Saturday, November 13, 2010

Don't Piss Off the Chinese Barry - The Glaring Omission

SPEAKING at a conference organised by The Economist in Beijing on November 3rd, Pang Zhongying, an expert on international relations at People’s University in that city, accused America of pursuing old-fashioned “balance-of-power politics”. Watching President Barack Obama in action this week, it is easy to see what he means.

Mr Obama’s four-country tour of Asia might have been designed to play on Chinese fears of American encirclement. Of course, it was not. Two of the four are on the itinerary as hosts of important international summits—the G20 in South Korea and APEC (Asia-Pacific Co-operation) in Japan.
However, add in the first two stops—a much-hyped trip to India and a twice-delayed visit to his childhood home in Jakarta—and he has ended up with a tour of important Asian democracies, from the largest to the richest (or now, in per-person terms, second-richest).
In India and Indonesia, this has given him the chance to stress shared values, and to challenge the notion that democracy and development need be at odds. Speaking to a joint session of both houses of the Indian parliament, he flattered his audience with the words “instead of being lured by the false notion that progress must come at the expense of freedom, you built the institutions upon which true democracy depends.” He went on: “India has succeeded, not in spite of democracy; India has succeeded because of democracy.”
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