A Business Pivot to Asia

In class this Thursday, we will have as a guest Curtis Chin, the former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank in Manila, who is currently a senior fellow at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. In this Wall Street Journal essay, Chin argues that. while much has been made about the Obama administration’s strategic pivot to Asia, “missing from this shift is a ‘business pivot’—a more concerted effort to increase trade and investment between America and its allies in the region.” Such a move “would be good strategy, and good economics too,” Chin writes. He concludes:

A central benefit of peace and stability in Southeast Asia—which is a goal of the U.S. administration’s strategic pivot—would be to open the way for greater commercial opportunities on both sides of the Pacific. It’s time for Washington to understand that trade and economic ties can be part of the means to a strategic solution in the region, and not just the ends.

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India, Japan and the US: A Stable Three-Legged Stool?

From the CG:

Read this Japan Times essay on the power balance in Asia by Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, an independent think tank in New Delhi. Chellaney writes:

At a time when Asia is troubled by growing security challenges, trilateral U.S.-India-Japan security consultations and cooperation are also taking place. These three democratic powers recently held their third round of security consultations in New Delhi, after similar meetings earlier in Washington and Tokyo.

These consultations are just one sign of their shift from emphasizing shared values to seeking to trilaterally protect shared interests. Their trilateral cooperation could lead to trilateral coordination, with a potentially positive impact on Asian security and stability.

More broadly, the nascent trilateral security cooperation may signal moves to form an entente among the three leading democracies of the Asia-Pacific, along the lines of the pre-World War I Franco-British-Russian “Triple Entente,” which was designed to meet the challenge posed by the rise of an increasingly assertive Germany. The present steps, however, are still tentative, and meaningful trilateral security collaboration can emerge only in response to important shifts in the U.S., Japanese and Indian strategic policies, including a readiness to build trilateral military interoperability.

Such an entente’s geopolitical utility, however, is likely to transcend its military value. A geopolitical entente, for example, can help strengthen maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region — the world’s leading trade and energy seaway — and contribute to building a stable Asian power equilibrium.

A fast-rising Asia has become the defining fulcrum of global geopolitical change. Asian policies and challenges now help to shape the international security and economic environment. Yet Asia, paradoxically, is bearing the greatest impact of such shifts, as underscored by the resurgence of Cold War-era territorial and maritime disputes.

A constellation of powers linked by interlocking bilateral, trilateral, and possibly even quadrilateral strategic cooperation has thus become critical to help institute power stability in Asia and to ensure a peaceful maritime domain, including unimpeded freedom of navigation.

Further maneuvers to contain China?

Geopolitical Risk Outlook: Is it all about China?

At the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda in Dubai, the first plenary on the second day of the event (13 November) focused on geopolitical risks and possible shocks to global stability. The debate featured former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd as well as “G-Zero” proponent Ian Bremmer, President of the consulting firm Eurasia Group. Much of the discussion centered on China and the question of whether China’s rise is a major global risk. “There is a risk that the rise of China upsets the apple cart,” Bremmer said. Countered Wu Xinbo, Professor at Fudan University: “China’s rise is not the risk; it is how others react to it that is the challenge.”  Wu argued that China is willing to be a responsible stakeholder within the framework of the post-Second World War institutions, but it wants them restructured to reflect the realities of the 21st century. “Now we want reform,” Wu declared. “If you want us to be a responsible stakeholder, then give us more stakes!”

For his part, Rudd told participants that he was concerned about the risk of conflict in the South China and East China Seas. “Domestic nationalisms could take relations beyond tipping point,” he warned. While he described the incoming Chinese leadership as “formidable”, he cautioned that, if they fail to change China’s growth model to one that is driven more by domestic consumption, the political implications would be significant. China’s rise, he added, was not a risk but a challenge – a phenomenon of globalization that the world has to get used to. Rudd dismissed Europe as “largely irrelevant” in geopolitical terms.

Also on the panel: Lisa Anderson, the President of the American University in Cairo, and Habib Ben Yahia, Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).

Watch the debate: