Author Topic: Asian Geopolitics  (Read 9817 times)


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Asian Geopolitics
« on: September 06, 2008, 05:44:01 AM »
So Far, It Just Isn't Looking Like Asia's Century
By Joshua Kurlantzick
Sunday, September 7, 2008; B03

So much for the Asian century. The Thais are bickering with themselves, and when they're done doing that, they'll bicker with the Cambodians -- again. China may be Japan's biggest trading partner, but they hate each other anyway. Malaysia and Indonesia? Two countries divided by the same language.

I've spent a lot of time in Asia over the past decade, as an expat and a traveler. From where I stand, the place is a geopolitical mess. Hogtied by nationalism and narrow self-interest, the countries of the East won't be banding together to replace the West as the seat of global power -- at least not anytime soon.

Asia's troubles have been on prominent display in recent weeks as anti-government demonstrations, fueled in part by anti-Cambodian nationalism, rocked Bangkok. Earlier this summer, Thailand and Cambodia moved onto war footing because of a dispute over a mountaintop temple -- not exactly a living example of the Beijing Olympics' motto: "One World, One Dream."

Of course, an Asian version of the European Union isn't out of reach, as many Asian leaders know. But today, the continent battles a kind of split personality. On the one hand, many cultural, economic and political trends suggest that Asian nations are becoming more integrated than ever before. But on the other, a virulent nationalism is spreading in the region, one that feeds on reinterpreted -- or even imaginary -- history to gin up hatred and push small-minded agendas.

Elites in Asia clearly understand the benefits of integration, and businesses and officials together are promoting the trend. In 2004, China replaced the United States as Japan's biggest trading partner. Chinese yearly trade with the ten Southeast Asian nations will likely surpass $200 billion by 2010.With the expansion of satellite television, Asian airlines and regional hiring by Asian conglomerates, businesspeople watch the same news, cool their heels together in a slew of space-age international airports and mingle at cocktail parties and pan-Asian business summits. Fads that start in Tokyo or Seoul, such as drinking red wine or dying hair blond, sweep through the region. At summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), I've seen packs of diplomats gathered at bars swapping stories in fluent English about their hijinks during graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.

Despite all that love, most of the region's multilateral institutions do little more than meet for the sake of meeting. In Cambodia and Laos, local officials and fishermen despair that dams built by China on the upper portion of the Mekong River are blocking water flow -- and ravaging fishing in the southern stretch of that river that snakes through their countries. "But when we . . . try to bring this up at ASEAN meetings," Sokhem Pech, a leading Cambodian Mekong expert, told me, "no one even wants to talk about it." The committee officially monitoring the Mekong, which doesn't include China, is so feeble that it rarely speaks out on the issue.

The problem: Calls to nationalism and an obsession with sovereignty are drowning out calls for cooperation. The passage of time since World War II, when nationalism led to catastrophe, has allowed politicians to wield it more freely for short-term gain. "The Chinese are ignorant, so they are overjoyed," Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara quipped after China launched a manned spaceship in 2003. "That [spacecraft] was an outdated one. If Japan wanted to do it, we could do it in one year."

This sort of nationalism isn't the stuff of a few firebrands. Across the continent, populist politicians have scrubbed school textbooks, whether to minimize Japan's atrocities in South Korea and China during World War II or to erase the memory of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia -- perhaps because Prime Minister Hun Sen was an officer in the genocidal regime before he turned against it. Traveling to Cambodia, I meet teenagers who know practically nothing about what happened in their country in the 1970s. China, too, has whitewashed the memory of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989. When a "Frontline" documentary crew went to Beijing University a few years ago and showed students the iconic 1989 photograph of the man who stopped a tank in its tracks, no one recognized it.

Politicians aren't the only ones embracing nationalism. In 2002, when Thailand was still recovering from its financial meltdown, government-backed filmmakers produced "The Legend of Suriyothai" to restore their country's wounded pride. One of the most expensive pictures in Thai history, it told the story of an ancient Thai queen who died fighting Burmese invaders -- and compounded Thais' hostility toward Burma, their neighbor to the west.

The Internet has further empowered Asian nationalists, allowing them to air their vitriol unchecked. On Chinese online bulletin boards such as the "Strong Nation Forum," which is run by the People's Daily, respondents compete for the most aggressive stance and ridicule Chinese leaders for compromising on issues such as relations with neighboring countries or Tibet or Taiwan. In Japan, the blogosphere helped spark sales of the manga comic book "Hating the Korean Wave." And in Indonesia, online writers helped fuel anger at neighboring Malaysia for the use of a supposedly Indonesian jingle in a tourism campaign and for the mistreatment of an Indonesian karate referee. These are petty grievances, but the Internet amplifies even the smallest outbursts, and reactions can be fierce. Just last week, Vietnam's foreign ministry called in China's ambassador to protest the appearance on Chinese Web sites of "invasion plans" that purported to detail the occupation of Vietnam by the People's Liberation Army.

Whenever I visit Asia, I meet young people who detest neighbors they barely know. "The Thais, all they care about is money. Nothing else," one Burmese acquaintance told me in Rangoon, despite the fact that he'd never actually been to Thailand. In one study taken last year by a leading Japanese nongovernmental organization, two-thirds of the Chinese polled said they had either a "very bad" or "relatively bad" impression of Japan.

As any politician can tell you, public opinion counts. In an open society such as the Philippines, rising anti-Chinese sentiment helped force the government in September 2007 to suspend China-funded projects valued at $4 billion. Even countries that have little history of animosity toward each other can be swept into a rage by the new nationalists. In 2006, after Singaporean state investment fund Temasek Holdings purchased Thai telecommunications giant Shin Corporation, Thai bloggers and online columnists condemned the deal, arguing that a Singaporean company would have control over sensitive Thai communications infrastructure. Thousands of Thais marched to Singapore's embassy in Bangkok -- a move that left urbane Singaporean diplomats, more accustomed to managing business deals than bullhorns, a bit flat-footed.

All these problems don't seem to have resonated in the United States, where an entire industry has developed around predictions that the Asian century will replace the American one. And maybe it will -- a few centuries from now.

Joshua Kurlantzick is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a fellow at the Pacific Council on International Policy.


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Harpoons to India
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2008, 08:17:03 PM »
Hmm, who has a navy India might want to fling some missiles at? Betcha folks in Moscow and Beijing are muttering under their breaths.

Pentagon notifies US Congress of missile sale to India
10 Sep 2008, 0403 hrs IST,AFP

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said on Tuesday it has notified the US Congress of a possible sale to India of two dozen Harpoon air to ground anti-ship missiles.

Such a deal would be worth as much as 170 million dollars, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

"India intends to use the Harpoon missiles to modernize its air force anti-surface warfare mission capabilities and improve its naval operational flexibility," the agency said in a statement.

Boeing would be the prime contractor.

The 84L Harpoon Block II missiles are designed primarily as satellite guided anti-ship missiles.


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China Plays Hardball
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2009, 07:25:41 PM »
Sri Lanka analysis: China emerges as key player in victory over Tamil Tigers
The pitiless success of Sri Lanka's military offensive delivers one salutary lesson: if you have China as an ally, you can afford to ignore pressure from anywhere else.
By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
Last Updated: 5:52PM BST 18 May 2009
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has won China's financial, military and diplomatic support – along with the confidence to brush off Western protests about its behaviour.
In the closing stages of the assault on the Tamil Tigers, the army surrounded about 50,000 civilians inside a tiny enclave. Other governments would have found it difficult to resist outside calls for a unilateral ceasefire, at least to allow the evacuation of wounded innocents. If the Security Council had thrown its weight behind these demands, backing them with a United Nations Resolution, they would have become still harder to ignore.
But Mr Rajapaksa dismissed all calls for restraint and Sri Lanka's army duly pressed on until final victory. His only gesture to outside opinion was a promise to refrain from turning heavy artillery on thousands of people trapped inside the enclave. Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, including satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts, suggests this pledge was quickly broken.

Less fortunate governments would have paid a diplomatic price for this behaviour. But China has consistently shielded Sri Lanka, notably by keeping the crisis off the agenda at the UN. Until last Wednesday, Beijing had managed to prevent the Security Council from even discussing the situation. When a debate was conceded, Chinese objections ensured there was no resolution and the Council took the minimalist option of releasing a statement of concern.

As well as invaluable diplomatic cover, China gave Sri Lanka about £660 million of aid last year. The country's air force has also benefited from a gift of six of Beijing's F-7 jet fighters, while the army received £25 million of Chinese ammunition and ordnance in 2007.

What has Sri Lanka given in return? The answer is that China has acquired a strategic ally near the crucial Indian Ocean shipping lanes which carry energy supplies from the Middle East. Beijing is now building a port on Sri Lanka's southern coast which could serve as a future naval base.

Mr Rajapaksa has skilfully used this alliance to ward off international pressure. Whether his crushing military victory will be equally successful in calming Sri Lanka's domestic turmoil is, however, more doubtful.

Hardly any revolts by an ethnic minority have been settled by military means alone. The army's success cannot change the fact that some nine per cent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people are Tamils. Until a political agreement reconciles them to the Sri Lankan state, the tensions may abate, but they will not disappear.


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Re: Asian Geopolitics
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2009, 07:40:59 PM »
Waiting for the streets to fill with anti-China protesters.......



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10 Lessons Israel Should Take From The Sri Lankan Victory Over Terror
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2009, 08:28:03 PM »
I don't agree with some of these points from a human rights prospective but I thought this post  along with some of the commentary  on it was interesting. 

"10 Lessons Israel Should Take From The Sri Lankan Victory Over Terror

Although most people couldn't find Sri Lanka on a map if their lives depended on it, something amazing happened this week on this beautiful Island nation that sits just south east of India in the Indian Ocean.  They did something that all of the European and American pundits had said was impossible:  They won an asymmetric war against a well entrenched, ethnically/politically motivated, insurgent terrorist army.

Since Israel has been fighting a similar war against a similarly motivated terrorist army, it would be a shame to squander some of the priceless lessons that can be taken from the Sri Lankan victory:

1.  Fighting for a draw or ceasefire will only ensure an endless war.  Fight to win or don't fight at all. A draw is a victory for the terrorists.

2.  The rest of the world will never support a war of any kind, much less one fought against an enemy willing to use civilians as human shields and combatants.  Seeking foreign support for such a war is less than useless;  it is counterproductive.  As soon as Sri Lanka began fighting an all out, no-holds barred war against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), the world turned against them.  Sri Lanka ignored the world and followed their chosen course of action to the desired conclusion; victory.  They did this at the cost of isolation and economic hardship.  But they won.

3.  When civil rights and the war effort bump up against one other (as they must in a war fought on home soil), there must be an accepted legal mechanism for temporarily setting aside some civil rights and personal freedoms in such a way that they can be easily and completely reclaimed by the populace once the war is over.  Societies at war are not free.  Get over it.  The sooner the war is won the sooner you'll get all your freedoms back.

4.  Civilian shields are the sole responsibility of those who hide behind them.  Once a warning has been given and the civilians have not been released, the war must be prosecuted despite the regrettable loss of human life.  Once civilians lose their value as shields they will cease to be used as such.  It remains to be seen if the world will hold the Sri Lankans or the Tigers responsible for the high civilian death toll.  But the end of the war will certainly ensure that no more civilians need die (on either side).

5.  Once an insurgent enemy abandons the conventions of 'civilized warfare', the army fighting them must do so as well (in a limited and organized way).  This does not mean the abandonment of ethics/morals or allowing government soldiers to become savages.  It means adopting new rules of engagement that place all combatants on an even footing.  It means assassination for assassination.  It means restructuring the army into small, semi-autonomous units that are more mobile and have clear objectives. It means occasionally telling soldiers to take no prisoners... especially when flags of truce are routinely used cynically to gain lethal advantage.

6.  Ask friendly nations for support, but be willing to turn to the enemies of our friends when the requested support is withheld.  Sri Lanka initially asked India for assistance and was turned down (due to the large Tamil minority in southern India).  This gave them no choice but to turn to China and even Pakistan for arms and support.  Eventually India came around.  They never actually provided material support, but once they saw Sri Lanka was serious about fighting the war to a conclusion, they stepped up efforts to stop domestic Indian support for the Tigers from being smuggled to LTTE strongholds.

7.  Ceasefires rarely help the stronger side.  The multi-year cease fire that existed between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government was used by the LTTE to re-arm and wage a low-intensity terror war against Sri Lankan civilian and government targets.  Each government retaliation was roundly condemned by the rest of the world as a breach of the cease-fire while each terror attack was met with indifference and resignation (sound familiar); a trend that emboldened the Tigers and won them many new supporters/combatants among the Sri Lankan Tamil minority.

8.  Insurgencies are like a cancer.  They must be removed completely or they will metastasize again and again in ever-more-dangerous incarnations.  But by the same analogy, care must be taken to differentiate between healthy (i.e. neutral) population and cancerous (insurgent) population.  As in the body, this designation isn't made by the doctors... it is apparent by observing the population.  Those who act as terrorists (or support/shelter the terrorists) are insurgents/cancer.  Those who don't are not.  Let them make their choice and then let everyone live (or die) with their choices.  I was never a big GWB fan, but one of the truest things he ever said was (paraphrased) "You are either with us or against us.  Time to choose."

9.  Being ethnically unique may entitle a population to pursue self-determination... but not necessarily at the expense of an existing sovereign nation.  Yes, it would be wonderful if every ethic and religious group had its own country.  It would also be wonderful if the global energy requirements could be met by burning rainbow dust and unicorn farts.  But the world has a finite amount of real estate, and in some cases there may need to be some multi-ethnic countries.  Sorry.  The ones who got there first and hung out a shingle get to make the rules.  Barring that, ethnic populations perpetually in conflict with their neighbors may occasionally need to seek out a new place to live near populations that are more similar to themselves.

10.  Make sure the checks and balances of power adjust to the reality of a war footing.  New rules of engagement must be enshrined in law, and the executive/judicial branches of government must uphold (but not exceed) these new temporary powers.  An executive branch without checks is a dictator/tyrant.  A judicial branch that continues to operate on a peacetime footing during a war will undermine the government's ability and resolve to win.

Posted by: davidwag | May 20, 2009 9:01:21 PM
Don't get ahead of yourself, David. Yes, the Sri Lankan government won the conventional war against LTTE - albeit at a terrible cost. They also managed to kill a number of the high ranking leaders, though who exactly is still alive is as yet unclear. But the unconventional war - ie, the war against Tamil separatist terrorism - is most definitely not won.

As with most regional terrorist/separatist groups, LTTE worked hard to gain a conventional military capability; infantry, a rudimentary navy, and even an air force. But when they experience military setbacks - even dramatic ones like this - they just turn back to tried-and-true methods: suicide bombings, shooting attacks, mines/IEDs, etc. It's even tougher for Sri Lanka than Israel to deal with this, as the Tamils live throughout the country (as opposed to the territories, where most of the Palestinians do not live mixed in with Israelis). While LTTE's operational capacity is sharply reduced, they still have quite a number of operatives and supporters (and equipment) at large. Whether they receive more support depends highly on how the SL government treats the Tamil minority in the wake of this victory. If they make substantive efforts to promote equality under the law, I suspect LTTE will lose steam. But if they continue their harrassment and discrimination of the Tamil minority, the Tigers will only gain in strength again.

Furthermore: civil rights must be set aside during wartime? Would this include the intimidation and assassination of journalists who spoke out against some of the government actions (we're not talking about Tamil terrorist sympathizers, but something more like Ha'aretz's editorial slant)? What about the treatment of Tamil citizens who had no relationship with LTTE? Is this reasonable behavior, even in wartime? I'm certainly not a fan of the Japanese internment camps in WWII, or Soviet-style suppression of antigovernment journalism.

I agree in principle with you about human shields, but the case in the last few weeks in Sri Lanka was a bit more muddled - the SL army was complicit in herding the civilians ahead of them into a small zone with LTTE. While they claimed it was a 'no fire' zone, they clearly violated it on multiple occasions, killing hundreds if not thousands of their own civilians. They had LTTE cornered - they definitely could have exercised some more care in dealing with the situation, instead of just writing them off as collateral damage by dint of being human shields.

I'm also not sure you're right about ceasefires. In this case, SL used the lull as an opportunity to drastically expand their military - it has swelled considerably in size and equipment in the last few years, as part of a concerted gamble to invest everything for one big push against LTTE. Certainly it can be used either way... Do you think the restructuring/retraining of the IDF in the wake of the Lebanon war was needed, and improved the performance in the latest Gaza incursion?

It's easy to speak in declarative, black-and-white statements. But the reality is much more shaded - in both Sri Lanka and in Israel. This doesn't mean there isn't some truth to what you say, but we need to think of these as only part of a bigger picture that should actually drive policy.

Posted by: matlabfreak | May 20, 2009 9:06:31 PM

I looks more like China won this war."

On point 4

Terrorists would consider it a success  either if the human shields protected them or if the human shields got killed and caused bad press for Israel  not worrying about collateral   damage would not be helpful besides moral issues. .


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Russia Impound Chinese Merchandise
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2009, 04:25:06 PM »
Hmm, trouble on the Russo/Sino front?

Russia, China Clash Over Billions in 'Gray Trade'
By JEREMY CHAN in Beijing and ANDREW OSBORN in Moscow

The abrupt shutting of a giant wholesale market in Moscow dominated by Chinese merchants has stirred trade tensions between Moscow and Beijing.

The market's closure has highlighted the multibillion-dollar trade in "gray imports" between Russia and China. The trade in these goods -- which cross the border thanks to payments to middlemen who in turn bribe Russian customs officials -- has flourished since the early 1990s when the market first opened.

Moscow, keen to be seen to be clamping down on smuggling as part of its long-running campaign to join the World Trade Organization, says it wants to eradicate gray imports and that closing the market will help stamp out such schemes.

But the market's closing has sparked strong criticism within China. State media charge that Russian customs policies are flawed. The state-run China Daily newspaper said it was "a matter of regret" that Chinese businesspeople had suffered financial losses, calling the closure "a tragedy."

A Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng held talks with Russian officials in Moscow this past weekend.

Chinese traders have complained they risk losing billions of dollars in impounded merchandise. Thousands of traders worked at the market, and police have prevented many from retrieving their stock since its closure. The Russians say they will ensure that legitimate businessmen get their goods back in the coming months.

Popularly described as the largest such market in Eastern Europe, the Cherkizovsky Rynok sold everything from clothes to food, often cheaply, to wholesalers and price-conscious Russian consumers. Local authorities closed it at the end of June, saying it breached sanitary and fire-safety norms.

Analysts say the move may also have been an effort to support Russia's ailing textile industry. Before the market was shut, Deputy Trade Minister Sergey Naumov said that every trading stand at the market meant a closed Russian clothing workshop.

China exported goods valued at $34.66 billion to Russia in 2008, according to statistics from China's Ministry of Commerce. Lu Nanquan, an expert on Sino-Russian trade at the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, estimates that an additional $8 billion in gray-market goods flow into Russia from China each year.

"The normal rate for customs duty is somewhere between 15% and 20%, but the gray customs clearance only amounts to 5% or 6%," Mr. Lu says. "Chinese traders prefer to go through the gray channel."

In September 2008, Russian police raided the Moscow market, confiscating goods they said had been illegally imported. The goods were valued at an estimated $2 billion, making it one of the biggest contraband hauls in Russian history. Chinese traders offer an even higher estimate: $7 billion.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin raised the issue -- in his famously robust style -- at a government meeting in June. Mr. Putin asked why the investigation had yielded no results. "A result would be to send people to jail," he said. "But where are the convictions?"

Soon afterward, the market was vilified as a den of criminality on Russian state TV. Law-enforcement agencies launched a criminal case, Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzhkov vowed to close it, and senior government officials poured scorn on a place one called "a hellhole." At the end of June, it was shut.

Russian media and some analysts and economists suggest the real reason was to punish the market's wealthy owner for hosting a star-studded hotel opening in Turkey. Prime Minister Putin judged the event tasteless and unpatriotic at a time when Russia is weathering a fierce economic downturn, they say.

Neither the businessman, Telman Ismailov, nor Mr. Putin's spokesman could be reached to comment.

Sergey Sanakoyev, chief executive of the Moscow-based Russian-Chinese Center for Trade and Economic Cooperation, a private consulting firm, said the market's closure was overdue and would usher in new civilized trading practices, including proper quality controls.

"It's the end of an era," Mr. Sanakoyev said. In the future, Chinese traders could ply their wares in giant indoor malls in the Russian capital, he added. "The effect on trade will be positive."

Write to Jeremy Chan at and Andrew Osborn at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A8


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Kyrgyzstan Collapse
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2010, 12:08:44 PM »
'Kyrgyzstan Is On the Brink of Collapse'

With hundreds dead and tens of thousands of refugees, ethnic violence has brought chaos to Kyrgyzstan. Central Asia policy expert Andrea Schmitz told SPIEGEL ONLINE about the history behind the attacks on the Uzbek minority and the wobbly transitional government.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The news from Kyrgyzstan is deeply disturbing. Officially, 170 people have been killed during the angry unrest over the last week and other sources put the death toll above 700. What is the current situation?

Schmitz: Official figures probably understate the number of dead, which is likely to be considerably higher. I do not have the exact numbers. The situation at present is so chaotic no one can reliably count the dead.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Reports say almost all the dead belong to the Uzbek minority.

Schmitz: That appears to be correct. However, it's also said that those behind the unrest have tried to turn Kyrgyz and Uzbeks against each other. But the violence has clearly focused on the Uzbek minority.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some speculate that the ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was toppled in April, is behind the unrest. Do you consider this plausible?

Schmitz: I do not think that Bakiyev, from the distance of his exile in Minsk, is in a position to pull the strings. But I am firmly of the belief that parts of his network and his followers -- possibly in conjunction with protagonists from organized-crime circles -- may have instigated the violence. It has become clear that supporters of the former president are not prepared to let anyone take either power or resources. In addition, there is some evidence that revenge has played a role. Some of the Uzbek "strong men" said to have drug trafficking connections have made the mistake of positioning themselves in the power struggle, supporting the interim government and standing against the followers of Bakiyev. I expect that Bakiyev supporters have not forgiven them for that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In addition to vengeance, is the unrest also about undermining or even overthrowing the transitional government of Roza Otunbayeva?

Schmitz: Absolutely. This was clearly about creating chaos and preventing the referendum on a new constitution, planned for late June. The problem of the transitional government is that it has no legitimacy and is hardly in a position to calm the situation.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the moment the situation seems to have calmed slightly.

Schmitz: But the danger has not yet passed. I assume the perpetrators of the pogroms have retreated to discuss how to proceed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Aid agencies are working on the assumption that hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks have fled. But Uzbekistan has not open its borders. Why?

Schmitz: At first Uzbekistan did open its borders, but after up to 80,000 refugees entered the country, Uzbekistan is apparently unable to accept more. That is not implausible.

'Russia Plays a Sorry Part in This Conflict'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is Russia's role? The transitional government asked Moscow to intervene, but that has not happened.

Schmitz: Russia plays a very sorry part in this conflict. Right now one has the impression that Russian crisis-management exists as a pretense, not as reality. This is also evident from the debate within the regional security body, the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It's dominated by Russia, and it could not agree to send a peacekeeping mission. I can explain this only by saying there is a lack of deployable forces, a lack of political will and lack of responsibility. It's becoming more and more clear that in emergencies, you can't rely on Russia as a crisis manager. Moscow wants power and influence, but it's not prepared to accept responsibility.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are possible reasons for Russia's restraint?

Schmitz: Resistance to an intervention looks equally strong in the parliament, the leadership and the public at large. Part of the reason is fear of a second Afghanistan. Another part is the complexity of Kyrgyzstan's predicament. The risks are considered too large to take on.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who else can help?

Schmitz: If others can't help, it normally falls to the United Nations to play fireman. If the situation doesn't ease, a peace mission under UN mandate would be probably the wisest step. The EU is also needed, at least for humanitarian assistance.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How would you assess the risk posed to neighboring republics?

Schmitz: The risk is currently not very high, but by definition it does exist because of the ethnic instability in Kyrgyzstan. One worrying speculation is that those behind the escalation may enter an alliance with Islamist terrorists in the region. That would be disastrous.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are the realistic measures you believe should be taken?

Schmitz: First, humanitarian assistance for refugees, the injured and the traumatized. In addition, food and medical assistance and effective protection of the population. The Collective Security Treaty Organization has promised to bring supplies to help stabilize the area -- fuel for example. Let's hope it happens. Kyrgyzstan needs all the help it can get.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can the referendum be held as planned?

Schmitz: The transitional government lacks legitimacy and control over substantial parts of the administrative apparatus. At the moment Kyrgyzstan doesn't even have a parliament. The referendum, scheduled for late June, should relieve the situation. But under current circumstances, the referendum could turn out to be unrepresentative. Participation, especially in the south, will be too low, meaning there would be no point to hold a referendum. So it might be wiser to postpone and to put emphasis on restoring the functioning state. After all, Kyrgyzstan is currently on the brink of collapse.

Interview conducted by Yassin Musharbash



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Asian Geopolitics: India and China
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2010, 11:29:21 AM »
From 'The Economist', which is not exactly my political cup of tea but good with international coverage, some insights and perspective on China and India which I don't wholly support but find to be a very worthwhile read.

A HUNDRED years ago it was perhaps already possible to discern the rising powers whose interaction and competition would shape the 20th century. The sun that shone on the British empire had passed midday. Vigorous new forces were flexing their muscles on the global stage, notably America, Japan and Germany. Their emergence brought undreamed-of prosperity; but also carnage on a scale hitherto unimaginable.

Now digest the main historical event of this week: China has officially become the world’s second-biggest economy, overtaking Japan. In the West this has prompted concerns about China overtaking the United States sooner than previously thought. But stand back a little farther, apply a more Asian perspective, and China’s longer-term contest is with that other recovering economic behemoth: India. These two Asian giants, which until 1800 used to make up half the world economy, are not, like Japan and Germany, mere nation states. In terms of size and population, each is a continent—and for all the glittering growth rates, a poor one.

This is uncharted territory that should be seen in terms of decades, not years. Demography is not destiny. Nor for that matter are long-range economic forecasts from investment banks. Two decades ago Japan was seen as the main rival to America. Countries as huge and complicated as China can underachieve or collapse under their own contradictions. In the short term its other foreign relationships may matter more, even in Asia: there may, for instance, be a greater risk of conflict between rising China and an ageing but still powerful Japan. Western powers still wield considerable influence.

So caveats abound. Yet as the years roll forward, the chances are that it will increasingly come down once again to the two Asian giants facing each other over a disputed border (see article). How China and India manage their own relationship will determine whether similar mistakes to those that scarred the 20th century disfigure this one.

Neither is exactly comfortable in its skin. China’s leaders like to portray Western hype about their country’s rise as a conspiracy—a pretext either to offload expensive global burdens onto the Middle Kingdom or to encircle it. Witness America’s alliances with Japan and South Korea, its legal obligation to help Taiwan defend itself and its burgeoning friendships with China’s rivals, notably India but also now Vietnam.

This paranoia is overdone. Why shouldn’t more be asked from a place that, as well as being the world’s most-populous country, is already its biggest exporter, its biggest car market, its biggest carbon-emitter and its biggest consumer of energy (a rank China itself, typically, contests)? As for changing the balance of power, the People’s Liberation Army’s steady upgrading of its technological capacity, its building of a blue-water navy and its fast-developing skills in outer space and cyberspace do not yet threaten American supremacy, despite alarm expressed this week about the opacity of the PLA’s plans in a Pentagon report. But China’s military advances do unnerve neighbours and regional rivals. Recent weeks have seen China fall out with South Korea (as well as the West) over how to respond to the sinking in March, apparently by a North Korean torpedo, of a South Korean navy ship. And the Beijing regime has been at odds with South-East Asian countries over its greedy claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

India, too, is unnerved. Its humiliation at Chinese hands in a brief war nearly 50 years ago still rankles. A tradition of strategic mistrust of China is deeply ingrained. India sees China as working to undermine it at every level: by pre-empting it in securing supplies of the energy both must import; through manoeuvres to block a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council; and, above all, through friendships with its smaller South Asian neighbours, notably Pakistan. India also notes that China, after decades of setting their border quarrels to one side in the interests of the broader relationship, has in recent years hardened its position on the disputes in Tibet and Kashmir that in 1962 led to war. This unease has pushed India strategically closer to America—most notably in a controversial deal on nuclear co-operation.

Autocrats in Beijing are contemptuous of India for its messy, indecisive democracy. But they must see it as a serious long-term rival—especially if it continues to tilt towards America. As recently as the early 1990s, India was as rich, in terms of national income per head. China then hurtled so far ahead that it seemed India could never catch up. But India’s long-term prospects now look stronger. While China is about to see its working-age population shrink (see article), India is enjoying the sort of bulge in manpower which brought sustained booms elsewhere in Asia. It is no longer inconceivable that its growth could outpace China’s for a considerable time. It has the advantage of democracy—at least as a pressure valve for discontent. And India’s army is, in numbers, second only to China’s and America’s: it has 100,000 soldiers in disputed Arunachal Pradesh (twice as many as America will soon have in Iraq). And because India does not threaten the West, it has powerful friends both on its own merits and as a counterweight to China.

A settlement in time

The prospect of renewed war between India and China is, for now, something that disturbs the sleep only of virulent nationalists in the Chinese press and retired colonels in Indian think-tanks. Optimists prefer to hail the $60 billion in trade the two are expected to do with each other this year (230 times the total in 1990). But the 20th century taught the world that blatantly foreseeable conflicts of interest can become increasingly foreseeable wars with unforeseeably dreadful consequences. Relying on prosperity and more democracy in China to sort things out thus seems unwise. Two things need to be done.

First, the slow progress towards a border settlement needs to resume. The main onus here is on China. It has the territory it really wants and has maintained its claim to Arunachal Pradesh only as a bargaining chip. It has, after all, solved intractable boundary quarrels with Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Surely it cannot be so difficult to treat with India?

That points to a second, deeper need, one that it took Europe two world wars to come close to solving: emerging Asia’s lack of serious institutions to bolster such deals. A regional forum run by the Association of South-East Asian Nations is rendered toothless by China’s aversion to multilateral diplomacy. Like any bully, it prefers to pick off its antagonists one by one. It would be better if China and India—and Japan—could start building regional forums to channel their inevitable rivalries into collaboration and healthy competition.

Globally, the rules-based system that the West set up in the second half of the 20th century brought huge benefits to emerging powers. But it reflects an out-of-date world order, not the current global balance, let alone a future one. China and India should be playing a bigger role in shaping the rules that will govern the 21st century. That requires concessions from the West. But it also requires commitment to a rules-based international order from China and India. A serious effort to solve their own disagreements is a good place to start.


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Re: Asian Geopolitics
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2010, 06:48:37 PM »

Thanks for this.

It adds yet another reason to my thinking as to why we should be developing a much stronger relation with India.


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10 things you didn't know about Vietnam
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2012, 05:22:09 AM »
An interesting discussion of the last decade or so in Vietnam, which appears to be advancing at a surprising (to me, anyway) rate.


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Re: Asian Geopolitics, Asia's New Power Brokers By Robert Kaplan
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2013, 09:29:31 AM »
This may overlap recent post from Strat...

Asia's New Power Brokers
By Robert Kaplan

As Asian countries -- from India to Vietnam to Indonesia to Malaysia to Japan and so on -- arise out of poverty, guerrilla war and stagnation, they are forging robust relationships with each other, providing a whole new security dynamic to go alongside the U.S.-China rivalry. The Asian power web is also an offshoot of the emergence of midlevel powers, which are now forging deeper links with each other -- thus "widening the analytical aperture," in the words of the report, through which international relations must be viewed.
The question now becomes: Will China continue to rise? Or, will it falter domestically in the face of an excruciatingly complex economic transition? And how might that affect regional power dynamics? The last place to look for such gradual developments may be in the newspapers.


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Re: Asian Geopolitics
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2013, 05:15:47 PM »
Certainly quite consistent with my theme about the transition from the uni-polar moment back to a multi-polar world.


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Asian Geopolitics? Where is the Malaysian airliner?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2014, 08:24:32 AM »
More likely terror than science, I did not realize they still have not discovered what happened to the Malaysian airliner.  North Korea has been playing around with shooting missiles at moving objects.  Given the location, more likely this was done by either a terrorist group in possession of serious weaponry or exploded from above by the the two men who boarded with stolen passports.

Many Chinese aboard, among others.  Assuming foul play, still hard to say who was the target, what was the motive?

We still don't know what happened to flight MH370
USA TODAY ‎- 52 minutes ago
The fate of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared three days ago with 239 people aboard remained a mystery Monday

Maybe it would help if we knew what happened to TWA flight 800 over Long Island, NY.


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Re: Asian Geopolitics
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2014, 03:14:38 PM »
Consistent with Bojinka type attack.


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Stratfor thought piece: Why East Asia alienates Intellectuals
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2014, 09:15:51 AM »

 Why East Asia Alienates Intellectuals
Global Affairs
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 03:03 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

East Asia is arguably the most important part of the world. It is the geographic organizing principle of the global economy. It has an array of strong, consequential nations and treaty allies of the United States. But outside of this or that article or essay about this or that Chinese dissident or the hideous depredations of the North Korean regime, intellectuals and humanists of all stripes tend to write less about East Asia than about other regions. The reasons are several. But in general, we can say that East Asia has comparatively little to offer them.

In fact, East Asia is a rebuke in major respects to the humanist project. It is prosperous and successful, with the latest postmodern infrastructure and technology; yet at a macro political level it is consumed less by universalist ideals than by old-fashioned ethnic nationalism. China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and so on are deeply conscious of their own ethnic identities, which carry within them clashing claims of sovereignty in the South and East China Seas, as well as elsewhere. East Asia shows how exclusivist mindsets need not be confined to poor, post-communist populations or poverty-stricken peoples with tribal or sectarian differences. East Asia is a flagrant example that sustained capitalist development need not necessarily lead to universal values.

East Asia has a prominent multilateral institution, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But while ASEAN is strengthening, it still does not enjoy the clout or influence of multilateral organizations like NATO or the European Union, with all of their respective problems. The real political dynamic in East Asia is not globalization or multilateral institutions, but rather a massive military buildup and modernization. These are not old-fashioned land armies that are being built and procured, but navies, air forces, missile systems and cyber warfare units complete with submarines, surface warships, fighter jets and so forth. Just as sustained capitalism does not automatically lead to universalist values, neither does it automatically lead to a reduction in armed tension and the possibility of violent conflict.

East Asia teaches that prosperity and postmodern communications technology do not negate a deterministic force like geography, but only make geography more precious and claustrophobic. The signature political battle in East Asia is not about democracy or human rights or even economics, but about territory: which ethnic nation controls what parts of the South and East China Seas. These seas adjacent to the Asian mainland may be rich in oil and natural gas, even as their only geographical features are bare rocks, many of which are not above water during high tide. But when one investigates the ferocity of statements about these claims, one sees that these bare rocks have become abstract symbols of nationhood in a hothouse global media environment. Territory and which group controls it is still of primary importance in this world. In a global media age, the contest for national status is ever present.

Such zero-sum arguments hold no interest for humanists, who seek a higher form of politics in which moral questions are intensely engaged. Yet, it is these arguments that largely define the security environment in East Asia.

Moreover, such disputes do not involve the fate of people. Virtually no one lives on these rocks. And even if a small air and sea war were to break out over them, there would be relatively few civilian casualties. And without civilians, there can be no victims for humanists and others to be concerned about. From time to time, post-Maoist East Asia does have massive humanitarian crises, usually the result of natural -- weather and seismic -- disasters. But because the culprit here is Mother Nature, moral choice does not operate and thus there is little for intellectuals to discuss or debate.

Indeed, from an intellectual point of view, East Asia is a sterile environment compared to other parts of the world. East Asia is about logistical supply chains, merchant shipping, oil tankers, middle class megacities, potential canal and land bridge projects and so on. These are all fascinating phenomena, but not to humanists. Of course, East Asia is replete with beauty and luxurious civilizations. But these are artistic and historical subjects that, at the moment, do not stimulate a values debate, as do other parts of the world.

Of course, East Asia has had a robust political values debate. But the winner has not been liberalism so much as pragmatism. The hero of East Asia, the political avatar to whom all aspire, is the retired leader and founder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee transformed Singapore in the course of the late 20th century from a poverty-stricken malarial hellhole to one of the world's most prosperous and efficiently run small states. Singapore isn't just where Western corporate elites want to do business, but where they also want to be based. Lee's success was not built on liberalism or democracy -- the political ideals of humanism -- but on enlightened authoritarianism, with a sizable helping of Confucian values. Democracy existed under Lee, but it was less pivotal than the fact of the meritocratic corporate state he built. Singapore has substituted the beauty of ideas in favor of what works. So has post-Maoist China, governed as it is by Deng Xiaoping's advice about "seeking truth from facts."

Intellectual debates are often motivated by some sort of humanitarian tragedy or political failure of nerve, but there is little of that in Singapore or in most other places in East Asia. Perhaps the most prevalent visual site in the region is not refugee encampments but glittering shopping malls -- even as the most respected form of military hardware is submarines, which is where the future of naval warfare is going, owing to the increasing vulnerability of surface warships to missile strikes. The countries of East Asia are all about business, and the character of their military acquisitions signals that they mean business.

True, there is always North Korea. North Korea represents one of the world's greatest, ongoing humanitarian tragedies -- the result of a regime that is both communist and national-fascist. The implosion of North Korea would take the responsibility of its semi-starving people out of the hands of the Pyongyang regime and deliver it into the hands of the international community and the militaries of the United States, South Korea and China. The complexities of such a circumstance, as well as the heartrending sights and tales that would emerge at a level of magnitude unknown in East Asia since the end of the Vietnam War, would certainly stir intellectuals and humanists of all stripes. But that simply hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, we have a determined group of writers and thinkers, including Barbara Demick, Blaine Harden and Nicholas Eberstadt, whose work has allowed us to know the scope of the tragedy.

But North Korea is an exception to what Asia generally is: a place whose military tensions are built on economic success. That success may not last in China, and China could be in for increased social and political upheaval in the future. That would fundamentally change Asia, and such a circumstance could certainly elicit a values debate.

Yet, there is a larger philosophical question which East Asia does prompt: If even sustained capitalistic success does not necessarily lead to universal values, then what is the fate of Man after all?

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