Asia Pacific Leadership – So Crowded – A Scorecard to Tell the Players Apart

Global summitry was on full display at the early part of the week.   It is again as the week ends.  Many of the Leaders who had just been to the G20 Leaders Summit at Cannes basically turned around and headed to Honolulu for the 19th Leaders Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting.  And by the end of this week a number of these same leaders have gathered again in Bali for the 6th East Asia Summit (EAS).  This Bali gathering is notable for including for the first time the President of the United States and the President of Russia thus making it a first time meeting of 18 leaders.  As a final gesture of global summitry, the US President stopped on his way to Bail in Australia for a long postponed state visit by this President to the continent.

With the US (re)engagement in the Asia Pacific  – more on that in our next blog post – we saw significant attention placed by the President on the APEC meeting – it is his sorta home state – except for Illinois of course – which is other home state.  President Obama spent some time touting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) framework – a next-generation trade and investment agreement, as the APEC Leaders have referred to it, including currently nine Asian and Pacific countries and the new/old attention paid to joining these negotiations by the Prime Ministers of Japan and Canada and the President of Mexico.

APEC is an unusual organization that was first proposed by Australia in the late 1980s.  The 21 current members represent separate economies which allows Chinese Taipei – Taiwan and Hong Kong to members though they are not states or not readily acknowledged ones (it is one of the few organizations where both Taiwan and China are members)  The US organized the first Leaders level meeting (note Taiwan sends a ministerial level official) in 1993.

In the Honolulu Declaration, the communique ending the leaders’ meeting, the countries repeated the voluntary trade liberalization mantra of this forum:  trade and investment liberalization, business facilitation and economic and technical cooperation:

APEC’s core mission continues to be further integration of our economies and expansion of trade among us. We come together in APEC to pursue these goals, recognizing that trade and investment are critical to job creation and greater economic prosperity for all our economies.  We further recognize that strengthening regional economic integration also plays a key role in promoting regional peace and stability.

The reliance on consensus and voluntarism has always raised questions over the effectiveness of the organization.  These limitations remain to this day.

The EAS is a leaders summit that focuses on regional trade but also security issues.  The first leaders’ meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005 and is held always at the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meetings.  Thus President Obama is holding bilaterals as The ASEAN leadership meets today in Bali.  ASEAN includes the core 10 countries of southeast Asia and is committed to the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, the protection of regional peace and stability, and to providing opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.  It is the core institution for Southeast Asia containing not only the economically vibrant members such as Singapore and Malaysia and newly vibrant Vietnam but also the large and now G20 member Indonesia.  The EAS was promoted by ASEAN plus three – the three being China, Japan and Korea – though there is confusion over whether members prefer the ASEAN plus three or the EAS.

In any case it would appears that this year’s EAS meeting will follow up on trade and investment liberalization discussed at APEC but additionally add discussion on making the region a nuclear free zone, easing tensions on the Korean peninsula and continuing efforts to develop a code of conduct acceptable to all states to facilitate disputes in the South China Sea.  The latter will very likely raise serious hackles among China officials where they have insisted that they do not wish discuss these matters and insist on resolving South China Sea disputes bilaterally and not – as the US and others insist – on a multilateral – basis.

The multiplicity of regional organizations in the Asia Pacific is striking.  As international legal scholar Sungjoon Cho of Chicago-Kent College of Law wrote some years in his examination of APEC (“Making A Better Dispute Settlement Mechanism for Regional  Trade Agreements: Lessons of Integration Efforts in East Asia” in Mitsuo Matsushita & Dukgeun Ahn (Cameron May: London, 2004):

This region is characterized by deeply rooted heterogeneity or, to use a more benign term, “diversity”.  As a result it lacks the glue of homogeneity needed to bond different states together to create a formal institution.  First the existence of many states in this region is based on ethnic identity.  The different countries speak different languages.  Their cultural underpinnings – customs, ways of life and thinking and moral system – are quite different.  Their religions also vary.  Second, colonial experiences in some states may have politically blocked formal institutionalization in this region.  Third, the lack of a single dominant leadership, in particular after the Cold War, may explain the difficulty of forming an official regional arrangement. Fourth, the payoff matrix, geopolitical or economic, of Asia Pacific states may in fact be too complex to bind them with a single formal tie.

So where do the countries go with this summitry spaghetti.  Tan See Seng, the deputy director and head of research at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Nanyang Technological University Singapore in his post for  RSIS Commentaries entitled “Visions at War? EAS in the Regional Architecture Debate”  argues that there are three contending summitry models in Asia.  The first, what he refers to as the “Canberra School” model promotes a “command” or centralized brand of regionalism – an overarching institution.  Australia’s former Prime Minister and currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, promoted what he called Asia-Pacific Community model (I was fortunate enough to attend the Sydney gathering in 2009 where Australia pushed for the creation of the APc). Many of the smaller countries especially Singapore but also Vietnam and Cambodia expressed strong reservations over the creation of the this large institution.  Many representatives saw this institution as a threat to ASEAN and its continued existence.  While the initiative did pose a threat to the continued influence of the small states in Asia the primary purpose was to create an overarching security community – to date no such institution exists in Asia.  The Australian hope was to create under one umbrella a security community that could act as a platform for dialogue and discussion for China, US, India and the other powers in the region. But for the time being – that initiative is not possible.

The second approach referenced by Tan See Seng was what he called the “Washington School”.  This approach promotes a functional or results-based approach to regional governance.  The US calls for effectiveness and suggests ending the functional overlap that currently exists in the summitry in Asia.  Thus the ASEAN+3 and all of the ASEAN plus organizations should work on trade and investment liberalization while the EAS focuses on security.

Finally Tan See Seng identifies the “Singapore School”.  This approach accepts the current system – in particular acknowledging the centrality of the ASEAN – in other words the small country core of Asian regionalism – and promotes the continuation even augmentation of the institutional  system of ASEAN + settings. It permits the continuing membership diversity.

Whatever the future the Summitry diversity is a reality for now.  The burning question is: can these institutional settings help US-China manage their relations in Asia?  Or is all this beside the point.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Reconciling with the Rise of China

I was fortunate to join colleagues from Harvard, but as well from other US academic institutions  – and colleagues from China as well – in a fascinating discussion here at the Kennedy School over this past weekend.  The workshop was filled with great US China specialists of all stripes – Susan Shirk from UCSD, Tony Saich and Iain Johnston from Harvard as well as a number of IR theorists including Etel Solingen UC Irvine, John Mueller from Ohio State, John Mearsheimer from Chicago and Stephen Walt from Harvard.   The session was organized by my old mentor Dick Rosecrance – lately of Harvard and the Belfer Center there but also Graham Allison and Joesph Nye former Kennedy deans, Ezra Vogel a China-Japan scholar who has gained a recent note of fame for his just released book on Deng Xiaoping and a host of economists, ‘guns and rocket’ folks and IR types.

As my wife always argues these kinds of meetings, are as she says “just an excuse to schmooze with old friends.” “Yes, I say, and what’s wrong with that.”  But the weekend workshop had a more serious objective. The workshop was titled, “Chinese Strategy and the US Response: How Far is Adjustment Possible?” This is the first of several sessions possibly looking at how the US and China can survive the power transition – that is the rise of China and relatively speaking, the decline of the United States – likely exhibiting competition and rivalry, but avoiding  outright conflict.

Inevitably there was much circumlocution – arguing around the point, near the point but not quite on the point. But over the day and half the group did make progress in sketching out a scenario or framework for this relationship – though we are not so far along so to be able to elaborate the behaviors and structures that would guarantee a successful power transition between these most crucial great powers.

The discussions were very rich and stretched over a wide variety of issues from the territorial, to the economic and political, the strategic and the military.  Let me just draw out a few choice items.

My good friend Arthur Stein, and a long established presence at UCLA, probably had the best insight – this toward the end of the workshop – that of framing the relationship as a ‘couple’. Thus, there is an existent ongoing relationship but one that must be managed.  Dick Rosecrance picked up on this framing  at the end to suggest that the US-China relationship is like a ‘common law couple’ – not formally married but in a relationship nonetheless.  What is critical in describing the relationship this way is to establish that there is a preexisting relationship that must be worked on.  And in that reference frame there was a reminder that to be successful it was important to act to adapt yourself to your spouse rather than to try and change your spouse. The basic need for both – avoid stupidity, manage the relationship and avoid divorce.

Well I suspect these views reflect words of wisdom for marital relations.  But we will see if it holds for the US-China relationship and what structures and behaviors it suggests for IR as opposed to marital counseling.  But as a starting point – not bad.

But there was more.  Our friendly ‘guns and rocket’ types including Bob Ross from BC and the Fairbanks Center at Harvard, Taylor Fravel and and Barry Posen from MIT, gave us a perspective in the regional competition and the military modernization and build up that in the end – given geography and capability  – leads to both being able to box the other in  and giving advantage to the defense over the offense.  Now the likely advantage of the defensive suggests at first glance that these powers would be better off where they restrain spending and offensive deployment.

Joe Nye insightfully and quite pointedly argued that it would be quite wrong for the United States to frame the US reassertion of its regional East Asian presence  with a cold war containment in mind.  He urged that the US maintain its ‘engagement but hedging strategy’ – the hedging being the US reaffirmation of its bilateral Japan strategy.  Containment of China it was suggested could only be provided by China.  In other words, ‘China will contain China’.  And finally and in the circumstance that China fails to contain China over the coming years then ‘pinpoint balancing’ from various states – not a broad and threatening coalition – would suffice to do the trick in the circumstances.

The prime effort – by China but also the United States – as the years of the power transformation tick by – is to find the leadership capacity and will – the means and structures – to reconcile to the other.  Let’s hope this is not too tall an order.

G20 Global Governance is Hard Work, World – Get Used to It!

[Editor’s Note:  The picture is of the ‘super’ team of experts and media that Digital20 Project from the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and the Stanley Foundation (TSF) gathered together for the Cannes Summit.  From left to right – Don Brean, The Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Netila Demneri, Munk School of Global Affairs, David Shorr, TSF, ‘Yours Truly’ Munk School of Global Affairs , Hugo Dobson, Sheffield University, Sean Harder, TSF and kneeling Yves Tiberghien, University of British Columbia.  You can see more about the Digital 20 Project at its new web portal]

I woke up this morning to the media harangue – I expected it actually – that the G20 was irrelevant  – and worse unhelpful in resolving the challenges of global governance.

In this instance it was Wolfgang Münchau, currently the associate editor of the FT – I kinda thought it would be my old colleague Daniel Drezner – but he just linked to Münchau in his most recent blog post and left the rest to Wolfgang.

So here we are again with ringing accusation of G20 irrelevance – and possibly worse:

Yet last week’s summit proved almost comically irrelevant to the future of the global economy. … The actual outcome summit leaves us in a void, with no crisis resolution strategy in place.  In the previous decade, the old Group of Seven failed to prevent various financial crises.  This decade, the G20 is failing to solve them.

And it continues on from there.  But when Wolfgang feels called upon to then come up with a successful strategy for the challenges now facing the global economy,  what do we get:

Unless we are ready to reverse monetary integration and financial globalisation, and accept the economic and political consequences, there is no alternative but to create a new institutional framework, with new rules, both within the eurozone and at the global level.  Our policies have run out of control.

So there it is – our institutions have proved irrelevant so let’s build another set of institutions.  Oh please!

So the media continues to get it wrong.  First there was a collective effort to help protect the global economy from Greek – and presumably – Italian contagion.  Amusingly, the piece disclosing the deal that almost was – and is likely to be in the near future – comes in part from Chris Giles,  Münchau’s colleague.  It is evident from this post that the Leaders were working on a three-part economic package that would at least act as an international firewall around Greece.  It would seem that the deal failed to be announced when the German Bundesbank vetoed one of the three elements.  The G20 leaders hope that G20 finance ministers will meet again soon possibly before Christmas if the German central bank can be reassured over the element that it failed to agree to at the Cannes summit. But as a result of this disagreement, the final communique was rather vague simply saying that the finance ministers were being asked to draw up options for additional fire-fighting resources by their next meeting – see paragraph 11 of the leaders’ communique.

It is a reminder – including a reminder to ‘yours truly’ – that policy solutions  move rather more slowly than we’d like and that the politics of these countries cannot be ignored just because we are working at the international multilateral level.  I have to keep reminding myself that what we see at the G20 leaders level is a prime example of the “Iceberg Theory” of global governance.  Yes, periodically leaders come together but officials are engaged continuously including ministers, Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas, working committees of the G20, representatives from the central banks and national regulators of all stripes brought together in various international governmental institutions, IMF, WTO, World Bank, OECD, etc., international regulatory agencies –  FSB, BCBS, IOSCO and many more.  This “messy” transgovernmental pyramid is what my colleagues in international law refer to as transgovernmental regulatory networks (TRN) and my IR colleagues, especially Dan Drezner at Fletcher and Anne-Marie Slaughter at Princeton, refer to more simply as “networks”.  Tasked work from the leaders proceed a pace – maybe at too slow a pace for many – but a pace.

And if you look at the communique you see that policy is proceeding on many fronts:

  • paragraph 8 and 9 on global imbalances including greater market-determined exchange rates and commitments by the surplus countries;
  • paragraph 10 on strengthening global financial safety nets;
  • paragraph 11 including a commitment to greater IMF resources;
  • paragraph 13 that details the work of the FSB on G-SIFIs (global systematically important financial institutions);
  • paragraph 14 the commitment to regulate and oversee shadow banking”;
  • paragraph 17 that commits the G20 to sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and ‘encourages’ non G20 members to join the Convention;
  • paragraph 18 to endorse the recommendations of IOSCO with respect to regulation and improved supervision of commodity derivatives; and
  • paragraph 19 where the leaders decided to invest and support research in agricultural productivity including the AMIS  and the Rapid Response Forum detailed in the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture from the G20 Ministers of Agriculture that was released in the summer.

There is more.  But the point is that the G20 is, as the international lawyers, declare is, “dialogical, norm-generating and incremental”.  This giant iceberg of global governance is messy and slow but progress is present.  It may seldom contained in dramatic leaders’ announcements in the way that journalists hope for, but the hard work goes on incrementally and progress is made.


In the Can(nes)

A different hijacking possibly – but a hijacking nevertheless.  So that’s how it has gone so far in Cannes. The Greek debt and then the political crisis created by the Greek Prime Minister’s decision to hold a referendum yesterday but maybe not today.  In any case President Sarkozy couldn’t avoid the train wreck that Greece brought yesterday.  All the attention here in the media center was on the Greek crisis and the problems of debt in the Eurozone.

It is not that other matters weren’t being addressed.  As I’ve suggested elsewhere and here in past blog posts, I subscribe to the “Iceberg Theory” of global governance.  When the summits are on everyone naturally focus on leaders.  But in the period between summits and during the Summits many officials from a variety of ministries, departments and other institutions are either completing or expanding on reports and communiques that are vital elements in acting on global governance collaboration.

So look for the Action Plan and other reports accompanying the final communique.



Sucking it Up

Plane rides are always good for something.  This plane ride to Cannes – via Frankfurt – and then down to the Cote d’Azur airport in Nice – was valuable in part to catch up on some reading on global summitry.  Getting energized for the G20 Summit here in Cannes.

We’ll get to the summit probably by the next blog installment or so – and I suspect that this won’t be a pretty summit.  But first a few thoughts on a couple of interesting pieces from colleagues thinking about the G20 and global summitry more generally.

First Bruce Jones the Director of the New York University Center on International Cooperation.  Bruce just recently completed a piece  – a Policy Analysis Brief (PAB) – called “Beyond Blocs: The West, Rising Powers and Interest-Based International Cooperation” for the Stanley Foundation.  While Bruce has a fair bit to say on the G20, his analysis does extend to a more general assessment of contemporary global governance.

Bruce focuses on managing the global order.  And he asks the question: “Can we do better?” For Bruce the concern is that it remains unclear whether the powers will be able to manage – let’s even say improve – the management of the global order , or will the liberal order that has served global governance well – led to decades of economic growth and also the avoidance of war  may be eroded by the competition among the powers as new rising powers emerge.

I think that Bruce’s answer is in the affirmative:

If we can resist both the “we’re all in this together” optimism of the global financial crisis and the pervasive pessimism of 2011 -[including the rising US-China tensions] – the evidence suggests that there is still room for a strategy to forge a more peaceful and prosperous international order.  The balance between cooperative and conflictual dynamics is not yet set.

Bruce is at his best in analyzing the presumed blocs most particularly the West and the Rest.  It is evident – and well analyzed by Bruce – that the current system is not yet deeply cleaved between the traditional G8 and the Rest including the large emerging market states – the BRICS. On different issues the coalitions that have formed have found the US with say Russia, India and China on questions of combating Al Qaeda and other forms of terrorism – and at loggerheads with the Europeans over the question of the application of international legal and human rights standards.  Yet on humanitarian intervention the United States have been on opposite sides to China, India and Brazil and with some if not all the Europeans.

Indeed Bruce suggests that there is a continuum of issues from those where there is strong capability  of collaboration – say anti-terrorism to cooperative/competitive issues such as economic and finance to contentious issues such as regional security or security of supply for energy and human rights and rights-based intervention.  The obvious point I suppose is that the powers should stay for now at the end of the continuum where cooperation is more likely.

The other point that Bruce makes is that the US especially needs to avoid trying to simplify the system by identifying those that are friends and those that are foes. As Bruce argues: “The minute we start forming rigidly aligned blocs or devising strategic arrangements to contain China, our options are dramatically narrow.

Thus for Bruce the package is clear:

  1. keep it complex;
  2. focus along the continuum of agenda items toward the cooperative and away from the contentious;
  3. put a premium on building patterns of cooperation and tools for effective governance in the realm of the global economy and global finance;
  4. complement these with cooperation on shared security issues such as transnational threats; and
  5. build ever closer bilateral relations with some of the large emerging market powers such India and Brazil.

Avoiding distinct global alignments is the key for Bruce but I wonder whether that is good enough to enhancing a peaceful and prosperous international order.  I suspect that the working around the China relationship will not be good enough and that China remains the key to advancing the international order.  And if China is the key then the agenda and the nature of the collaborative behavior will need to be different that what Bruce has suggested.