Yesterday I discussed the current transition of the Obama Administration and the implications for the Asia-Pacific region. Although I want to discuss the key leaders in the Obama Administration most likely to shape a grand strategy for the Asia-Pacific, it is perhaps best to first take stock of what already has been built by the Bush Administration.
The Bush Administration was never a good communicator of its strategies, even when the ones it developed were excellent. As participants in a democracy as strong as that in the U.S., we should demand leaders who can not only create and execute a grand strategy, but who can also communicate that strategy in terms we can understand and relate to in our everyday lives.
Since I believe that American success in the Asia-Pacific will be largely a function of success in the U.S.-China relationship, I want to highlight a program that probably few reading this have heard of in its formal language: U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue. This program was spearheaded by the Treasury Department (i.e. China-friendly Treasury Paulson) and is described as follows:
"Established by Presidents Bush and Hu, the SED is a focused and effective framework for addressing issues of mutual concern. By prioritizing issues in the broader context of our bilateral economic relationship, the SED gives direction and creates momentum for the many existing bilateral mechanisms we use to foster cooperation and resolve concerns across the spectrum of economic issues."
Since 2006 there have been approximately six meetings and records of those meetings can be found at the above link for the Dialogue. One sub-set of this dialogue included "EcoPartnerships" and for a clear sense of what this entails, the first set of partnerships created in December 2008 are described below:
"At the Fifth US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, in December 2008, the US and China welcomed the creation of seven EcoPartnerships:
- DDenver, Colorado / Ford Motor Company and the City of Chongqing / Chang’an Motors: Focused on implementation of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, this partnership has the potential to significantly advance the global development of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
- Greensburg, Kansas and Mianzhu City, Sichuan: Greensburg, Kansas was 95% destroyed by a tornado in May 2007 and made a commitment to sustainable redevelopment. Mianzhu City was one of the most heavily devastated areas of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province. The EcoPartnership represents an opportunity to demonstrate new models for comprehensive, eco-friendly sustainable development and is focused on economic revitalization in rural America and China.
- Energy Future Holdings Corp. (U.S.) and China Huadian Corporation (China): Both companies are pursuing the development of a sustainable business models for “clean energy” in the United States and China, particularly in the area of clean coal.
- Tulane University (Louisiana) and East China Normal University (Shanghai): The two universities will work together to develop a global model for the sustainability of costal cities, focused on restoration, conservation and enhancement of environmentally sensitive wetland areas.
- Port of Seattle (Washington) and Dalian Port Corporation (Liaoning): The partnership between two of the world’s largest sea ports aims to develop a global model for energy efficient and environmentally sustainable ports.
- Wichita, Kansas and Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province: The partnership is focused on demonstration and implementation of advanced technological solutions for clean air and clean water.
- Floating Windfarms Corporation (U.S.) and Tangshan Caofeidian New Development Area, Hebei (China): Floating Windfarms Corporation is developing clean energy technologies for the Tangshan Caofeidian New Development Area, focusing on offshore wind farm technology."
Obviously, these types of organizational and community ties between the U.S. and China are important going forward and will be at the forefront of developing new technologies, sharing best practices across communities and enhancing overall innovation in the area of sustainable economic development in the face of a variety of environmental challenges.
Stepping back, this feeds into a broader Asia-Pacific strategy initiated by the Bush Administration called the "Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate." The project is described as follows:
"APP partners Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea, and the United States have agreed to work together and with private sector partners to meet goals for energy security, national air pollution reduction, and climate change in ways that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The Partnership will focus on expanding investment and trade in cleaner energy technologies, goods and services in key market sectors."
This was initiated in 2005, illustrating how the Bush Administration evolved into some of these approaches rather than having them at the outset.
Military exchanges outside of our formal agreements with long-term allies, especially with regards to the U.S. and Chinese navies, have also expanded under the Bush Administration. There seems to be some regularity to these exchanges, but no larger framework agreement. Until that happens, these will continue under time-based or conditions-based reviews. Such exchanges can only help in developing a mutual understanding of our nations' common interests in maintaining peace and security in the Asia-Pacific. Former Secretary of State Rice argued for a Maritime Security Regime for Northeast Asia in 2006, but that has yet to materialize. A formal commitment to the above exchanges outside of relationships with traditional allies would have to part of the foundation of such an agreement.
The benefit for the Obama Administration is that they can choose to take these initiatives and re-shape them for a new strategy, or scrap them altogether.
Overall, it is obvious that the Bush Administration's strategy for China revolved on stable economic ties that could then be leveraged in other areas, such as regional security and military affairs, environmental sustainability, and conversations on human rights abuses. It is no secret that almost every other country in the Asia-Pacific takes the same approach. The Bush Administration was also fairly adept at managing the fine line between appearing confident and appearing arrogant when dealing with Asia-Pacific nations, especially China (excluding North Korea). The Obama Administration must be careful to manage this line while attempting to make its own stamp on Asia-Pacific policy. The first few official exchanges will indicate how well they have prepared.
The new Obama appointees are already making headlines with talk on China, so I look forward to highlighting their roles (as mentioned in my previous post) over the next few days in distinct parts.