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Ed Webb

As Obama's Asia 'pivot' falters, China steps into the gap - Yahoo News - 2 views

  • doubts over a policy aimed at re-invigorating U.S. military and economic influence in the fast-growing region, while balancing a rising China
  • the image of a dysfunctional, distracted Washington adds to perceptions that China has in some ways outflanked the U.S. pivot
  • Since 2011, China has consolidated its position as the largest trade partner with most Asian countries and its direct investments in the region are surging, albeit from a much lower base than Europe, Japan and the United States. Smaller countries such as Laos and Cambodia have been drawn so strongly into China's economic orbit that they have been called "client states" of Beijing, supporting its stance in regional disputes.

    Leveraging its commercial ties, China is also expanding its diplomatic, political and military influence more broadly in the region, though its efforts are handicapped by lingering maritime tensions with Japan, the Philippines and several other nations.

    "For countries not closely allied with the U.S., Obama's no-show will reinforce their policy of bandwagoning with China,"

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  • China is demonstrating that it can deploy forces far beyond its coastal waters on patrols where they conduct complex battle exercises, according to Japanese and Western naval experts. Chinese shipyards are turning out new nuclear and conventional submarines, destroyers, missile-armed patrol boats and surface ships at a higher rate than any other country.
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, one of Washington's most key allies in the region, said it was disappointing Obama would not be visiting Asia.

    "Obviously we prefer a U.S. government which is working to one which is not. And we prefer a U.S. President who is able to travel to fulfill his international duties to one who is preoccupied with his domestic preoccupations," Lee said after arriving in Bali.

    "It is a very great disappointment to us President Obama is unable to visit."

Ed Webb

China's Glass Ceiling - By Geoff Dyer | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • Rather than usher in a new era of Chinese influence, Beijing's missteps have shown why it is unlikely to become the world's leading power. Even if it overtakes the United States to have the biggest economy in the world, which many economists believe could happen over the next decade, China will not dislodge Washington from its central position in global affairs for decades to come.
  • China's assertiveness is generating intense suspicion, if not outright enmity, among its neighbors. Its "peaceful rise" is not taking place in isolation. There may be echoes in today's Asia of the late-nineteenth century in Europe and North America, but this is the one critical difference. The United States came into its own as a great power without any major challenge from its neighbors, while Germany's ascent was aided by the collapsing Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Russian monarchy on its frontiers. China, on the other hand, is surrounded by vibrant countries with fast-growing economies, from South Korea to India to Vietnam, who all believe that this is their time, as well. Even Japan, after two decades of stagnation, still has one of the most formidable navies in the world, as well as the world's third largest economy. China's strategic misfortune is to be bordered by robust and proud nation-states which expect their own stake in the modern world.
  • On the economic front, Beijing is taking aim at another pillar of U.S. power: the dominance of the dollar. China is putting in place an ambitious long-term plan to turn the renminbi into one of the main international currencies. Chinese leaders often discuss the project in technical terms, about reducing currency risk for their companies, but they also do little to hide their frustration with the dollar's privileged status. One Chinese academic even likens the importance of the project to turn the renminbi into a major reserve currency to China's acquisition of a nuclear weapon in the 1960s.

    The politics of the currency plan are themselves an interesting sidebar to the over-hyping of Chinese influence. While American politicians have been worrying loudly about the risk of China owning so many Treasury bonds ("How do you deal toughly with your banker?" Hillary Clinton asked at a private lunch with then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in March 2009) China has been fretting about how little leverage its U.S. bond holdings give it. The desire to dethrone the dollar is partly rooted in China's frustration that it has absolutely no influence over the Federal Reserve. And yet it has few options other than buying American debt, because the U.S. Treasury bond market is the largest and most liquid in the world.

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  • The key to Chinese state capitalism is control over a relatively closed financial system, which allows the Communist Party to funnel huge volumes of cheap credit to select projects, industries, and companies. But to have a truly international currency, one that the world's central banks want to hold, China would have to let investors from around the world buy and sell large volumes of Chinese financial assets. As a result, Beijing would have to dismantle that system of controls. It would need to permit capital to flow freely in and out of the country, let the market set interest rates and allow the currency to float. An independent legal system and transparent economic policymaking would also be useful. China has a choice. It can have an international currency that might challenge the U.S. dollar or it can keep its brand of state capitalism that has driven the economy and kept the Communist Party in power. But it cannot have both.
  • Beijing is not looking to export its economic and political model around the world, but it has become obsessed with soft power -- the idea that countries can get their way through the attractiveness of their society, rather than just by force or money. China is opening hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world and spending billions to send its main state-owned media groups overseas, including launching a cable news channel in the United States. At the very least, Beijing hopes these investments can shift the way the world thinks about China, and maybe even chip away at the cultural influence the United States enjoys
  • Soft power is generated by society rather than the Ministry of Culture. The effort to shift its image is constantly undermined by the way that China actually treats its more awkward and interesting citizens -- from well-known figures like Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and artist Ai Weiwei to the writer Yu Jie
  • The balance of influence between the United States and China over the coming decades will hinge to a large degree on which nation can mobilize other nations to its cause. This is an area where Washington is far more skilled. The new bursts of free trade projects in the Pacific and with the European Union are one example, even if they are far from being completed, and its long-lasting military alliances in Asia and Europe another.
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    How to navigate shifting balance of power in Asia.
Ed Webb

Arms Trade Treaty Stalled on Final Day - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • In the final hours of negotiations, the United States, as well as Russia and China, all large weapons exporters, said more time was needed.
  • Fifty-one senators had urged the administration not to sign it in a letter sent Thursday. That letter sent an important signal of defeat because ratification requires 67 Senate votes.

    “As defenders of the right of Americans to keep and bear arms, we write to express our grave concern about the dangers posed by the United Nations’ arms trade treaty,” the senators said in the letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Our country’s sovereignty and the constitutional protection of these individual freedoms must not be infringed.”

  • Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, criticized gun lobby members for disparaging the treaty, saying, “Those spreading misinformation about alleged links between this treaty and the Second Amendment should stop doing so.”
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  • The treaty would for the first time establish common international standards for authorizing international arms transfers, including basic regulations and approval protocols that would improve transparency and accountability. A prime purpose, according to the draft, is to “prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and their diversion to illegal and unauthorized end use.” It would also prohibit signatories from transferring conventional weapons that violate arms embargoes or enable those who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Ed Webb

Asia Times Online :: SCO steps out of Central Asia - 0 views

  • Several new trends stand out as the SCO steps out of its infancy and adolescence. From a regional organization limited to Central Asia and its environs, SCO may well become the leading integration process over the entire Eurasian landmass, of which 40% still stands outside the ambit of the organization. Prior to his arrival in Astana to attend the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Ukraine. Equally, Belarus has been admitted as a "dialogue partner".

    Most certainly, SCO realizes that Central Asian and South Asian security are indivisible. Integration of two major South Asian countries - India and Pakistan - is in the cards - the summit finalized their membership norms and negotiations. Indian officials exude optimism.
  • for India and Pakistan, too, which have traditionally had strong strategic ties with the United States, this process becomes a leap of faith. They are quite aware that they are joining an organization that implicitly aims at keeping the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from establishing a permanent military presence in the region
  • the SCO continues to insist that it does not aspire to be a "NATO of the East" or a military alliance. On the other hand, it is set on making NATO (and Pax Americana) simply irrelevant to an entire landmass, which with the induction of India and Pakistan will account for more than half of mankind
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  • China's trade with SCO member countries shot up from US$12.1 billion to around $90 billion during the past 10 years, but if the $60 billion Sino-Russian trade volume is kept out, what emerges is that the track record on trade and economic cooperation has been far below its potential. The SCO plans to have a free-trade area by 2020.
  • detailed discussions have been held behind the curtain between Karzai and the SCO leaders on the big questions of the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan. Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev gave a valuable clue to SCO thought processes when he openly anticipated, "It is possible that the SCO will assume responsibility for many issues in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.
  • The implications are serious for the US's "containment strategy" toward China and Russia. Clearly, Russia and China are convinced that the US game plan is to deploy components of the missile defense system in Afghanistan. The Astana summit has reiterated its basic ideology that the countries of the region possess the genius and resources to solve their problems of development and security and outside intervention is unwarranted.
    Historically, though, the summit may have signified China's entry into the Eurasian landmass. As happened over Central Asia, China will take the utmost care to coordinate with Russia.
  • Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Ed Webb

SCO security summit: Are China and Russia losing patience with Ahmadinejad? - CSMonitor... - 0 views

  • Russian experts say listening to an Ahmadinejad speech is a small price to pay for keeping some diplomatic lines open with Iran which, no matter how it is viewed, is an extremely important regional player.
Ed Webb

Adopting China's Tactics in Currency Fight - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • a growing number of countries are retreating from some free-market rules that have guided international trade in recent decades and have started playing by Chinese rules
  • President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who will take over leadership of the Group of 20 biggest economies, said over the weekend that he was pushing for a new system of coordinating global currencies as wealthy nations did in the 1970s, before a free market orthodoxy took hold.
  • Some economists argue that the standoff over China’s currency could herald a new era of protectionism reminiscent of the 1920s and ’30s, which they say they fear could undermine trade and make a weak recovery even weaker. But others argue that it was the free-market consensus of the 1980s and ’90s that weakened American competitiveness and was exploited by rising powers like China, calling for a more assertive policy to protect jobs, increase exports and keep industry at home.
Ed Webb

Gazprom strikes preliminary gas deal with China - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • China and Russia signed a framework agreement Tuesday that could see a steady flow of natural gas to energy-hungry China from its resource-rich neighbor.

    It was one of numerous trade and military agreements signed during a state visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the countries overcome traditional mistrust to push ahead mutual economic interests.

  • Other deals included Chinese companies making investments in construction industry facilities in Russia, Zhukov said. "Naturally, the Chinese are interested in getting (ownership) stakes," he said without giving any details.
  • an agreement on advance notification for planned ballistic missile launches by either country.
Ed Webb

Barack Obama's great test | open Democracy News Analysis - 1 views

  • the limitations of Obama's style and approach
  • His administration, he promised, would do its best to revive the world's economy, to address climate change, to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

    These are all admirable aspirations, and it is perhaps unreasonable to hope that the president might have admitted that the United States has been largely responsible for each of these problems.

  • Barack Obama is increasingly coming to look like Lyndon B Johnson, a brilliantly gifted politician whose ambition to build a "great society" was sacrificed because of the war in Vietnam.

    The heart of the Obama approach is now clear. He genuinely wants to move away from the frozen folly of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, but he is not willing to take the political risk of acknowledging America's responsibility for the problems he wants to solve.

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  • Still less does anyone in Washington seem to understand that "Gitmo" itself was always an absurd colonial anomaly of the kind Americans used to denounce. Nor does there seem any will to undo the creation of an even more scandalous, though militarily more useful, colony in the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
  • Washington's instinct is to treat China as a potential partner in the domination of the world
  • Because Europe is divided into many different states, and no doubt because many American politicians and policy-makers find European attitudes annoying, American policy does not recognise that collectively Europe has a bigger economy than the United States and far bigger than China (even if China's growth has been spectacular).
  • No one questions Barack Obama's personal goodwill, still less his political intelligence. But on the basis of his first nine months in office, his commitment to a serious reassessment of the limitations of American power - let alone to an acknowledgment of the implications of the country's relative decline - is not yet clear.
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