Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Experts Discuss Asia’s Global Power and Influence


Jim Webb, United States Senate,
delivering a keynote address on the vital importance of U.S. interaction with East and Southeast Asia.

Experts Discuss Asia’s Global Power and Influence

By: Ariel Tung
Asian Fortune

Washington, DC -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg stressed the importance of Asia to the United States and called for the necessity to reflect on the US-China relations, which is seen as "having helped set the stage to deal with security threats from North Korea."

He made the statement in a keynote speech to the first international conference on Asia's role in the world held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on June 17-18.

While identifying some of the priority areas such as stabilizing global economy through G20, strengthening relations with Japan and Korea and building relations with India, Mr. Steinberg stressed the role model of Indonesia in the region and the importance of reflecting on the US-China relations, especially the US principles and positions in its policy toward Taiwan.

More than 250 Asian experts from all over the world were present to discuss “The Asia Policy Assembly on Asia’s Global Influence: How Is it Exercised? What Does It Mean?”

The event was hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which described the goal of the assembly as "to examine the full extent, and limitations, of Asia’s global influence." The Assembly addressed a broad range of issues and regions in Asia through more than 25 plenary and roundtable sessions.

In his policy address, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer said that while U.S.-Japan relations serve the cornerstone of U.S strategy, U.S and China should work on building greater trust and cooperation in the midst of disagreement and friction.

In his presentation, David Lampton, George and Sadie Hyman professor of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, said that the U.S.-China relation is fundamentally sound despite “unintended elements of distrust.” He believes that the U.S. has overestimated Chinese power and that the Chinese is underestimating America’s capacity of self-renewal. “Although they see U.S as having made a lot of mistakes and is losing its share of GDP, we are going to change the game,” he said.

In another direction, presenter Thomas Mahnken, professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a Visiting Scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, said he is concerned with the U.S. underestimating Chinese power. He cited that not only has the Chinese exceeded U.S expectations, this has been the case historically, just like how Britain and U.S have underestimated Japan’s ability to modernize military in the early 20th Century. But Prof. Mahnken acknowledged that this is a historical observation, and in short, “we really don’t know.”

When asked for her comments on Lampton and Mahnken’s controversial viewpoints, Wei Li, associate professor at the Asian Pacific American Studies Program and School of Geographical Sciences at Arizona State University, said that “each person is entitled to his or her own opinion, but the issue is more about how to carefully examine the current situations and underlining causes in order to have a more informed and possibly objective goal for future.”

“Over- or under-estimating any country’s value, power, resiliency and potential will only undermine the necessary comprehension of policy agendas toward that country, and worse, potentially leads to disastrous outcome,” added Prof Li, who led a roundtable discussion on “China and Globalization”. “It is more important to keep the candid dialogue open and foster more mutual understanding to work for a world of peace and prosperity.”

Among the many participants who applaud the inaugural Asia Policy Assembly efforts is Prof. Stephen Levine who flew in from New Zealand.

Said Prof Levine, who specialized in political science and international relations program at Victoria University of Wellington, “I’m impressed that for the first time that scholars come together to focus on Asia affairs, trying to get policy makers to recognize the importance of Asia for America’s well being. I foresee that the Assembly will be annually held.”


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