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) strategy some three years ago, Malaysia welcomed the initiative and has remained very enthusiastic about it.

On 3 September 2016, the Malaysian Minister of Transport, Liow Tiong Lai (concurrently President of the political party Malaysian Chinese Association, MCA) extolled the virtues of OBOR in a Malaysia-China Business Dialogue event in Kuala Lumpur. Liow suggested that Malaysia could be “China’s gateway to ASEAN” and a crucial link to the 65 OBOR countries across Asia, Europe and Africa.

Impact of New Posture

This new Malaysian posture has come together with concrete developments in Malaysia-China relations. Malaysia is currently China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN with total trade of some US$100 billion expecting to reach $160 billion by 2017. China has also recently become the largest direct foreign investor in Malaysia, overtaking Singapore, Japan, Netherlands and the US, through buying assets in Malaysia’s troubled 1MDB.

These multi-billion assets bought from the Malaysian national fund include Edra Global Energy sold to China General Nuclear Power Corp for $2.3billion and a 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia, 1MDB’s flagship 197-hectare property site in Kuala Lumpur, at a price tag of $1.7 billion to China Railway Construction Corp. The China railway corporation is also thought to be in pole position to undertake the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed railway worth some $16.6 billion.

More interestingly, in keeping with its OBOR policy, China has been deeply involved in the rebuilding and refurbishing of sea ports in Malaysia. According to Transport Minister Liow, Malaysia’s has signed a “port alliance” with China linking six of Malaysia’s ports to 11 of China’s. Currently, China is helping Malaysia to rebuild and expand port services at Klang, Malacca and Carey Island in the Straits of Malacca and Kuantan on the South China Sea. Some 70 to 80 percent of the ships passing through the Straits of Malacca are said to originate from China.

Kuantan on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula would be of great importance to Chinese maritime trade as well. Liow said his ministry is therefore encouraging China to participate in port construction across 120 kilometers of the Malacca Straits. According to Liow, the port alliance with China would help develop shipping, logistics and other related industries to augment the $1 trillion worth of OBOR trade.

Ramifications for Malaysia

There are three ramifications of Malaysia’s embrace of OBOR. Firstly, OBOR, which is partly funded by the AIIB, would help China to further expand its prominence in Southeast Asia. It is expected that through the OBOR, Malaysia would be a key node for China to access the ASEAN market. China’s increased economic prominence through OBOR and the AIIB could improve China’s image among ASEAN countries as a major player in boosting the economies of Southeast Asia.

The strengthening of economic ties between ASEAN and China would obviate potential conflict, and enhance the benefit for ASEAN and China to work closely together economically.

Secondly, Malaysia’s perceptible tilt towards China in the OBOR venture could be a nudge to the US to maintain its current commitment to Southeast Asia. If the US, under its new President, reneges on its commitment to TPP, this would be a setback for Malaysia as the TPP has the potential to enhance Malaysia-US economic ties.

Thus, Malaysia’s favourable tilt towards China and OBOR could help to cushion some of the negative fallout of such a scenario. It could also be a signal to the next US President that America risks losing the support of its friends to China if the US does not continue its economic rebalancing role in Asia.

Thirdly, domestically, strengthening economic growth would be advantageous to Najib’s administration. Due to domestic political challenges having a strong economic performance would enhance the legitimacy of Najib’s government. The economic benefits of OBOR would play a vital role in buttressing Najib’s regime.

Najib’s recent visit to China  will improve bilateral ties significantly with OBOR featuring prominently in this development. This does not however imply that Malaysia is coming under China’s sway while shifting away from the US.

Drawing closer towards China economically is a pragmatic move by the Malaysian government to expand its economic space and boost economic growth. Provided the US continues its commitments to Southeast Asia Malaysia will also seek to build up ties with the US for regional peace and development.

*Johan Saravanamuttu, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, was previously professor of political science at Science University of Malaysia (USM). David Han is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at RSIS.

Rudy or Mitt or Kelly as Trump’s Secretary of State


November 25, 2016

Rival factions of Republicans are locked in an increasingly caustic and public battle to influence President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice for secretary of state, leaving a prominent hole in an otherwise quickly formed national security team that is unlikely to be filled until next week at the earliest.

The debate inside Mr. Trump’s wide circle of formal and informal advisers — pitting supporters of one leading contender, Mitt Romney, against those of another, Rudolph W. Giuliani — has led to the kind of dramatic airing of differences that characterized Mr. Trump’s unconventional and often squabbling campaign team.

And it traces the outlines of the enduring split in the Republican Party between establishment figures who scoffed at Mr. Trump’s chances of victory and the grass-roots insurgents who backed him as a disrupter of the Washington power structure.

The most publicly vocal faction has been the group opposed to Mr. Romney, which has questioned whether he would be loyal after his searing criticism of Mr. Trump during the campaign. But Mr. Trump himself has told aides that he believes Mr. Romney “looks the part” and would make a fine secretary of state, a senior Trump official said on Thursday. Mr. Trump, who is always difficult to read and is capable of changing his mind at any minute, has also praised Mr. Giuliani in recent conversations with acquaintances.

Even Thanksgiving did not provide a reprieve from the extraordinary public efforts to cast doubt on Mr. Romney. Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on Twitter that she had received “a deluge” of concern from people warning against picking Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor.

Those raising concerns about Mr. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and an early and loyal supporter of Mr. Trump, have said they fear that his tangle of foreign business ties could lead to a damaging confirmation battle. They also worry that Mr. Giuliani lacks the vigor for the globe-trotting job.

Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani have made their interest in the role known to Mr. Trump. But while Mr. Giuliani has been very public about his intentions — angering Mr. Trump at times with his statements — Mr. Romney has been more reserved.

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Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, was an early and loyal supporter of Mr. Trump’s campaign. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The split over the two men has opened the door for another candidate altogether. One potential pick Mr. Trump and his team have entertained is Gen. John F. Kelly of the Marines, a former head of the United States Southern Command. Others are David H. Petraeus, the retired general and former C.I.A. director, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, according to two people involved in the process.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s deliberations, a spokesman, Jason Miller, said in an email Thursday, “The president-elect is meeting with a number of well-qualified potential selections for this important position who share his America First foreign policy — some of whom have been made public and others who have not — and the president-elect will make public his decision when he has finalized it.”

Mr. Romney would represent a departure from the hard-liners Mr. Trump has already picked for his national security team. But aides like Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, have expressed doubts about Mr. Romney’s loyalty given his denunciation of Mr. Trump as a “phony” and a “fraud.” Mr. Bannon and others have told colleagues they fear that a State Department under Mr. Romney could turn into something of a rogue agency.

Asked to explain her Twitter post about Mr. Romney, Ms. Conway said that while she trusted Mr. Trump’s judgment, she found it notable that the most outrage directed at Mr. Trump from the party’s grass-roots “is not against something he said, but something he may do.” In another post, she said that being “loyal” was an important characteristic for a secretary of state.

Others hoping to catch Mr. Trump’s ear have taken their message to a place they know he is likely to absorb it: cable news. Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host, who has spoken with Mr. Trump about his concerns that Mr. Giuliani would not be confirmed by the Senate, has taken to making those arguments on a daily basis on his morning show, which he knows Mr. Trump watches.

Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, and Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, have gone on television to try to dissuade Mr. Trump from picking Mr. Romney. Mr. Huckabee, who said during the 2008 presidential campaign that Mr. Romney reminded voters of “the guy who laid them off,” told Fox News on Wednesday that picking Mr. Romney would be “a real insult” to Mr. Trump’s supporters. Mr. Giuliani is a favorite of the Republican voters who turned out in large numbers to lift Mr. Trump to victory.

Sean Hannity, a Fox News host whose opinion Mr. Trump often privately solicits, has also been deeply critical of Mr. Romney on his show.

Shortly after the election, Mr. Giuliani told associates that he believed the job was his. He had communicated to Mr. Trump’s top advisers that it was the only post he was interested in, according to the people briefed on the discussions.

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Gen. John F. Kelly, the former head of the United States Southern Command, has emerged as an alternative to Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But he began to run afoul of Mr. Trump when he told a Wall Street Journal forum that he would probably be a better candidate than John R. Bolton, who served as one of George W. Bush’s ambassadors to the United Nations.

And when reports surfaced about Mr. Giuliani’s foreign business entanglements and highly compensated speechmaking, Mr. Trump grew even warier. His firm, Giuliani Partners, has had contracts with the government of Qatar, and Mr. Giuliani has given paid speeches to a shadowy Iranian opposition group that until 2012 was on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

As a backup plan, some of Mr. Trump’s aides encouraged him to meet with Mr. Romney. Though some in Mr. Trump’s inner circle, like Reince Priebus, his choice for chief of staff, thought that such a meeting would anger the president-elect’s supporters, Mr. Trump went ahead. In the meantime, he started sounding out Mr. Giuliani on a different post, director of national intelligence. Mr. Trump’s advisers have discussed the role for Mr. Giuliani, but there has been no indication he wants it.

What many people believed would be a perfunctory meeting with Mr. Romney last weekend at Mr. Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., turned into something more substantial.

Mr. Trump liked Mr. Romney quite a bit, and was intrigued by the possibility of such a camera-ready option to represent the country around the globe, advisers to Mr. Trump said. The following day, Mr. Giuliani met with Mr. Trump and urged him to make a decision in one direction or the other.

Mr. Romney, who was mocked in 2012 when he described Russia as the greatest geopolitical foe of the United States, has seen his stock in the Republican Party rise since his loss to President Obama, although he is still viewed skeptically by the party’s grass-roots. His allies believe that his position on Russia has been vindicated, but it is starkly at odds with Mr. Trump’s stated desire for a better relationship with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Privately, Mr. Giuliani has expressed his frustration at going from front-runner for secretary of state to a contender who has to convince Mr. Trump of his strengths. He is particularly irritated over the focus on his business ties.

The option of a third person like General Kelly has gained currency in recent days inside the transition team. A respected leader, General Kelly served as the senior military assistant to former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. He led the Southern Command, responsible for all United States military activities in South and Central America, for four years under Mr. Obama. And his appointment would fit Mr. Trump’s inclination toward putting people with combat experience in senior foreign policy roles.

The New Muhyiddin Yassin baptised by BERSIH 5.0?


November 2, 2016

The New Muhyiddin Yassin baptised by BERSIH 5.0?

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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Former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin speaks to the crowd at the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur November 19, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

If ever there was a rousing speech to stir the masses to fight for Malaysia and eject Najib Abdul Razak and his cronies, this had to be it. This was the ‘mother-of-all-speeches’, not just because of its content, and delivery, but more important because of the man who made it.

Who would have thought in their wildest dreams that former Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Muhyiddin Yassin, who uttered the infamous words, “I am Malay first, Malaysian second”, would have become the latest darling of Malaysia?

One could easily argue that the speech, which he made from the back of a truck in the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers, was the most important political speech of Muhyiddin’s life.

Having worked his way up to the post of DPM, then vilified for his ‘I am Malay first’ speech, then unceremoniously chucked out of Najib’s cabinet for opposing him, Muhyiddin has made a spectacular political comeback.

He said, “I must appeal to all of you (to) set aside all our differences, so that we may face (BN) on a one-to-one basis.We want an honest and clean government.”

His speech was spontaneous and off the cuff. There were no teleprompters. He spoke in English and Malay, sending the crowd wild with jubilation.

Who would have thought that the former UMNO Baru strongman would demand clean elections, and a democratic government?

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Such was his punchy delivery that he overshadowed former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had spoken before him. The former DPM has undergone a political rebirth from his political pariahdom. His reincarnation has been both elating and confusing.

Some of the nuggets in his speech, were; We must see change happen, in the next general election. The present government does not care about you, they only care about themselves. They have sold our pride. Malaysians must show that we are united, irrespective of where we come from.

Let us hope he has been sincere and is not just spouting platitudes. He spoke about a fair, just government for our children and our grandchildren. “The time is up for BN. We must dictate the future of the country. This is the time for us to work together. Malaysia belongs to all of us.”

“Time is up for the cronies, Riza Aziz, Jho Low and the ministers who speak nonsense. Berani kerana benar.”

A few days before the BERSIH 5 march, the Malay NGO Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM), announced that the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) should investigate Muhyiddin for his alleged affair.

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You just wonder what goes on in the minds of the JMM office-bearers. Are they obsessed with sex and time-wasting, or are they so obtuse that they cannot see that the nation is undergoing its most serious peacetime political crisis in living memory?

If JMM had any sense, and if they were of any use, they would have demanded that the religious authorities investigate Najib, his cabinet ministers, the zakat and Tabung Haji funds, and the mosque administrations to see the depth of corruption and abuses of public funds that have been allowed to go unchallenged.

Dr M will always be a crowd-puller

The other prominent ‘M’ for BERSIH 5 is former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who rushed home from a conference in Sudan to ensure he was able to participate in BERSIH 5. Mahathir has and will always be a crowd-puller.

Anyone with an elderly person in the family would be worried by Dr M’s gruelling schedule, but credit to the nonagerian, who was able to set aside his tiredness to come before Malaysians and encourage them to demand a clean and fair government.

Again, who would have thought that in our lifetimes, we would see the man, who once opposed protests and dissent, to declare that Najib must be taken down.

What a pity that his efforts to galvanise Malaysians towards reform have been dismissed by Najib, who said that Dr M likes making U-turns.

Finally, the most feared and respected ‘M’ is Maria Chin Abdullah. A fearless defender of human rights, a champion of women’s causes, and a mother of three. She does not present a threat to a clean government. All she, BERSIH 5 and decent Malaysians want are clean, free and fair elections and a return to good governance and democracy.

Locked in solitary confinement, in a 15ft by 8ft windowless cell, with two light bulbs on 24-hours a day, Maria’s comforts are a cold cement floor and wooden pangkin (bench).

So, why would the red-shirt thugs be ordered to terrorise all of Malaysia, and cultivate a culture of fear in the run-up to BERSIH 5? Why was her arrest ordered?

It is because Maria has the secret to the remaining ‘M’ – the largely sleeping dragon, the Malaysian rakyat, which she is trying to awaken.

Maria has the power to unite all Malaysians to oust Najib. That is why Maria has to be locked away in a secret location, detained for 28 days under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

She is not a terrorist; she is a freedom fighter. If Maria is free, Najib’s political future is at risk. No wonder Najib is afraid.

 

The Art of the Protest


November 22, 2016

The Art of the Protest

Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Recently, a government-backed bill sought to go further, punishing women who had abortions with up to five years in prison. Last month, Polish women responded with a one-day strike. On Oct. 3, tens of thousands of people, most of them women dressed in black, protested in major cities.

Poland is run by a nationalist, right-wing Roman Catholic party that controls Parliament, has taken over independent media, is disregarding rulings of the Constitutional Court and now proposes creating a militia outside the command of the armed forces.

It would not seem to be a government that would listen to such a protest. But three days later, its legislators voted down the abortion bill. Why? The government saw the size and speed of the mobilization, and its high concentration of young people, as a threat — one it worried could grow.

Yet they are not powerless. Seldom, in fact, has an out-of-power opposition been able to count on more resources — in broad support, political clout and moral authority.

But how these resources are used is what matters.If the purpose is to allow despondent or angry people to vent and show solidarity, then the anti-Trump protests going on in major cities already do that. But they will not reverse the election results, or alter what President-elect Trump seeks to do.

Protests can change policies, however — and often have. In other countries and throughout American history, ordinary citizens banding together have triumphed over governments, even when a single party holds sweeping control. Many of those protests used resources that the opposition to President-elect Trump enjoys today. They can learn from how those victories were won.

Plan, plan, plan. A half-century after the street struggles in Birmingham, no American movement has yet surpassed the strategic mastery of the civil rights movement. Civil rights leaders were fighting a war — nonviolently, but a war nevertheless — and they planned it as such. They mapped out protests to create escalating drama and pressure. They ran training schools for activists, teaching them how to ignore provocations to violence, among other lessons.

Provoke your opponent, if necessary. The turning point for civil rights came when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference allowed children to march in Birmingham (a decision criticized by many, including Malcolm X). Bull Connor, the city’s commissioner of public safety, ordered the police to turn attack dogs, night sticks and fire hoses on children marching peacefully — some of them 6 years old. The scenes made the nightly news and the front page of newspapers around the country.

The movement won by making a strong moral appeal to public opinion. It showed protesters making sacrifices for their cause. It lured opponents into violence that finally swayed the views of whites — a tactic similar to the playbook of Mahatma Gandhi in India, of forcing an oppressor to show his ugliest face. When that sight tips public opinion, government often listens.

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Protestors organized by ACT UP on the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. Credit Tim Clary/Associated Press

Think national, act local. Protests are most effective when they aim for an achievable goal in one location, knowing that the real battle is for national public opinion. Movements work on two distinct levels, Mark and Paul Engler wrote in their important analysis of nonviolent strategy, This Is an Uprising. On a local level, the civil rights movement often failed; for example, the concessions won by the Birmingham protesters were vague and modest. But it was Birmingham that finally gave momentum to the passage of federal civil rights legislation.

Use humor. In Serbia, the Otpor movement mobilized the country against the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by using pranks to cut through fear. Its daily fare consisted of street actions that painted Milosevic as absurd: When the tyrant dedicated a new bridge, Otpor built one out of Styrofoam and held its own ceremony.

Srdja Popovic, an Otpor leader, calls this “laughtivism.” (Here is a Fixes column about his strategies.) It does more than counter fear. Humor breaks down defenses, creating an openness that allows people to consider your argument. “If the joke is good, even the police get it,” said Ivan Marovic, another Otpor leader.

When appropriate, be confrontational. It is hard to imagine how marginalized people with AIDS were during the Reagan administration — and how hopeless their cause, both medically and politically.

No group more proudly claimed the title of “outsider” than Act Up, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, founded in March 1987 in New York. Many of its members were dying. They were despised and reviled.

The Englers call Act Up an example of the power of the extreme outsider strategy: change through confrontation. It was noisy and angry. It was the first group ever to close down the New York Stock Exchange. Members scattered the ashes of loved ones on the White House lawn. They held a “Stop the Church” demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Act Up’s polarizing language, actions and style put off even some influential gay men, who told the group it was hurting the cause. (The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had heard the same criticisms.) But even many who were repelled by Act Up’s approach still heard its message.

Although people condemn your tactics, they can still support your issue, the Englers wrote.

By pulling from one extreme, Act Up shifted broad public opinion. The group started a global AIDS activist movement. It played a major role in changing the rules to expedite new AIDS medicines — and then it helped to bring down their cost. It forced insurance companies to cover treatment. It procured a patient voice in treatment. It was a major force behind the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program for uninsured and underinsured people with AIDS.

Pull out the pillars. Gene Sharp, an American academic who is the guru of strategic nonviolence, argues that every leader, no matter his power, relies on obedience. Without the consent of the governed, power disappears. The goal of a civic movement should be to withdraw consent. Pull out the pillars, and the whole structure falls.

Senior citizens and his police were two of Milosevic’s most important pillars. Otpor members worked on both whenever they were arrested (which was quite often). Grandparents got angry when high-school students were repeatedly arrested or accused of terrorism.

And every arrest presented a chance to talk to the police. At the barricades, Otpor led cheers for the police. Over time, the police got to know the students they kept arresting, and some came to admire the youths’ commitment to nonviolence. “Police officers would complain to us about their salaries,” said Slobodan Homen, an Otpor leader. He offered some advice for Milosevic: “If later you order these people to shoot us — well, don’t count on it.”

This strategy also works for policy change. Advocates for gay marriage won early victories among many churches, the American Bar Association and child development experts. This helped transform influential opponents of gay marriage into influential allies.

The most important pillar on policy matters is Congress: Presidents need to pass their bills. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush failed to pass signal legislative priorities, despite controlling Congress. This was not because of grass-roots activism, but because of lobbying and spending by powerful and wealthy groups.

Under Mr. Clinton, health care reform fell victim to, among other things, “Harry and Louise” ads featuring a fictional couple, financed by the health insurance industry.

Mr. Bush’s top priority in 2005, when he had just won re-election and control of Congress, was to allow people to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts. It was the focus of his State of the Union speech and town meetings he attended around the country. Yet he could not get it through Congress. “The simplest explanation is that President Bush overestimated the amount of political capital he had banked,” wrote William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution. “After all, he had prevailed by the smallest popular vote margin of any president re-elected in the 20th century. And there was evidence that the campaign’s bitter, divisive tone had taken its toll. As President Bush’s second term began, he enjoyed the lowest approval rating — just 50 percent — of any just-re-elected president since modern polling began.”

Exploit galvanizing events. During the 1970s, the United States built nuclear power plants. Lots of them. The first major protests came from the Clamshell Alliance, formed in 1976 to oppose the construction of the Seabrook Station plant in New Hampshire.

The Clamshell Alliance failed to stop Seabrook’s construction, but it gave rise to a grass-roots antinuclear movement. Groups around the country staged protests and sit-ins that slowed the pace of new reactor construction.

Then on March 28, 1979, Reactor Number 2 at the Three Mile Island station lost coolant and suffered a partial meltdown. The nuclear reactor industry never recovered.

Three Mile Island came 13 years after another partial meltdown, at the Fermi 1 reactor outside Detroit. Haven’t heard of it? One reason is that at the time, there was no movement ready to respond.

Events that galvanize public attention occur frequently. Most lead to nothing. But a few become sparks for sweeping change. What makes the difference is the existence of a prepared movement.

Thankfully, a galvanizing event need not be a nuclear meltdown. It does need to be an attention-grabbing drama where one side holds the moral advantage. When activists don’t have one, they have sometimes created one: think Bull Connor’s dogs, or Gandhi’s Salt March.

President-elect Trump has no popular mandate (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin larger than John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, or Al Gore in 2000). Even many who voted for him do not endorse some of what he advocates or represents. Many traditional pillars of Republican administrations are less than firm in their support, beginning with the wary Republicans in Congress — and some are starting out opposed, notably much of the foreign policy establishment. The president-elect, as Mrs. Clinton said, can be “provoked by a tweet.” He is impulsive. His campaign set a new standard for what Galston called a “bitter, divisive tone.” He and his advisers hold bigoted views that overwhelming majorities of the American people reject as immoral.

What terrifies many people about a President Trump, in other words, is also what makes, for civil resistance, a uniquely promising moment.

Southeast Asia get trumped


November 21. 2016

Southeast Asia get trumped

by Le Hong Hiep

http://www.khmertimes.com

Le Hong Hiep is a Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore and author of the forthcoming book “Living Next to the Giant: The Political Economy of Vietnam’s Relations With China Under Doi Moi.

President Obama has a cool drink outside an ASEAN meeting in Laos in September. The US may not be as connected to the region now. Reuters

With his shocking victory in the US presidential election, President-Elect Donald Trump has made history – and made a lot of people very afraid. In fact, his rise threatens to incite a revolution that shakes the foundations not only of American politics, but also of global peace and prosperity.

One region that is likely to start feeling tremors soon is Southeast Asia.Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump espoused an “America first” worldview, emphasizing that he would follow through on US international commitments only when it suits him. This has rattled many a US ally and partner, including the countries of Southeast Asia, which fear that they will be all but ignored by a key guarantor of stability in their neighborhood.

This would represent a notable reversal from the last eight years, during which President Barack Obama made a concerted effort to deepen America’s ties with Southeast Asia. Under Mr. Obama’s stewardship, the US acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and joined the East Asia Summit.

In 2013, the US became the first ASEAN dialogue partner to establish a permanent mission to the organization. Last year, the country forged a strategic partnership with ASEAN. And, earlier this year, Mr. Obama hosted the first US-ASEAN summit on American soil.

Mr. Obama also brought four ASEAN members into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-regional trade deal that would promote US economic exchange with the region.

Mr. Obama also helped to cement bilateral ties with most countries in the region, visiting nine out of 10 during his two terms in office. Had a US government shutdown not forced him to cancel a trip to Brunei in 2013, he would have had a perfect record.

To be sure, America’s ties with Thailand and the Philippines have deteriorated somewhat during Mr. Obama’s second term, owing to the US President’s criticism of violations of democratic norms and human rights in both countries. But that regression has been more than offset by progress in America’s relationships with Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and especially Vietnam.

Mr. Obama’s efforts in Southeast Asia were all part of his broader strategic “pivot” to Asia, announced in 2011. Aimed at helping the US to maintain its strategic primacy in the Asia-Pacific region, the policy has been quietly welcomed by most regional actors, as it dovetails with their desire to check China’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

All of this may be about to change. Mr. Trump is likely to focus overwhelmingly on domestic issues, at the expense of America’s strategic interests abroad. Indeed, he may well back away from strategic engagement with ASEAN and its members, causing their relationships with the US to deteriorate.

If he fails to show up at important regional meetings like the East Asian Summits, that deterioration will become even more pronounced.

Mr. Trump’s indifferent attitude will also hurt bilateral relations. To be sure, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines may prefer a US President who does not trouble himself to criticize their governments’ human-rights abuses, corruption or constitutional shenanigans. But US relations with other countries in the region may stall, if not deteriorate, as confidence in Mr. Trump’s willingness to follow through on US commitments collapses.

Economic ties are also likely to suffer. Under Mr. Trump, who has revealed strong protectionist tendencies, the TPP will stay moribund, at best. The US-ASEAN Connect initiative, which Mr. Obama proposed at the summit earlier this year and which aims to boost America’s economic engagement with the regional grouping, may also go nowhere.

It is not only Southeast Asia that will suffer from Mr. Trump’s indifference. Australia, India and Japan – key US allies and security partners in the Asia-Pacific region – may also find it difficult to connect with Mr. Trump, further undermining faith in the US-led regional security architecture.

The strategic rebalancing toward Asia that Mr. Obama worked so hard to advance may be thrown into reverse, dealing a heavy blow to Asia and the US alike.

Image result for China welcomes Trump

One Asian country that may welcome the election’s outcome is China. Although Mr. Trump has criticized China extensively for supposedly stealing American jobs – and even blamed it for creating the “hoax” of climate change – he may take a softer stance on Chinese strategic expansionism in the region, especially in the South China Sea, than Mr. Obama did.

In a far-fetched but not implausible scenario, Mr. Trump may even strike a deal with China over its territorial claims, disregarding the interests of US allies, from Japan to the Philippines. Such a move would be particularly devastating to perceptions of Mr. Trump’s America in Southeast Asia.

The good news is that this outcome is not guaranteed. Campaign rhetoric is one thing; governing is quite another. Once in the White House, a heavily advised Mr. Trump may realize that maintaining some continuity in America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, is more in line with US interests than the alternative. If nothing else, Mr. Trump may resist the idea of China gaining strategic primacy in the region.

For Mr. Trump, who made his career in real estate, perhaps the best way to look at it is in business terms. The US would be remiss to squander all the significant investment that his predecessor has made in Southeast Asia. Copyright: Project Syndicate