Archive for the ‘U.S.-Asia Relations News’ Category

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Why the Google.cn Issue Won’t Ruin Sino-US Relations

January 21, 2010

Among China watchers in Washington, DC , the big news today revolved around Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s speech on Internet Freedom. Given at the Newseum in downtown DC, Clinton railed lambasted governments and individuals who use communication networks like the Internet to lessen personal freedoms, human rights, and incite racial and political hatred. While some saw it as especially salient this week as Google decides whether or not it’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto can be upheld in its China operations, the bottom line is that no amount of verbal rhetoric or posturing can ultimately weaken the economic and regional security partnership of China and the United States.

Hillary Clinton has her ear to the ground on internet freedom.

Anticipating the Secretary’s speech today, the Vice Foreign Minister of China, He Yafei, tried to disentangle the Google.cn issue from overall Sino-US Relations. “The Google case should not be linked with relations between the two governments and countries; otherwise, it’s an over-interpretation,” he said, addressing a press conference in Beijing, then adding that “If foreign companies have different viewpoints with this regard, they should also seek solutions according to the law.”

But is this nothing new? Is the Vice FM correct in saying that this won’t hamper future relations? I think so and for a multitude of reasons. Primarily, President Obama has been extremely careful to lay down a good foundation upon which to build better Sino-US ties during his Presidency. I would think his scuttling of the human rights issue in Beijing, gentle refusal to meet the Dalai Lama before he met with Chinese leadership, and lengthy Asia trip extolling the virtues of the, what State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley characterizes as a “broad, deep, expanding and durable relationship.”

Also, we must consider the implications for a negative turn in Sino-US relations. Even coming from a hippie optimist like myself, a dip in relations would affect our domestic economic situation (China increased its foreign reserves by $453 billion last year alone), regional security situation (China is the chair of the Six-Party Talks, aimed at bringing North Korea back to the table on nuclear weapons talks), and cultural influence (the US benefits just as much from cheap Chinese imports as the Chinese do from McDonald’s, Nike, and knock-off Playboy t-shirts…they’re more popular than you think).

Clinton today made several strong statements. She said “We stand for a single internet, where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas and we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.” But, she also said that “the United States and China have different views on this issue and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship [italics mine].” Strong statement and Global Internet Initiatives aside, the U.S. is, and will remain, willing to work cooperatively with China on issues as seemingly black-and-white as human rights. The bottom line is that the U.S. has to – considering global and regional power relationships, there is no other choice.

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US-China Relations Outlook 2010: 什么样的关系?

January 13, 2010

A hearing on recent security developments in the People’s Republic of China provided a somewhat bleak outlook for the near future of US-China relations, echoing the wary sentiments of pundits and academics in recent weeks. Meeting at one of the House Visitors’ Centers’ many committee rooms this morning, the House Armed Services Committee heard testimony from top Department of Defense, State, and PACOM officials on what we can expect this year from the growing strength of China in the global arena.

In unusual agreement with pundits’ (see Robert Cohen’s recent NYT Op-Ed) and academics’ recent warnings concerning China’s military and economic might, Pacific Command Admiral Robert F. Willard, USN, expressed him uneasiness at China’s PLA capabilities. He said that China’s stated goals of peace and stability in the region and world are unmatched by their recent military buildup.

Building on issues of military might, Department of Defense A/S Wallace C. Gregson describes current US-Chinese relations as operating in a “dynamic environment with little historical precedent.” Positives in the relationship, which include China’s support of UN Security Council Resolution 1874  and anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden are matched by negatives such as an overall lack of transparency  and the pace and scope of their military buildup.

Concluding remarks came from Department of State Deputy A/S for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David B. Shear, who seemingly tried to re-prove to the House members how State officials have tried to engage the region in a dynamic and cooperative manner, bring up the numerous POTUS and Secretary trips to the region. However, his recap of the last year of efforts in Asia was darkened by a statement on the recent near-decision by Google to pull out its operations in China in light of an apparent cyberattack perpetrated by China against various Chinese human rights activists who use GMail. He reiterated today’s remarks from Secretary Clinton that State was briefed on the matter by Google previously and that a scheduled press conference on internet security and openness scheduled for next Thursday was scheduled prior to this fact.

The overall tone of all testimonies given seemed to parallel the feelings of many China watchers these days – although China is becoming more accountable to global norms of transparency and responsibility, this is only a natural change due to its increased presence on the global stage. Stated goals and dreams of peace by the PRC seem to be what they’ve always been – lipservice – and the PLA military buildup’s actions speak louder than these words. Wariness seems to be the best posture to be taken by the US at this point – wariness and preparedness. Within the next few weeks, China’s moves on the Google issue and on Iran sanctions could prove as a good litmus test to actions in the rest of 2010.

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POST: Manhattan Project Implications on Japanese Politics

September 2, 2009

Last night I watched a very interesting documentary on the eagerness of one nation’s race to achieve a nuclear program, for the sole and (later) express purpose of delivering a viable nuclear weapon.

But this nation was not Iran or North Korea, or the former Soviet Union or India. It was the United States.

I realized, as I sifted through Netflix‘s “instant play” documentaries (the new not-so-guilty pleasure of my nights spent at home) that my knowledge and background concerning the experimentation and invention behind the first viable nuclear program – our own – was embarrassingly low.

The 50-minute program, from the History Channel’s Modern Marvels series, was surprisingly enlightening for such a short program. Beginning from the Nazi German scientists who first discovered uranium fission, continuing onto the newly arrived European scientists to America who assisted in the experimentation project, and even delving into the technical side of how fission occurs and why both plutonium and uranium were used and how, the documentary was extremely thorough. It also brought to light the immediate implications for the Project – socially, politically, and militarily.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Professor. H. D. Smythe, General Nichols, and Glen Seaborg look at a snapshot of the atomic blast on Hiroshima in 1946. Oppenheimer was later stripped of his security clearance due to apparent "Communist sympathies."

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Professor. H. D. Smythe, General Nichols, and Glen Seaborg look at a snapshot of the atomic blast on Hiroshima in 1946. Oppenheimer was later stripped of his security clearance due to apparent "Communist sympathies."

The documentary spoke of the Project’s controversial legacy – as mankind’s self-created means to self-destruction, some saw it as the harbinger of nuclear winter and an embarrassment to the gentler side of the human spirit. Over 100 Manhattan Project scientists even signed a petition to require testing Little Boy before he was dropped on Hiroshima, an impossible demand considering they only had enough U-235 for one bomb. The documentary failed to mention that even after the bombs were dropped, another petition was issued that stated “We [the scientists of Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago] feel, however, that such attacks on Japan could not be justified.” But, there are those who ardently support the opposite. Edward Teller, a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and one of the Manhattan Project scientists who also helped engineer the Hydrogen Bomb, stated that he feels no regret over his part in the creation of the bombs. Citing America’s continued pursuit of peace and equality, he sees no other country better suited for the acquisition of such a responsibility.

But the implication of the Project and the two powerful destructive events it precipitated, unnamed in the documentary, and extremely salient after this weekend’s Japanese elections, is the continuing pacifist nature of Japanese political and ‘military’ affairs. Even though it was “no Obama moment,” this weekend’s landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan to Japan’s Lower House is important. Contrary to the increasingly militaristic (by their standards) half-a-century reign of the LDP in Japanese politics, the DPJ wants to back peddle on their military commitments in the region, especially those tied to the U.S. war machine. Some think this could complicate U.S. East Asian policy. But today, the DPJ President and PM-designate Yukio Hatoyama made clear that he does not wish to alienate the U.S., but wishes to create a more Asia-focused Japan policy that shies away from further ties to U.S. military commitments (see Futenma and Afghanistan refueling agreements).

The DPJ’s wish to renegotiate these agreements, however unlikely to happen, underscores the continued importance of the Manhattan Project and the nuclear arms race’s influences on Japanese society and politics. However much trouble it will or will not cause among the Japan and U.S. in coming months is unimportant compared to the DPJ sticking to its pacifist convictions and upholding a non-agressive stance that, I believe, will become the ideal for humanist, dignified states in the future.