Thursday, December 31, 2009

Can China Dominate the World?

The Chinese Dragon shows robust economic growth, and some experts say that its GDP will surpass that of Japan next year, which will make this country the 2nd largest economy after the United States. Also, China is building up its military capability rapidly these days. The Chinese authority frequently defies the American, or more broadly, the Western world order. But how strong is China?

The media and opinion leaders often fail to think of this vital question when they talk about Chinese influence on global political economy in this century. Mixing Pei, Adjunct Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, casts doubt to overvaluation of Chinese power and its leadership role on the global stage (“Why China Won't Rule the World”; News Week; December 8, 2009). Let me review his recent article on Chinese strength.

In view of stagnant economy in industrialized capitalist nations since the global financial crisis, opinion leaders in the West praise that China overcomes the crisis very well. Some leaders in emerging and developing economies, who are disillusioned with Western-styled free market capitalism associated with democracy, are charmed by authoritarian Red capitalism in China.

However, Pei points out some negative aspects in overheated Chinese economy. The Chinese authority worried over lending by private banks and overinvestment by State Owned Enterprises to real estates and stock markets. While China produces more TVs, cars, and toys, Chinese consumers do not buy them. China’s attempts to secure natural resource supplies from the developing world face vehement resist by Western governments, multinational corporations, and local communities. If Pei is right, China cannot dominate global natural resource market as the Major does in oil.

The debate on Chinese production and financial power will be endless, because the Chinese economy is coincided with robust growth and uncertainties. In my view, the most important point is whether China has gained structural power to manage the world or not. In other words, can China exert influence on making the global system and framework, along with the West?

Susan Strange who was Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, says that power in global political economy is classified into relational power and structural power. “Relational power is the power of A to get B to do something they would not otherwise do”, while “structural power confers the power to decide how things shall be done” (States and Markets; p.24~29). China may have gained relational power through rapid growth in industrial production, but has the Dragon acquired structural power?

Pei asks a critical question, “If China is so strong, why doesn't it show more leadership in addressing global problems?” He points out that China has been obsessed with its self interest in international conferences from G20 London Summit to COP 15 in Copenhagen.

Certainly, China poses significant challenges to the American world order, and shows increasing defiance to Western systems and ideology. However, China is neither prepared for nor capable of setting global agendas and sharing burden of decision making to manage the world. Therefore, it is a dangerous idea to expect China to supplant the United States as the hegemony. Chinese leaders shall never provide global public goods of peace and stability embedded liberalism.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Attention to Ukrainian Presidential Election!

This summer, I talked of Russian pressure on Ukraine in view of the forthcoming presidential election in January. The election will be held on January 17, and the final result will be determined on January 27. Wikipedia shows an introduction to this election which will be helpful to understand basic points about it.

Among numerous candidates, President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, are key focuses. According to the poll conducted by Research & Branding Group, Yanukovich and Tymoshemko lead, while Yushchenko is far behind both candidates. A Ukrainian journalist Tetyana Vysotska introduces each candidate on her blog with a brief biosketch (Who is who in Ukraine).

Since the Orange Revolution in 2004, Ukraine has been a showcase of successful Western styled democracy under the Yushchenko administration. The power of citizens and the rule of law rectified the fraud election, and Yushchenko was inaugurated as the president, instead of pro-Russian Yanukovich. It was a spectacular victory for the Bush administration that sponsored democratic movements during the revolution. Pro-Western Yushchenko administration started to bid the membership for NATO and the EU.

However, poor economic performance and a dispute over appointment of cabinet minister have split President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko. An American businessman, who runs an IT outsourcing company in Kiev, talks of the split within the administration concisely on his blog (Yushchenko, Tymoshenko Rivalry Emerges onto Public Stage”; Kiev Ukraine News Blog; February 16, 2008). In addition, as I previously quoted an article by Thomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, Ukraine has not resolved domestic corruption since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and faces difficulty in transition to capitalism and democracy.

According to David Kramer, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the principal issue in this election is the economy as Ukrainian GDP is expected to fall 15% this year. While Yanukovich and Tymoshenko lead the poll, no candidates are likely to gain over 50% of votes, and the second round election will be held on February 7. Although Yanukoich courts Russia, the Kremlin strikes a balance between both leading candidates very carefully (“Ukraine’s Presidential Election: A Primer”; Focus on Ukraine; December 18, 2009).

Fair election is an important issue, as the 2004 fraud is too widely known. The result of this election will have significant implications to relations between Russia and the West, and Euro-Atlantic security. Furthermore, the consequence of the forthcoming election will place critical influence on democracy promotion in the former Soviet Union. In other words, post Berlin Wall world will be tested.

New Year will start turbulently. Keep an eye on this election. Finally, enjoy listening to Ukrainian national anthem by a top singer of this country Ruslana, who is the champion of the Eurovision Song Contest 2004, and supported the Orange Revolution. Watch the video.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to Carter’s America?: Warning Flashes of Little Americanism

In the last post, I mentioned an interesting blog post, affiliated with Foreign Policy, that raises a concern over growing isolationism in the United States, surging to the highest level in 40 years. This is based on a poll by the Council on Foreign Relations and Pew Research Center (“U.S. isolationism at a 40-year high”; FP Passport; December 3, 2009).

According to the poll, the rate of Americans, who believe that the United States focus more on domestic issues rather than global problems has risen precipitously (See Chart Ⅰ). Also, an increasing number of American public see the leadership role of the United States less important (See Chart Ⅱ). Quite interestingly, the percentage of skeptics on the American hegemony is rising in recent few years. Seen from this chart, Obama’s America looks like Carter’s America. The American public is less confident in America in both eras. There is no wonder why notoriously apologetic speeches in Prague and Cairo are accepted so warmly in a Carterian America.

                    Chart Ⅰ

                    Chart Ⅱ

Regarding the surge in Afghanistan, the public is less supportive of it than the members of the Council on Foreign Relations (See Chart Ⅲ). This illustrates it is isolationist trend that hampers the vital goal of defeating terrorists there, and defend the United States and its allies. As I quoted in a previous post, a former Japanese journalist Yoshiki Hidaka said that American voters chose Barack Obama because they saw the United States did not face critical threats, and national and global security was not a big issue in the presidential election. Had voters regarded foreign and security affairs as the key issue in the election, they would have chosen John McCain, says Hidaka.

                    Chart Ⅲ 

Quite alarmingly, such isolationism seems to be bipartisan. Even though President Obama’s approval rate drops, conservatives focus almost entirely on domestic issues. They need to show visions for American leadership in the world. Some opinion leaders launch movements like Keep America Safe and the Foreign Policy Initiative to reverse isolationist trend among the public.

China is one of the key points in this survey. In the Singapore Speech at the APEC Summit, President Obama declared that the United States would accept the rise of China. Surprisingly enough, CFR members see China more important future allies to the United States than Britain, the EU, and Japan (See Chart Ⅳ). Why CFR members are so lenient to the growth of potential threat to a liberal world order since Pax Britannica? According to the theory of hegemonic stability, when a hegemonic superpower provides the global public goods of free trade and liberalist ideology, a peaceful world order of will be maintained. Remember, when Britain had to choose democratic America and authoritarian Germany from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, America was chosen. The transition of hegemony from Britain to the United States was relatively smooth. However, China is neither prepared nor qualified to share the burden of securing a liberal world order, which is an anchor of world peace and stability.

                    Chart Ⅳ

Regarding major threats to the United States, while the public sees China, North Korea, and Russia critical, CFR members regard transnational issues such as climate change and financial crisis as important (See Chart Ⅴ). This implies that CFR members are more liberal, non-hegemonic, and cooperation-oriented beyond ideology (“U.S. Seen as Less Important, China as More Powerful”; Pew Research Center Publication; December 3, 2009).

Chart Ⅴ

The problem is, neither the public nor CFR experts are reluctant to assume imperial mission of American predominance in the world. It is not only the Obama administration, but also the public opinion in current United States is dangerously Carterian.

Global public opinion may prefer calm and conciliatory diplomacy by the Obama administration to high handed moralistic approach by the Bush administration. However, none of other great powers are willing to share the burden of a global policeman (“The Quiet American”; Economist; November 26, 2009).

It seems that global political economy with Obama’s America is moving toward a Carterian world. The cost of blaming a Strong America will be enormous. Illiberal powers like Russia and China will exert more negative influence to undermine a liberal world order. Global public will be more tolerant to rogue regimes and terrorists. As shown in speeches in Prague, Cairo, and Singapore can a less confident America under President Obama manage the world? If no, everything is gloomy.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Final Decision for the Surge in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama has made a long awaited decision to increase the troop level in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda. In a previous post, I mentioned that President Barack Obama was cautious to accept the strategic assessment by General Stanley McChrystal. Armed forces leaders, notably, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff; General David Petraeus, Head of the US Central Command; and Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Commander of NATO; talked with General McChrystal to urge President Obama to accept the strategic assessment. Obama faced a pressure from an ally. British Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth criticized Obama for delaying the surge, which led to more casualties among British soldiers. It was unprecedented that a British cabinet minister blames the US President in public (Daily Telegraph; “Bob Ainsworth criticises Barack Obama over Afghanistan”; 25 November 2009). Also, Republicans led by Senator John McCain had been demanding the President to take vital actions to improve security in Afghanistan (“The decider”; Economist; November 26, 2009).

Finally, President Obama decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan. Also, Obama struck a balance to soothe domestic antipathy to this long war. In his speech at West Point on December 1, Obama said that the US forces would begin to withdraw in 18 month. Quite interestingly, this is before his re-election campaign. While placating doves at home, Obama reminded the American public of 9-11 terrorist attack and the fear of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into terrorists’ hands (“Obama’s War”; Economist, December 2, 2009).

In the video on the White House web page, President Obama articulates three points to defeat insurgents and never allow them build safe havens to attack the United States and its allies. They are strengthening Afghan security forces, civil life assistance, and partnership with Pakistan. The President has made it clear that the US led coalition will transfer responsibility to the Afghan government and security forces, after succeeding in the mission to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda in “18 months” (“President Obama’s Afghanistan Plan in 4 Minutes”; December 1, 2009).

Contrary to the presidential election, Obama draws more support from hawks than doves, regarding the Afghan War. William Kristol, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, and Frederick Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, applaud the decision to boost the troop level in Afghanistan. Though President Obama’s surge of 30,000 falls short of General McChrystal’s request of 40,000, and setting the schedule for withdrawal is inappropriate, both authors argue that General McChrystal will have sufficient forces to defeat insurgents. The surge will be of much help for British and Canadian forces in Helmand and Kandahar. Also, they point out that economic assistance is aimed at poverty, not insurgents. Therefore, William Kristol and Frederick Kagan call for a nationwide support for the Afghan mission, although they disagree to the Obama administration’s policy on Iran, Russia, China, and defense budgets (“Support the President”; Weekly Standard; December 14, 2009).

NATO allies welcomed the surge, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was emboldened to hear pledges for 7,000 extra troops from European members, at the foreign ministers meeting in Brussels (“NATO allies pledge 7,000 more troops for Afghanistan mission”; Washington Post, December 5, 2009). While Britain, Italy, Poland, and Georgia send additional forces, France and Germany declined to join the surge (“Allies Help McChrystal Reach Troop Goal”; Wall Street Journal; December 7, 2009).

President Obama’s decision shall be welcomed, but there are some problems. In the West Point Speech, Obama mentioned the timetable for withdrawal. However, General McChrystal in Afghanistan is not Lord Mountbatten in India. The coalition forces still face formidable enemies. In a previous post, I talked of the panel discussion by Frederick Kagan and Jack Kean at the AEI. General Kean said that the surge in Iraq achieved success because the US forces showed firm willingness for continual commitment there. In addition, isolationism is on the rise in the United States (“U.S. isolationism at a 40-year high”; FP Passport; December 3, 2009). These problems may impose some constraints on the War in Afghanistan.

The surge worked in Iraq. As Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University often mentions, it is psychological stamina that matters. The American public should remember the vital point that 9-11 terrorists came from their safe haven in Afghanistan. It is a necessary war that must be won.

See “Fact Sheet: The Way Forward in Afghanistan” by the White House.