Xiangshan Defence Forum: Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal


Photo taken on Nov. 21, 2014 shows the scene of the plenary meeting of the 5th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, capital of China. The two-day Xiangshan Forum focuses on security in the Asia-Pacific region. The biennial event, organized by China Society of Military Sciences, has been held since 2006. It will be held annually starting this year. (Xinhua/Shen Dongdong) 

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 Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal
Xiangshan Defence Forum_DM speaks
Chinese military academic delegate Wang Yisheng talks to British delegate John Kingwell (center) and Observer Simon Levey during the Xiangshan Forum attended by senior officials and academics from Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region in Beijing on Friday. PETAR KUJUNDZIC / REUTERS

At a glance
• Xiangshan Forum, first held in 2006, and initially staged every two years. Upgraded to an annual event this year.

• About 300 delegates from 47 countries and four international organizations attending this year.

• This year’s theme is “Cooperation and Win-Win Build an Asian Community of Common Destiny”.

• Held from Thursday to Saturday, the forum discusses regional and maritime security and anti-terrorism cooperation.

China proposed on Friday that disputes in the Asia-Pacific region be tackled by an efficient crisis management and control mechanisms.

The proposal, put forward at a major defense policy forum in Beijing, won widespread acclaim from military chiefs and leading defense specialists in the region.

They said a liaison system has yet to be established to help the economically dynamic region tackle looming geopolitical concerns, and the proposal will help to resolve this.

In an address to the fifth Xiangshan Forum, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said that China held 2,000 talks or meetings last year with neighbors on border issues.

China seeks to further enhance dispute management procedures, boost defense cooperation and “strengthen the regional security architecture”, Chang said in a three-point proposal.

Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen endorsed Chang’s proposal and underscored the need to build an Asian security framework to set up meetings and cool any potential tension.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also backed Chang’s proposal.

Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA navy’s Expert Consultation Committee, said Asia-Pacific is “the only region in the world that still suffers
from the wounds of the Cold War”, and a security mechanism, like that established in Europe, has yet to be set up.

The forum provides a platform that “transcends different ideologies and involves all regional stakeholders”, Yin added.

Some Western analysts have speculated that the China-led forum was upgraded from an event held every two years to an annual one earlier this year to steal the thunder from the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.

Singaporean Defense Minister Ng told Friday’s plenary session that more opportunities for dialogue should be given to high-ranking military
officials in the region, and meetings such as the Xiangshan Forum help to keep areas of tension from spiraling out of control.

Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Department of Research at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said China is a major player in the region, and “such platforms do not conflict with each other because they are working in concert to shape a safer region”.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said changing mindsets is important, adding that, “It may take quite a long time to shape a strong and popular belief of win-win cooperation.”

Chang dismissed any connection between China’s “justified” defense budget growth and allegations of “growing assertiveness” by China.

Military modernization “serves China’s practical need to secure its own borders” Chang said.

He told the forum, “To defend our own security is a most direct contribution to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Andrei Kokoshin, director of the Institute for International Security Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and former secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army is playing a positive role in boosting regional security and stability.

By Zhangyunbi China Daily, News Network

 

 Chinese DM addresses Fifth Xiangshan Forum

Gen. Chang Wanquan, state councilor and minister of national defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is delivering a speech on the topic of China’s armed forces and Asia-Pacific security at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on the morning of November 21, 2014. (Chinamil.com.cn/Sun Xiaoxu)
Keynote Speech at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum
by General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense, 21st November 21, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good morning! I am very glad to meet all of you here at Xiangshan. Let me begin by welcoming you all to the Fifth Xiangshan Forum on behalf of China’s Ministry of National Defense and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). I wish to take this opportunity to share with you my views on this topic—China’s armed
forces and Asia-Pacific security.

The remarkable growth of China’s comprehensive national power, and the continued progress in national defense modernization, have become a focus of international attention in recent years. First of all, I would like to explain, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, why China has accelerated the modernization drive of its national defense and armed forces.

First, China has learned a bitter lesson from its wretched modern history. The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world. As we
entered the modern era, however, Chinese people suffered grievously in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society because of the corruption and incompetence of their feudal rulers, coupled with unrelenting aggressions of foreign powers. Our people did not become masters of their own destiny until a century later, after a protracted struggle. When it comes to national sovereignty and security, the Chinese give great credence to the adage, “We should not rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.” Therefore, China is firmly determined to promote the modernization of its national defense and armed forces and effectively safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Second, military modernization serves China’s practical need to secure its own territory. China has a vast territory and a large population. Its land borders,
mainland and island coastlines are very long indeed. In particular, China has not yet fully realized national reunification. These are all factors which place the Chinese military under heavy pressure in securing the country and its border areas. There is therefore a pressing need for China to strengthen its national defense and armed forces. It should also be noted that to defend our own security is a most direct contribution to the security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, China has to adapt to the revolution in military affairs. As the revolution in military affairs gains momentum worldwide, every country is dedicating efforts to modernizing its armed forces or conducting various degrees of military reforms. At present, the Chinese military has yet to become fully mechanized and its application of information technology is still at an early stage. It lags far behind those advanced military forces elsewhere in the world. A decision to strengthen the reform of China’s national defense and armed forces was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Mindful of the goal of building a strong military, we are now exerting ourselves to develop a system of modern military force with Chinese characteristics. This is a sure choice that China has made in keeping with the times.

Fourth, military modernization serves the overall interests of China’s reform, opening up and development. China initiated the historic process of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. The Chinese military, committed to serving the larger goals of reform and development, has made a unique contribution to China’s economic takeoff. Since the beginning of the new century, China’s armed forces have benefited from the country’s economic growth and stepped up their efforts to pursue modernization. The move is mainly intended to ensure the balanced development of national defense and the economy, and provide a more effective safeguard to China’s economic and social development as well as its expanding overseas interests. It should be noted that China has not changed the basic state policy of taking economic development as the central task. Its military growth has always been kept at a reasonable level.

Fifth, China is under an obligation to work together with other countries to cope with non-traditional security threats.
In recent years, the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism have mounted, in addition to frequent and major natural disasters and new challenges to the security of sea lines of communication. Such non-traditional security issues have become the common concern of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Against this backdrop, we have attached greater importance to the employment of armed forces in peacetime. It has shouldered increasing international obligations in areas such as UN peacekeeping, international anti-terrorism, commercial vessel protection, international disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. Accelerating the modernization of national defense and armed forces will also enable China to come up with a better response to the various security challenges in collaboration with other countries and live up to its role as a responsible major country.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, the world today is undergoing major developments, changes and adjustments. The global trends toward multipolarity and economic globalization are deepening. Cultural diversity is increasing, and an information-based society is fast emerging. The security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region is largely stable. As they depend on each other for security and development, countries in the region have formed a community of common destiny in which they will prosper or decline together.

Last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward an Asian security concept that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. While expressing hope that Asian countries advance common security in the spirit of inclusiveness and cooperation, he welcomed the participation of other countries concerned. The concept offered a new vision for Asia-Pacific countries to cope jointly with security challenges. The Chinese military will uphold this concept as a participant and promoter of international security cooperation. It is willing to develop an approach to Asian security alongside the armed forces of other countries that features joint efforts, shared benefits
and win-win results.

First, for the sake of common security, China has dealt with sensitive disputes in an appropriate fashion. It is to be expected that disputes will arise between nations. The key is to strengthen management and effectively prevent and resolve crises. Along its land borders, the Chinese military has set up 64 border defense force meeting venues, where in 2013 alone more than 2,000 meetings were held with neighboring countries. China and India have jointly implemented their Border Defense Cooperation Agreement to maintain border peace and stability. As far as naval cooperation is concerned, the Chinese Navy has conducted 16 joint patrols in the Beibu Gulf with the Vietnamese Navy. China is also exploring the possibility of opening a defense hotline with the ASEAN countries. Only recently, China’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense signed two memorandums of understanding on Notification of Major Military Activities Confidence-building Measures Mechanism and The Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. With these practical moves and more, we have contributed to regional peace and stability and done our utmost to create a positive environment for the development of all countries in the region.

Second, China has engaged in regional security dialogue to promote cooperative security. We are committed to candid and in-depth talks with other parties in a bid to expand the common ground for Asia-Pacific defense and security cooperation. To date, China has established defense and security consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 26 countries. In recent years, China has held more than 80 joint military exercises and training sessions focusing on areas such as anti-terrorism and disaster relief with more than 50 countries. China’s defense authorities and armed forces have taken an active part in regional multilateral security cooperation. They have played an important role in multilateral security mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus. This Xiangshan Forum where we are gathered is an example of the efforts of the Chinese military to promote security dialogue and cooperation.

Third, China has been active in providing public security goods in pursuit of comprehensive security. As security challenges become increasingly interconnected, transnational and comprehensive, there has been a rising demand for public goods in the global security filed. Since 2002, the Chinese military has carried out 39 international emergency humanitarian assistance operations. It has shipped more than 1.3 billion yuan ($212 million) in aid materials to 30 disaster-ridden countries. Since the end of 2008, China has dispatched 18 naval task forces to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. These have provided an escort to almost 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships. China has contributed more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council – a total of more than 27,000. Currently, 2, 027 Chinese peacekeepers are working with nine UN peacekeeping missions. In order to cope with the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, the Chinese military has sent almost 300 doctors and nurses to epidemic-affected areas. It has built an Ebola holding-center in Sierra Leone and will soon complete the construction of a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Liberia. This represents a humble contribution to the fight against the deadly virus.

Fourth, China has reinforced results-oriented defense cooperation to boost sustainable security. The armed forces constitute the cornerstone of national security. Whether a country is secure and whether its security is sustainable hinge on its ability to protect itself. The Chinese military has, to the best of its abilities, helped other countries, especially developing countries, to strengthen their armed forces. While taking into account the long-term development of these countries’ armed forces, it focuses on improving their overall capability to safeguard national security.Since 2003, China has trained more than 30,000 military personnel for over 130 countries. It also assists other developing countries every year by providing military aid with no political strings attached. Much of this material is used for the construction of such infrastructure as military academies and hospitals.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, while Asia-Pacific security cooperation looks promising, we still have a long way to go to secure our region. All countries should work in concert for its peace, stability and enduring prosperity.

We call for further strengthening of dispute management procedures to improve our ability to cope with crises. We believe that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region should be put at the top of the agenda. Disputes should be resolved through negotiations with full respect to historical facts and the international law. The parties concerned should establish accessible and efficient dispute management and control mechanisms, refine their capacity to deal with crises, and prevent disputes from escalating. The Chinese military stands ready to seek appropriate solutions to relevant issues in collaboration with other parties by sharing information in a timely manner through a variety of liaison mechanisms at different levels.

We call for further strengthening of defense exchanges and cooperation to bolster strategic mutual trust. All countries should promote regular, open and inclusive contacts between their respective defense authorities and armed forces. They should put in place regular defense and security consultation mechanisms, reinforce bilateral and multilateral exchanges, forge a growing consensus, and enhance strategic mutual trust. We are willing to work together with other parties to promote the growth of positive military-to-military relations in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening wide-ranging, multi-tiered and all-round cooperation.

We call for further strengthening of the regional security architecture to foster a stronger sense of belonging to a community of common destiny. We advocate that countries should transcend Cold War thinking and base their decisions on the reality of the Asia-Pacific region. They should take all parties’ security concerns into consideration. They should also accommodate each other’s comfort levels as they build an open, transparent, equal and inclusive Asia-Pacific security architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, President Xi Jinping said at a recent APEC event, “Those who share the same ideal and follow the same path can be partner. Those who seek common ground while shelving differences can also be partners. More friends, more opportunities.” Let us commit ourselves to the goal of forging an Asia-Pacific partnership
featuring mutual trust, inclusiveness, cooperation and win-win results, and join hands to create a bright future for our region.

Thank you!

Editor :  Zhang Tao

Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road


Reflections on Maritime Partnership

China Maritine Silk Road_ Asean

The “Silk Road” is a general term used to geographically describe ancient Chinese exchanges between Asia, Europe and Africa in the areas of politics, economics and culture. Starting on land and developing on sea, the “Silk Road” is a vehicle of historic importance for the dissemination of culture. The ancient maritime Silk Road was developed under political and economic backgrounds and was the result of cooperative efforts from ancestors of both the East and West. China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is aimed at exploring the unique values and concepts of the ancient road, enriching it with new meaning for the present era and actively developing economic partnerships with countries situated along the route. Specifically, the proposal seeks to further integrate current cooperation in order to achieve positive effects.

The ocean is the foundation and vehicle necessary to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is China’s mission to understand the importance of building a Maritime Silk Road and take effective actions at present and for a certain period to come.

21st Century Maritime Silk Road from a Global Perspective

In the twenty-first century, countries have become more inter-connected by the ocean in conducting market, technological and information exchanges. The world is now in an era that values maritime cooperation and development. China’s proposal to build a Maritime Silk Road conforms with larger developments in economic globalization and taps into common interests that China shares with countries along the route. The goal is to forge a community of interest with political mutual trust, integrated economies, inclusive culture and inter-connectivity. The construction of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a global ini-tiative that pursues win-win results through cross-border cooperation. It is thus of great importance to view it from the perspective of multi-polarization, economic globalization and the co-existence and ba-lancing of cooperation and competition.

Building a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will help stimulate all-round maritime opening-up and benefit ASEAN and relevant countries.

Oceans contain a treasure trove of resources for sustainable development. China is currently at a critical stage in its economic reform process and must pay more attention to the ocean. As mentioned in the resolution of the Third Plenum, “[China] needs to enhance opening-up in coastal regions and boost the connectivity construction with neighboring countries and regions to spur all-round opening-up.”

The Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century will further unite and expand common interests between China and other countries situated along the route, activate potential growth and achieve mutual benefits in wider areas. The Maritime Silk Road will extend southward from China’s ports, through the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, Lombok and Sunda and then along the north Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In other words, the Road will extend from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and Europe, and it will mainly rely on ASEAN countries. Building the Maritime Silk Road will connect China’s ports with other countries through maritime connectivity, intercity cooperation and economic cooperation. On the one hand, the Road will strengthen the economic basis for China to cooperate with countries along the route and better connect Europe and Asia. On the other hand, the Road will facilitate the development of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), bringing benefits to China, ASEAN and other countries along the road.

The Maritime Silk Road will increase trust and regional peace and stability.

As the world’s economic and political center shifts towards the Asia Pacific, the region has stepped into a stage of geopolitics characterized by intersecting, overlapping and conflicting interests. By facilitating communication between countries along the road, the Maritime Silk Road will help build a community that represents the common concerns, interests and expectations of all countries. The community is expected to guide and support a peaceful and stable Asia Pacific landscape.

Moreover, the Maritime Silk Road will further bring together the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” the “Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor” and the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” that together connect Europe and Asia. Such connections will greatly enhance China and other countries’ abilities to develop economically while limiting external risks. The Maritime Silk Road will also enhance cooperation in non-traditional security areas while maintaining maritime security.

Maritime Partnerships Are the Key to Building the Maritime Silk Road

At a speech before the Indonesian parliament in 2013, President Xi Jinping stated that Southeast Asia has become an important hub for the maritime silk road and that China is willing to enhance maritime cooperation with ASEAN countries, boost maritime partnerships and build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. President Xi’s speech set forth a clear path for developing road. Enhancing maritime cooperation will be a priority task in building the Maritime Silk Road. The first step will involve China and countries along the route promoting pragmatic maritime cooperation.

Connecting multiple regions and uniting wide areas of co-operation, the tasks put forth in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will not be achieved in the immediate future. Instead, these tasks call for China and relevant countries to work in a step-by-step and practical manner. Building the Maritime Silk road will require diverse forms of cooperation. With a focus on economic cooperation, the Road will give consideration to all parties involved. It will be based on the existing cooperation mechanisms and platforms and be promoted by China and other countries along the route.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will cover more than 20 countries and regions that share a broad consensus on enhancing exchanges, friendship, promoting development, safety and stability within the region and beyond. The Silk Road has already received positive responses and support from many relevant countries. Greek Prime Minister Antonidis Samaras, for example, made it clear that Greece will “support and actively participate in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road proposed by China.” The Road runs through a region that is sensitive to international strategy and has complex geopolitics. The countries in the region differ in size, development, history, religion, language and culture. Therefore, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will accommodate various countries’ demands and apply suitable policies to each country. Meanwhile, the Road must change and consolidate new patterns of cooperation.

China has been building friendships and partnerships with nei-ghboring countries and developing maritime partnerships with its ocean neighbors, providing a solid foundation for cooperation with ASEAN and countries in the region. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road requires the following efforts: First, consensus must be reached between major countries along the route to enhance maritime cooperation. During high-level dialogues in recent years, the Chinese leadership made maritime cooperation an important topic of bilateral discussions and established the China-ASEAN and China-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation Fund. At the same time, China has actively promoted maritime cooperation between Southeast Asia, South Asia and African countries and established high-level mechanisms between various national maritime departments.

Second, countries must engage in pragmatic cooperation along the route in the areas of trade, the economy, culture and infrastructure. In 2012, the trade volume of countries along the route accounted for 17.9 percent of China’s total trade. The contracted turnover in countries along the route accounted for 37.9 percent of China’s overseas contracted turnover. People-to-people exchanges between China and ASEAN recently topped 15 million, while two-way students reached more than 170,000.

Third, countries along the route must engage in effective cooperation on ocean and climate change, marine disaster prevention and mitigation, biodiversity preservation and other areas of maritime policy. In 2010, the Indonesia-China Center for Ocean & Climate (ICCOC) was established. In 2013, the China-Thailand Climate and Marine Ecosystem Joint Lab were both launched. In 2012, the Chinese government set up a Marine Scholarship, and from that year onward, the scholarship will sponsor young people from developing countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate in China to enhance the marine capabilities of their own countries.

Focusing on Developing Partnerships Along the Maritime Silk Road

The Maritime Silk Road is in line with the development of national economies and the improvement of welfare. China must follow the new perspectives on value, cooperation and development featuring equality, cooperation, mutual benefits, win-win results, inclusiveness and harmony. Guided by President Xi’s desire to “expand the scale of cooperation and gradually foster regional cooperation,” China must make use of its comparative advantages and promote communication, connectivity, trade flow, currency circulation and consensus among people. China needs to target common interests between countries along the road and map out long-term plans and execute its plans in a step by step manner.

The Road will connect the Pacific and Indian Oceans. China will focus on upgrading the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and extending it to the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. By virtue of connecting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the “Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor” and the “Silk Road Economic Belt,” China will build an open, safe and effective maritime road that can facilitate trade, transportation, economic development and the dissemination of culture.

The Road will also make good use of the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund and enhance pragmatic maritime cooperation. By prioritizing cooperation in inter-connectivity, the maritime economy, marine environmental protection and disaster prevention and mitigation, China aims to improve the welfare of countries along the route and share the benefits of the Maritime Silk Road.

The Road will also make use of existing bilateral and multilateral marine cooperation mechanisms and frameworks. By making use of the existing and effective marine cooperation platforms, China will improve the area’s marine partnership network, forge closer ties between countries along the route and finally create a cooperation landscape in which marine resources, industries and culture are all reasonably distributed and mutually reinforcing.

The construction of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road the development of marine partnerships call for the following measures:

First, it will call for better marine connectivity. Infrastructure connectivity is the priority of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Countries need to focus on building key pathways, points and major projects, and China needs to work with countries along the road to build marine infrastructure, improve law enforcement abilities, provide public goods of marine security and guarantee the security of marine pathways. China needs to support the construction of ports, wharves and information networks to ensure the open flow of goods and information. It must also enhance communication on marine cooperation policies to facilitate marine investment and trade.

Sea lane safety is the key to sustaining the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, while ports are the foundation of sea lane safety. Like posts along the ancient Silk Road, ports along the new Maritime Silk Road will act as “posts on sea” that handle cargo and resupply ships and people. Such “sea posts” also must provide safe and convenient sea lanes for all countries to make use of. These posts can either be built by individual countries or built with the help of China and other countries, or even be leased in other counties. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will thus able to cover and drive more countries to create “sea posts.”

Second, it will call for strong cooperation on marine economy and industry. Many countries along the route strategically exploit the ocean, develop their maritime economies and sustain marine development. Strengthening cooperation on marine economics and industry will help push forward modernization and promote the upgrading and optimization of industry. Such cooperation will better integrate China’s economy with those of countries along the route.

Closer cooperation in the marine industry will require domestic industrial restructuring according to market demands, require prioritized cooperation in marine fishery, tourism, desalination and marine renewable resources and require Chinese enterprises in this industry to go global. China encourages enterprises with intellectual property and sophisticated desalination technology, marine renewable resources and marine bio-pharmaceutical technology to invest and build their own businesses in countries along the route.

Relying on existing Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones between China and other countries, as well as marine demonstration zones in Tianjin, Shandong, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, the government will play a leading role in the initial stages, guide enterprises with mature technologies in iron and steel, shipbuilding, fishery and aq-uaculture to establish production bases and extend industrial chains to countries with rich resources and huge demand.

China needs to work with countries along the route to facilitate regional cooperation, building industrial parks, enhancing investment and cooperation in the marine industry, building marine economic demonstration zones, marine technology parks, economic and trade cooperation zones and marine training bases. Through such industrial cooperation, China will forge an investment cooperation platform in which Chinese enterprises can gain international competitiveness and participate at a higher level of the industrial echelon.

China needs to build a cooperation belt to enhance the marine industry and set up cooperation networks to facilitate marine tourism. A sustainable Maritime Silk Road will not be achieved without the help of port economic zones. As a result, China must develop its port economic zones and free trade zones to provide a platform for the Maritime Silk Road. China will focus on eliminating systematic and mechanistic barriers, lowering market thresholds and facilitating the opening-up of major areas.

Third, it will call for all-round cooperation in marine fields. In recent years, non-traditional security issues such as piracy, maritime terrorism, cross-border crimes and maritime disasters have loomed large. Countries along the route share a common interest in addressing these problems. Naturally, fighting against non-traditional security challenges will become an important part of the Maritime Silk Road. As such, China must promote exchanges and cooperation between countries along the route in the areas of marine technology, environmental protection, marine forecasting and rescue, disaster prevention and the mitigation and climate change.

Putting the “Marine Technology Partnership Plan” into practice. Based on existing marine cooperation centers and observation platforms, China will focus on promoting marine technology cooperation networks and building the China-ASEAN Marine Cooperation Center, the Indonesia and China Center for Ocean and Climate, the China-Thailand Climate and Marine Ecosystem Joint Lab, the China-Pakistan Joint Marine Center, the China-Sri Lanka Marine and Coastal Zone Joint Research Center and other ocean stations.

Building “marine ecological partnerships.” By paying more atten-tion to an ecological civilization, China needs to enhance cooperate with countries along the route to build a green Silk Road that addresses the marine ecological environment and climate change. China must set up an effective dialogue mechanism, map out major projects in which all parties can get involved and make comprehensive plans for regional ecological and environmental protection. China must work more closely with Southeast Asia and South Asia to protect biodiversity, build a cross-border bio-diversity corridor and establish marine conservation areas.

Conducting the regional marine research. By building cooperation networks for marine disaster preparedness, providing marine forecasting products and releasing marine disaster warnings, China will increase marine benefits for relevant countries.

Fourth, it will call for expanding cooperation in marine culture. Marine culture is the foundation of building a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. When talking about the Silk Road Economic Belt, President Xi has stated that “amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.” He also highlighted the importance of “common aspirations,” given that the Silk Road will be supported by countries only if it is able to benefit people. China will inherit and pro-mote friendly cooperation along the Maritime Silk Road and develop a proposal with international consensus so that marine cooperation and partnerships will be firmly supported.

The plan will also call on countries to increase marine awareness and achieve common aspirations. China needs to make full use of the geopolitics and culture of Maritime Silk Road to promote exchanges in marine culture, tourism and education to make the Road a key link for friendly exchanges. By “going global” and “going local” at the same time, China needs to carry out exchanges and cooperation in marine culture, in areas such as cultural or art exchanges, archaeological exchanges, marine tourism cooperation, education and training.

China will guide and encourage the community to conduct various cultural exchanges and offer tours and products with distinct Silk Road features. In such a way, China will be able to expand the cultural influence of the Maritime Silk Road, push the Road into the new century and promote general marine cultural diversity.

Conclusion

On June 20, 2014, Premier Li Keqiang spoke at the China-Greece Marine Cooperation Forum, stating, “We stand ready to work with other countries to boost economic growth, deepen international cooperation and promote world peace through developing the ocean, and we strive to build a peaceful, cooperative and harmonious ocean.” China’s proposal to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road suits the current era and is characterized by peace, development, cooperation, innovation and opening-up. With the goal of building a harmonious ocean, the proposal rests on opening-up and innovation and aims to achieve “harmony between humans and the ocean, peaceful development, safety and convenience, cooperation and win-win results.” A 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will enhance cooperation between China and other countries, increase mutual trust, create a stable environment for cooperation and bring new opportunities for regional stability and prosperity.

by Liu Cigui

China Institute of International Studies

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Xi suggests China, C. Asia build Silk Road economic belt · Chinese President Xi Jinping … China, Maldives share dream of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Secessionism rising in the West; Scotland independence an inconvenient possibility; Scots choose to stay with UK


Scotland Independence
By Luo Jie

Tide of secessionism rising in the West

The Scottish independence referendum has come as a shock to the world at large. Even if the result of the vote vetoes independence for Scotland and maintains the unity of the UK, it is not so much a false alarm as a tremor shaking the whole Western system.

The UK is a representative country in the Western world. Despite the fact that the disintegration of the British Empire saw the painful departure of most of its colonies, the historic referendum on Scottish independence jeopardizes the integrity of its homeland. It is the fiercest outbreak of secessionism that has plagued major European countries in recent years.

The referendum is different from massive riots or disturbances in which immigrants acted as the main forces. It displays in a direct way a division in United Kingdom society. It is a showdown with the purpose of getting a “divorce.”

The referendum conveys a signal that the Western system has taken on numbness and lost efficacy in dealing with conundrums. People in the rest of the UK did not take seriously the term “Scottish independence” years ago, which, however, has kept swelling and become a major factor for the UK’s destiny. UK Prime Minister David Cameron made an appeal for Scotland to stay within the union and the US President also urged Scots to vote against independence, hoping the UK “remains strong, robust and united.” Western countries are making concerted efforts to save a united UK.

There is also secessionism in the Oriental world, notably in China, India and Russia, where, however, legal, political and moral systems play an effective role. Liberal practices in the UK might have worked in the past, but now are facing immense uncertainty.

Since the end of the Cold War, the West has come to the pinnacle of power step by step, while the Oriental world has been threatened by myriad crises. Nonetheless, emerging countries have flourished now after more than 20 years has passed. They have overcome deadly shocks and developed an effective control system.

There are signs that the West has started feeling anxious in front of the collective competition of emerging economies. Western society now apparently lacks confidence in an unprecedented way. Terms like solidarity, cooperation and diligence have long disappeared from the dictionary of many Westerners, who instead pursue maximized profits by using financial or political means.

Meanwhile, the vigor of the Oriental world is deeply rooted in people’s hard work and political progress gained at the cost of bitter lessons in the past. This represents a development trend of the world: Human society is seeing narrower gaps, which will likely be the essence of globalization.

Source:Global Times Editorial

Scotland: An inconvenient possibility 

Scotland Independence1

William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, David Cameron.

It’s ironic but if there is a yes vote in the referendum in Scotland on Thursday, and it is once again ruled from Edinburgh rather than London, it will be in large part thanks to David Cameron, the incumbent prime minister of the United Kingdom. Not only did he have to give his government’s consent for the referendum to go ahead, but he also ruled out the option of what is now being referred to as devo-max, the devolving of more powers to the Scottish parliament, and instead insisted on a straight yes or no choice to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

With the opinion polls at the time showing a healthy majority in favor of maintaining the Union, it was decided a straight yes/no independence referendum would result in vote in favor of keeping the union. However, that is looking a lot less like a sure bet now, with the polls showing the yes and no votes running neck and neck.

Just 10 days before the referendum, with the polls showing an upswing in people saying they intended to vote yes, the three main English parties struck a deal and pledged to give more powers to the Scottish parliament. But no details have been forthcoming of what this entails and no timetable presented. So it will probably not sway the minds of many still undecided voters.

If there is a yes vote, the Scottish government will have to set in motion the process for a written constitution, and there are hard negotiations that will need to be completed, not least on key issues such as a currency union, Scotland’s share of the UK’s national debt, and what will happen to the four submarines carrying missiles armed with Trident nuclear warheads that are stationed in Scotland, before the proposed independence date of March 24, 2016.

An independent Scotland will also have to negotiate for membership of NATO and the European Union. The rest of the UK, or rUK as it is known, would retain membership of NATO and the UN Security Council, as the government in London would retain control of Trident, but there would be growing pressure from those living in some cloud-cuckoo land of an imperial past for it to opt out of the EU.

Those claiming that Scotland is better off as part of the UK have been suggesting it is not a foregone conclusion that an independent Scotland will be able to join the EU. They have also tried to paint a dire picture of the future with the support of the oil companies and big banks, which have threatened to head south.

However, while independence does mean uncertainties, most of which can and will be resolved through negotiation, it also offers new opportunities. Despite the no camp’s unproven portents of doom, there is a belief among many, not just in Scotland, but elsewhere in the UK, that too much power is centralized in Westminster, and it favors the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The wealth gap continues to widen and this is evident not just in Scotland, but also elsewhere in the UK.

With a growing number of people struggling to pay their bills, there is a perception that those supposed to safeguard their interests are too busy finding ways to pad their claims for expenses and voting for their own pay rises to listen to their concerns. It has been said only half in jest that it is London and the South East of England that should go independent, because they are far removed in mindset from the more community based values of the rest of UK.

The Better Together pro-unionists have tried to portray the yes voters as hearts-over-minds anti-English nationalists nursing historical hurts as well as present grievances. Yet to many in Scotland, not just Scots, but residents of other nationalities, including English, better together means people in Scotland working together for a fairer society, one that is not victim to the whims of the unchecked free-market pursuit of profit. The central question for many is which option, a business-as-usual more-of-the-same no vote or an uncertain-hopes-for-the-future yes vote, offers the best chance of creating a more caring and equitable society.

To overseas observers who say Scotland would become irrelevant if it votes for independence and the UK diminished in stature without Scotland, most of those who intend to vote yes might reply, that’s just fine; Scotland is just a small country on the fringe of Europe that doesn’t need or want to strut upon the world stage – something its leaders should bear in mind if the vote is yes.

By Hannay Richards (China Daily)/Asia News Network

Cameron thanks Scots for choosing to stay, promises a more unified UK

 UK Prime Minister David Cameron is now delivering a speech. Let’s go live to see what he is saying.

Showtime for China’s E-commerce giant, Alibaba world-wide


Alibaba_Chinese_logoAlibaba, China’s eCommerce giant, has quickly come onto everyone’s radar as it presents the possibility of being the largest tech IPO ever. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to go on the market at a value of roughly $200 billion – larger than US tech companies Amazon, eBay or Facebook. This week, we bring you articles to explain who Alibaba is and what you can expect from them in the future.

Two weeks, three continents, and 100 meetings. That — and founder Jack Ma celebrating his 50th birthday on the road — is what it will take for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to pull off the largest initial public offering in U.S. history.

The Chinese e-commerce company is weighing a plan to start marketing the share sale to investors on Sept. 3, with management traveling across Asia, Europe and the U.S. before an initial public offering in the middle of the month, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The schedule, put forth by banks managing the IPO, would have meetings begin in Hong Kong and Singapore before executives travel to London and eventually host their first U.S. event in New York on Sept. 8, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. The timeline has Alibaba targeting a Sept. 16 trading debut, the people said.

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The investor meetings — called a roadshow — will give Alibaba the opportunity to answer questions from the world’s biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. With Alibaba and selling shareholders expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest in the U.S. The company’s official price range is expected to be revealed on Sept. 2.


Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks at SoftBank World 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

 

Monday Pricing

For trading to start on Sept. 16, Alibaba would have to set a final price the day before — a Monday. It is uncommon for companies in the U.S. to price IPOs on a Monday, in case news over the weekend negatively impacts market sentiment in the final day of the deal.

The plan is tentative and could change, although Alibaba wants to avoid debuting near the Jewish holiday the following week, one of the people said.

With six financial advisers already managing the sale, Alibaba plans to name additional banks that will have smaller roles on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. The company will also update investors with earnings from the quarter through June, those people said.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are the most senior banks on the IPO. Alibaba may end up using more than 20 financial advisers in total, one person said.

Shares of Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. (9984), Alibaba’s largest shareholder, rose 2.4 percent at the close in Tokyo. Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment.

Birthday Celebration

At $20 billion, Alibaba’s sale would edge past Visa Inc.’s $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the largest in U.S. history, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alibaba plans to divide executives into two separate teams, which will lead to about 100 meetings in total, according to the people. The teams will mostly be together for the larger group meetings, while separating to meet with individual investors, they said. The company hasn’t yet determined who from management will be attending each meeting, the people said.

In the U.S., Alibaba will also visit with investors in Boston, the Mid-Atlantic region, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the people said.

On Sept. 10, when Ma celebrates his birthday, investor meetings will be held in New York, they said.

Alibaba is waiting until September to begin marketing the share sale as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. The company, which originally targeted an early August trading debut, is holding off to avoid rushing the deal as it continues discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the person.

Discounted Valuation

The Chinese e-commerce operator may set its set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, in a move that could avoid repeating Facebook Inc. (FB)’s listing flop, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last month. The same analysts give Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion, the survey shows.

Alibaba said yesterday it will sell its small-business lending arm to the company that already controls payments affiliate Alipay, separating itself from the last of its major financial units ahead of the IPO.

The sale takes financial and regulatory risk relating to the operations off of Alibaba’s balance sheet, while increasing the pool of profits the company can generate from them, the filing shows. The agreement also lifts a $6 billion cap, under certain conditions, on funds that Alibaba could receive if Alipay or its parent company go public, the filing shows.

By Zijing Wu and Leslie Picker Bloomberg

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China’s Internet giants, Tencent to undercut Alibaba with billion chat app users

Global bank profits hit US$920bil, China accounted for 1/3 total; Globalized RMB to stabilize world economy


LONDON: China’s top banks accounted for almost one-third of a record US$920 billion of profits made by the world’s top 1000 banks last year, showing their rise in power since the financial crisis, a survey showed on Monday.

China’s banks made $292 billion in aggregate pretax profit last year, or 32 percent of the industry’s global earnings, according to The Banker magazine’s annual rankings of the profits and capital strength of the world’s biggest 1,000 banks.

ICBCLast year’s global profits were up 23 percent from the previous year to their highest ever level, led by profits of $55 billion at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). China Construction Bank, Agriculture Bank of China and Bank of China filled the top four positions.

Banks in the United States made aggregate profits of $183 billion, or 20 percent of the global tally, led by Wells Fargo’s earnings of $32 billion.

Banks in the eurozone contributed just 3 percent to the global profit pool, down from 25 percent before the 2008 financial crisis, the study showed. Italian banks lost $35 billion in aggregate last year, the worst performance by any country.

Banks in Japan made $64 billion of profit last year, or 7 percent of the global total, followed by banks in Canada, France and Australia ($39 billion in each country), Brazil ($26 billion) and Britain ($22 billion),The Banker said.

The magazine said ICBC kept its position as the world’s strongest bank, based on how much capital they hold – which reflects their ability to lend on a large scale and endure shocks.
china_construction_bank
China Construction Bank jumped to second from fifth in the rankings of strength and was followed by JPMorgan , Bank of America and HSBC .

ICBC, which took the top position last year for the first time, was one of four Chinese banks in the latest top 10.

Wells Fargo has this year jumped to become the world’s biggest bank by market value, after a surge in its share price on the back of sustained earnings growth. Its market value is $275 billion, about $75 billion more than ICBC.

The Banker said African banks made the highest returns on capital last year of 24 percent – double the average in the rest of the world and six times the average return of 4 percent at European lenders.- Reuters

Globalized RMB to stabilize world economy

RMBBEIJING, June 27 (Xinhua) — The globalization of the yuan, or renminbi (RMB), will not only benefit the Chinese economy, but generate global economic stability, a senior banker has said.

The yuan did not depreciate during the 1997 Asian financial crisis or the 2008 global financial crisis, helping stabilize the global economy, Tian Guoli, chairman of the Bank of China, said at a forum in London last week, according to the Friday edition of the People’s Daily.

China’s economy ranks second in the world and its trade ranks first, so it is thought that use of the RMB in cross-border trade will be a mutually beneficial move for China and its trade partners.

The yuan has acquired basic conditions to become an international currency as China’s gross domestic product took 12.4 percent of the world’s total and its foreign trade 11.4 percent of the world’s total in 2013, Tian said.

According to the central bank, RMB flow from China hit 340 billion yuan (55.74 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of 2014, replenishing offshore RMB fluidity. The balance of offshore RMB deposits hit 2.4 trillion yuan at the end of March, 1.51 percent of all global offshore deposits. Offshore trade between the yuan and foreign currencies doubled in the first quarter from the fourth quarter of last year.

Analysts widely forecast five steps in RMB internationalization: RMB used and circulated overseas, RMB as a currency of account in trade, RMB used in trade settlement, RMB as a currency for fundraising and investment, and RMB as a global reserve currency.

Already, some neighboring countries and certain regions in developed countries are circulating RMB, indicating the first step has been basically achieved.

Data provider SWIFT’s RMB tracker showed that in May, 1.47 percent of global payments were in RMB, a tiny amount compared to the global total but up from 1.43 percent in April. This indicated progress in the second and third steps.

Some countries in southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa have or are ready to take RMB as an official reserve currency. It indicated the fourth and the fifth steps are burgeoning.

Investors are also optimistic about RMB globalization. Bank of China’s global customer survey shows that over half of the respondents expect RMB cross-border transactions to rise by 20 to 30 percent in five years. And 61 percent of overseas customers say they plan to use or increase use of RMB as a settlement currency.

Li Daokui, head of the Center for China in the World Economy under Tsinghua University, said RMB internationalization is a long-term process and should be made gradually based on China’s financial reforms, including freeing interests and reforms on foreign exchange rates.

Dai Xianglong, former central bank governor of China, forecast that it will take about 10 to 15 years to achieve a high standard of RMB internationalization.

Among the latest moves toward RMB internationalization is the naming of two clearing banks to handle RMB business overseas.

The central bank announced last Wednesday that it has authorized China Construction Bank to be the clearing bank for RMB business in London, and the next day named the Bank of China as clearing bank for RMB business in Frankfurt.- Xindua

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Malaysian Minister admits poor education system, students are below par


Minister admits poor education system, says blueprint is the answer

Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh has admitted that Malaysia’s education system was below par as shown in global rankings, and cited Putrajaya’s National Education Blueprint as the solution.

Education Min_IDRIS-JUSOH“It is vital to assess and compare our education system against the international standards. Out of 74 countries, Malaysia ranked in the bottom third in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009+.

“This is below the international and OECD average,” said Idris, referring to member states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“Primary and secondary school education standards need to improve, particularly so in bridging the gap between urban and rural areas… at the higher education level, we continue to face challenges mainly in the area of graduates’ ability to be employed,” Idris (pic) said in his speech at the 18th Malaysian Education Summit in Petaling Jaya, today.

Idris said the Education Blueprint, launched in September last year and formulated with the help of 55,000 stakeholders, would benefit Malaysia as international education standards continued to rise.

He added that another blueprint for the higher education sector was currently being prepared to among others, to empower university governance, democratise access to higher education and improving employability of graduates.

He also said a “war room” was being planned to ensure that the higher education blueprint, to be launched by year’s end, would be carried out smoothly.

“I know the responsibility is great, I cannot shoulder the burden alone. But we must keep on listening, we have to keep deliberating to ensure that Malaysian education is at par ‎at least with other countries.

“But that’s not good enough for me.‎ I want Malaysian education to be better than other countries in the world,” Idris told some 200 delegates comprising academics and education stakeholders.

On Tuesday, the annual QS University Rankings: Asia 2014 revealed that Malaysian universities lagged behind those from neighbouring Singapore and Hong Kong.

The National University of Singapore topped the list of Asian countries, but the University of Malaya was placed at the 32nd spot. Other local universities in the top 100 include Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in the 56th place, Universiti Sains Malaysia (57), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (66) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (76).

Malaysian public universities last month were left out of the latest ranking of the annual Times Higher Education (THE) Top 100 Universities under 50 years old.

Four Asian universities were ranked among the top 10 of the world’s young universities, including South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology which took the top spot, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (3), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (4) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (5).

Malaysia, however, failed to get on the list for the second year running. In the first rankings list in 2012, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was ranked 98th.

Malaysia was also absent from the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings list which was released in March, losing out to other Southeast Asian countries.

Malaysia’s continuous failure to feature in any university rankings despite a huge education budget every year has not gone down well with the opposition, which has taken Putrajaya to task for the miserable performance.

The Education Ministry received RM38.7 billion in 2013 and has been allocated a total of RM54 billion this year – the biggest allocation yet.

Contributed BY ANISAH SHUKRY, The MalysianInsider

Malaysian students are below par, says Idris

Malaysian students are below par when compared with their contemporaries in other countries, acknowledged Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

Although literacy rates were rising in Malaysia, it was vital to assess and compare the Malaysian education system against international standards, he added.

“Out of 74 countries, Malaysia ranked in the bottom third in the Programme for Interna­tional Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009+. This is below the international and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average,” he said during the 18th Malaysian Education Summit yesterday.

“Primary and secondary school education standards need to improve, particularly so in bridging the gap between urban and rural areas. Though Malaysia has achieved commendable results in terms of providing access, we have to now ensure that access comes together with quality education of international standards.”

Meanwhile, at the higher education level, he said that the challenge was producing knowledgeable, competent and globally competitive human capital.

“Employers in Malaysia face a major problem when it comes to having fresh graduates fill out vacancies,” he said, citing poor command of English as one of the reasons.

The solution to this is the Malaysia Education Blueprint (MEB) 2012-2025, which was launched last September, as well as the soon-to-be-released National Education Blueprint for Higher Education 2015-2025 (Higher Education Blueprint).

Idris said the MEB offered a vision of the education system and students’ aspirations that Malaysia both needed and deserved and outlined 11 strategic and operation shifts that would be required to achieve that vision.

“The need for the Education Blueprint is justified in the context of raising international standards; the government aspiration of better preparing Malaysian children for the needs of the 21st century; and increased public and parental expectations of education policy,” he said.

“We have had international experts from the World Bank, Unesco, and OECD to work with our national partners to evaluate the performance of our national education system in the development process of the Education Blueprint. Overall, more than 55,000 stakeholders were consulted in its formulation.”

“The Higher Education Blueprint will also be introduced in order to ensure consistency with the primary and secondary education system, and allow for seamless progression in terms of educational offerings, opportunities and advancement,” he added.

The Higher Education Blueprint will address challenges such as empowering university governance, democratising access to higher education and improving graduate employability.

contribute by Jeannette Goon The Star/Asia News Network

Here’s The New Ranking Of Top Countries In Reading, Science, And Math:

The OECD is out with new global rankings of how students in various countries do in reading, science, and math. Results of the full survey can be found and delved into here.

You can see below how Asian countries are obliterating everyone else in these categories.

The United States, meanwhile, ranks below the OECD average in every category. And as the WSJ notes, the US has slipped in all of the major categories in recent years:

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which are being released on Tuesday, show that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which gathers and analyzes the data in the U.S.

Here are the top countries

OECD_Pisa screen shot 2013-12-03

Sources: Business Insider.com
 
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Asians can and must think strategically, not to be dominated by the West


Can Asians think?

CAN Asian Think is a provocative book written in 1998 by the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Kishore Mahbubani, a prolific and brilliant thinker.

The book is a combative rebuttal of the idea that the dominant Western (read American) ideas are universalist, arguing that the Rest (of the World) has a lot to teach the West.

Re-reading it after more than 16 years, the questions raised by Mahbubani are as relevant as ever. Personally, I found the title rather condescending – of course Asians can think! The real issue is whether Asians can think strategically in their own interest, or whether they think that the dominant Western philosophy and values are so comfortable and relevant that they simply accept that the West is best.

The intellectual tide is going full circle. Since 1998, we have experienced two full-scale crises – the Asian financial crisis of 1998-1999 in which some Western polemicists gloated over Asian hubris, and the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when even Western intellectuals questioned whether unfettered capitalism was a dead end.

As one Asian leader said, when our teacher stumbles, what does the student do? This strategic question has not been completely answered, or at least the answers are different for different Asian countries.

Now that the West has begun to recover, we are going through a reversal of fortunes. Emerging economies are going to bear the brunt of global adjustment. At least three Asian economies are counted among the Fragile Five (India, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa), and there is considerable worry that China may be going through a hard landing.

President Obama’s trip to Asia was a belated personal confirmation of his “Pivot to East Asia” policy, first articulated in 2012 by then Secretary of State and Presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton. As the United States began to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and its discovery of shale oil making it less dependent on the Middle East, the Pivot strategy involved strengthening bilateral ties with allies in East Asia, and working relationships with emerging powers, such as China. The immediate unintended consequence of the Pivot policy was the eruption of the Ukraine crisis, whereby Russia took advantage of European weakness and diversion of US attention to effectively bring Crimea back to the Russian sphere of influence.

All of a sudden, the Cold War, defined as the struggle between Big Powers, re-emerged into the global risk equation.

Russian  Victory Day parade
Russian soldiers march at the Red Square in Moscow during a Victory Day parade. Thousands of Russian troops marched in Red Square to mark 69 years since victory in World War II in a show of military might amid tensions in Ukraine following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. -AFP

The word “pivot” originally arose from a paper “The Geographical Pivot of History”, delivered exactly 110 years ago by Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), then director of the London School of Economics. In his second book in 1919, Mackinder, considered the father of geopolitics and geostrategy theory, enscapsulated his theory of the Heartland in a dictum: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

The Heartland is of course Central Asia, previously part of the Soviet Union, and the World-Island is the largest landmass of Euroasia, from Atlantic Europe to the East Asian Pacific coast, which commands 50% of the world’s resources. Many of today’s areas of geopolitical risk are at the frontiers of the Heartland – Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the South China Sea.

Mackinder’s innovation was to examine national strategy on a global scale, recognising that the British empire must use geography and strategic policy to its advantage against competing great powers.

Former British colonies understood very well the British strategy of “divide and rule”, playing off one faction against the other, so that Britain could rule a subcontinent like India without expending too much resources. But Britain did not hesitate to apply gunboats or cannon to maintain the strategic balance. Similarly, Britain played off one European power against another, until weakened by two world wars, her former colony, the United States emerged as the global superpower.

Seen from the long lens of history, we are in the second Anglo-Saxon empire, with America being the new Rome. Just as the Roman empire shifted its capital from Rome to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 20th century, power shifted westward from London to Washington DC.

In the 20th century, two island economies, Britain and Japan, played leading roles in intervening in the continents of Europe and Asia through maritime power, but by the 21st century, air and technological power through size and scale changed the game in favour of the United States. The United States is a continental economy defended by two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, without a military rival within the Americas.

In contrast, Asia has been historically riven by war and territorial disputes.

In his new book, the Revenge of Geography, geostrategist Robert Kaplan argued how politics and warfare were determined throughout history largely by geography.

Even though the arrival of air travel and Internet suggest that the world may become borderless, the reality is that the world is becoming more and more crowded.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the global population was only 1.7 billion, with a death count of 16 million. By the Second World War, the death count reached as high as 85 million, when world population was only 2.3 billion.

The next World War will be fought over water and energy resources, because there are limits to natural resources even as the global population exceeds 7 billion, going towards 9 billion by 2030.

For the world to avoid global conflict will require great skills and mutual understanding, because the geopolitical risks of political miscalculation and accidents are extremely high in an age of rising tensions due to inequality, chauvinism, religious and ethnic polarisation. As an old African saying goes, when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. In the next big fight between the nuclear powers, there will be no winners.

Now that is something that not just Asians must seriously think about.

- Contributed by Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is Distinguished Fellow of the Fung Global Institute. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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