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The new President of South Korea

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] M [/yt_dropcap]oon Jae-In is the new President of South Korea, elected with 41.4% of votes. The leader of the Democratic Party, who is the current president, had already been considered favoured in opinion polls, especially compared to Hong Yoon-Pyo, the leader of the Liberty Korea Party who, however, got 23.3% of votes.

The election of the leader of the Democratic Party, namely the Minjoo Party, puts an end to the multi-annual centre-right political hegemony represented by the old Saenuri Party, which last February, following the impeachment and dismissal of former President Geun-Hye Park, split off and changed its name to Liberty Korea Party.

The turnout rate was particularly high, with 77.2% of people who cast their vote.

However, who is the 66-year-old lawyer who has a long history as human right lawyer and civil rights defender?

He has already had significant political experience as Chief of Cabinet of former South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun. He was also a member of the South Korea’s Parliamentary Assembly and finally founded the progressive daily newspaper Hankyoreh.

At political level, the new South Korean President wants, above all, peaceful reunification with North Korea.

He is reproposing the Sunshine Policy adopted by two former South Korean President, namely Kim Dae-Jung and Roh-Moo Yun, who still seems to be the reference point for Moon Jae-In.

Moreover, the newly-elected President has also declared he is a “friend of America”, especially because it spared South Korea from the experience of war Communism and because it long sustained its economic growth.

In essence, the new South Korean leader wants a rebalancing of relations between South Korea and the United States and, in particular, South Korea’s full autonomy with regard to the reunification policy with North Korea.

Obviously, the very idea of reunification between the two Koreas is based on autonomous enhancement and upgrading of South Korea’s military system and on a project for economic merger between the two old regions – a tragic relic and memory of Cold War in Asia, the region in which there was the fiercest and longest clash between the United States, the USSR and China.

As Park Geun-Hye said in 2014, reunification would be an “economic bonanza”.

That idea was supported both by Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, who were both interested in defusing the regiona militarily and, above all, in creating an economic and financial success case in the Pacific, so as to support both China’s growth and Japan’s economic cycle.

The only one that explicitly opposed said idea in 2014 was Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the North Korean Workers’ Party.

The issue, however, is complex, considering that North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities have led to a long sequence of UN Security Council’s Resolutions, ranging from No. 1718 to 1874 and 2087, as well as a set of harsh economic sanctions.

North Korea needs to give priority to its nuclear and military potential compared to the reunification project, as it is the only guarantee for the stability of its ruling class.

Conversely, South Korea needs to internationalize the Korean issue, so as to permit a reunification which, in its plans, would enable North Korea to redress its economy and create a productive boom that would make the reunited Korea a big and stable “Asian tiger”.

South Korea thinks of reunification mainly as an extraordinary opportunity for its economic growth.

Moreover, this would also be in US interest.

Obviously, North Korea’s progressive destabilization would endanger China, which has 1,420 kilometres of terrestrial borders with North Korea, as well as the Russian Federation, which has 17 kilometres of terrestrial borders with North Korea and 22.1 kilometres (equivalent to 12 nautical miles) of maritime borders.

If the polarity between China and the United States loosened, exactly in relation to the future of North Korea, this would be the primary strategic key to reunification between South and North Korea.

Russia would be the natural reference point for restructuring the North Korean nuclear and missile potential, which would become a guarantee for security throughout the South Pacific region.

On the economic front, South Korea’s new President is well-known for his fight against the chaebol, namely the large industrial conglomerates which have so far produced both South Korea’s economic growth and the many corporate restrictions and impediments that prevent it today.

Furthermore, South Korea records a very low birth rate, which naturally weakens its economic momentum, and a welfare crisis that, for the first time since the 1950s, makes the ghost of mass poverty loom large.

Hence currently the political and economic dialectics in South Korea lies between the “protected” and the “marginalized”, in a two-thirds society where poor people increase and the protection for those who are still at work decreases, matched by a parallel increase of the unemployed, the old “reserve production army” stabilizing wages at their lowest level.

As stated by the new President, on the geopolitical front, South Korea shall “learn to say no to America”, especially with regard to the THAAD missile defence network, which, however, should be largely paid by South Korea.

In addition, South Korea should “take the lead in the flow of events” regarding the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Translated into current language, South Korea could start a series of talks with North Korea so as to make it lower the military guard and, above all, put its defence directly into the hands of the national government – and not only of the relationship between South Korea and the United States.

Would it be enough? Yes, if the rejection of the THAAD system is followed by a series of economic and military measures to reassure North Korea.

Said measures would make the Russian Federation and China enter the Korean strategic framework and both countries are expected to rebalance the system, while the United States loosens its grip on South Korea.

From an economic viewpoint, the reunification of the two Koreas is supposed to cost a sum ranging between 25 billion and 3.5 trillion US dollars. The target should be the possible doubling of North Korea’s GDP four years after reunification.

And again, bearing these calculations in mind, reunification should cost additional 50 or 67 billion US dollars.

Hence, South Korea cannot bear these costs on its own and should raise at least 50% of the funds needed abroad.

Another scenario to be considered is the one which seems to be the most likely today, that is North Korea accepting the minimum number of domestic economic reforms needed to preserve the status quo indefinitely.

The second scenario – again for North Korea – suggests a short-term economic collapse that would entail huge costs both at humanitarian level and for securing North Korea’s nuclear, biological and conventional weapons, with a possible mounting of tensions in South Korea, which could not solve North Korea’s implosion on its own.

A further possible scenario is a war between the two Koreas, which would trigger off unimaginable tensions in China, Russia, and Japan.

Obviously, at least since the 1990s, South Korea’s ruling class has assumed the primary criterion that – even avoiding the most dangerous and unfortunate choices – reunification will be a very slow process, in which no South Korean government will do anything to favour an economic, strategic or political crisis in North Korea.

Furthermore, 67% of people in South Korea believes that the two Koreas should be reunited, but 56% of South Koreans think that their country would lose, rather than benefit from the reunification process.

At geopolitical level, reunification could entail the strategic autonomy of Korea, with the North Korean armed forces leaving South Korea, thus eventually playing China against the United States and the other way round.

North Korea, however, is a buffer zone China needs to avoid an even closer alliance between South Korea and the United States.

China does not want reunification through the North-South war – the worst scenario for China – while the best scenario for it is the current status quo between the two Koreas preventing the humanitarian crisis in North Korea, which would spread to the Chinese territory, while South Korea keeps on recording high investment flows to China.

Hence, China backs North Korea, but only to a certain extent and it accepts the cost for maintaining the two Koreas, instead of envisaging reunification which would be China’s worst economic and security scenario.

In all likelihood, a reunited Korea would be a new Vietnam for China, as well as a non-compliant power and a strong economic competitor.

In the future, we can even imagine a maritime block between the United States and Japan, which would rebalance a continental block between China, Russia and the reunited Korea, while the United States should anyway succeed in persuading South Korea to avoid the military alliance with China.

Even from this viewpoint, in the future, the United States will tend to record a sequence of crises in the Korean region, both working on the assumption of a slow reunification, which would in any case make its armed forces leave the Korean peninsula, and working on the assumption that the status quo is maintained between the two Koreas, which is the situation in which the alliance between South Korea and China is optimal, thus also ensuring a faster and more stable reunification.

Obviously, the stability of the Korean Peninsula is essential also for Japan’s security.

For Japan, the best scenario would be a status quo between the two Koreas leading to North Korea’s gradual denuclearization.

As a second option, Japan prefers Korea – also reunited – to remain friendly to the United States and, of course, to Japan, as well as economically open and enabling the US forces to keep on staying in the region.

South Korea wants to get closer to China as much as Japan shall get closer to the United States so as to preserve the balance of strategic potentials in the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of the old “co-prosperity area” of the Japanese Empire.

For Russia, the option is primarily economic: between 2000 and 2004 bilateral trade between Russia and North Korea grew by 36% and that between Russia and South Korea by 23%.

As to the two Koreas’ issue, the Russian Federation would like to reach a highly unlikely result: a united Korea in which Russia can make the South relinquish its security relationship with the United States.

More rationally, Russia wants a reunification maintaining the United States in the region and paradoxically keeping China away from it.

Nevertheless, in all likelihood, a reunited Korea would still be a primary asset for China, but only the US economy – together with the other major ones – could bear the cost of reunification, albeit slow.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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East Asia

Chinese Game: U.S. Losing Asia and Africa

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As the US sanction pressure on Russia intensifies, the US economic and political competition with their most important economic partner, China, is noticeably getting more fierce. Simultaneously, Washington has been exchanging direct and indirect economic strikes with Turkey and the EU. (In the case of the European Union, an exchange of blows occurs in connection with Washington’s threat to punish European companies that are set to ignore the US ban on cooperation with Iran.)

Two Lines of Confrontation

The aggravation of the US-Chinese rivalry proceeds along two lines: first, the rates in the “tariff war” between the two countries are rising; second, the struggle between Washington and Beijing for lucrative markets in Asia and Africa is intensifying. Both these processes are interrelated, but in the current circumstances the main focus of the second line  is the fight for markets.

In the first place, I would like to talk briefly about the “tariff war” between the US and China as an important element in relations between the two countries, without which it is impossible to understand all the subtleties of competition between these two countries in Asia and Africa. As is known, the “tariff war” worsened after the US president first introduced a 25-percent duty on the import of 818 products from China, the total value of which was estimated at 34 billion dollars a year. Then came the even more threatening statement of the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer: “On July 18, the President instructed me to compile the list of Chinese goods worth 200 billion dollars for imposing additional duties of 10 percent … The President ordered me to consider an increase in the proposed level from 10 to 25 percent “. After China responded with a 25-percent duty on 34 billion dollars’ worth of American goods, Trump did not rule out the possibility of raising duties on all Chinese imports in the US. The total value of Chinese commodities in the US is currently estimated at about $ 500 billion.

Simultaneously, the United States has loudly announced its intention to compete with China in influencing countries that participate in the Chinese transport project “One Belt, One Road”, which is designed to revive the Great Silk Road, which ran throughout the whole of Eurasia in the Middle Ages. As he set off for  the Regional Cooperation Forum in Singapore in July this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his intention to counteract China’s so-called “silk” influence. According to Pompeo’s plans, the appropriate measures should cost the US budget a trifling $ 113 million against China’s hundreds of billions which is exactly the amount Beijing is planning to allocate for the implementation of “One Belt, One Road” project.

Influence at Low Cost

If the United States intends to squeeze China out of Asia at such miniscule costs, they obviously underestimate the rival. At least two factors work for Beijing: first of all, China is one of the region’s oldest “aborigines”; besides, Washington, waging a “tariff” war against Beijing, can thus deprive itself of a part of the Chinese oil market, making China even more attractive for oil traders from Iran and Russia – the key players in the project “One Belt, One Road”.

The American Oil Price news site has described the impact of the US-China “tariff war” on the Asian oil players as follows: “China has threatened to impose a 25- percent import tariff on crude oil and oil products from the United States. If this threat comes into effect, crude oil from the US can become non-competitive in terms of value. Such a tariff from China will not only reduce the income of oil exporters from the US, forcing them to look for new markets … it can become a source of additional revenues for the OPEC countries. And the OPEC countries are the suppliers that the US has pushed into the background in recent years”, says Oil Price researcher Irina Slav. oilprice.com

Considering that for the American oil industry China is the largest export market after Canada, it becomes clear that this matter is fraught with so huge losses, billions in fact, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with his 113 million dollars sounds ridiculous.

Psychological Error

Judging by Pompeo’s statements, Americans are committing a psychological mistake in Asia. This is the mistake that led to China pushing the US to the sidelines in many countries of Africa. The matter is that the US is trying to replace genuine assistance by self-praise, flaunting any of its measures as valuable and corruption-free, alleging that whatever it does is a good example to follow. “The world knows that with American companies you get what you see. Honest contracts, honest conditions, there is no need for behind-the-scenes machinations. Decency in business is the pillar of our economic vision in the Indo-Pacific Region”, the Secretary of State told CNN.

Meanwhile, South-East Asian nations know only too well about the US policy in this region. Alas, it is simply impossible to describe this policy as ever humanistic, open and devoid of corruption – it would mean contradicting the historical truth. The brutal war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, the support of the dictatorial and corrupt regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines (1965-1986), the “secret wars” of the CIA in Laos and Cambodia during military operations in Vietnam – the memory of all these is still fresh in the region. All the countries affected (Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia) are members of ASEAN. In such circumstances, the self-praising speeches by American officials at ASEAN forums trigger a skeptical attitude, to say the least. And although many ASEAN countries may feel wary of China and are unlikely to have cloudless relations with Beijing in the near future, the US’ psychologically wrong tactics have already antagonized many of these states pushing them toward Russia and China. This is proved by the recent attempts by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to diversify the traditionally pro-American policy of his country, enlisting the support of Russia and even China, a long-term rival. Duterte’s historic visit to China in 2016 showed who had actually won the fight for the “heart and mind” of the Philippine leader – a struggle in which the United States initially had very strong positions. aljazeera.com

The anti-Duterte media campaign, which was launched in the US and the EU soon afterwards, has no direct consequences so far. American accusations against Duterte in connection with an excessively fierce fight against the drug mafia sounded hypocritical amid the “war on drugs” which was imposed by the United States on Mexico and Colombia in the 2000s and in which at least 45,000 people were killed.

Lost In Asia – Will Lose In Africa

As far as Africa is concerned, in recent years China has outplayed not only the Americans, but the seemingly familiar with the local specifics former colonial masters of this region – the French and the British.

After the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, the Chinese side found the right approach to its African partners – without instruction, without interference in internal affairs, with investment proposals supported by the banking sector of the Middle Kingdom. The first ministerial meeting of FOCAC attracted representatives of 44 countries from 53 states of the African continent. Fairly soon, China made these forums pan-African by removing Taiwan. Until the middle of the 2000s Taiwan had its diplomatic missions in several African countries (including Chad and Senegal), which excluded the possibility of communication between these countries and the PRC.

Orientation – Bandung

The African-Chinese “union of values” began with the Bandung Conference of 1955, during which 29 countries of Asia and Africa proclaimed the principles of non-interference, respect for each other’s sovereignty and comprehensive economic cooperation. The figures of the Indian Jewaharlal Nehru, the Egyptian Gamal-Abdel Nasser and the Chinese Zhou Enlai, which live in the memory of many in connection with their participation in the Bandung Conference, have ‘sanctified’ a new approach to China’s cooperation with Africa. All three became heroes in their countries, and the Chinese leadership, headed by the then Secretary-General Hu Jintao, was not mistaken in the choice of a model: in the coming years China will most likely gain an economic foothold in Angola, South Africa and the Congo-Brazzaville state. According to the long-term president of this country Denis Sassou Nguesso, “Africans for the first time do not expect foul play from people with a different skin color who build their roads and power lines.” (Source: the book by French journalists Serge Michel, Michel Beuret “Cinafrica, Pechino qalla conquista del continente nero” – “Beijing in the process of conquering the black continent.” Milano, 2009, p. 23)

At present, Africa’s trade with China amounts to 220 billion dollars, with the US – 37 billion. Foreign direct investment from China to African countries is estimated at $ 50 billion, although many experts claim that the real figure is higher: too much infrastructure, new plants and modern services have appeared in Africa for such “modest” Chinese money. (Source: book by French journalists Serge Michel, Michel Beuret “Cinafrica, Pechino qalla conquista del continente nero” – “Beijing in the process of conquering the black continent.” Milano, 2009, p. 22).

It should be noted that Africa did its best to repay all their benefactors with loyalty: together with China, leaders of the African Union reacted negatively to the armed, violent overthrow of the leader of the African Union – Libyan Muammar Gaddafi. China knows that it can count on the majority of African votes in the UN. But the main thing is gratitude, which in the case of Africa-China relations is absolutely sincere.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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The Uyghur militant threat: China cracks down and mulls policy changes

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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China, responding to United Nations criticism, academic and media reports, and an embarrassing court case in Kazakhstan, has come closer to admitting that it has brutally cracked down on the strategic north-western province of Xinjiang in what it asserts is a bid to prevent the kind of mayhem that has wracked countries like Syria and Libya.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times charged in its Chinese and English editions that the criticism and reports were aimed at stirring trouble and destroying hard-earned stability in Xinjiang, China’s gateway to Central Asia and home to its Turkic Uyghur and ethnic minority Central Asian Muslim communities.

The crackdown, involving introduction of the world’s most intrusive surveillance state and the indefinite internment of large numbers of Muslims in re-education camps, is designed to quell potential Uyghur nationalist and religious sentiment and prevent blowback from militants moving to Central Asia’s borders with China after the Islamic State and other jihadist groups lost most of their territorial base in Iraq and Syria.

Concern that national and religious sentiment and/or militancy could challenge China’s grip on Xinjiang, home to 15  percent of its proven oil reserves, 22  per cent of its gas reserves, and 115 of the 147 raw materials found in the People’s Republic as well as part of its nuclear arsenal, has prompted Beijing to consider a more interventionist policy in the Middle East and Central and South Asia in contradiction to its principle of non-interference in the affairs of others.

The Global Times asserted that the security situation in Xinjiang had been “turned around and terror threats spreading from there to other provinces of China are also being eliminated. Peaceful and stable life has been witnessed again in all of Xinjiang… Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil. It has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya,’” the paper said.

Five Chinese mining engineers were wounded last week in a suicide attack in the troubled Pakistan province of Balochistan, a key node in the US$ 50 billion plus China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) intended to link the strategic port of Gwadar with Xinjiang and fuel economic development in the Chinese region. The attack was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) rather than Uyghurs.

The Global Times admitted that the Chinese effort to ensure security had “come at a price that is being shouldered by people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang.”

China has not acknowledged the existence of re-education camps but the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said last week that it had credible reports that one million Uyghurs, were being held in what resembled a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

The UN assertion of the existence of the camps is corroborated by academic research and media reports based on interviews with former camp inmates and relatives of prisoners, testimony to a US Congressional committee, and recent testimony in a Kazakh court by a former employee in one of the camps.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the chair of the congressional committee, called for the sanctioning of Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary and Politburo member Chen Quanguo and “all government officials and business entities assisting the mass detentions and surveillance”. He also demanded that Chinese security agencies be added “to a restricted end-user list to ensure that American companies don’t aid Chinese human-rights abuses.”

Stymying the international criticism and demands for action before they gain further momentum is imperative if China wants to ensure that the Muslim world continues to remain silent about what amounts to a Chinese effort, partly through indoctrination in its re-education camps, to encourage the emergence of what it would call an Islam with Chinese characteristics. China is pushing other faiths to adopt a similar approach.

Concern that Uighur militants exiting Syria and Iraq will again target Xinjiang is likely one reason why Chinese officials suggested that despite their adherence to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others China might join the Syrian army in taking on militants in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.

Syrian forces have bombarded Idlib, a dumping ground for militants evacuated from other parts of the country captured by the Syrian military and the country’s last major rebel stronghold, in advance of an expected offensive.

Speaking to Syrian pro-government daily Al-Watan, China’s ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, said that China was ‘following the situation in Syria, in particular after the victory in southern (Syria), and its military is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria.”

Chinese participation in a campaign in Idlib would be China’s first major engagement in foreign battle in decades.

China has similarly sought to mediate a reduction of tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan in an effort to get them to cooperate in the fight against militants and ensure that Uyghur jihadists are denied the ability to operate on China’s borders. It has also sought to facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Chinese officials told a recent gathering in Beijing of the Afghan-Pakistan-China Trilateral Counter-Terrorism dialogue that militant cross-border mobility represented a major threat that needed to be countered by an integrated regional approach.

Potentially, there’s a significant economic upside to facilitating regional cooperation in South Asia and military intervention in Syria. Post-conflict, both countries offer enormous reconstruction opportunities.

Said Middle East scholar Randa Slim discussing possible Chinese involvement in the clearing of Idlib: “You have to think about this in terms of the larger negotiations over Chinese assistance to reconstruction. Syria doesn’t have the money, Russia doesn’t have the money. China has a stake in the fighting.” It also has the money.

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East Asia

Sino-American Strategic Rivalry

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From a strategy point of view, Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are similar in least in one respect: Sun Tzu’s idea of moving swiftly to overcome resistance is similar to the one endorsed by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon.

The modern day example can be traced to the 2003 “shock and awe” campaign by the U.S. in Iraq and the Iraqi reliance on a strategy similar to Russian defense against Napoleon’s attack in his Russian Campaign of 1812. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was the beginning of the end of his ambition. He won many battles but lost the war.

And America is suffering from the same fate as the struggle for a new Iraqi political identity is not going to go the American way. The same can be said about Afghanistan.

This is precisely why discussions on war must be assessed from a geopolitical point of view as Clausewitz has noted that “war is an extension of politics”. And the reverse is also true, one may add.

A quick tour of modern history reveals the true winners and losers of wars, by comparing a country’s power before and after a war. The United Kingdom and Germany were both losers of the two World Wars. And the difference of losses between them is a matter of degree.

But the U.K. suffered greater and irreversible losses than Germany.  The British ceded its number one geopolitical leadership position in the world to the United States. But Germany has been able to regain its position as Europe’s great economic and political power, while the prospects of the U.K. taking back the world leadership position from the U.S. are next to none.

America has been a geopolitical winner overall since the two World Wars. But its power has been in relative decline. It has failed to advance its power after the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and most recently Syria. It has failed so far to advance the momentum created by the Arab Spring as it has since become the Arab Winter, or to make much headway in Latin America, in Ukraine, and in Africa.

America’s key failures in the past decade are failures in being able to offer tangible economic benefits to target countries while expanding its military involvements. The country can win military battles because of its overwhelming fire power but has not been successful in its after-war “nation building” efforts.

Despite China’s numerous shortcomings, many developing countries quietly wish they could become a mini-China economically. They want to live better with more consumption but they probably want to do it by being able to build up their country’s infrastructure and an industrial base.

America’s recent announcement that it will invest $113 million in technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives in the Indo-Pacific as part of a new strategy to deepen ties with the region has received jaw-dropping reception – sarcastically speaking.

As an example, a survey of North American light rail projects shows that costs of most LRT systems range from $15 million to over $100 million per mile. So how far $113 million or even $1.13 billion can go even if one is to factor in some discounts if projects are implemented in lower cost Indo-Pacific countries? Remember, $113 million is for countries as in plural!

This pales in comparison to China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) that ranges between $1 trillion and $8 trillion. BRI is not without its problems and critics. Concerns have been raised about increases in some participating countries’ level of national debt as a result of massive infrastructure building. But because of the scale of the initiative, even if it could only succeed at the lowest end of the range, would offer some real and substantial benefits to countries that can benefit from it.

While freedom and democracy are ideals that have universal support in the abstract – the key words here are “in the abstract” – successful nation-building efforts are realized in the nitty-gritty of people’s everyday economic well-being. This is particularly true among developing countries.

Cheap Chinese smart phones have enabled Africans to get market information to transact with one another more beneficially, to acquire news and information, to lower transaction costs through mobile payments. Inexpensive Chinese motor bikes have become life-saving vehicles for rural populations carrying goods to markets as well as the sick to clinics or hospitals many miles away that they previously could not do.

While the U.S. is no doubt keen on promoting democracy, it is the Chinese that provide affordable smart phones to the masses that allow the spread of information.

While some of the best and the brightest, the elites, the upper middle class in developing countries may desire to have an opportunity to earn an Ivey League degree, to emigrate to the U.S. for better opportunities, to acquire an American passport as an insurance policy, it’s the Chinese that are doing the grunt work of building and training local personnel to conduct trains, to train electrical power linemen to install and repair of overhead or underground power lines as well as to maintain and repair of other electrical and hydro-electrical subsystems and components.

Regardless of how one’s view of China’s strategic intents in its international involvements, the strategies between the U.S. and China cannot be more different. China builds and America destroys.

But many countries especially in the Indo-Pacific region are taking advantage of the rivalry between these two powers to extract the best deals for themselves and you can’t blame them. Economically they want to cooperate with China but militarily they want to get a free ride from the U.S. and the U.S. does not mind that as long as it falls within America’s China Containment strategy.

And time will tell which strategy will work better – economic cooperation or military encirclement?

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