As Vice-President Biden moves through Asia, he must wonder how the times have changed from the end of the Second World War when the USA reigned supreme in the Pacific, and Australia, New Zealand and other Asian countries welcomed their shield from the horrors that Japan had visited across the Continent.
He would see a thriving Asia that is the global engine of growth and many nations, some never heard of 20 years ago, working industriously to move themselves towards developed economies. He would note that the rise of China had brought great prosperity and some anxiety as to its potential power, or use of that power. But he would recognise that Japan and its wartime activities also dominated thinking around Asia, and the fear that this could come again. The Government of Abe with its new military agenda would worry Asia.
Were he to fly over Europe he would marvel at the recovery since the Second World War and the peaceful way problems are addressed between nations. He would recognise that the collapse of the Soviet Union and NATO’s drive East had forced the E.U. to expand too fast, and develop its own currency at the same time. Europe’s growth had been stalled because of that, and he would reflect that it would take 5-10 years for the recalcitrant European nations to reform their economies and states. Whilst tensions existed with Russia and Europe, he would sense that these were the frictions of development and not the clashes of civilisations.
He would feel that Europe today is not as much of a challenge to the USA as it had been in recent times.
Back in Asia he would see a disjointed continent with Asean, SCO, Apec and TPPA, four of several regional trade bodies that could not be described as linked. Several flashpoints existed, such as India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and within several unsettled countries such as Myanmar and Thailand.
He would wish that corporate America could operate and expand its business operations in a much more secure and Western-style continent, and above all that China and Japan could settle their differences and lead a unifying economic Continent, where growth could increase by many percentage points through expanded peaceful free trade areas, and consolidated and uniform stock markets enabling the full play of M&A to develop within Asia.
He would know his own neo-cons back in 1992, reinforced in 2007 by Hank Paulson, had identified China as the main threat to USA Asian interests. This desire to have full control which motivates superpowers is misplaced and leads to a inner drain of resources. Frustration over power becomes too dominant a director of policy.
He might wonder if working with China and others to create a unity in Asia would not be best for the USA. But then his pilot would tell him that Japan was waiting to see if his plane filed a report to China’s new ADIZ. He would know that China’s ADIZ is aimed primarily at balancing Japan’s own ADIZ, which is all aroused by Japan’s nationalisation of the disputed islands.
He would sit reminded of the tensions beneath him and this great role in determining the future of Asia, not by one simple visit, but by the signals he decided to take home of the future best interests of the USA.
China has no need of conflict. It has enough to do at home. The same is true of all the Asian countries including the Japanese who also suffer from ‘militaryitis’.
Lets hope the forces for trade and investment sustainability and peace see the dividend of their approach, and that military solutions can be placed on low alert.
But he would be realistic that China is a great opportunity for American companies, and common work on many global fronts, but that the situation with Japan over these islands will not be sacrificed by Chinese leaders. A lesson Mrs. Thatcher and Governor Patten learnt.
It is a risky time and a statesmanlike approach is required.
Good luck Joe.