Sunday, November 29, 2009

State Under Secretary Hormats at Waseda University

Shortly after the APEC Summit in Singapore, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats delivered a speech entitled "U.S.-Japan Leadership in the New Global Economy" at Waseda University. The event was held in the Okuma Auditorium, which is a historical landmark of Waseda University.

Since the lecture was given just after the APEC Summit, the focus was regional rather than global (See the full text of this lecture.). Quite symbolically, Under Secretary Hormats started his speech by mentioning the normalization of US-Chinese relations in 1972. In those days, Japanese policymakers were upset, because they thought it would lower importance of the US-Japanese alliance in East Asia. However, he said, Japan stayed as the primary ally in the Asia-Pacific region, despite the US-Chinese normalization. Implicitly, Hormats says that the Japanese public not be obsessed with rivalry for regional primacy and dispute on wartime history with China. At the APEC Summit in Singapore, President Barack Obama welcomed the Peaceful Rise of China, which spurred wide spread criticism among conservatives at home.

Under Secretary Hormats’ stance to China is beyond geopolitical consideration. He emphasized that multilateral approaches are necessary to manage transnational issues such as climate change, alternative energy, developing aid, and the global economy. During the lecture, he mentioned G20 cooperation repeatedly, instead of G7 or G8. His foreign policy viewpoints reminds me of a post Cold War essay by Former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, which talked of multi-multilateral policy coordination among state and non-state actors (“Globalization and Diplomacy: A Practitioner's Perspective”; Foreign Policy; Fall 1997). Does the Obama administration envision a Clintonian world where conflicts over ideology and geopolitics end, and global citizens pursue a wonderful dream of fraternity beyond regimes?

As seen in the attitude to Russia and China, the Obama administration is not willing to promote Western liberalism into both authoritarian giants. Instead, current administration pursues engagement with them beyond differences in regimes and political values.

Under Secretary Hormats said that Japan and the United States work closely to manage a world like this, particularly in the Afghan War, environment, and development aid.

At the Q& A session, I said “Please forgive me to ask a critical question to the Obama administration”, because I wanted to express a concern to the Singapore Speech in which President Obama said America would accept the rise of China. I am not obsessed with the Sino-Japanese rivalry, but critically concerned with Chinese ascendancy from “The Return of History” viewpoint. If their illiberal capitalism supplants our liberal capitalism throughout the world, I believe it a threat to free nations, notably, the United States, Japan, and Europe. Moreover, Western experts and media are alert to the rise of radical nationalism in China ("China's rising nationalism troubles West"; BBC News; 17 November 2009). The Singapore Speech sounds like famous apologetic speeches in Prague and Cairo, for me.

In reply to my question, Under Secretary Hormats generously said that he would welcome any questions in democracy. He stressed that China was an important partner for the United States and free allies through G20 and other multilateral frame work, despite numerous disagreements in political values and national interests.

The lecture was a good opportunity to understand the Obama administration’s foreign policy viewpoints. I enjoyed listening to some questions on environment, development, and other transnational and bilateral issues by Waseda students. As more students are involved in international cooperation now than my college days, interactions between students and Under Secretary Hormats were quite stimulating and lively.



Photo: US Department of State