When China becomes No. 1, what then?

January 5, 2016

When China becomes No. 1, what then?

by Kishore Mahbubani*


In introducing this lecture, the Harvard Kennedy School said that for the first time in more than 200 years, a non-Western power, China, will have the largest economy in the world. China’s emergence will change our world order. To understand how China will behave when it becomes number one, this lecture by Kishore Mahbubani will introduce several questions: What are the priorities of the Chinese leaders? What impact have American policies had on China? Will China behave as America does when China becomes number one?

Kishore Mahbubani

It is truly a great honour to be invited to deliver the Albert H. Gordon lecture this year. The hardest part is deciding how to start. Asians always start with an apology. Americans always start with a joke. Sadly, I could not find a good joke, certainly not one as good as the joke that Richard Fisher started with when he delivered this lecture in February 2009.

This is what he said: “Yesterday morning, as I got on the plane to fly up here, I turned to Nancy and said, “In your wildest dreams did you ever envision me following in the footsteps of Mikhail Gorbachev, George H. W. Bush, David Rockefeller and Ban Ki-moon in giving the Gordon Lecture at the Kennedy School?” And she replied, “I hate to let you down, Richard, but after 35 years of marriage, you rarely appear in my wildest dreams.”

My wife Anne and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in Greece just before coming here. I am sure she would say the same as Nancy. Anyway, as a good Asian, let me apologise for the fact that I have no joke.

It is also no joke that we are probably living through the greatest transformation in human history we have seen. This was the underlying theme of my two most recent books, “The New Asian Hemisphere” and “The Great Convergence”. However, to illustrate this point more clearly, let me cite three spectacular recent developments whose profound implications have not been adequately noticed. In the spirit of the Albert H. Gordon Lecture series, let me pick three examples from the financial sector.

We all know that the world experienced a global financial crisis in 2008-09. We also know that the Fed launched a series of unorthodox monetary policy measures, most notably quantitative easing (QE), to avert a deep recession. What few noticed was what the Fed’s decision meant for Beijing.

Until the onset of the crisis, Chinese leaders were happy that the US and China had settled into a comfortable pattern of mutual dependence. China relied on the US markets to generate exports and jobs. The US relied on China to buy US Treasury Bills to fund US deficit spending. Tom Friedman, in his usual brilliant way, captured this interdependence with a simple metaphor. He said, “We are Siamese twins, but most unlikely ones – joined at the hip, but not identical.”

This Chinese belief that the US government depended on China was further reinforced when President Bush sent an envoy to Beijing in late 2008 to request Beijing not to stop buying US Treasury Bills to avoid rattling the markets further. The Chinese leaders readily agreed and probably felt very smug as this confirmed that the US was also dependent on China.

This smugness was shattered when the US Fed announced the first round of QE measures in November 2008. The Fed’s actions demonstrated that the US did not have to rely on China to buy US treasury bills. The Fed could create its own money to do so. This decision had profound implications for the world. Axel Merk, the president of the investment advisory firm Merk Investments said, “The US is no longer focusing on the quality of its Treasuries. In the past, Washington sought to promote a strong dollar through sound fiscal management. Today, however, policymakers are simply printing greenbacks.” Merk said that by relying on the Federal Reserve’s printing press, the US has effectively told other nations that ‘it’s our dollar – it’s your problem’.

It was clearly a mistake for the Chinese leaders to believe that they had created a relationship of mutual dependence. When China decided to buy almost a trillion dollars of US Treasury bills, it had to do so from export revenues earned from the toil and sweat of Chinese workers. However, if the US wanted to repay this trillion dollars, all the Fed had to do was to increase the size of its balance sheet. This is why several leading economists have said that the US enjoys an “exorbitant privilege” in being able to repay its debts by increasing money supply. The term was coined by Valery Giscard d’Estaing and the French economist Jacques Rueff explained its workings. Barry Eichengreen famously wrote a book on the topic in 2010.

Let me quickly mention the two other developments whose implications have not been fully noted. It is well-known that in recent years, the US has prosecuted several foreign banks, including HSBC, RBS, UBS, Credit Suisse, and Standard Chartered. For example, Standard Chartered Bank was fined 340 million dollars for making payments to Iran. Most Americans reacted with equanimity to the fine paid by Standard Chartered Bank and thought it was just that the Bank was fined for dealing with the “evil” Iranian regime. However, few Americans noticed that Standard Chartered Bank, domiciled in the UK, had broken no British laws. Nor had they violated any mandatory sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. However, since almost all international payments have to go through the United States payment mechanism, the Standard Chartered Bank was fined for violating American laws.

To put it simply, what the US was doing in this case was to say that American laws applied to non-American citizens and non-American corporations operating outside America. This is called extra-territorial application of domestic laws.

The third development was the threat of the US to deny countries access to the SWIFT system. Since all international payments have to go through the SWIFT system, any country denied access to the SWIFT is thrown into a black hole and denied access to any kind of international trading and investment. In a recent column, Fareed Zakaria described well the Russian reaction to the possibility of being denied access to the SWIFT system. In Western media commentaries, Putin is often portrayed as the bad guy and his successor as well as predecessor, Medvedev, is portrayed as the good guy. Yet, it was the “good guy” who went ballistic when he was told of this threat. This is what Medvedev said, “Russian response – economically and otherwise – will know no limits.”

I begin with these stories for a simple reason. Events such as these will have a deep impact in determining the answer to the biggest question of our time: what happens when China becomes number one in the world? Clearly, the answer to this question will determine significantly the course of the 21st century. Hence, we should study this question carefully.

Let me begin with what I hope you will agree are three incontrovertible facts. First, China will become the number one economic power in the world. Second, most Americans, like most Westerners, view China’s rise with great foreboding. Third, the role that China will play as the number one economic power has not been cast in stone. How the world, especially America, reacts to China’s rise will help to influence China’s behaviour in the future. If we make the right decisions now, China could well emerge as a benign great power (even though most Americans find this virtually inconceivable).

This is why it is timely to address the topic of what happens when China becomes number one. It is always better to prepare for the inevitable than to pretend that it will not happen. So far, on balance, America has reacted wisely to China’s rise. However, it is always easier to be wise when a power assumes that it will be number one forever. When the reality sinks in that the number one power is about to become the number two power, it is conceivable that fear may replace wisdom as the dominant driving force in American policy towards China. It would be perfectly normal for this to happen. My goal in this lecture is to try to persuade my American friends to continue to react wisely to China’s rise.

To achieve this goal, I will make a three-part argument. First, I will try to explain what I think are the goals and ambitions of China’s leaders as China emerges as number one. Secondly, I will explain how several wise American policies have so far managed to allow the relatively peaceful emergence of a new great power. Thirdly, I would like to conclude by recommending that America can protect its long-term interests by reacting even more wisely to China’s rise.

Let me begin with the first question: what are the goals and ambitions of China’s leaders as China emerges as number one? Since China is still run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), it is conceivable that the goal of China’s leaders could be the same as the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party (like Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev): to prove the superiority of the Soviet Communist System. As Khrushchev famously said on November 18, 1956, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you”.

One of the biggest sources of misunderstanding between America and China arises from China’s decision to retain the term “Communist” in the name of its party. This may clearly signify a commitment to Communist ideology. Yet, even a brief survey of China’s deeds rather than China’s words will show that China has effectively walked away from Communist ideology. Deng Xiaoping encapsulated this shift with his famous remark, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black and white. If it catches mice, it is a good cat.” Effectively, Deng was saying: “It doesn’t matter if the ideology is communism or capitalism. If it helps us, we will use it.” Effectively, China behaves more as a capitalist country rather than as a Communist country, but for complicated internal political reasons, it cannot abandon the term “Communist”.

So if the Chinese leaders are not defending or promoting Communist ideology, what cause are they trying to achieve? The answer is simple and direct: they would like to revive Chinese civilization. If there is one thing that motivates China’s leaders, it is their memory of the many humiliations that China has suffered over the past 150 years. If there is a credo that drives them, it is a simple one: “No more humiliation”. This is why they want to make China a great and powerful nation again. Xi Jinping explained this goal well in his address to UNESCO on March 27, 2014. He said, “The Chinese people are striving to fulfil the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation. The Chinese dream is about prosperity of the country, rejuvenation of the nation, and happiness of the people. It reflects both the ideal of the Chinese people today and our time-honoured tradition to seek constant progress. The Chinese dream will be realized through balanced development and mutual reinforcement of material and cultural progress. Without the continuation and development of civilization or the promotion and prosperity of culture, the Chinese dream will not come true.”

The revival of the great Chinese civilization is something we should welcome. If the CCP could change its name to ‘Chinese Civilisation Party’, it would do a lot to assuage Western concerns. It has already transformed itself into a meritocratic talent-seeking mechanism that is constantly searching for the best leaders to rule China. Despite the many ups and downs in the history of the CCP, this is what the CCP has become. If the Chinese have finally succeeded in finding the right mechanism to revive Chinese civilization, we should, in theory, welcome this development.

In practice, it is a fact that the West will not rest easy till China transforms itself into a liberal democracy. The Economist, a leading Western magazine, reflects these views. The Economist said in its issue of September 20-26, 2014 that Xi “has become the most powerful Chinese ruler certainly since Deng, and possibly since Mao.” It then calls on Xi to use this enormous power for the greater good and change the system.

The Economist assumes, as most Westerners do, that if China’s system is changed and a Western-style democracy emerges in China, this will be an unmitigated good. This is a dangerous assumption to make. A more democratic China is likely to be a more nationalist China. A more nationalist China could well be a more assertive and aggressive China. Such a China would launch a “popular” war against Japan and act in a far more belligerent fashion over territorial disputes, like those in the South China Sea.

In this sense, the CCP is delivering a major global public good by restraining nationalist forces and voices in China. From time to time, it has to allow some of these forces to be expressed; it has to allow its people to vent nationalist sentiments. However, the CCP also knows when to draw back from volatile situations, as it did with Japan, India, the Philippines and Vietnam in recent years. The West should be careful about wishing for early democracy in China. Its dream could become a nightmare.

At the same time, the West must recognise and respect that China is different; that it is not going to become “Western”. Therefore, the wisest course for the West to adopt would be to allow the present system to continue and to allow it to evolve and change at its own pace.

This brings me to the second part of my argument. As I said earlier, wise American policies have allowed China to emerge peacefully. Some of this wisdom arose out of historical necessity. At the height of the Cold War, when America genuinely feared Soviet expansionism, it reached out to China to balance the Soviet Union. Indeed, America reached out to China when China had emerged out of one of its most brutal phases. Human rights were not a factor in American policy towards China then. This paved the way for Deng to use America as an example to persuade Chinese people to switch away from central planning to free market economies.

In the 1990s, official US-China relations went through a series of ups and downs. Despite the efforts of President George H.W. Bush to keep the relationship on an even keel, the Tiananmen Square episode on June 4, 1989 assaulted American sensibilities and constrained his ability to improve relations. Tiananmen could have derailed US-China relations. When President Clinton took office in January 1993, after having described the leaders of China as the “butchers of Beijing”, one could easily have predicted a far bumpier road. Fortunately, Bill Clinton reacted wisely. I was present at the first Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting at Blake Island in November 1993 and saw with my own eyes how Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin made an enormous effort to reach out to each other. By the end of the day, their mutual wariness was replaced by a significant degree of personal bonhomie. This episode demonstrated that the United States had been wise in welcoming China into the APEC in 1991. Such a move not only garnered the US diplomatic goodwill but also ensured that China adopted the membership of yet another international forum whose rules and regulations it agreed to abide by. Later, the US also worked with China in the East Asia Summit. In addition, the US and China collaborate daily in the UN Security Council to manage the “hot issues” of the day.

The tragedy of 9/11 further solidified US-China cooperation. Apprehensions about the rise of China were replaced by a focus on the War on Terror. East Asia stopped being a priority for the United States for several years. This allowed China to rise peacefully and for the two countries to avoid the “Thucydides trap”.

America made several wise decisions during this time. Firstly, America proceeded to admit China into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001. Although the admission was made on the basis of stiff conditions, these conditions ironically benefited China and forced it to open up to world trade – leading to its current pre-eminent position as the largest economy in the world in PPP terms.

Another judicious call was to pay attention to China’s sensitivities on Taiwan. China had always regarded Washington’s policy towards Taiwan with suspicion, as they feared that the US could use the Taiwan issue as a means to destabilise China. Instead, America reacted wisely when in late 2003, the Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian suggested that a referendum be held to assess the views of the Taiwanese people on independence. In response, President George W. Bush made it clear that the United States did not approve of his move. He said: “The comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally to change the status quo, which we oppose.” This was wise statesmanship, even if it was partly the result of Washington’s dependence on Beijing’s support for other more pressing issues, such as Iraq and North Korea.

Some of these wise policies emerged out of America’s selfish interests, especially during the Cold War. However, it is possible that few Americans are actually aware how wise America has been. And even fewer Americans understand that it is in America’s national interest to continue these wise policies towards China. For example, since Deng Xiaoping opened up China in 1978 American universities have educated hundreds of thousands of Chinese students. In the years 2005 to 2012 alone, 788,882 Chinese students studied in American universities. This number has risen steadily – in the 2013-2014 academic year, 275,000 Chinese students were enrolled at American universities . This is an enormous gift from America to China. Future historians will be puzzled by this massive act of generosity as many of these students then return to China to build up the Chinese economy and to create innovations in many different spheres of science and technology that propel China forward in areas ranging from space exploration to defence.

China has also contributed to the maintenance of friendly relations between the two countries. Firstly, China has “swallowed bitter humiliation” time and again and has reacted prudently to America’s mistakes. These mistakes included the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the downing of a US spy plane in Hainan Island in China in April 2001. The tact and restraint demonstrated by China in both situations averted military action between the two countries.

I have described these events in some detail as they help to explain a contemporary geopolitical miracle. Normally, when the world’s largest emerging power is about to pass the world’s greatest power, we should be seeing a rising level of tensions between the two (with the historical exception of one Anglo-Saxon power, the US, replacing another Anglo-Saxon power, the UK). It would therefore be perfectly normal to see rising tensions between the US and China today. Instead, we see the exact opposite: perfectly normal and calm relations between the US and China. This is a miracle.

However, miracles are by definition historical aberrations. They don’t last. Soon, we will revert to the historical norm and competition and tension could rise between America and China. To prevent this from happening, both sides will have to make a special effort to continue on their extraordinarily wise courses.

On the part of China, this means that it will have to learn lessons from the mistakes it has made in recent years in its dealings with its neighbours, especially Japan and Southeast Asia. For example, it completely mishandled an episode in which a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard patrols near the disputed Senkaku Islands on September 7, 2010. China unwisely demanded an apology from Japan after having publicly humiliated Japan into releasing the fishing boat. Similarly, China also mishandled the Korean crisis of 2010 by not condemning North Korea’s shelling of the South Korean island of Yeongpyeong. China also made aggressive statements and adopted more aggressive positions on the South China Sea in 2010 and 2011. When China submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf a map including the nine-dotted-line territorial claim in the South China Sea on May 7, 2009, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China. Vietnam and Malaysia followed. Indonesia also registered a protest, although it had no claims on the South China Sea. In the face of this opposition, Chinese officials refused to back down.

China has also made mistakes vis-à-vis its relations with ASEAN as a whole. The lowest point in China-ASEAN relations occurred in July 2012 at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Until then, for every year since August 1967, ASEAN had always succeeded in issuing an agreed joint communiqué after each Foreign Ministers’ meeting. However, in July 2012, for the first time in forty five years, ASEAN failed to do so. They failed because they could not agree on the paragraph referring to South China Sea. Nine of the ten countries agreed that ASEAN should reiterate the previously-agreed paragraph on this issue. However, the host country, Cambodia, refused to do so. It later emerged that Cambodia had come under heavy pressure from Chinese officials not to agree to these previously-agreed paragraphs on South China Sea. Clearly, China’s rise had made some Chinese officials arrogant.

While China should learn from the mistakes it has made, America should study its own recent deeds through a simple lens: would it like China to replicate these deeds when China becomes number one? The reason for using this lens is that when China clearly becomes number one, it is likely to replicate abroad America’s deeds, not its words.

Bill Clinton saw this coming long before any other American did. In a significant speech at Yale in 2003, he said the following:

“If you believe that maintaining power and control and absolute freedom of movement and sovereignty is important to your country’s future, there’s nothing inconsistent in that [the US continuing to behaving unilaterally]. [The US is] the biggest, most powerful country in the world now. We’ve got the juice and we’re going to use it. . . . But if you believe that we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behaviour that we would like to live in when we’re no longer the military political economic superpower in the world, then you wouldn’t do that. It just depends on what you believe.”

Actually, as I document in The Great Convergence, Bill Clinton wanted to prepare his fellow Americans for the day when America becomes number two and China becomes number one while he was President. However, all his advisers firmly told him it would be politically suicidal for any sitting American President to talk of America becoming number two. Hence, he could only speak about it after he left office. Sadly, he has not said more on this issue after raising it in Yale. Hence, I fear that Americans are not psychologically prepared for the day when America will become number two.

All this brings me back to the three stories that I began the lecture with. America was able to and could threaten to act unilaterally in all three cases because it is clear that America is still the reigning Emperor of the global financial system. Indeed, like many strong ruling monarchs, it enjoys absolute sovereignty in these areas and is not subject to any checks and balances.

It unilaterally controls the global reserve currency, the US dollar. In theory, the US dollar is a global public good, but in practice, it is an instrument of American domestic and foreign policies. As former Treasury Secretary John Connally said in 1971, “It’s our currency but your problem”. Clearly, global interests are not taken into consideration when the US manages the US dollar. This is why many countries, besides China, were troubled by the QE measures.

Similarly, America acted unilaterally when it applied its domestic laws in an extraterritorial fashion to foreign banks. Its threat to use SWIFT, another global public good, to unilaterally punish Russia could have had even more devastating consequences for the global order.

And what would the devastating consequences be? To understand this, I hope you will look at my latest book, The Great Convergence. One reason why the world has been remarkably stable and peaceful over the past few decades is that the rest of the world, especially Asians, who have been passive for almost two centuries, had agreed to accept and work with the Western-created family of global institutions, including the UN, IMF, and the World Bank. They agreed to do so because they believed that these institutions were serving global interests, not Western interests.

This is therefore the big danger of the US using global public goods, like the US dollar, international banking transactions, and the SWIFT system, for unilateral purposes and ends. It will encourage the world, especially China, to work towards creating an alternative global order. If that happens, the world will become a far messier place.

This is why I was happy to deliver this lecture at this time. We stand at one of the most important forks in human history. I hope America will continue its wise policies of strengthening a global order that serves global interests, not just American interests. If America does this, China will do the same. If this happens, nothing will change fundamentally when China becomes number one. We will continue to live in a safe and predictable world.

Therefore the final question I need to answer is, “Will China emerge as a responsible stakeholder?” – to use the famous words of Bob Zoellick. My simple answer is this “China could emerge as a stakeholder that is as responsible as the United States”. Since America is still the number one power in the world, the big question that America should ask itself is a simple one: would it feel comfortable living in a world where China behaves just as America did when it was the sole superpower?

*Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is the author of “The Great Convergence: Asia, the West and the Logic of One World.”

Source: http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=3643

2016 Presidential Race–Who will emerge the Winner come next November

November 8, 2016

Early days.  Vice President Joe Bidden has yet to decide whether he will join the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee race. At present Hilary Clinton is the favorite since that her rival Mr. Bernie Sanders is a lightweight given her credentials,  formidable campaign team and financial resources.

The question is will Bidden’s entry into the race make any difference to Mrs. Clinton’s chance of becoming the Presidential nominee for her party. Should we not be worrying who will be the Republican Party’s flagbearer coming next November. Vice President Bidden is a more credible challenger than Mr. Sanders. Mrs. Clinton could have a good fight in hand if  Mr. Bidden chooses to throw his hat in the race. Then it will be interesting to know who President Obama will endorse, his Vice President or his former Secretary of State?

American Presidential elections are always a spectacle to watch. I was privileged to be a witness to the 1968 Election when Richard Milhous Nixon of the Republican candidate took on his Democratic Party counterpart, Hubert Horatio Humphrey and won that intensely contested and close race to The White House.–Din Merican

Sunday Review | Letters

2016 Presidential Race–Who will emerge the Winner come next November


We asked readers to offer their predictions (not necessarily preferences) for the 2016 nominees of both parties and received almost 700 responses. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marco Rubio were most often mentioned — until a social media campaign by supporters of Bernie Sanders led to a flood of endorsements of his candidacy. Trailing Mr. Rubio were Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. A few readers suggested that the G.O.P. convention would be deadlocked and that Mitt Romney or Michael R. Bloomberg would be drafted.

John Kasich and Carly Fiorina led the V.P. predictions for the Republicans. Among others mentioned were Representative Paul Ryan, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. One reader, Heather Spitzberg, predicted that Donald Trump would be his own running mate: “He wouldn’t have it any other way. He’ll just use all his money to clone himself.”

For the Democrats, Julián Castro and Martin O’Malley were most frequently named for the V.P. spot. Others mentioned included Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mr. Sanders, Joe Biden for a repeat performance, and Tim Kaine and Jim Webb, current and former senators from Virginia.

Here is a sampling of the responses, which is intended simply to stimulate thought and conversation and not as a scientific poll.

My prediction for the Democrats is Hillary Rodham Clinton (president) and Julián Castro (vice president). Mr. Castro would add youth to the ticket and draw the Latino voters to the Democrats, not that they need much of an incentive. Also, Mr. Castro would add sex appeal to the ticket.

Rubio and KasichFor the Republicans, assuming that the grown-ups get a hold of the helm, I would predict Marco Rubio (for president) and John Kasich (vice president). Mr. Rubio would appeal to conservatives and Latinos and get some of the youth vote. Mr. Kasich would provide gravitas and common sense. Mr. Kasich would also, I think, appeal to the more moderate Republicans and independents.


Palm Springs, Calif.

A Donald Trump-Marco Rubio ticket is exactly what the RepublicanTrump-Rubio Party needs. Mr. Trump is a prepackaged star who excites the masses more than recent G.O.P. candidates. Mr. Trump’s rejection of political correctness is winning the respect of Americans. Mr. Rubio would aid Mr. Trump’s image among minority voters and provide him with a young, charismatic V.P. skilled in politics as usual.

A Bernie Sanders-Cory Booker ticket would appeal to many Democrats. Democrats often rally around the candidates who embody integrity and a commitment to the average American. Mr. Sanders’s refusal of big money and his progressive voting record, coupled with Mr. Booker’s history of selfless public service, provide the ethos necessary to inspire a large voter turnout.


Chris Christie will be at the top of the Republican ticket once people realize that while Donald Trump’s way of telling it like it is may be much more entertaining, Mr. Christie has a similar demeanor and confidence without the nonsense. Oh, and some capacity to govern. John Kasich will become his vice president, sealing their moderation, because of his ability to show empathy and kindness — two qualities that Mr. Christie lacks.

On the Democratic side Hillary Rodham Clinton will inevitably (sigh) take the crown with her vast amount of campaign funds, endorsements and media support. Even though the Democratic passion is behind Bernie Sanders, older generations refuse to support him because they view him as unelectable. Martin O’Malley will be Mrs. Clinton’s young and fresh face to play the role of her sidekick.

COLIN REIS, Portland, Ore.

The Republican electorate will conclude that it needs someone who can be attractive to conservatives while speaking to the political center. They will therefore nominate Marco Rubio. He won’t pick John Kasich despite Ohio’s electoral votes and instead seek to stoke conservative enthusiasm as well as going all-in for the Latino vote by selecting Ted Cruz as his running mate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Democrats’ nominee. She will be sorely tempted to go for the Latino vote by selecting Julián Castro as her running mate, but in the end will decide she is more in need of white working men and choose Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia, a moderate from a state with a Democratic governor who can appoint another Democrat to the Senate.


This is the season when outsiders are in, insiders are out and the electorate is restless. I predict that voters will decide that they don’t like their current candidates (or most of them, anyway) and draft the ones they want. On the Democratic side, a Biden for President movement will be relaunched. Joe Biden will change his mind and run, and he’ll select Ron Wyden, a liberal senator from Oregon, as his running mate. Besides, Biden-Wyden sounds so lyrical on a bumper sticker.

The Republicans will draft Paul Ryan to run as their nominee. Now that he has a track record of accepting a position he didn’t ask for, he readily agrees. Not to be outdone by the Biden-Wyden team, he selects Rand Paul as his running mate. His lawn signs read “Paul-Paul.”

EILEEN WEST, Pleasantville, N.Y.

I believe that Senator Marco Rubio will be selected in the primaries to run for president on the G.O.P. ticket, with Ben Carson as his vice president. Mr. Rubio represents the Republican Party’s best chances of capturing the presidency in 2016. He is young, smart and savvy — in short, the Republican Party’s fast-rising star. Mr. Carson will be his running mate as the G.O.P. will want to emphasize diversity and to show that it isn’t just the party of “old white men.”

Hilary -BernieFor the Democrats, it will be Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Bernie Sanders as her running mate. Mrs. Clinton is the strongest candidate on the Democratic side, and it wouldn’t hurt her chances if she ran with the very popular — yet not presidential — Mr. Sanders by her side.


The Democratic ticket will be Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Why: Voters will find Mrs. Clinton’s vast knowledge, focus and experience inspiring. And she has the donors. Mr. Brown is articulate, ultrasmart and charismatic. His straightforwardness will enthuse the Bernie Sanders voters — and he is from Ohio, a swing state.

The Republican ticket will be Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina. Why: Rubio-FiorinaHe is charismatic, youthful and quick on his feet, and speaks confidently, even when saying things that are false. But people like certainty. He’s also from Florida, a swing state. And Republicans will hope his background will attract some Latino voters. Mrs. Fiorina is factually challenged in the same way as Mr. Rubio, but, like Mr. Rubio, she speaks commandingly. Republicans will assume that she will take some of the female vote from Mrs. Clinton.

JEFFREY AINIS. Alhambra, Calif.

On the Republican ticket, I predict Marco Rubio, president; John Kasich, vice president. This is the ticket the Republicans need to have a chance of winning: popular politicians from the two key electoral swing states of Florida and Ohio and a Hispanic heading the ticket.

For the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton, president; Elizabeth Warren, vice president. If you’re going to break the glass ceiling, why not smash it? Ms. Warren will bring the progressive, Bernie Sanders voice and energy to the campaign that Mrs. Clinton needs to mobilize the Obama coalition of young voters and minorities.

PAUL WORTMAN, East Setauket, N.Y.

Marco Rubio is the clear nominee on the Republican side: He’s telegenic, charming and moderately smart. He’s also somewhat sensible on immigration and has a great personal narrative. He would clearly give the Republicans the best chance of taking the White House. In terms of the veep, Mike Pence is a strong governor of an industrial state, Indiana. He could balance the ticket in a lot of ways.

There is no realistic chance of Bernie Sanders’s unseating Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I think Gov. John Hickenlooper would be solid choice for vice president, as he’s a relatively popular governor from a must-win state (Colorado) and could balance out the things that make Democrats nervous about Mrs. Clinton.


Democrats: It will be Hillary Rodham Clinton, and I predict she will choose Julián Castro, the current secretary of Housing and Urban Development and past three-term mayor of San Antonio, as her running mate. He will balance her ticket with his youth, consolidate her support among Hispanics, and broaden her geographic reach to the West. They will be formidable.

Republicans: (Sigh …) Mostly likely it will be Marco Rubio. As things get serious, Donald Trump and Ben Carson will not stand up to real scrutiny, and as the primaries roll out they will fade. Mr. Rubio will succeed because he’s glib, and he will convince the party that his youth and ability to reach Hispanics make him the best shot at winning back the White House. He will pick Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a cynical effort to chip away at Mrs. Clinton’s support among women.

DAPHNE CASE, Norwalk, Conn.

In the face of public opinion that all the existing options are crazy, Republicans decide to draft Michael R. Bloomberg at the convention. He mulls Senators Rob Portman (Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine) and Deb Fischer (Nebraska) and Gov. Mary Fallin (Oklahoma) as running mates, but selects Robert Gates, the former director of the C.I.A. and defense secretary. The pitch is “replace the crazies with mature adults.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s money and contacts overwhelm Bernie Sanders. She mulls Senator Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Govs. Tom Wolf (Pa.), Terry McAuliffe (Va.) and John Hickenlooper (Colo.) before settling on Julián Castro, HUD secretary.

PETE LEWIS, Hollis, N.H.

At this time in 2007 Barack Obama was polling with a larger gap between him and Hillary Rodham Clinton than between her and Bernie Sanders today. As Mr. Obama did, Mr. Sanders is tapping into the frustration of the American people and building a movement based on “real change.” Mr. Sanders will win the nomination and will likely choose a progressively minded V.P. with a track record to back it up. Senator Cory Booker is a safe bet.

On the right, there is a similar frustration with “establishment politics.” The success of Donald Trump and Ben Carson are proof of this. A likely Republican ticket will have Mr. Trump at the head with Mr. Carson as V.P. Mr. Trump likes to win more than anything, and he knows Mr. Carson’s appeal will help him do that.


Marco Rubio’s rise in the polls will continue, and ultimately he’ll be the nominee. He’s young and attractive, and has foreign policy experience — a potent combination. With Gov. John Kasich adding some gravitas to the bottom of the ticket, the Republicans will appear more moderate than they have in the past, and, most important, will appeal to voters in Florida and Ohio.

For the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton will continue her inevitable march to the nomination. Though Bernie Sanders may pull her to the left over the course of the primary campaigns, he won’t have enough political clout to win it all. Mrs. Clinton will then choose a running mate who can fill in the gaps in her base. A logical choice? Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

DANIEL KOAS, Waltham, Mass.

The Republican nominee for president will be Marco Rubio. The party will not nominate a candidate who has never held office, and assuming that Jeb Bush continues to falter, Mr. Rubio is the most likely mainstream conservative who is acceptable to the right-wing. He will pick a woman as his running mate: Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who shone in the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting and the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol. As an Indian-American, she helps make the Republican ticket the most diverse ever.

Obviously, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the presidential nominee of the Democrats, and her vice-presidential candidate will be the youngish HUD secretary, Julián Castro, to help her get the Hispanic vote against the Cuban-American Rubio and win Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado.


The writer was a Democratic candidate for Congress in Wyoming in 2014.

Marco Rubio has hardly put a foot wrong this campaign, consistently coming across as charismatic, presidential and mature and brushing off attacks against him with relative ease, as in the most recent debate. John Kasich has done similarly, acting the wise older statesman in the debates so far. He’ll do nicely to balance the younger, more conservative Mr. Rubio on the ticket.

While Hillary Rodham Clinton is the odds-on favorite right now, Bernie Sanders is within striking distance in Iowa and significantly ahead in New Hampshire, and can build momentum if he wins one or both of the early states. He has enormous grass-roots support and a reputation for honest consistency that can only help him going forward. Julián Castro will help with Mr. Sanders’s continued appeals to minority voters and serve as a counterweight to Mr. Sanders’s progressive views.

IAN BAIZE, Clinton, N.Y.

I predict that Carly Fiorina will emerge as the most levelheaded outsider, capturing the Republican nomination. Donald Trump will be offered the vice-presidential nomination, but will refuse and run as an independent candidate. Marco Rubio will be the vice-presidential pick.

Bernie-WarrenFor the Democrats, Bernie Sanders will reach a critical mass of support, where his consistent record and career of integrity will propel him over the establishment choice of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Elizabeth Warren will be his vice-presidential pick.

MATTHEW O’REILLY. Chicopee, Mass.

After Bernie Sanders finishes poorly in most of the early primary contests, Hillary Rodham Clinton will cruise to the Democratic nomination. But she will continue to attack the rich (and the Citizens United decision) to attract Mr. Sanders’s supporters. She will choose Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, as her V.P. because of his youth, exuberance and governing experience.

On the Republican side, Marco Rubio will emerge as the clear front-runner after he defeats Jeb Bush in the Florida primary. To counter his youth and add gravitas to his hawkish worldview, he will pick David Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director and four-star general, as his running mate. Republican voters will readily overlook Mr. Petraeus’s misdemeanor conviction for divulging classified information to his biographer/paramour, and will deify him as the last person to successfully assert American military power.


This is an unusual election with very strong anti-establishment subcurrents, making predictions problematic. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has demonstrated amazing resilience that has baffled the pundits, and that looks likely to carry him through. Expect a Marco Rubio V.P. slot to try to reach out to Latino voters.

On the Democratic side, expect an upset, as the highly enthusiastic progressive base inspired by honesty and integrity will carry Bernie Sanders to a narrow victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Sanders is registering legions of new voters who are often underrepresented in polls, but will push Mr. Sanders over the edge in many close states. Expect Mr. Sanders to build bridges with Clinton supporters and Latinos by asking Julián Castro to be his V.P.

SHAWN OLSON, Alexandria, Minn.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will choose as her running mate Julián Castro, currently Housing and Urban Development secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, rounding out her ticket with youth, vitality and Hispanic-voter appeal.

And when the Republican establishment candidates fade and the outsiders implode, Mitt Romney will enter the race, becoming the default G.O.P. nominee. Mr. Romney will tag Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina as his running mate, bringing women to the table and solidifying the South.

The game is on: two seasoned mainstream presidential candidates with up-and-coming running mates.


A version of this letter appears in print on November 8, 2015, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Predicting the Nominees. 

The Globalisation of our Discontent

November 5, 2015

The Globalisation of our Discontent

by Dennis Ignatius

COMMENT: The Chinese Ambassador’s September visit to Petaling Street on the eve of the red shirt rally continues to reverberate across the political landscape.

Last week, the Cabinet, after dithering for several weeks, finally decided to summon the ambassador to apparently learn what he did or did not say. No doubt this is just another ‘sandiwara’ that only confirms how hopelessly muddled, dysfunctional and amateurish our government has become.

It cannot even manage a decent pretence of defending national face – summoning an Ambassador while being almost apologetic about it! More importantly, these developments also serve to highlight the increasing globalisation of our discontent.

Frustrated by their inability to obtain justice at home and having lost all confidence in the government to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, Malaysians have increasingly gone global with their concerns, setting the stage for an unprecedented level of international scrutiny and involvement.

Prisoner of conscience

Hindraf 2007In 2007, for example, Hindraf appealed directly to the Prime Minister of Britain for help over the plight of Malaysia’s ethnic Indians, while in 2013, a coalition of Malaysian NGOs earned the displeasure of the government when they highlighted during the UN’s universal periodic review process in Geneva serious lapses on the part of the government in upholding basic human rights.

More recently, former UMNO leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan, pressed his case for a thorough investigation into the 1MDB scandal in major capitals of the world. He was arrested and jailed before he could take his case to Washington.

Partly as a result of his efforts, investigations have been launched in a number of different jurisdictions that have the potential to seriously embarrass Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, if not bring down his administration.

The full extent of the 1MDB scandal in turn came to light partly because unknown insiders were so distressed by what was going on that they felt compelled to blow the whistle.

And knowing how bootless our justice system has become, they went global via groups like the UK-based Sarawak Report. The rest is history.

N IzzahLembah Pantai Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah, for her part, has appealed to leaders across the globe to condemn the criminalisation of Malaysia’s opposition. On a visit to Washington, she also raised the plight of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, her imprisoned father and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, and pleaded with the Obama administration and the US Congress not to support an abusive government.

Angry over the injustice of Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment, Malaysian groups have also pressed the international community to get involved, resulting in a series of stinging international rebukes for the government, the most recent being that of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has urged the US Embassy to stop negotiating with Malaysia on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), arguing that with the US now investigating the 1MDB scandal, Najib might be vulnerable to US pressure.

UMNO TrioEven Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has always been prickly about perceived slights and foreign meddling in the past, has taken to dreaming out loud about the possibility that some foreign power might solve the political impasse in Malaysia by arresting Najib.

Growing foreign influence

While the globalisation of our discontent is, of course, understandable, and in some instances even entirely appropriate, it is not without risks.

The surprise and sudden intervention of the Chinese Ambassador in the Petaling Street affair, for example, has certainly made China a player to be reckoned with in our evolving domestic political situation.It also appears to suggest that China now considers the protection of all ethnic Chinese, irrespective of their nationality, part of its core responsibilities. This could have profound domestic and regional implications.

It was also disquieting that some commentators went so far as to invoke the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ [R2P] doctrine in defending the Chinese Ambassador’s intervention. R2P gives major powers the moral mandate to intervene, by force if necessary, to protect minorities facing genocide.

This is surely not the case in Malaysia, as worrying as the situation is. To give the Chinese Ambassador, or any Ambassador for that matter, that kind of cover to meddle in our affairs is unjustified, dangerous and foolhardy, to say the least.

Undoubtedly, any expansion of Chinese influence in a strategically-located nation like Malaysia isn’t likely to be welcomed by Washington, particularly at this time when the two powers are going head to head in the Asia-Pacific region. We also have the spectacle of Singapore openly taking sides in Malaysian politics by coming out in support of Malay (read UMNO) dominance. It is a cheap attempt at currying favour with a beleaguered government in the hope of advancing its own strategic interests.

MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE-DIPLOMACYAs other commentators have pointed out, a weak and divided government in Kuala Lumpur, of course, suits Singapore just fine. As well, we have a convicted murderer sitting in an Australian prison with an explosive story to tell, a story that could well bring down the government. Imagine the leverage that that gives Australia in its dealings with the Najib administration.

And, of course, UMNO, by its own seemingly proud admission, is now beholden to some foreign potentate who apparently financed the party’s electoral victory. It’s a scary thought that we might have a government that has been bought and paid for by a foreign power.

The dangers are real

Though we may be too caught up in the heat of the moment to worry about all the implications of foreign interference, the dangers are real enough. History is full of examples of the terrible consequences that befall nations when foreign powers start meddling in domestic affairs.

Nations, after all, rarely if ever, act out of altruism. When it comes to national interests, countries, even friendly countries, tend to behave more like predators than anything else, seeking only to expand their influence for their own benefit.

In many ways, it is a zero sum game; the more influence they gain over our domestic affairs, the more we lose.

They may give great speeches about justice, upholding international law and respecting the rights of others, but only the very naive would take what they say at face value.

The Chinese Ambassador, for example, made much of his country’s opposition to ‘any form of discrimination’ while conveniently forgetting his government’s own dismal treatment of minorities at home.

Beijing itself would very likely go ballistic if the Malaysian Ambassador to China were to repeat in Lhasa or Ürümqi Ambassador’s Huang’s exact same words about opposing all forms of discrimination.

The US is no different either. In an appalling act of hypocrisy, it whitewashed Malaysia’s human trafficking record even as mass graves were being uncovered in the jungles of Malaysia.

The Obama administration so badly wants Malaysia on board the TPPA, and in its bailiwick, that it is prepared to overlook a shocking human rights scandal. Perhaps there’s an unspoken trade-off: in exchange for joining TPPA without question, all skeletons will be buried.
A weak and divided nation

The Scandal that ate MalaysiaAnd so, after almost six decades of independence, we now find ourselves weak, disunited and more vulnerable to foreign meddling than ever before.This is what the long years of ‘UMNOcracy’ have wrought upon the nation. If we don’t get our act together, if real political change doesn’t come soon, Malaysia will increasingly become the region’s next battleground for big power rivalry.

PACOM’s Role in Sustaining Indo-Asia-Pacific Security

November 5, 2015

east-west-center-asia-pacific-bulletinNumber 328 | November 4, 2015


PACOM’s Role in Sustaining Indo-Asia-Pacific Security 

by Paul Lushenko and Jon Lushenko>

As the successful completion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal–the economic pillar of President Obama’s rebalance to Asia–demonstrates, America’s strategic reorientation continues. Even if the TPP is ratified and implemented, America’s rebalance is beleaguered by competing traditional and human security challenges epitomized by inter-state war and natural disasters. The degree to which US Pacific Command (PACOM)–responsible for operationalizing the rebalance’s security component–can reconcile these countervailing priorities will affect America’s ability to sustain Indo-Asia-Pacific security.

China’s increasingly revisionist approach in Asia underscores America’s need to maintain a warfighting capability while concomitantly casting doubt on the durability of America’s “hub-and-spokes” security system. Budgetary constraints, a reduction-in-force, and Cold War restraints on America’s conventional ballistic missile capability have eroded the US’ ability to wage inter-state war according to some analysts. This is especially evident in the maritime domain.

Beijing’s Anti-Access and Area-Denial (A2AD) strategy is designed to exploit US Navy-specific vulnerabilities. China’s investment in ballistic and anti-ship missile technology, as well as “grey zone” capabilities that exploit the space between war and peace and include cyber attack and exploitation, underpin the A2AD approach. Some regional experts interpret China’s development of more formidable military hardware and skill sets as foundational to its pursuit of a “hub-and-spokes” arrangement with Chinese characteristics. Functional cooperation on non-traditional security challenges, economic interdependence, and heightened social ties between China and its neighbors are said to enable Beijing to supplant Washington as the guarantor of Indo-Asia-Pacific security.

Beyond maintaining a credible deterrent, America and its security system are burdened with the added responsibility of managing human security challenges. Notwithstanding competing definitions of what constitutes a human security challenge, natural disasters, terrorism, and piracy generate instability that threatens regional security. Although this reality helped inform America’s rebalance, the degree to which the policy continues to rely on such considerations is debatable. Most puzzling is the absence of documents that govern how the US and its allies and partners will safeguard the rights and needs of people across the region.

The Pentagon’s recently published Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy lacks serious discussion of non-traditional security concerns, and the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea evokes limited confidence based on China’s expanded assertiveness.

Operationally, the rebalance policy has fostered more initiatives to help confront traditional threats despite the prevalence of human security challenges. This trend is best evidenced by “Pacific Pathways,” a program spearheaded by the US Army in 2014. This program enhances responsiveness and interoperability between America and regional armies. It manages the participation of a battalion-sized infantry unit in a succession of exercises over a six-month period. While leveraged to deter threats including China’s putative revisionism, planners seem to also qualify this program as a way to manage the consequences of humanitarian disasters to alleviate suffering and destruction.

However, it is difficult to determine precisely how the US Army and its sister services will achieve these goals. Initiatives seemingly more aligned against human security challenges, including the recent construction of a National Watch Center in the Philippines, are merely intended to provide situational awareness. The high importance regional states attach to human security compels PACOM to determine how to better enable operations that provide for basic needs. Thailand, for instance, increasingly rationalizes its alliance with America based on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support.

PACOM needs to better resolve the tension between maintaining a credible deterrent and resolving human security challenges to sustain Indo-Asia-Pacific security. A two-track approach to reconcile these countervailing priorities is possible. First, PACOM should adopt a more sustainable warfighting approach that both expands offensive capabilities and capitalizes on an organic ability to conduct “grey zone” operations. The former is punctuated by weapon systems affording greater range and lethality, including development of an anti-ship missile. The latter includes increased integration of offensive cyber capabilities as well as command and control systems capable of withstanding A2AD threats.

Other counter-targeting measures, such as dispersal and shifting of America’s regional military footprint, will further sustain PACOM’s combat-power in the event of a Sino-US war. Likewise, distributed lethality, a concept first introduced in early 2015, is designed to shift naval operations from a defensive mindset while signaling a renewed emphasis on warfighting.

Second, PACOM should advance the transformation of America’s exclusivist “hub-and-spokes” system into an open security architecture capable of resolving the broad scope of regional security objectives through cooperative action. Some experts contend that enhanced regionalism including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can lead to a “security community” to manage regional challenges. However, PACOM can also take two mutually reinforcing actions that will enable it to create an inclusive security arrangement beyond a still emerging ASEAN-led community building project.

While modernizing alliances and broadening partnerships, PACOM should leverage these relationships to achieve greater cooperation among geographically and culturally disparate states. Trilateral initiatives including the India-Japan-US, Australia-Japan-US, and Korea-Japan-US dialogues promise to institutionalize what has heretofore been episodic cooperation on natural disasters across some if not all of these countries as observed during the India Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Japan Tsunami in 2011, Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and Nepal earthquake in 2015. Meanwhile, PACOM should extend America’s bilateral alliances and partnerships into regional security fora. Marketed as the region’s preeminent security mechanism, the ASEAN Regional Forum constitutes a favorable candidate. Even more promising is the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus).

By fostering greater indigenous capacity to resolve vulnerabilities, PACOM can transfer the costs and responsibilities of managing Asia’s non-traditional security challenges to regional states. This would enable PACOM to channel a greater portion of its limited resources towards high-end threats.

An open security architecture has an additional advantage. It positions the evolving Sino-US relationship in a cooperative framework anchored by international law and norms to help ameliorate bilateral misunderstanding and miscalculation that can lead to war.

Unfortunately, Beijing’s South China Sea reclamation efforts, and American naval operations near China’s artificial islands, threaten to exacerbate a security dilemma. A sustainable warfighting approach for PACOM constitutes an insurance policy allowing America to deter continued revisionism and reassure its allies and partners.

About the Author (s)

The authors’ views do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Naval War College, Army and Navy, Department of Defense, and Government. Paul Lushenko is a Major in the US Army. He can be reached at paul.lushenko@gmail.com. Jon “Shank” Lushenko is a Lieutenant Commander (sel) in the US Navy. He can be reached at jlushenko@gmail.com.

Related Articles
 India-Japan-U.S. Trilateral Dialogue Gains Additional Traction, by Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Sylvia Mishra, Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 327, October 22, 2015.

China’s Non-Military Maritime Assets as a Force Multiplier for Security, by Justin Chock, Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 322, September 22, 2015.

Indian Navy Role in Yemen and Beyond Highlights Range of Objectives, by Sarosh Bana, Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 317, July 28, 2015.
The complete Asia Pacific Bulletin series can be accessed here.
The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Alex Forster, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington. D.C.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Ho

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Alex Forster, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Alex Forster, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.   East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

When the Facts Change: Essays by Tony Judt Review

November 3, 2015

When the Facts Change: Essays by Tony Judt Review

by Nicholas Lezard–The Guardian

Director of the Remarque Institute Tony Judt in 2002
Tony Judt


The title, as you may know, comes from John Maynard Keynes, and continues: “I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” This can be irritating when used by people who presume the high moral position but have not actually changed their minds. There are one or two big things, however, that the historian Tony Judt changed his mind about, and in this superb collection of essays, which consists mainly of substantial reviews from the New York and London Reviews of Books, we can track at least one of them.

Judt's Book

Judt used to be a Marxist Zionist, but then he changed into a social democrat, and one quite prepared to criticise Israel. In 2003 he wrote an essay for the New York Review of Books in which he said a state that founded itself on ethnic identity was an anachronism, and that “unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be neither Jewish nor democratic”. He called for Israel to become a binational state, and consequently suffered a firestorm of denigration. Judt was himself Jewish, albeit not religiously observant. His widow, Jennifer Homans, tells in her introduction of the time he went to a bar mitzvah in New York and “was indignant and a bit offended, but mostly confused” when he arrived at the synagogue to find he was the only guest wearing a hat. “What kind of Jews were these?” he asked. This may not convince his detractors, but I find it touching nevertheless.

In 2009, a year before his death, he wrote an essay, published here for the first time, in which he abandoned his earlier idea as unworkable and possibly dangerous, coming down in favour of a two-state solution that was, he said, paraphrasing Churchill, the worst possible outcome, apart from all the others.

As for that other change of mind, the shift from Marxism to social democracy, that’s less remarkable, especially if you had been paying attention during the cold war. As wars go, it wasn’t that bad – if you were living in the west. Judt concedes this, with a penetrating eye for the realpolitik of the day, reminding us of how various crises over Berlin stopped with the building of the Wall, “when the Great Powers, whatever they said in public, heaved a private sigh of relief”. You may say that’s cynical, but it has the ring of truth.

Judt, it emerges, was unafraid of getting into a fight. He had no time for George W Bush and his administration, as several essays here attest; and, having been based in America since the late 1980s, was well placed to see what was happening on the ground, while still being able to see the wider context across the Atlantic; he was pro-European and able to translate his own doctoral thesis into French (France was a special interest of his).

There is a scathing review of Norman Davies’s 1996 Europe: A History. It’s one of those pieces where one historian has been set on another, as in a dogfight. When you read the sentence “Davies’s book displays evidence of wide reading and a real enthusiasm for its subject” you can tell that it won’t be long before the gloves come off and the knuckledusters go on, as numerous factual errors are exposed and – a nice touch this – the author under review is compared to Mr Toad (“the clever men at Oxford / know all that there is to be knowed,” etc).

Some of these essays seem very much of their time, and the ones dealing with US foreign policy under George W. Bush are particularly outraged – but Judt used his knowledge of the past to help us make sense of what’s happening now. And it is always worth reading a historian who does not have an ideological agenda but understands what it means to have one.

Singapore– Forward Planning for Leadership Change in 2020

October 7, 2015

Singapore– Forward Planning for Leadership Change in 2020

by Toh Han Shih


Singapore Leadership in Transition

Two events on October 1 signify that the era of Lee Kuan Yew and the Lee family itself are beginning to fade from Singapore, six months after he died on March 23. The two events are leadership transitions in the city-state’s government and its sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings.

Although the elder Lee stepped down as the Southeast Asian country’s first Prime Minister in 1990, he continued to exert influence in the corridors of power for many years, according to sources close to the Singapore government. His influence is also indirectly felt through his son Lee Hsien Loong, the current premier who frequently invokes the memory of his late father. Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching is the Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings, which owns more than S$250 billion of assets including ports, telecommunications, power, property, railway and banks.

It is undeniable that the Lee family includes two Prime Ministers and a chief executive officer running a large chunk of the nation’s assets. But Lee Kuan Yew is gone, while his son and daughter-in-law are beginning to show signs of fading from the scene.

In April, shortly after Lee Kuan Yew passed away in March, Ho Ching went on a six month sabbatical leave. On October 1, she took a senior but backseat position as chair of Temasek International, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, which has most of Temasek Holdings’ employees, while Lee Theng Kiat – no relation to the Lee family  – was appointed Temasek International’s Chief Executive Officer, according to the Temasek Holdings website.

The website said Lee Theng Kiat will play a hands-on role while Ho Ching will be more hands-off: “Mr Lee will be responsible for Temasek’s role as an active investor and shareholder. (Ho Ching) continues to oversee our stewardship role.”

It is often the case that when a company’s Chief Executive Officer gets moved upstairs to a lesser executive role of chairman, a successor will take over in due course. Thus it is likely that this move marks the changing of the leadership of Temasek Holdings.

COMM-LeeHsingLoongAlso on October.1, a new cabinet, which includes the next generation of Singapore’s leaders, was sworn in. On September.28, the 63-year old Prime Minister announced that new leadership would take over from him by the end of his term, around 2020. This new cabinet includes three “coordinating ministers” who oversee multiple ministries: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (in charge of national security), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (in charge of economic and social policies) and Khaw Boon Wan (in charge of infrastructure). The three Ministers will also mentor junior ministers, a pattern the elder Lee set up himself when he stepped away from power to become what was termed “minister mentor,” a role in which he continued to make his considerable presence felt for the better part of two decades.

The formation of the new cabinet is a more important event for Singaporeans than the landslide victory of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in the September 11 elections, because the next generation of the nation’s leaders will come from this cabinet. The presence of three coordinating ministers indicates Prime Minister Lee is not alone in picking and grooming his successor, but is sharing that task with other ministers.

Moreover, former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who served as premier from 1990 to 2004 in an interregnum between the two Lees, is playing a role in the succession process. On August 14, the 74-year old Goh announced that “after a long chat” with Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister wanted Goh to “help in the leadership transition to the fourth-generation team, as an elder.” As a sign of Goh’s rising influence, he sat next to Hsien Loong when the latter gave a speech at an election rally in Singapore’s financial district on September 8.

Thus the dominance of Singapore’s political landscape by one Prime Minister, whether the late Lee Kuan Yew or his son Lee Hsien Loong, is giving way to a collective leadership. One member of this collective leadership, Tharman, has expressed views at variance with Lee’s.

Tharman has espoused more socialist policies to help lower-income Singaporeans. In contrast, Lee said in 2010: ‘Supposing the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, comes to live in Singapore. The Gini coefficient will get worse. But I think Singapore will be better off. Even for the lower income Singaporeans, it will be better.”

Tharman said in 2011 that a strong opposition was good for the country, and in September, shortly after his party won the elections, he expressed the hope that the opposition would continue to contribute to Singapore. In contrast, Prime Minister Lee seemed less enthusiastic about the opposition, judging by his comments in December 2014 that too many opposition members checking the government would result in “checkmate” for Singapore.

The new leadership thus may take Singapore in directions that might differ from those of Lee Kuan Yew and his son. Opposition parties remain fragmented.  Their impotence was demonstrated in the September 11 election, in which the PAP contested all seats and won 82 of the 89 – the party’s best result since 2001. 

Singapore appears to have signed on for the long term with the party co-founded by Lee Kuan Yew. History will record if the PAP, technocratic and authoritarian, will move in new directions. The voters have said they like it the way things are – although there is no Lee heir waiting in the wings.

Toh Han Shih is a Singaporean writer based in Hong Kong.



September 28, 2015

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday announced a new cabinet, including newly- introduced coordinating ministers

The key change to the structure of the cabinet is the introduction of three coordinating ministers, each of whom will oversee a handful of related ministries. Teo Chee Hean, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Khaw Boon Wan were named as the ministers. Teo and Tharman will each remain Deputy Prime Minister, but relinquish their previous ministry portfolios. Khaw will also be the new minister for transport, replacing former Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who announced his retirement from politics ahead of the election.

Teo will oversee national security, Tharman will look after economic and social policies, and Khaw will be in charge of infrastructure.

Another changes take place in the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which will each have two full ministers, overseeing separate aspects within the ministry.

Those new to the cabinet are Acting Ministers for Education Ng Chee Meng and Ong Ye Kung. Ng will oversee schools, while Ong will look after higher education and skills.

Among the existing ministers, many of them will change portfolios. Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan will be in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam will become Minister for Home Affairs.

Heng Swee Keat, who is in charge of the Ministry of Education, will helm the Ministry of Finance. Lawrence Wong will take over Khaw Boon Wan’s portfolio, helming the Ministry of National Development. While Masagos Zulkifli will become the minister for environment and water resources.

Grace Fu will head the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Chan Chun Sing, who remains a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, will replace Gan Kim Yong as the Party Whip.

Chee Hong Tat, new face at the recent general election, will be minister of state in the Health Ministry. Surgeon Koh Poh Koon will move into the government, becoming minister of state in the Trade and Industry and National Development ministries.