New World-Order Paradigm: The Best of the West Agrees It’s Moving East
By Tom Plate
April 13, 2004
It would be churlish to accuse the
East Coast foreign-policy establishment of ignoring Asia.
That would be unfair. For the
astonishing escape of China from the imbecility of Maoism, the evident
economic re-charge and possible remilitarization of Japan, the tragic
turmoil in ordinarily brilliant South Korea, the budding of democracy in
Islamic Indonesia, the slow but steady turn toward globalization in
heretofore tradition-bound India, the testing travails of tortured Taiwan,
the potential implosion of Muslim Pakistan, the effort at public-policy
innovation and leadership in prosperous Singapore -- all of these
phenomenally interesting events and many others are of course wholly
familiar to the principle figures of the U.S. establishment that scoot and
shuttle up and down the corridors of power from Boston to Washington.
And Asia has certainly not fallen
below the radar screen of "Foreign Affairs," the New York-based
establishment journal which has a status in American international policy
circles almost as regal as "L’Osservatore Romano" in the Vatican. Even so,
from the perspective of the Atlantic coast, Asia still seems a very, very
long plane ride and several colossal conceptual leaps away, whereas Europe
is but just a half dozen or so time zones distant and for some reason
thoroughly less complicated. The inevitable result is that Asia has played
second fiddle to Europe in the American foreign-policy mind for as long as
anyone can recall.
No more, asserts "Foreign Affairs"
editor James Hoge. America’s East Coast is getting over its Euro-centrism.
Hoge, one of America’s most prominent journalists, agrees that the center of
global gravity is irrevocably and dramatically moving from the West to the
East. "Economic power, political power, military power is moving to Asia,"
says Hoge, "and the old order will have to make adjustments with India and
China coming down the road at a fairly fast clip. Why, even the smaller
surging nations of Asia are bigger than the bigger ones in Europe."
Hoge, after three decades of
newspaper journalism, became editor of "Foreign Affairs" in 1992. He plans
to lay out his perspective on the coming paradigm shift in an address later
this month (21 April) at a notable pillar of the East Coast foreign-policy
Vatican: The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University. Jim (an old friend) offered an advance peak at his
speech during a chat in his book-lined office at the plush Council of
Foreign Relations headquarters on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
Central to his thinking is that
the historic shift to the East may well prove very bumpy. Geopolitical
paradigm shifts, he warns, "seldom occur peacefully." The rise of Germany
and Japan in the early 20th century was resisted by the imperial order of
the time, triggering colossal military catastrophe. "The transformation now
underway is bigger, more complex and more unfamiliar," he warns.
China’s economy, he notes, will
probably surpass Germany’s in less than ten years and overtake Japan’s in
less than twenty. Suppose a new generation of leadership in both giants was
to bury the historic hatchet and combine in alliance against the West? On
the other hand, he also notes, Asia has not recently witnessed a fully
enabled China and Japan cohabiting together on the same Asian continent at
the same time. Suppose the two giants were to choose to have it out
militarily at some point? This would devastate Asia politically -- and the
And that’s not even the full
enormity of the new Asian paradigm. Crack geopolitical strategists like
Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani and George Yeo have likened the new emerging
order to a solar system that now features two powerful suns -- China and the
United States. But Hoge envisions a third: India moving slowly but surely
into the picture as a global solar superpower. In his speech he will cite a
Goldman Sachs prediction of a possible Indian economic eclipse of China in
the next half century.
Already the major nations of Asia
account for most of the world’s foreign exchange reserves, he points out,
and thus finance most of the U.S. current account deficit, which is now
gigantic: "The bottom line is that we face an enormous transformation of
power, attended by unavoidable dislocations." he says.
To date, the U.S. response to the
new reality seem more old-style -- mainly with military moves -- than
new-age global. A key element appears to be an emerging policy of "soft
containment" for growing China. Our bases in Central Asia look awfully large
and unnecessary, unless the point is to deter China; the new missile-shield
commitment from Japan (at Washington’s intense behest) looks awfully
expensive and unnecessary, unless the point is China (and, of course, North
Korea); and the intensified U.S. military cooperation with India would seem
awfully sudden and unnecessary, unless it is fashioned to seal off the
Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits from Chinese influence. "If you were a
Chinese strategist," he says, "what would you think?"
It is possible to quarrel and
quibble with Hoge’s hunches here and there. India, with its huge internal
Muslim population, surely has to come to a stable settlement with
neighboring Pakistan before it can even begin to think of an alliance with
the United States against China -- or, for that matter, with China against
the United States. Japan’s economic recovery could stall and the Koizumi
government’s Iraq involvement could still blow up in Tokyo’s face (as the
recent hostage psychodrama suggests), throwing the Japanese back into its
pacifist protectionist shell. And any sentient recollection of Chinese
history should serve to fill us all with extreme humility about making any
predictions about China, which retains, it seems to me, a genetic ability to
self-destruct internally at any time.
Even so, Hoge, as a certified
foreign policy intellectual -- and skillful gatekeeper of our leading
international journal -- is trying to make a serious contribution to
reorienting American foreign policy in the direction of what used to be
called the Orient. His effort could prove helpful and timely for an America
that seems lately to have made some very bad calls and shockingly
misconceived policy turns.