America–Led Liberal World Order, R.I.P

March 22, 2018

America–Led Liberal World Order, R.I.P

by Richard N. Haass–haass-2018-03

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America’s decision to abandon the global system it helped build, and then preserve for more than seven decades, marks a turning point, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.

NEW DELHI – After a run of nearly one thousand years, quipped the French philosopher and writer Voltaire, the fading Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Today, some two and a half centuries later, the problem, to paraphrase Voltaire, is that the fading liberal world order is neither liberal nor worldwide nor orderly.

The United States, working closely with the United Kingdom and others, established the liberal world order in the wake of World War II. The goal was to ensure that the conditions that had led to two world wars in 30 years would never again arise.

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To that end, the democratic countries set out to create an international system that was liberal in the sense that it was to be based on the rule of law and respect for countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Human rights were to be protected. All this was to be applied to the entire planet; at the same time, participation was open to all and voluntary. Institutions were built to promote peace (the United Nations), economic development (the World Bank) and trade and investment (the International Monetary Fund and what years later became the World Trade Organization).

All this and more was backed by the economic and military might of the US, a network of alliances across Europe and Asia, and nuclear weapons, which served to deter aggression. The liberal world order was thus based not just on ideals embraced by democracies, but also on hard power. None of this was lost on the decidedly illiberal Soviet Union, which had a fundamentally different notion of what constituted order in Europe and around the world.

The liberal world order appeared to be more robust than ever with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But today, a quarter-century later, its future is in doubt. Indeed, its three components – liberalism, universality, and the preservation of order itself – are being challenged as never before in its 70-year history.

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Liberalism is in retreat. Democracies are feeling the effects of growing populism. Parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe. The vote in the United Kingdom in favor of leaving the EU attested to the loss of elite influence. Even the US is experiencing unprecedented attacks from its own president on the country’s media, courts, and law-enforcement institutions. Authoritarian systems, including China, Russia, and Turkey, have become even more top-heavy. Countries such as Hungary and Poland seem uninterested in the fate of their young democracies.

It is increasingly difficult to speak of the world as if it were whole. We are seeing the emergence of regional orders – or, most pronounced in the Middle East, disorders – each with its own characteristics. Attempts to build global frameworks are failing. Protectionism is on the rise; the latest round of global trade talks never came to fruition. There are few rules governing the use of cyberspace.

At the same time, great power rivalry is returning. Russia violated the most basic norm of international relations when it used armed force to change borders in Europe, and it violated US sovereignty through its efforts to influence the 2016 election. North Korea has flouted the strong international consensus against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The world has stood by as humanitarian nightmares play out in Syria and Yemen, doing little at the UN or elsewhere in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. Venezuela is a failing state. One in every hundred people in the world today is either a refugee or internally displaced.Image result for Liberal World Order, R.I.P.

The Retreating Eagle–“America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.–Richard N. Haass

There are several reasons why all this is happening, and why now. The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but widely attributed to imports and immigrants. Nationalism is a tool increasingly used by leaders to bolster their authority, especially amid difficult economic and political conditions. And global institutions have failed to adapt to new power balances and technologies.

But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US. Under President Donald Trump, the US decided against joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. It has threatened to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. It has unilaterally introduced steel and aluminum tariffs, relying on a justification (national security) that others could use, in the process placing the world at risk of a trade war. It has raised questions about its commitment to NATO and other alliance relationships. And it rarely speaks about democracy or human rights. “America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.

My point is not to single out the US for criticism. Today’s other major powers, including the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan, could be criticized for what they are doing, not doing, or both. But the US is not just another country. It was the principal architect of the liberal world order and its principal backer. It was also a principal beneficiary.

America’s decision to abandon the role it has played for more than seven decades thus marks a turning point. The liberal world order cannot survive on its own, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.

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*Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.


American Foreign Policy after Rexit

March 20, 2018

American Foreign Policy after Rexit

Mr, Rex Tillerson was a poor secretary of state. What follows may be worse.

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Mr. Rex Tillerson paid  a heavy price for calling his White House Boss  “Moron”

EVEN by the reality-TV standards of this White House, the manner in which Mr. Rex Tillerson was sacked as Secretary of State was jaw-dropping. President Donald Trump fired him by tweet, saying that he would be replaced by Mr. Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA. He did not call him until much later, nor did he offer an explanation. Mr. Tillerson’s spokesman said that he had no idea why his boss had been fired. So he was fired, too.

Mr. Tillerson was a poor Secretary of State. Having run ExxonMobil, the tenth-biggest company in the world by revenue, he treated diplomacy like business and his department like a division ripe for restructuring. He seemed to regard his underlings as idle assets and they repaid him with their scorn (see article). So, too, did the President, at least after reports that Mr. Tillerson had called him a “moron”.

Image result for mike pompeo and trumpMr. Mike Pompeo


The new man, Mr. Pompeo, has distinguished himself in Mr. Trump’s eyes by talking up a Trumpian, America First view of the world (see Lexington). The result may well be a more co-ordinated policy, with fewer public rifts between the State Department and the White House. But when you look at the two biggest tests facing American foreign policy, the new set-up does not inspire confidence.

The first of these is North Korea. Mr. Trump’s decision to kick-start negotiations by talking directly to Mr. Kim Jong Un is unconventional. A photo-op with the American President is a great prize for Mr. Kim and, rather than holding it out as a reward, Mr. Trump has chosen to give it away cheap. That is not necessarily a bad idea, given that other approaches have failed and that merely talking is a chance for him to reinforce deterrence by setting out his red lines.


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The trouble is that, whereas the talks aimed at ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons will be delicate, complicated and technical, Mr. Trump is impulsive and self-indulgent—as this week’s sacking of Mr. Tillerson showed. Mastering the specifications of the North’s programme and knowing how to blunt it require deep expertise. Any deal to ensure that the North does not cheat, as it has so often before, will need to be thorough and enduring. America must not enhance its own security at the cost of lower security for its allies in South Korea and Japan. And if the talks should come to nothing, as is likely, both sides will need to be sure that the bad blood does not lead to conflict.

The combination, to put it mildly, sits ill with Mr Trump’s style of government. In a properly run administration, the fiddly stuff could be left to underlings. Yet America has no ambassador to South Korea and no under-secretary for arms control. Even if it did, it is not clear that Mr. Trump would give them the time of day. He shows every sign of thinking that he has the flair to broker a breakthrough all by himself. There is a risk Mr. Pompeo would seek to flatter his boss by agreeing.

By a curious symmetry, the second test of American policy involves a nuclear deal that Mr. Trump seems determined to wreck. In May he is due to decide whether to stick with the agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear programme or pull out. Mr. Pompeo, unlike Mr. Tillerson, is a longtime opponent, as are many Republicans. A pull-out is therefore likely.

That would be a mistake. When it comes to deals, Mr. Trump always believes that he can get a better one—especially if they were negotiated by his predecessor, Mr. Barack Obama. But the Iran deal is already the result of hard-fought trade-offs. The chances that it can be substantially renegotiated are slim indeed. Opening it up in the hope that America can expand it to force Iran to limit its regional ambitions is almost certain to fail.

If America walks away, its European allies will stick with the deal but they will conclude that Mr. Trump puts a low value on the transatlantic alliance. The nuclear agreement may not collapse immediately, but the odds would increase of a nuclear arms-race in the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt began to prepare for the day when Iran had the bomb. And because of the symmetry, Mr. Kim would surely be less willing to think he could trust an agreement struck with Mr. Trump.

It’s simple really

To hope that Mr. H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, who may shortly be fired himself, or Mr. James Mattis, the Defence Secretary, can be relied on to constrain the president is to clutch at straws. Mr. Trump does not have a foreign policy so much as a worldview rooted in grievance and a belief that others must lose for America to win. He has his tariffs, his talks with North Korea and maybe soon a Middle East peace plan. The world is about to witness Mr.Trump unbound. What could go wrong?

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “After Rexit”

US Foreign Policy: Misjudging Kim Jong-un

March 16, 2018

US Foreign Policy: Misjudging Kim Jong-un

by John C Hulsman*

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If US President Donald Trump and his advisers continue to assume that traditional deterrence does not apply to North Korea, they are likely to lose the latest geopolitical chess match. History shows that those who mistake their political or military adversaries for lunatics are usually disastrously wrong.

MILAN – Throughout history, political observers have found decision-makers who are deemed “crazy” the most difficult to assess. In fact, the problem is rarely one of psychopathology. Usually, the label merely indicates behavior that is different from what conventional analysts were expecting.

This was surely true of the twelfth-century Syrian religious leader Rashid al-Din Sinan. During the Third Crusade, the supposedly mad “Old Man of the Mountain,” as he was known, succeeded in disrupting a Crusader advance on Jerusalem by directing his followers to carry out targeted assassinations. After carrying out their orders, the assassins often stayed put and awaited capture in full view of the local populace, to ensure that their leader received proper credit for the act.

At the time, such actions were incomprehensible to the Western mind. Westerners took to calling the Old Man’s followers hashashin, or users of hashish, because they regarded intoxication as the only possible explanation for such “senseless” disregard for one’s own physical wellbeing. But the hashashin were not drug users on the whole. And, more to the point, they were successful: their eventual assassination of Conrad of Montferrat led directly to the political collapse of the Crusader coalition and the defeat of Richard the Lionheart of England. As Polonius says of Hamlet, there was method to the Old Man’s madness.

Today, the problem of analyzing supposedly lunatic leaders has reappeared with the North Korean nuclear crisis. Whether North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is mad is not merely an academic question; it is the heart of the matter.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has stated unequivocally that it will not tolerate a North Korean capability to threaten the mainland United States with nuclear weapons. According to Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, the administration’s position reflects its belief that Kim is crazy, and that “classical deterrence theory” thus does not apply.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

During the Cold War, US President Dwight Eisenhower reasoned that even if Stalin (and later Mao) was homicidal, he was also rational, and did not wish to perish in a US counter-strike. The logic of “mutually assured destruction” that underlay nuclear deterrence worked.

If, however, the leader of a nuclear-armed state is a lunatic who is indifferent to his physical safety and that of those around him, the entire deterrence strategy falls apart. If Kim is insane, the only option is to take him out before his suicidal regime can kill millions of people.

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“Kim Jong-un’s dramatic overture to hold a summit with Trump by May hardly seems to fit the “madman” narrative. In fact, it looks like the act of someone who knows exactly what he is doing.”–John C Hulsman

But is Kim truly crazy, or does he simply have a worldview that discomfits Western analysts? His dramatic overture to hold a summit with Trump by May hardly seems to fit the “madman” narrative. In fact, it looks like the act of someone who knows exactly what he is doing.

Consider three strategic considerations that Kim could be weighing. First, his regime might be planning to offer concessions that it has no intention of fulfilling. After all, an earlier nuclear deal that the US brokered with his father, Kim Jong-il, was derailed by duplicity. In 2002, the US discovered that the regime was secretly enriching weapons-grade uranium in direct violation of its earlier pledge.

In fact, North Korea has demonstrated time and again that it doesn’t play by the rules. It enters into negotiations to extract concessions such as food aid, and then returns to its objectionable activities, thus starting the entire Sisyphean cycle again. There is no reason to think that this time will be different. But the regime’s deviousness should not be mistaken for irrationality or madness. Simply by expressing his openness to talks, Kim has already won some of the political legitimacy he craves.

Second, rather than being a lunatic, Kim seems mindful of recent history. Whereas Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya paid the ultimate price for giving up their nuclear programs, Kim has advanced his regime’s nuclear capabilities and is now publicly treated as a near-equal by the most powerful man on the planet. The Kim regime has always sought such vindication above everything else.

A third and final consideration is that North Korea is playing for time. Though it has agreed to halt nuclear and missile tests in the run-up to the summit, it could be using the intervening months to develop related technologies. For example, it still needs to perfect an atmospheric re-entry mechanism to make its intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland reliably and accurately. Moreover, as long as the summit is in play, North Korea need not fear a US military strike. That is a perfectly rational and sensible prize for Kim to pursue.

All told, North Korea’s “opening” will most likely amount to much less than meets the eye. But one can still glean valuable strategic insights from Kim’s diplomatic gambit. North Korean thinking reflects cunning, to be sure; but it also betrays the regime’s will to survive, and its desire to master the current situation. This suggests that Kim is not “crazy” after all, and that conventional deterrence will still work, as it has since 1945.

That is good news for everyone, but particularly for the Trump administration, given that it will almost certainly fail to secure any meaningful concessions from North Korea in the upcoming talks.

*John C. Hulsman is President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a global political risk consulting firm, and the author of To Dare More Boldly (Princeton University Press, 2018).

Foreign Policy: US’ New Military Strategy (Quad) to contain China

March 12, 2018

Foreign Policy: US’ New Military Strategy (Quad) to contain China

By: Salman Rafi Sheikh

Over recent months, the ‘Quad,’ the nickname for a regional mechanism comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India and ostensibly established as a security forum by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe almost a decade ago, has increasingly evolved into a central tenet of the US’s new military strategy vis-à-vis China.

Using words taken from the US National Security Strategy document, China is regarded as a “revisionist power” that must be contained and whose increasing influence counterbalanced through alternative economic and military means.

The Quad largely went dormant following the withdrawal of Australia during the tenure of the dovish Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. But Abe, Australian and Indian Premiers Malcolm Turnbull and Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump agreed in Manila last November to revive it. China – and the rest of the world – were delivered a bristling message on the sidelines of the ASSEAN and East Asia summits in Manila last November.

It was a message that was reinforced two weeks ago at a summit in New Delhi in which naval chiefs of the four countries, known formally as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, shared the stage to grapple with what regional news reports termed as “Chinese unilateralism,” which needs to be countered through reviving the Quad, which is seen in China as nothing less than an “Asian NATO.”

Image result for Admiral Harry HarrisCommander of US Armed Forces in Asia, Admiral Harry Harris, has been nominated to the position of US Ambassador to Australia.


Representative of the member countries expressed their views, but the reported star of the show was Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of the US Pacific Command in Hawaii and the next US Ambassador to Australia. Targeting China in perhaps the most explicit terms, Harris said: “The reality is that China is a disruptive transitional force in the Indo-Pacific, they are the owner of the trust deficit in the region,” adding that China’s intent is not only to dominate singlehandedly the South China Sea but also to rival if not match the American military power and force it out of the region.

Harris’s words were corroborated by the Australian Navy Chief who called upon the members to take concrete action against the PLA’s Navy.

A revival is, therefore, clearly in place here. But there are different objectives working behind it. For the US, the primary motivation is that it wants to maintain its erstwhile position in the region as the guarantor of security, a position that has been considerably damaged by the Trump Aadministration’s own scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While TPP itself could have been an effective alternative to China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), the Quad revival is taking place as a military strategy signifying that the US wants to keep its focus on the military aspects of its engagement with the region, and that it aims to maintain economic relations on bilateral terms, as emphasized on a number of occasions by the Trump administration.

For instance, Japan has its own concerns, which are not just militaristic. While the US seems intent on keeping the Quad a security arrangement, a successor-alternative to the “Asia Pivot” and rebranding it as a pivot to the Indo-Pacific, Japan’s aims are more diverse.

Tokyo has already pledged US$200 billion as an alternative to China’s BRI and promised to invest this money into building infrastructure around the world. Japan, using the Asian Development Bank as the primary vehicle of investment and loans, seems to be intent upon countering China and its ambitious Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), but nonetheless remains interested in maintaining a sound economic relationship with China.

This is purely economic competition, not simply containment of a “revisionist power.” China is already Japan’s second-biggest export market and Australia’s No. 1 export market as well. Wouldn’t containing China then mean a potential economic loss? And wouldn’t a military containment of China establish a conflict of interests between the Quad members? It’s hard to deny.

As for Australia, it was only a few months ago when Canberra signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China, regarding BRI, signaling Australia’s increasing accommodation with China’s economic overtures.

Then there is India, which had a tough last year with China due to the border standoff between Indian and Chinese armed forces over Chinese construction of a road on the Bhutan border. There have been other provocations including a contest for influence in the Maldives.  But in fact their bilateral relations have eased and both countries have increasingly started to show sensitivity to each other’s interests. While this easing doesn’t necessarily imply a major transformation, it does indicate that India is not simply following in the US’s footsteps leading to military containment of China.

 As has been reported, the Modi government recently took the extraordinary step of preventing its officials from attending functions marking the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile in India. Clearly, India was showing a lot of sensitivity to the understanding that had was reached between both countries during the recent visit to China by India’s Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale. As such, while the official Indian readout on Gokhale’s discussions in Beijing included aspects of bi-lateral interests, the catchwords were “mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns and aspirations.”

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Therefore, the US campaign to rope India into its new containment strategy has its limitations. For one thing, while all the Quad member countries except the US want to continue to use the US presence as a counterweight to China, they are more interested in balancing their relations with China than simply taking part in a strategy that stands little chance of success. For another, China’s rapidly increasing economic and military presence in Asia, although it has its own pitfalls, is likely to inhibit other, lesser countries from supporting the Quad.

On the contrary, a military revival of the Quad with its emphasis on countering China might divide the region further and take it towards a highly tense, zero-sum competition. India’s revised China strategy indicates that it would continue to prefer to follow an independent policy vis-à-vis China rather than toe the US line and end up facing stand-offs in the Himalayas.

China, sensing this buildup, has already responded by increasing its defense spending, calling the increase a necessary ‘element of peace,’ thus proving that the adversarial and aggressive depiction of China would do little to develop non-aggressive and non-military relations between the US and China on the one hand, and between China and other regional countries, particularly the Quad members, on the other. Therefore, from the very beginning of its nascent revival, the Quad seems to have been set on a self-defeating path.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a Pakistani academic and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

Moving from Defence to Offence on Trade Strategy

March 5, 2018

Moving from Defence to Offence on Trade Strategy

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

Image result for Trump declares a trade war  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with his Boss,President Donald Trump


The trade architecture in East Asia — the most dynamic region in the global economy — is up for grabs. The very system on which regional arrangements are built is under threat.

US President Donald Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), his ‘America First’ agenda and his declaration last week of the first shots in a global trade war undermine the WTO and the global rules-based economic system that it underpins. Asia and the global community, including the United States, have relied upon and benefitted from that system for over 70 years.

Can East Asia put aside its differences and define a set of arrangements that protect its own economic security interests absent the United States? US leadership put this system in place and drove its expansion throughout the post-war years. Now the United States is generating the headwinds that threaten to unravel it. Just last week Trump announced the first salvo in what could be a trade war with a 25 per cent tariff on all steel imports and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports. The temptation for other countries is to retaliate with their own self-harm policies.

What’s at stake?

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The multilateral trade regime provides the cement and ballast that makes it easier to manage tricky rivalries and conflictual relationships of the kind that abound in Asia but around which large-scale economic interdependence and prosperity have been built. The ‘America First’ challenge threatens the collapse of that system and a descent into beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism and political conflict reminiscent of the lead-up to World War II.

How leaders in Asia respond to this challenge and the arrangements that the region settles on will matter for three important reasons. It will substantially affect the welfare of individual countries and the communities within them. It will affect the atmosphere for both economic and political cooperation in the region. And, given the size of the Asian economy, it will matter for whether the global rules-based economic system withstands the assault upon it.

No single country  acting on its own can lead a response to the vacuum that United States is daily creating in global governance. This US-sized hole in the Asia Pacific will have to be filled with leadership from the rest of the region as a whole.

Asian and Pacific nations have responded definitively so far. And leadership has come from one of the most unexpected places: Japan, traditionally shy to step out in front.

Once Trump declared that the United States was getting out of the TPP, Japan led the remaining 11 members towards the agreement’s conclusion without the United States. That deal is expected to be signed in Chile this week. The awkwardly named Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), otherwise known as TPP-11, would not have happened were it not for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s leadership. Australia’s also played a major role, but Japan (the Partnership’s largest economy absent the United States) was the decisive player.

As Shiro Armstrong explains in this week’s lead essay, ‘conclusion of the CPTPP does not deliver the big strategic goal of keeping the United States entrenched in Asia. Instead, it sends to Mr Trump a strong message of the region’s commitment to openness. Holding the line and pushing back against growing protectionist sentiment keeps the pressure up, with market opening and reform on which US businesses and consumers miss out’.

Most surprised about Japanese leadership are the Japanese themselves. As Armstrong says, Japan ‘has found itself in an unusual position. Japan has often relied on external pressure, usually from the United States, to advance its diplomatic goals and even to push domestic reforms’.

Asia cannot count on Japanese leadership alone, nor can it count on Japan’s continuing in this manner. In saving what’s left of the TPP, Mr Abe saw an opportunity to hedge ‘against the uncertainties that Trump has generated in regional and global trade policy, strengthening ties with other partners like Australia and India and laying the groundwork for improving relations with China’.

Australia almost single-handedly led the push back against Trump’s team  tearing up multilateralism as APEC’s central tenet at the summit in Vietnam last November.

With Australia having held the line in APEC and moved forward on the TPP, what is needed now is for the other powers in Asia to join Australia and Japan in preserving and protecting the global system.

The CPTPP, even if it expands membership to include other middle powers in East Asia, is not systemically important enough to do the job. With the United States in the agreement, the TPP would have accounted for 38 per cent of the global economy but without it the agreement accounts for only 13 per cent.

In East Asia, there is fortunately another vehicle that has the weight to do the job. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is currently being negotiated, involves the 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. That grouping accounts for 31 per cent of global economy.

RCEP (perhaps the second-worst acronym in Asia after the CPTPP) is as important as it is difficult to realise with the required ambition. Including the major economies of Indonesia, India and China makes a tall order out of large and credible commitments to economic opening . The anxiety to get a deal done quickly could compromise the quality of the arrangement and therefore its impact. A hastily concluded RCEP deal that is not credible in its ambition would be a mistake and a huge lost opportunity, risking more harm than good. India is still playing its familiar role of spoiler by dragging the agreement down and other leaders have yet to expend political capital that they need to on RCEP.

There is no clear leader in RCEP. The Partnership is not China-led as is often wrongly claimed: ASEAN is the hub and inspiration, and the major powers, including China, are the spokes. The only leadership that China can show that Australia, Japan, India and others can accept is one where it commits to reforms and opening up its economy. That will benefit both China and the global economy.

RCEP is the best chance at an agreement that is inclusive of China and locks it into reforms. The CPTPP may be easier for countries to join than the original TPP since it has frozen ‘some of the more egregious provisions of TPP — especially the US-pushed intellectual property protections that were likely to benefit big business in the United States at the expense of consumers in the region’, as Armstrong explains. But expanding CPTPP membership to China is unlikely since it would close the door to any possibility that the United States might rejoin at some time in the future.

There is little chance of the United States rejoining the TPP under Mr Trump or even the president after him. Piecing together political leadership on trade in Washington will be difficult without making progress on an agenda for dealing with the issues that have led to the current problems: stagnant middle-class incomes, wider distribution of the gains from trade and a properly functioning social safety net. The US Congress is unlikely to agree to join an existing deal, even though the United States was the driving force of the original TPP. The United States’ joining a deal that China is party to any time soon is inconceivable.

If East Asia does not hold the line on corrosion of the global trade regime and protectionism, no one else is likely to.Crafting regional trade architecture without the constructive participation of the United States is the immediate challenge and will remain the challenge for the foreseeable future. Australia and Japan have led the initial charge, but China, India and Indonesia will need to step up.

Asian powers may not be ready for the sort of leadership that is needed, but the threat to their interests in the global system will not wait until they are.

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


Anyone Paying Attention to China?

March 5, 2018

Anyone Paying Attention to China?

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

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The First Lady of China, the talented Peng Liyuan, will hopefully be the moderating influence on President Xi Jinping

Amid the flurry of news about Hope Hicks and Jared Kushner and this week’s Trump reality show on guns, it would be easy to miss what’s happening in China. But it is huge and consequential. China is making the most significant change to its political system in 35 years. What impact will this have on China and the world? That’s the question that every policymaker, business executive and investor should be asking.

Deng Xiaoping is generally remembered as the man who began China’s economic reforms. But perhaps more important were his political reforms. He took a system that had been utterly dominated by one man, Mao Zedong, and institutionalized it. Perhaps the single most significant transformation was in 1982, when the Chinese Communist Party wrote into the country’s constitution that its President and Vice President could serve no more than two consecutive terms. This made China unique: a dictatorship with term limits. In most authoritarian regimes, the ruler accumulates power and over the years becomes more arrogant, corrupt and unaccountable. This wasn’t possible in the Chinese system, which limited any individual’s power and focused instead on the collective, the party.

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China’s unique model also produced an economic miracle. The country has had three decades of merit-based selection and promotion within the Communist Party, wise long-range planning and smart pro-growth economic policies. Since 1978, China’s gross domestic product has grown at an astounding average annual rate of almost 10 percent, which the World Bank calls “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.”


For decades, China seemed to be getting more institutionalized. Deng had ruled as a supreme leader, wielding power more from behind the scenes than from any offices he held. His successor, Jiang Zemin , held all the key posts when he was in power. After his two terms as president, he continued to lead the Central Military Commission for two more years and even after that remained influential informally. When Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, finished his two terms as President, he simultaneously relinquished the top military position and lost nearly all power at once. But that trend has now been turned on its head. If term limits are abolished, which is now almost certain, Xi Jinping could stay China’s President, general secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission for the rest of his life. And he is just 64.

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Winnie the Pooh is banned in China

Xi has been a strong leader for China. He has tackled two of the nation’s most pressing problems, the corruption within the Communist Party and the pollution caused by China’s fast growth. These efforts have been very popular within the country at large. He has not, however, tackled other crucial challenges for China: long-stalled economic reforms and reduction of its rising debt levels. Xi’s supporters argue that his consolidation of power will now allow him to take these difficult steps and begin the next stage of reforms.

The real challenge for China, however, is not about Xi’s economic policies. He has been reluctant to pursue tough, unpopular measures, but so are most governments everywhere, democratic or dictatorial. (Has the United States done anything about its rapidly rising debt?) The real danger is that China is eliminating perhaps the central restraint in a system that provides staggering amounts of power to the country’s leaders. What will that do, over time, to the ambitions and appetites of leaders? “Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton famously wrote in 1887, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Perhaps China will avoid this tendency, but it has been widespread throughout history.

China under Xi has also become more ambitious internationally. It is now the world’s second-largest economy, the third-largest funder of the United Nations and the supplier of more peacekeepers than the other four permanent Security Council members combined. The country has been bulking up its military while devoting significant resources to far-flung cultural arms such as the Confucius Institute. It has announced loans and investment spending — the Belt and Road Initiative — that will be about 10 times the size of the Marshall Plan, by some estimates. It is determined to lead the world in fields such as solar and wind power, electric cars and artificial intelligence.

Image result for fareed zakaria and Henry Kissinger


Chinese scholars say China is entering a new era with a new system. After the Communist Party took power in 1949, it had roughly 30 years of Mao’s rule. That was followed by roughly 30 years of Deng and his system. It is now clear that we are in the third era, which might be 30 years of Xi. Is anybody in Washington paying attention?