East Asia must now overcome its geo-political challenges


March 20, 2017

East Asia must now overcome its geo-political challenges

by Jean-Pierre Lehmann

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/01/in-search-of-an-east-asian-geopolitical-miracle/

East Asia has amazed the world with its economic miracles. But the region must now overcome its geopolitical challenges.

Image result for The United States in East Asia missile defence system for Korea

 In the wake of World War II, Japan was widely assumed to be ‘finished’, South Korea was a basket case of underdevelopment and China was chaotic and poor — indeed the terms ‘Chinese’ and ‘poor’ were held to be synonymous. Taiwan was hardly worth consideration economically notwithstanding its importance geo-politically. When I first visited Taipei half a century ago its main economic activity seemed to be as a base for US soldiers on rest and recreation from the Vietnam War. As to Southeast Asia, it was mired in poverty, instability and conflict.

Reflecting the perception of backwardness accompanied by a degree of condescending hopelessness, the Swedish Nobel economics laureate Gunnar Myrdal published in 1968 a three-volume magnus opus entitled ‘Asian Drama: an Inquiry Into the Poverty of Nations’. In 1993, 25 years later, the World Bank published its report entitled ‘The East Asian Miracle’.

Apart from confirming the fact that, yes, economists believe in miracles, the term has been quite widely used in describing economic developments in East Asia.

The first use of the term ‘economic miracle’ (to my knowledge) was applied to Japan in the 1960s. Contrary to expectations, the phoenix did rise from the ashes: in 1964 Tokyo held the Olympic Games, in 1965 it joined the OECD, in 1967 it surpassed West Germany in GDP, and from then on went about conquering international markets.

Following Japan’s rise there were the four ‘tigers’ — Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea — which rank among the few economies worldwide that succeeded in rising from third world status and overcoming the middle income trap. Over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s, Southeast Asia transformed from a battlefield to a marketplace with the notably high growth rates of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. And then came the most awesome miracle of all — China.

These East Asian economic miracles had significant positive social consequences: tremendous reduction of poverty, rise of a robust urban middle class, increased life expectancy, improvements in education, cultural achievements (for example in music) and increased leisure activities such as foreign travel.

There are, however, a number of egregious qualifications to this.While the region’s economic edifice remains impressive, its institutional, historical and geopolitical foundations are alarmingly weak. The contrast between the post-war settlement in Europe and the post-war settlement in East Asia illustrates the East Asian situation.

One begins with the starkest contrast of all in post-war Germany’s attitudes towards its neighbours and those of Japan. One cannot imagine a senior German politician paying respects to a memorial dedicated to former Nazi leaders, as Japanese political leaders repeatedly do in respect to war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine — most recently the Minister of Defence Tomomi Inada. One cannot imagine the mayor of Berlin publicly denying the existence of the Dachau concentration camp, as the former long-serving governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, publicly and repeatedly denied the occurrence of the Nanjing massacre. One cannot imagine a German chain hotel proprietor installing in every room a book praising Germany’s past military prowess as Toshio Motoya has done in his chain of APA hotels with a book he authored praising Japan’s past imperialist militarism.

Whereas Germany has been a major source of peace, reconciliation and stability in Europe, Japan, through its hubristically un-contrite behaviour is a source of friction, suspicion and instability in East Asia.

This is especially critical in a region that is the world’s most geopolitically explosive. A number of situations in East Asian could foreseeably degenerate into World War III. Offensive military action in the Korean Peninsula, US intervention in the conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s threatened blockade on the South China Sea could all be triggers.These are the biggest flashpoints in the region but there are others.

Image result for The United States in East Asia missile defence system for Korea

Every East Asian state has tense relations with one or more of its neighbours. As ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year it can be commended for the significant achievements it has made in neighbourly confidence-building. Yet even the most ardent ASEAN fan would admit there are fragilities.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, the impact of the United States in East Asia has been on balance benign. This is partly due to the economic dynamism of the region and its integration with global markets and especially the US market. It is also because the United States has been militarily bogged down in the Middle East following its interventionism and thus limited in its ability to do harm in East Asia.

Not just China but the whole region can be construed as the proverbial ‘china shop’ into which the US presidential election has unleashed a bull. Great delicacy and diplomatic sophistication is required. Following East Asia’s economic miracles, what is urgently required in the Trumpian era is a geopolitical miracle.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at IMD, Switzerland, founder of the Evian Group, and Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University. You can follow him on Twitter at @JP_Lehmann.

J

Trump prepares to pass the world leadership baton to China


March 19, 2017

Trump prepares to pass the world leadership baton to China

by Fareed Zakaria

Image result for fareed zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-prepares-to-pass-the-world-leadership-baton-to-china/2017/03/16/c64ccee2-0a84-11e7-a15f-a58d4a988474_story.html?utm_term=.d4e26b95c9c6

We do not yet have the official agenda for next month’s meeting in Florida between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. But after 75 years of U.S. leadership on the world stage, the Mar-a-Lago summit might mark the beginning of a handover of power from the United States to China. Trump has embraced a policy of retreat from the world, opening a space that will be eagerly filled by the Communist Party of China.

Image result for President Xi

Trump railed against China on the campaign trail, bellowing that it was “raping” the United States. He vowed to label it a currency manipulator on his first day in office. But in his first interaction with Beijing, he caved. Weeks after his election, Trump speculated that he might upgrade relations with Taiwan. In response, Xi froze all contacts between Beijing and Washington on all issues, demanding that Trump reverse himself — which is exactly what happened. (Perhaps just coincidentally, a few weeks later, the Chinese government granted the Trump Organization dozens of trademark rights in China, with a speed and on a scale that surprised many experts.)

The Trump administration’s vision for disengagement from the world is a godsend for China. Look at Trump’s proposed budget, which would cut spending on “soft power” — diplomacy, foreign aid, international organizations — by 28 percent. Beijing, by contrast, has quadrupled the budget of its foreign ministry in the past decade. And that doesn’t include its massive spending on aid and development across Asia and Africa. Just tallying some of Beijing’s key development commitments, George Washington University’s David Shambaugh estimates the total at $1.4 trillion, compared with the Marshall Plan, which in today’s dollars would cost about $100 billion.

China’s growing diplomatic strength matters. An Asian head of government recently told me that at every regional conference, “Washington sends a couple of diplomats, whereas Beijing sends dozens. The Chinese are there at every committee meeting, and you are not.” The result, he said, is that Beijing is increasingly setting the Asian agenda.

The Trump administration wants to skimp on U.S. funding for the United Nations. This is music to Chinese ears. Beijing has been trying to gain influence in the global body for years. It has increased its funding for the U.N. across the board and would likely be delighted to pick up the slack as the United States withdraws. As Foreign Policy magazine’s Colum Lynch observes, China has already become the second-largest funder of U.N. peacekeeping and has more peacekeepers than the other four permanent Security Council members combined. Of course, in return for this, China will gain increased influence, from key appointments to shifts in policy throughout the U.N. system.

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The first major act of the Trump administration was to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that would have opened up long-closed economies such as Japan and Vietnam, but also would have created a bloc that could stand up to China’s increasing domination of trade in Asia. The TPP was, in Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s words, “a litmus test” of U.S. credibility in Asia. With Washington’s withdrawal, even staunchly pro-American allies such as Australia are hedging their bets. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has raised the possibility of China joining the TPP, essentially turning a group that was meant to be a deterrent against China into one more arm of Chinese influence.

The United States’ global role has always meant being at the cutting edge in science, education and culture. Here again, Washington is scaling back while Beijing is ramping up. In Trump’s proposed budget, the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the national laboratories face crippling cuts, as do many exchange programs that have brought generations of young leaders to be trained in the United States and exposed to American values. Beijing, meanwhile, has continued to expand “Confucius Institutes” around the world and now offers 20,000 scholarships for foreign students to go to China. Its funding for big science rises every year. The world’s largest telescope is in China, not the United States.

The Trump administration does want a bigger military. But that has never been how China has sought to compete with U.S. power. Chinese leaders have pointed out to me that this was the Soviet strategy during the Cold War, one that failed miserably. The implication was: Let Washington waste resources on the Pentagon, while Beijing would focus on economics, technology and soft power.

Trump’s new national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, once remarked that trying to fight the United States symmetrically — tank for tank — was “stupid.” The smart strategy would be an asymmetrical one. The Chinese seem to understand this.

Looking Back on Vietnam before the 1968 Tet Offensive


March 17, 2017

Looking Back on Vietnam before the 1968 Tet Offensive: America’s Defeat or Nixon’s Peace with Honor

 

Hopefully, this will remind President Donald Trump and his associates in The White House to deal with Asia with care.  We in Asia will not allow ourselves to be your pawns again. It is easy but expensive to make war.

Learn not only from Vietnam but also from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria. America, you are not invincible. So give diplomacy a chance and allocate more money to Foggy Bottom (The State Department) and control the military-industrial complex and The Pentagon. –Din Merican.

 

Tom Friedman’s Message to Donald Trump


March 16, 2017

Tom Friedman’s Message to Donald Trump

OPINION–New York Times

by Thomas L. Friedman

Every president has an early foreign policy test, and Donald Trump is no exception. Trump’s test is actually already in progress, and it bears some resemblance to the one faced by a young President Kennedy. Indeed, Trump’s crisis has best been described as a “slow-motion Cuban missile crisis” — only the crisis-driver is not Fidel Castro, but North Korea’s bizarre despot, Kim Jong-un.

If this crisis is not keeping you up at night, you’re not paying attention.Let’s see, we have an untested, macho, Twitter-happy U.S. president facing off against the leader of a dynastic North Korean political cult who’s building a long-range nuclear missile that could hit Los Angeles and who — allegedly — just had his half brother, Kim Jong-nam, knocked off by two women who wiped his face with a lethal nerve agent while he was transiting a Malaysian airport….

READ ON:

 

New Yorker–Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War


March 9, 2017

Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War

What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—and what lies ahead?

On April 12, 1982, Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the K.G.B., ordered foreign-intelligence operatives to carry out “active measures”—aktivniye meropriyatiya—against the reëlection campaign of President Ronald Reagan. Unlike classic espionage, which involves the collection of foreign secrets, active measures aim at influencing events—at undermining a rival power with forgeries, front groups, and countless other techniques honed during the Cold War. The Soviet leadership considered Reagan an implacable militarist. According to extensive notes made by Vasili Mitrokhin, a high-ranking K.G.B. officer and archivist who later defected to Great Britain, Soviet intelligence tried to infiltrate the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, popularize the slogan “Reagan Means War!,” and discredit the President as a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex. The effort had no evident effect. Reagan won forty-nine of fifty states.

Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, Soviet intelligence officers spread a rumor that the U.S. government was involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the eighties, they spread the rumor that American intelligence had “created” the AIDS virus, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. They regularly lent support to leftist parties and insurgencies. The C.I.A., for its part, worked to overthrow regimes in Iran, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Chile, and Panama. It used cash payments, propaganda, and sometimes violent measures to sway elections away from leftist parties in Italy, Guatemala, Indonesia, South Vietnam, and Nicaragua. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early nineties, the C.I.A. asked Russia to abandon active measures to spread disinformation that could harm the U.S. Russia promised to do so. But when Sergey Tretyakov, the station chief for Russian intelligence in New York, defected, in 2000, he revealed that Moscow’s active measures had never subsided. “Nothing has changed,” he wrote, in 2008. “Russia is doing everything it can today to embarrass the U.S.”

Vladimir Putin, who is quick to accuse the West of hypocrisy, frequently points to this history. He sees a straight line from the West’s support of the anti-Moscow “color revolutions,” in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine, which deposed corrupt, Soviet-era leaders, to its endorsement of the uprisings of the Arab Spring. Five years ago, he blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. “She set the tone for some of our actors in the country and gave the signal,” Putin said. “They heard this and, with the support of the U.S. State Department, began active work.” (No evidence was provided for the accusation.) He considers nongovernmental agencies and civil-society groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the election-monitoring group Golos to be barely disguised instruments of regime change.

The U.S. officials who administer the system that Putin sees as such an existential danger to his own reject his rhetoric as “whataboutism,” a strategy of false moral equivalences. Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser under President Obama, is among those who reject Putin’s logic, but he said, “Putin is not entirely wrong,” adding that, in the past, “we engaged in regime change around the world. There is just enough rope for him to hang us.”*

The 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States was of keen interest to Putin. He loathed Obama, who had applied economic sanctions against Putin’s cronies after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Russian state television derided Obama as “weak,” “uncivilized,” and a “eunuch.”) Clinton, in Putin’s view, was worse—the embodiment of the liberal interventionist strain of U.S. foreign policy, more hawkish than Obama, and an obstacle to ending sanctions and reëstablishing Russian geopolitical influence. At the same time, Putin deftly flattered Trump, who was uncommonly positive in his statements about Putin’s strength and effectiveness as a leader. As early as 2007, Trump declared that Putin was “doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.” In 2013, before visiting Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, Trump wondered, in a tweet, if he would meet Putin, and, “if so, will he become my new best friend?” During the Presidential campaign, Trump delighted in saying that Putin was a superior leader who had turned the Obama Administration into a “laughingstock.”

For those interested in active measures, the digital age presented opportunities far more alluring than anything available in the era of Andropov. The Democratic and Republican National Committees offered what cybersecurity experts call a large “attack surface.” Tied into politics at the highest level, they were nonetheless unprotected by the defenses afforded to sensitive government institutions. John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a former chief of staff of Bill Clinton’s, had every reason to be aware of the fragile nature of modern communications. As a senior counsellor in the Obama White House, he was involved in digital policy. Yet even he had not bothered to use the most elementary sort of defense, two-step verification, for his e-mail account…

READ ON:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war