A leading Chinese academic has predicted that “it is likely that China will overtake the United States of America as the world’s largest economy as a half-superpower” at a conference on US rebalancing policy at the Plaza Hotel in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2014.
Dr. Ren Xiao is a professor in international politics at the Institute of International Studies (ISS) in Shanghai. He made the remarks during a roundtable discussion hosted by The Asia Foundation about President Obama’s new Asia policy.
“What China is pushing for is to prevent the two superpowers becoming adversaries and to become partners,” he claimed. “The US should reassure China that it is not trying to contain China and China should reassure the US it is not trying to drive it out of Asia.”
But he reassured the panel, moderated by Chair Prof. Park Jin of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, that other Asian countries should have nothing to fear from China’s resurgence.
“I am confident of the Chinese leadership as they have the region’s best interests at heart,” he said.
However, keynote speaker and Asia Foundation chairman David Lampton believed that a partnership with China may not be easy.
"When there is some blue sky in US-China relations, there are some dark thunder clouds also,” he said. “In the presidencies of Obama and Xi Jinping, we have seen mounting friction in relations.”
Former Asia Foundation representative in South Korea, Dr. David Steinberg noted that the Chinese saw their relationships and formulated their policies from different viewpoints.
“The Chinese have viewed relations in terms of the older brother and younger brother,” he stated before explaining why there may be some friction between China and the US:
“Think about the nationalism in the US, especially since 9-11 and that has an influence in American policy,” he said.
The former Japanese Ambassador to the US Ichiro Fujisaki claimed that the China will not overtake the US in every sphere.
“One thing the US will never be caught up on is their founding fathers’ proclamations on democracy and freedom,” the former deputy minister for foreign affairs said before warning the US to tread lightly in their dealings with Asia. “The US is a big elephant and it should not move too quickly. It should not turn round too quickly.”
Ambassador Ichiro also urged the partners in any future policy not to spring any political surprises on each other in a spirit of friendship, especially in dealing with the emerging superpower of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“It is important we have to recognise other partners. The PRC is important. I am talking about patience, consideration and a positive attitude,” he said.
The next speaker was Dr. Kim Sung-Han, professor at Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies. He felt that US as a superpower wanted other countries in Asia to be more competitive. “The US is showing interest in regional competition,” he said.
But he thought that resumption of the Six-Party talks including North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, China, and the US could result in the formulation of regional peace forum and warned about the consequences of going against this treaty.
“If North Korea rejects this proposal then there needs to be tougher sanctions.”
The only female panellist, and the only representative from one of the smaller Asian nations, was Dr. Aileen Baviera, professor in political science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She raised concerns over the increased military presence of the US in the region.
“There may be confrontations with China over the joint exercises between the US and its allies,” she said. “Rebalancing policy is generally welcome but for these challenges there are certain implications.”
“There should be more than mere consolidation of US military power,” she added.
The event commemorating the 60th anniversary of The Asia Foundation (TAF) was rounded off by speeches by their former representatives in South Korea, including Dr. Steinberg, who first served there more than 50 years ago, and Peter Beck, who held the post most recently.
For her 30 years’ service to the Asia Foundation, acting representative Lee Kyung-Sook was given the presidential award by TAF President David Arnold.
In the evening she acted as master of ceremonies at the anniversary dinner held in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in downtown Seoul.
Chairman and CEO Hong Seok-Hyun of the JoongAng Media Network gave an opening speech before dinner commenced. He is also the honorary committee co-chair for TAF.
Also attending was the new US ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert who was making his first public appearance since starting the post. He took part in a congratulatory toast to close the evening.
The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Their programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women's empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation. In addition, their Books for Asia and professional exchange programs are other ways in which they seek to improve the lives of those living in Asia.
Headquartered in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation works through a network of offices in 18 Asian countries and in Washington, DC. Working with public and private partners, the Foundation receives funding from a diverse group of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals.
In 2013, they provided nearly 114 million US dollars (around 124.5 billion won) in direct program support and distributed textbooks and other educational materials valued at over 10 million US dollars (around 11 billion won).
The foundation has seen South Korea undergo a dramatic transition in recent decades, developing into a powerhouse economy and robust democracy. Now, the country is poised to share the lessons of its own transformation from aid recipient to donor. Their office in Seoul works to strengthen the capacity of South Korean government agencies and NGOs, promotes international exchanges with North Korea, and facilitates regional cooperation in Northeast Asia.
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