Asia’s Hour?

by Jamie F. Metzl

Jamie F. Metzl is Executive Vice President of the Asia Society and a former member of the US National Security Council staff during the Clinton administration.

NEW YORK - As Asia emerges from the global economic crisis faster than the rest of the world, it is increasingly clear that the world's center of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is equally clear that Asian states are not yet ready to assume the more meaningful leadership in global affairs that will be necessary to ensure that this tectonic shift can make the world more stable and secure than it has been. Asian states have a tremendous opportunity to rise to this challenge.

The signs of Asia's rise are unmistakable. Over the past five years, China's contribution to world GDP growth has steadily increased from one-fifth to one-third, and India's from approximately 6% to 16%. Given their growing footprints on global economics, politics, and the environment, it is now impossible to imagine any major international agreement without China, Japan, and India on board.

China, in particular, has emerged as the key counterpart to the United States in almost all major global forums, as well as international platforms for discussing critical transnational issues, from the Six-Party Talks with North Korea and the G-20 to talks about climate change. Some even call for establishing a US-China G-2.

Asia's new clout holds tremendous promise. If Asian domestic consumption increases, for example, global economic growth will depend far less on over-consumption by debt-laden Americans. This would help all economies. If Asian countries other than Japan commit to binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions, a global deal on climate change will be possible at this December's Copenhagen Summit, even if developing Asia's caps are implemented more gradually than those for the developed world.

Moreover, if China, India, and the ASEAN states take the lead in promoting a just resolution for the people of Burma/Myanmar, or if China proves more willing to press North Korea on nuclear weapons, these states will demonstrate that a world with multiple leading stakeholders can be safer than a world led by a single superpower.

Critics of America's record as a global hegemony make a strong case against a uni-polar world. America's interventions in Vietnam and Iraq, its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol and insatiable consumption of natural resources, its role in creating the current financial crisis, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and much else highlight America's flawed record.

Yet America's legacy of global leadership over the past six decades, warts and all, is unprecedented in its relative benevolence and positive impact. America played the lead in creating the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and international humanitarian and human rights law. It resuscitated its World War II enemies and fostered economic development in countries around the world, and established a security umbrella that helped Europe and Asia focus more on diplomacy and economic growth than on military competition. It opened its markets and laid the foundations for globalization and the information revolution, kept sea-lanes open for international trade, and catalyzed the Green Revolution… The list goes on.

But weakened by the financial crisis, deeply indebted to foreign countries, bogged down in Iraq, facing major challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and feeling psychologically humbled, the US may no longer be in the same unrivalled position to lead the international community, even under the inspiring leadership of Barack Obama.

Despite the growing promise of a multi-polar world with Asian powers playing a greater role in addressing global challenges and sharing leadership with a weary US, that world does not yet exist. America may be recognizing its limits, but no new system has emerged to take up the slack. If Asian states are to play this role, they must do far more to address their own regional challenges and to promote a positive, universal set of norms.

Asian states could do far more, for example, to address the dangerous nationalism that persists in Asia. Unlike Europe, which largely put its historical ghosts to bed after 1945, Asian countries remain mired in nineteenth-century-style nationalisms that weakens collaboration and makes the region more dangerous than it needs to be. China and Japan, Japan and Korea, India and Pakistan, Singapore and Malaysia, and many other pairings of states connect on some levels, but remain dangerously divided on others.

Furthermore, Asian states could be far more assertive in addressing humanitarian issues in their own backyard - especially for places like Burma and North Korea - and in taking a lead in international climate change negotiations. The US, for example, provides 50% of UN food aid and pays 20% of the UN's overall costs. China, soon to be the world's second largest economy, pays 0.7% of food aid and a mere two percent of overall UN costs. Japan has shown leadership in all these areas, but few others in the region have demonstrated a similar sense of global responsibility.

Asian states should also strengthen Asia-Pacific regional structures like APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum in order to ensure stronger collaboration on issues of regional and global concern. Although states in the Asia-Pacific region have come a long way in this regard, regional structures are nowhere near as strong as Euro-Atlantic structures. If the twenty-first century is to be the Asia-Pacific century, they must be.

Until such changes occur, many challenges will fall through the cracks that exist between a strained Pax Americana and a rebalancing world. Issues such as Burma, North Korea, Darfur, Zimbabwe, climate change, and nuclear proliferation all appear to be falling, because they are being insufficiently addressed, into this crack.

All nations must work together to revise our models for international cooperation in a way that incorporates the global shift in economic power. Until this structure emerges, let us hope that America can lead wisely and that other countries, particularly Asia's new powers, will assume more meaningful responsibilities in managing global crises.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009.

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 12.07.2018
The cabinet members who resigned this week apparently feared that politics is taking May toward a “soft Brexit,” their worst of all possible worlds........“soft Brexit,” maintains the status quo, more or less, letting Europeans freely circulate into British labor markets and allowing European firms to operate easily in the UK. The problem with “soft Brexit” is that it raises questions about why the UK is leaving at all, since it will still have the same obligations to Europe as before, it just won’t have a voice when the remaining 27 members of the European Union meet to make decisions.
Added 12.07.2018
One study on the 2010 World Cup found that there was a 37.5% rise in admission rates across 15 accident and emergency departments on England match days........Examining reports of domestic abuse in Lancashire (a county of approximately 1.5m people in Northern England), across the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cup tournaments, we discovered a 26% increase in reports of domestic abuse when England won or drew, and a 38% increase when England lost. Reports were also more frequent on weekends, and reached their peak when England exited the tournament.
Added 10.07.2018
If, back in the 1980s and 1990s, the US government, rather than arguing for Chinese economic opening, had prohibited any US company from investing there, China’s rise would have been significantly delayed, though not permanently prevented. Because that did not happen, China’s rise is now self-sustaining. A huge and increasingly affluent domestic market will make exports less vital to growth.
Added 10.07.2018
Comparing today’s demagogues with Adolf Hitler is almost always unwise. Such alarmism tends to trivialize the actual horrors of the Nazi regime, and distracts attention from our own political problems. But if alarmism is counterproductive, the question remains: At what point are democracies truly in danger? What was unimaginable only a few years ago – a US president insulting democratic allies and praising dictators, or calling the free press “enemies of the people,” or locking up refugees and taking away their children – has become almost normal now. When will it be too late to sound the alarm?
Added 09.07.2018
In view of such actions, expectations for Trump’s behavior at the upcoming summit have gone from prickly to dangerous. The sense of foreboding has been heightened by the announcement that, just four days after the summit ends, Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki. The nightmare scenario is easy to imagine: Trump lays bare NATO’s fractures, including by questioning mutual defense, before selling his allies down the river by publicly embracing Putin. But this does not need to be the outcome.
Added 09.07.2018
After 2027 (or maybe even 2025, only 7 years from now), the number of EVs will rapidly accelerate, as virtually all new vehicles bought will be electric (an effect of rapidly falling battery and other component costs and of the fuel for electric cars being essentially free; you can power one off your rooftop solar array).
Added 03.07.2018
Most pundits interpret Trump’s outbursts as playing to his political base, or preening for the cameras, or blustering for the sake of striking future deals. We take a different view. In line with many of America’s renowned mental-health experts, we believe that Trump suffers from several psychological pathologies that render him a clear and present danger to the world.
Added 03.07.2018
In the United Kingdom, Brexit looms large, with everyone from government ministers to tabloid newspapers frothing daily about the deal that will be struck with the European Union and the effects that it will have. But the EU faces too many pressing challenges to be obsessing about Britain. The UK’s concern is understandable: evidence is mounting of the likely damage a departure from the single market and customs union will do to the UK economy. According to new research from the Centre for European Reform, the UK economy is already 2.1% smaller than it would have been had voters chosen to remain. The hit to public finances totals £440 million ($579 million) per week.
Added 26.06.2018
Nowadays, Britain’s words and actions on the world stage are so at odds with its values that one must wonder what has happened to the country. Since the June 2016 Brexit referendum, British foreign policy seems to have all but collapsed – and even to have disowned its past and its governing ideas. Worse, this has coincided with the emergence of US President Donald Trump’s erratic administration, which is pursuing goals that are completely detached from those of Britain – and of Europe generally. 
Added 26.06.2018
With each passing day, it becomes increasingly evident that US President Donald Trump’s administration cares less about economics and more about the aggressive exercise of political power. This is obviously a source of enormous frustration for those of us who practice the art and science of economics. But by now, the verdict is self-evident: Trump and his team continue to flaunt virtually every principle of conventional economics.
Added 26.06.2018
The sights and sounds of Central American children being ripped from their parents by US Border Patrol officers have, by now, spread across the globe. The experience has been traumatizing to its victims and deeply painful to watch. It has also done incalculable damage to the very idea of America. This is June when we are supposed to be celebrating "Immigrant Heritage Month". Each year, I have taken this opportunity to recall my family's immigrant story - the opportunity and freedom they sought, the hardships they endured, and the remarkable progress they made in just one generation. 
Added 24.06.2018
State terrorism comes in many forms, but one of its most cruel and revolting expressions is when it is aimed at children. Even though U.S. President Donald Trump backed down in the face of a scathing political and public outcry and ended his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, make no mistake: His actions were and remain a form of terrorism.
Added 22.06.2018
It is now clear that the twenty-first century is ushering in a new world order. As uncertainty and instability associated with that process spread around the globe, the West has responded with either timidity or nostalgia for older forms of nationalism that failed in the past and certainly will not work now. Even to the most inveterate optimist, the G7 summit in Quebec earlier this month was proof that the geopolitical West is breaking up and losing its global significance, and that the great destroyer of that American-created and American-led order is none other than the US president. To be sure, Donald Trump is more a symptom than a cause of the West’s disintegration. But he is accelerating the process dramatically.
Added 20.06.2018
Sessions quoted a line written by the apostle Paul to a small community of Christians living in Rome around 55AD to defend the Department of Justice’s approach. He said: "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order." Sessions used the Bible because one of the most vocal opponents of the crackdown on asylum cases has been the Catholic Church. It’s no surprise that Sessions appealed to Romans chapter 13 verse 1 in response: not only did he hope to undermine Catholic authority by using the Bible against them, he cited a statement so broad that one might use it to defend anything a government does, good or bad. Picture below St Paul writing his epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne, via Wikimedia Commons.
Added 19.06.2018
 

I find it exceptionally irritating when I hear liberals worry about whether Israel will be able to remain a "Jewish and Democratic State" if it retains control of occupied Palestinian lands.

Added 18.06.2018
Daniel Wagner: "My prediction Korean War will be formally ended, the peninsula will be denuclearised, and a lasting peace will be the result."
Added 14.06.2018
Extract: PiS [ the ruling Law and Justice party] has established the most significant addition to the Polish social safety net since 1989: the Family 500+ program. Launched in 2016, Family 500+ embodies the nationalism, traditional family values, and social consciousness that the PiS seeks to promote. The program pays families 500 złoty ($144) per month to provide care for a second or subsequent child...........The program has been enormously popular. Some 2.4 million families took advantage of it in the first two years. The benefit, equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage, has almost wiped out extreme poverty for children in Poland, reducing it by an estimated 70-80%........... Liberal pro-European politicians and policymakers are not convinced. They complain that such a generous family benefit will weaken work incentives and blow up the government budget. But initial evidence suggests that Family 500+ has actually increased economic activity. It has also reversed the post-communist decline in fertility, increased wages (particularly for women), and enabled families to buy school materials, take vacations, buy more clothes for their kids, and rely less on high-priced credit for basic household needs. And, thanks to rapid economic growth, the government deficit has steadily fallen, not grown.
Added 12.06.2018
The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.
Added 12.06.2018
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.” But what consequences?
Added 12.06.2018
With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.