An Asian Power Web Emerges

ASIAWhen President Obama met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California last week, it is doubtful that either leader focused on the growing ties among countries like Singapore, India, South Korea and Vietnam. Perhaps they should have. The Burgeoning security cooperation among such nations represents untold story of a region on move. Asia has undergone decades of economic deepening, and complemented by years of diplomatic integration. Now, countries across region are building on this foundation, engaging in unprecedented forms of military cooperation. In many cases these deepening ties include neither the United States nor China, and they are supplementing traditional U.S.-led “hub and spoke” system of alliances that has marked regional security for decades. This emerging power web will have deep implications across the Indo-Pacific region. It should also affect American strategy, because, played correctly, the United States is poised to be leading beneficiary of growing network of relationships. The network is marked by a proliferation of government-to-government security agreements, including recent pacts inked between Singapore and Vietnam, Japan and Australia, India and South Korea. Variable in scope, these accords promote ability of Asian nations to train and operate together, conduct joint research and development, service each other’s ships and aircraft. To be sure, these are not mutual defense treaties, but they point to ever-closer military cooperation among key countries in the region. Similarly, there is an upsurge in the joint military training. Japan and India conducted their first bilateral maritime exercise in 2012, the same year that saw joint field exercises between India and Singapore, Australia and South Korea, Japan and Singapore. The intra-Asian arms trade is also heating up like never before, and even a country like Japan, which has long placed stringent restrictions on export of weapons, is taking steps toward supplying Asian nations. While many of these relationships are developing outside the ambit of China or United States, Washington-Beijing dynamic remains a primary driver of them. Asian countries are diversifying their security ties in order to hedge against the possibility China’s rise will turn threatening and American presence in the region will decline. What all this means for the regional stability remains undetermined. An increasing inter-connectivity in Asia could act as a restraint, making countries more reluctant to engage in provocations as they calculate the costs to their flourishing ties. But a more militarized region could also devolve into rival blocs characterized by arms races and heightened insecurity. Stronger security relationships in Asia could heighten regional competition, particularly if are divisive, perceived as aimed at China, which is predisposed to see regional security enhancements as containment (…..)



China to Build Panama Canal Bypass Through Nicaragua

Great Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Waterway CanalOne of the most extraordinary stories of the past decade largely overlooked by the U.S. media is how Central and Latin America have quietly escaped the U.S. control since 9-11, as Washington focused on its global War on Terror (WoT). WoT diverted Washington’s attention long enough that progressive governments established themselves throughout southern Western hemisphere, Venezuela through Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, were far less inclined than previous administrations to listen to advice from their giant “el Norte” neighbor. Crucial element in this process has been Central and Latin America expanding their trading opportunities with the states frowned upon by Washington, from Iran to China. Now, in the latest sign that Washington’s sway over the region is diminishing still further, Nicaragua has announced that it will soon begin construction of a canal to compete directly with the Panama Canal further south, to be financed by China. As with the Three Gorges Dam, Beijing is not thinking small, as the proposed canal could take 11 years to build, cost $40 billion and require digging roughly 130 miles of channel. The Panama Canal, in contrast, is 48 miles long. The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, which has 63 of the 92 Parliamentary seats, has introduced legislation to award the project to HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. It is an extraordinary proposal for the Central America’s poorest nation, which does not even yet have highway connecting its Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega hope to gain a final approval by 14 June. Planning for the project began in July 2012, when Nicaraguan government announced the approval of a law for the construction of “Great Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Waterway Canal,” passing legislation that authorized the government to create a company whose state share would be 51%, while the remaining 49% would be acquired by a strategic partner. Daniel Ortega presidential adviser Paul Osquit, said that it was a project intended to send “a clear signal to the countries of the world” interested in investing in the mega project, which included Venezuela, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. Notice that the U.S. is pointedly not on the list. It will not be an insignificant undertaking, as the canal’s proposed locks will require 1.7 billion gallons of water per day, given that the channel will be 200 feet deep in places. Furthermore, Nicaragua’s canal would have to be more than three times longer than The Panama Canal. A major advantage of the route however is that the massive Lake Nicaragua is separated from the Pacific only by a thin strip of land; accordingly, large oceangoing freighters could travel about 50 miles on Lake Nicaragua’s waters before going through a pair of locks, and into a waterway dug across the waist of the country to the Atlantic coast lowlands. Nicaraguan advocates say the channel is needed, arguing that inter-oceanic maritime freight traffic demand will outstrip the capacity of even the expanded Panama Canal by more than 300 percent within 123 years, and the canal’s construction create 40.000 construction jobs. Better yet, is could double the per-capita GDP (…..)


Soft Power? China Has Plenty

A Wise Gardener in AfricaChina has little attractive power, in the West. But not everyone is watching China through a Western eyes. China is a failure when it comes to soft power or so we’re told. Giant in hard-power leagues of money and military strength, China is often portrayed as a minnow swimming against the global tide of ideas and perceptions. Unloved and misunderstood, the country can only get things done through the use of carrots and sticks, not by capitalizing on the warm sentiments of others. The foreigners, in the end, pay heed to China only because have to, not because they want to. No-one has been more skeptical about Chinese soft power than Joseph Nye, man who first coined phrase 20 years ago. In particular, Nye has criticized Beijing’s efforts to acquire “soft power” through centralized schemes, like the spread of Confucius Institutes or establishment at end of last year of China Public Diplomacy Association. Despite “spending billions of dollars to increase its “soft power” … China has had a limited return on its investment,” he recently argued. This is because soft power mainly accrues when civil society actors, whom Chinese government tends to squash, make or do things with global appeal, according to Joseph Nye, not through top-down schemes which the foreigners are likely to interpret as propaganda. Nye rightly doubts whether all of China’s soft-power investments are paying off. However, we should not be too quick to write off China as an attractive force in the global affairs simply because Beijing has fired a few blanks. In fact, a Chinese soft power does exist. You just have to look for it in the right places (…..) Africa is not the only place from which China looks appealing. Its soft power also draws people in Latin America, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, where popular impression of China might contrast favorably with the general perception of the West, or where Beijing might be seen as a welcome partner in tough financial times, as a trusted long-time ally. Western commentators tend to overlook this, noticing only China’s lack of soft power in North America, Western Europe and those parts of Asia that fear or dislike China. In these places, bad news about China, everything from its smoggy air, to its venal politics, to its repression of dissidents, to its apparent strangeness, drowns out any soft-power messages that Beijing might be trying to send. But elsewhere the good news drowns out the bad. So Nye’s criticisms are half-right. In many states, China probably is wasting its time and resources when it tries to get people to watch CCTV, piles newsstands with English versions of the China Daily, or part-funds its Confucius Institutes. These initiatives are doomed to fail in certain contexts. But these same activities can work beautifully elsewhere. Even in the China-bashing West, China’s marketing messages are finding audience. U.S., for example, hosts more Confucius Institutes than any other country (70 at latest count). If they convince even a few Americans China is somehow likeable, respectable, trustworthy or admirable, then Beijing’s efforts won’t have gone entirely to waste.


La Política Exterior de la Automarginación

Cristina Fernández de KirchnerLa relación entre América latina y los Estados Unidos se encuentra en una etapa profundización y consolidación alrededor de creciente convergencia de intereses. Solo hace falta enumerar los recientes contactos al más alto nivel para darse cuenta de ello. En mayo de este año, el presidente Barack Obama visitó a sus pares en México, Costa Rica; el vicepresidente Joseph Biden entabló una gira que incluye a Colombia, Trinidad y Tobago y Brasil; en junio, presidentes de Chile y Perú, Sebastián Piñera y Ollanta Humala, tendrán importantes visitas de trabajo con el presidente norteamericano y en octubre, Dilma Rousseff hará una visita de Estado a Washington: este es el máximo nivel que mandatario extranjero puede recibir en otro país. La gran ausente en esta convergencia es Argentina. ¿A qué se debe esta ausencia? (…..) Nuestra ausencia del diálogo que está marcando pautas para el futuro desarrollo de las Américas se debe, en cambio, a que hemos comprado tercermundismo cerril y primitivo que es repudiado por nuestra propia subregión. Es fruto de lo que hemos sembrado a través de nuestra política exterior, nuestra política interna en los últimos años. Al dejar afuera a nuestro país de su gira, Joseph Biden está claramente retribuyendo nuestras actitudes con su indiferencia. En política exterior la regla de oro es la reciprocidad. Los países y gobiernos actúan a través de los gestos y los símbolos. El gesto de Biden es el reflejo de la distancia que (la) Argentina puso unilateralmente. Además, nos muestra y muestra a los demás que Argentina, por el momento, no cuenta para los Estados Unidos. Nuestra marginación no es solamente en relación a ese país sino también en relación a nuestros vecinos. No hay que confundir: Dilma Rousseff puede acompañar a Cristina Fernández de Kirchner a Cuba para abrazar a los Castro, pero se va sola a los Estados Unidos a reunirse con Barack Obama y de esa forma llena espacios convergencia estratégica que nosotros abandonamos. Sabe que para elevar el nivel de vida de su población y posicionar a Brasil en el mundo, como lo lograron recientemente Santos y Colombia con apoyo norteamericano para entrar a la OECD, hay que mirar más al norte. No se trata privilegiar a Estados Unidos por sobre relaciones sur-sur o con países emergentes ya que no es necesario elegir entre uno o el otro. Pero sí se trata de entender cuáles son los países con la mayor influencia y poder. Por eso, Argentina tiene que tener una agenda estratégica con el mayor número de actores importantes posible y Estados Unidos es un actor ineludible. El viaje de Joe Biden y los viajes que le seguirán de parte de los presidentes de la región revela que no solo estamos afuera de la agenda de Estados Unidos, todavía la nación más poderosa del planeta, con todo lo que ello significa en cuanto al franco acceso a la tecnología, conocimiento, mercados e inversión. También estamos excluidos de los intereses generales y de la visión del mundo de gran parte de nuestros vecinos: auto-marginados de discusiones más relevantes para el desarrollo latinoamericano cuando hace poco, desde el principio de nuestra historia, fuimos referente ineludible. Con eso perdemos todos los argentinos.


People have killed their fear of authority and the protests are growing

Fear NOTHING(…..) The protests that have now engulfed the country may have begun in Gezi Park in Taksim, heart of Istanbul. It was never just about trees, but accumulation of many incidents. With the world’s highest number of imprisoned journalists, thousands of political prisoners (trade unionists, politicians, activists, students, lawyers) Turkey has been turned into an open-air prison already. The Institutional checks and balances have been removed by current AKP government’s political manoeuvres, and their actions go uncontrolled. On top of this growing authoritarianism, most important reason for people to hit streets in support of Gezi resistance was the arrogant tone of Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Even on Sunday, when millions of people were joining demonstrations, he called the protestors “looters”. Throughout his tenure, his rhetoric has been no different. He has repeatedly called his political opponents “alchoholics, marginals, sniffers, bandits, infidels”. His mocking sarcasm has become his “thing” over time, even some of his closest colleagues accept that “he no longer listens to anyone”. Then, there is fear. This kind of thing is hard to report in a prominent newspaper. That is perhaps why international media have not reported that the fear of government and Prime Minister has been growing even among non-political people. You can easily hear your grocery shop man saying “I think my phone is tapped”. Mainstream media has not covered it, but we have read reports on social media about people being arrested for making jokes about the government. That is perhaps why for the past two days every wall in Taksim Square is full of curses against the Prime Minister. The public is enjoying the death of the “cruel father figure” with the most sexist curses I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some. But there is a more important component to the protests. As a writer and a journalist I followed the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. As I wrote at the time, the Arab people killed their fear and I saw how it transformed them from silent crowds to peoples who believe in themselves. This is what has been happening in the last six days in Turkey. Teenage girls standing in front of TOMAs, kids throwing tear gas capsules back to police, rich lawyers throwing stones at the cops, football fans rescuing rival fans from the police, ultra-nationalists struggling arm in arm with the Kurdish activists … these were all scenes I witnessed. Those who wanted to kill each other last week became, no exaggeration, comrades on the streets. People not only overcame their fear of authority but they also killed the fear of the “other”. One more important point: generation that has taken to the streets was born after 1980 military coup fiercely depoliticised the public. The general who led the 1980 coup once said: “We will create a generation without ideology”. So this generation was, until last week (…..)


El otro “Mare Nostrum”

Oceano PacíficoLa gira americana del presidente Xi Jinping, 6 meses después de llegar al cargo, muestra la clara voluntad de China no solo de afianzar relaciones con América Latina, sino imprimirles un nuevo giro. La acuciante necesidad de materias primas, hidrocarburos, minerales, alimentos, ha convertido al gigante asiático en principal socio de muchos países del continente. Pero Pekín también es consciente de la inquietud que genera el enorme déficit comercial provocado por sus exportaciones. De ahí que, en sus reuniones con los mandatarios del Caribe anglófono, Costa Rica, muy especialmente, México, Xi no solo hable de petróleo, sino inversiones productivas y desarrollo de infraestructuras y tecnología. El viaje del presidente chino, que culmina el 7 y 8 de junio en California, con una entrevista con Barack Obama, forma parte de tupidas redes que se están tejiendo alrededor del Pacífico, convertido en el “Mare Nostrum” del siglo XXI. En este escenario hay que insertar también la reciente cumbre, en Cali, de la Alianza del Pacífico, formada por México, Chile, Perú y Colombia, país por cierto, que acaba de ser invitado a ingresar en la OCDE. La Alianza de las cuatro economías más pujantes de América Latina es el acuerdo de integración más prometedor de cuantos se han impulsado en la región. Alejado de acostumbrada retórica hueca, la Alianza del Pacífico parte de bases comunes, democracia, libertad económica, seguridad jurídica, y objetivos concretos: la libre circulación de bienes, capitales y personas y expansión global. A su puerta tocan ya Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panamá, Uruguay. Con una efervescencia que opaca al proteccionista Mercosur y al moribundo Pacto Andino, los miembros de la Alianza afinan las estrategias conjuntas para desembarcar en el mercado asiático a través de otra de las grandes redes regionales, Acuerdo de Asociación Transpacífico que impulsa Estados Unidos. La presencia de España en la cumbre de Cali ha sido, sin duda, buena iniciativa para afianzar puentes con esos espacios emergentes. Ese vigor contrasta con el renqueante acuerdo transatlántico entre Estados Unidos y la UE, lastrado por la crisis y recelos. Las alianzas comerciales entre Asia y América Latina están cambiando el mapa económico del mundo. La hegemonía bascula ya hacia el Pacífico. (Fuente: Editorial – El Paí – 03/06/2013)

China’s Economic Empire

China Go GlobalThe combination of a strong, rising China and an economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly very uncomfortable. While China is not taking over the world militarily, it seems to be steadily taking it over commercially. In just the past week, Chinese companies and investors have sought to buy two iconic Western companies, Smithfield Foods, American pork producer, and Club Med, French resort company. Europeans and Americans tend to fret over Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, its territorial disputes with Japan, and cyberattacks on Western firms, but all of this is much less important than a phenomenon is less visible but more disturbing: aggressive worldwide push of Chinese state capitalism. By buying companies, exploiting the natural resources, building infrastructure, giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination. Beijing’s essentially unlimited financial resources allow the country to be a big game-changing force in both developed and developing world, one that threatens to obliterate competitive edge of Western firms, kill jobs in Europe and America and blunt criticism of human rights abuses in China. Ultimately, thanks to deposits of over a billion Chinese savers, China Inc. has been able to acquire strategic assets worldwide. This is possible because those deposits are financially repressed, savers receive negative returns because of interest rates below the inflation rate and strict capital controls that prevent savers from investing their money in more profitable investments abroad. Consequently, Chinese government now controls oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to China and from South Sudan to Red Sea. Another pipeline, from the Indian Ocean to the Chinese city of Kunming, running through Myanmar, is scheduled to be completed soon, yet another, from Siberia to northern China, has already been built. China has also invested heavily in building infrastructure, undertaking huge hydroelectric projects like Merowe Dam on the Nile in Sudan, biggest Chinese engineering project in Africa, Ecuador’s $2.3 billion Coca Codo Sinclair Dam. And China is currently involved in building of more than 200 other dams across the planet, according to International Rivers, a non-profit environmental organization. China has become the world’s leading exporter; it also surpassed United States as the world’s biggest trading nation in 2012. In the span of just a few years, China has become the leading trading partner of countries like Australia, Brazil and Chile as it seeks resources like iron ore, soybeans, copper. Lower tariffs and China’s booming economy explain this exponential growth. Buying mainly natural resources and food, China is ensuring that two of the country’s economic engines, urbanization and export sector, are securely supplied with the needed resources. In Europe and North America, the China’s arrival on the scene has been more recent but figures clearly show a growing trend: annual investment from China to European Union grew from less than $1 billion annually before 2008 to more than $10 billion in the past two years. And in the United States, investment surged from less than $1 billion in 2008 to a record high of $6.7 billion in 2012, according to the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm. Last year, Europe was the destination for 33% of China’s foreign direct investment (…..)