Japan-China relationship is on the mend

There is this..

First is the economic aspect.

 

The two countries are faced with uncertainty and risk in the midst of trade friction with the U.S., in particular increasing concerns about a trade war between China and the U.S. that could hurt their own economies as well as those of their major trading partners, including Japan. Strengthening economic ties between Japan and China would benefit both countries. During the summits they shared an understanding of the importance of free trade.

and regarding the political ties, the author rights…

 

However, if you focus too much on a few sensitive pending issues, you might invite such repercussions as excessive nationalism that could hurt or even destroy the entire relationship. In this regard, it is a minimum but steady achievement that Japan and China agreed to implement a “Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism” between their defense authorities to avert unintended clashes between their armed forces in and above nearby water.

The author is Masahiro Kohara and you can read the rest here.

 

Trump versus Iran

Here is Trump’s reaction to the recent terrorist attack in Iran.

We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.

Here is Iran’s statement on the terrorist attacks on an American gay club.

“Based on its principled policy of condemning terrorism and its firm resolve for serious and all-out confrontation of this discouraging phenomenon, the Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the recent terrorist attack in the US city of Orlando,” Jaberi Ansari said, according to a report by KhabarOnline, as translated by IFP.

Keep in mind of the ample opportunity for Iran to take a swipe considering American meddling in Iran and the fact that both homosexuality and alcohol are illegal in Iran.

Here is the American source.

Here is the Iranian.

 

 

Larry Summers and Caesar

Motivated by Trump’s promise to invest in America, I’ve been doing some background reading on economics of infrastructure spending.

It is over a year old (April 2016) but reported in USA Today, Larry Summers offered some interesting insights into just how inefficient America is in the public sector.

Anyone who thinks problems of inadequate institutions and poor governance are the stuff of the less-developed world would do well to consider the bridge across the Charles River outside of my office.

The bridge is 462 feet long. The bridge was built in one year at the beginning of the 20th Century. The bridge has been under repair — complete with closed-off traffic and huge traffic jams — for 50 months now. And it’s expected to be another nine months.

 

I have made the point (semi sarcastically) to those involved that it is a complicated bridge and a difficult bridge, one that needs extensive consideration. On the other hand, to my mind, World War II was kind of a big, complicated war, and it only took the United States 3.5 years from the time it entered until the time it left. …

 

So I was talking about this with one of our … professors, and I learned that there’s a span over the Rhine which is about four times as long as the span over the Charles — and that Julius Caesar built a bridge over that span of the Rhine in nine days!

 

Two percent as long as it’s taking us to fix this bridge.

 

So yes, this is a huge issue.

 

On the other hand, I think it is tempting — and I see this in the United States — for the avatars of austerity to invoke inefficiency as a reason for not moving forward. And I think one has to be cautious about that.

Trump the Militarist

In light of the proposed increase in military spending, I decided to share Stephen Wertheim’s recent WaPo piece “Quit calling Donald Trump an isolationist. He’s worse than that.”

Here is one bit.

Trump is no isolationist, whether caricatured or actual. Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory. In short, the president is a militarist.

He also writes,

Facing a vicious world, Trump promises to turn the tables, not turn his back. He talks of grabbing wealth from other countries, most vividly in his mantra to “take the oil” in Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he said in a speech at the CIA. Trump may be posturing, but the posture is militaristic. To announce a lust for oil, to chest-thump about torture, to envisage military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue — these do not achieve strategic objectives so much as exalt brute force. “I’m the most militaristic person there is,” Trump said in the primaries. Perhaps he was telling the truth.

Do read the whole thing.

Why NATO is a threat to Russia.

Recently, Adam Twardowski of the Center for a New American Security wrote a piece arguing that NATO is not a threat to Russia. His argument that “NATO has never been an existential threat to post-Soviet Russia” is mostly conjecture and has been answered by Ted Carpenter here. But both pieces fail to discuss why Russia considers NATO a threat, and that is the security’s alliance role in the larger liberal project lead by the United States.

Since 1945, the United States has embarked on what John Ikenberry calls an “open and ruled based” international order characterized by multilateral institutions, market based economies, and democracy. The variety of western institutions which define this order are open to all yet membership is with conditions. It’s expected that states that join adhere to liberal values both politically and economically. This means being democratic with a market economy. The American strategic vision of the post Cold War era has been to make our liberal hegemonic project more inclusive. Exceptions are made as geopolitics demand, but the assumption is that once states integrate into the American led ruled based order they will be pressured to become politically liberal states if they are not already there.

How does NATO fit into this grand strategy? It is the security apparatus that provides the regional stability and breathing room to secure these liberal gains and to further support this political evolution. The original goal of NATO was to “keep American in, Germany down, and the USSR out.” This would allow for Western Europe to rebuild its market economies uncompromised by security concerns associated with a rising Germany or a meddling Soviet Union. Along with the Marshall Plan, the Atlantic Charter, and the various Bretton Woods institutions, NATO served to make Europe political and economically liberal. Since 1989, that mission has not changed. As noted by their own study, NATO enlargement will contribute to enhanced stability and security for all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area by “encouraging and supporting democratic reforms, including civilian and democratic control over the military;”

The promotion of liberal values abroad combined with an unprecedented amount of power raise concerns inside Russia. Russia considers NATO a threat because it is part of a larger trend of promoting the western liberal ideology abroad. As Michael Mandelbaum states in Mission Failure, after the Cold War “the main focus of American foreign policy shifted from war to governance, from what other governments did beyond their borders to what thy did and how they were organized within them.” This reorientation of American foreign policy lead to a host of American advancements into Russia’s former sphere of influence with three American lead interventions (twice in former Yugoslavia and one in Afghanistan) and involving itself in the color revolutions of the region. American advances in Ukraine are especially alarming to Moscow as the area has been deeply intertwined with Russian history. When it was not part of Russian territory, it served as the buffer against foreign invasion and gave Russia access to its only warm-water port in Crimea. Despite the high level of strategic interest Russia has in its neighbor, the United States has interfered in their domestic politics for most of Ukraine’s 23 years of independence. As Ted Carpenter correctly notes, how tolerant would the United States be if Russia or China were incrementally pressuring America’s immediate neighbors to reconfigure their political economies to resemble their centralized illiberal models?

Promoting democracy and a respect for human rights abroad are admirable, but not from the perspective of the Russia’s ruling regime. From Moscow’s perspective, American support for democracy and human rights in their neighborhood is considered to compromise their own regimes influence. The original purpose of NATO was to provide enough security so that the strategically important region would not fall into the orbit of a hostile power. Today, its purpose is to spread liberalism beyond Western Europe and remake the political economies surrounding Russia to be less styled as Russian and more western. When you also include EU expansion, the revanchist Russian foreign policy should not come as a surprise.

 

The Far East, Perceptions, and Internal Balancing.

Tensions in the Far East are high. China is, apparently, engaging in traditional geopolitics in the South China Sea building artificial military outposts, increasing their troop and hardware presence, and making territorial claims on disputed international waters. What motivates this behavior? Much commentary on the issue discusses Chinas behavior as driven by economics (fishery and energy resources) or political (just the natural power grab of a rising nation). Both explanations can be simultaneously true, but my interpretation is that this behavior is motivated by the logic of threat balancing. The balancing is internal (shifting resources within a state versus external which entails building alliances). The threat China is balancing against is the United States.

How is the United States a threat?

Two ways. One is the general American pursuit of political transformation of foreign lands. During the Cold War, US foreign policy was mostly, but not entirely, focused on the containment and deterrence of Soviet communism. Since 1989, the United States foreign policy has been mostly designed to do one of two things. The first is power projection. The second is the political transformation of other states. The original designs of the post WWII foreign policy were framed as a matter of national security. The dual policies of containment and determent were intended to prevent encroachment of the USSR into areas considered strategic to American security. But whereas during the Cold War the United States was interested in the domestic political arrangements of foreign states as a matter of halting communist expansion, post Cold War policy has largely been geared towards re-engineering the political arrangements of foreign states so to spread western values. China is balancing against the American assertion that “China is on the wrong side of history.” Attempts to nudge China towards liberalism has been embedded in trade agreements, hosting the Dalai Lama, and other soft power initiatives like its annual Human Rights report on China. From the regimes perspective, all of these measures are an attempt to curtail their control and weaken the communist party’s ability to govern.

The second perception of threat is the US pivot. The pivot is a series of diplomatic, economic, and military initiatives that renew American focus on the Pacific. It is generally packaged as the recognition that the future of politics will be decided in Asia and that to be relevant the US must deepen its presence in the area. Yet the pivot isn’t a regional policy as much as it is Chinese policy. From TPP to the lifting of the Vietnamese arms embargo, nearly all associated policies appear designed to contain China. Despite how often the United States assures China that the pivot is not about China but the region, China considers the pivot as a direct attempt of the United States to keep China from becoming a regional hegemon. Add the pivot associated policies with the already substantial US troop presence in the area and its not difficult to understand why China would feel the need to balance.

Americans would do well to consider that this is China’s back yard and that, starting with the Monroe doctrine, we do not tolerate foreign adventurism in our neighborhood. We view the American presence in the Far East as largely benign but, China views America as “a man with a criminal record “wandering just outside the gate of a family home.”” The South China Sea is their Caribbean and we shouldn’t be surprised when our meddling in that area is met with an aggressive response from China. We may be alarmed by the militarization of reefs and the obnoxious territorial claims of the nine dash nine line, but China’s behavior mimics the behavior of a threatened state.