Entries Tagged 'Geo Politics' ↓

Yuan v/s US dollars

I picked up the following article from the South China Morning Post today. Whilst I can easily understand the rationale  of the US in pushing for raising the parity of the Yuan to the dollar, which will make exported Chinese Goods more expensive in the US and at the same time re-establishing the balance of trade flow. On the overhand I am asking myself what would become in Yuan value of the deposits the Chinese hold in US dollars placed in US. Do the Chinese write off the value from their books?

I am reminded of a story many years back when I was in Taiwan, and when it was officially announced that the Taiwanese dollars in agreement with the governments concerned will be appreciated to reach a level of 20% higher than the US dollar parity of the day within a rather short period of a few months. It was a fabulous piece of news for smart speculators. They all rushed in to buy Taiwanese dollars and within a short period made millions.

Even today, if the Chinese government is thinking to appreciate the Yuan, it would be wrong for them to admit it. So it is better to stay silent of this issue. Politically it may not suit President Obama’s agenda: more imports from China translate in fewer jobs in the US. More trade surpluses of China do not mean more purchase of US bonds by the Chinese!

It is a tough nut to crack. Market Economy v/s Controlled or ‘reined in’ Economy

Wen seeks to reassure Obama on trade

Reuters in Beijing

Updated on Nov 18, 2009

Premier Wen Jiabao told President Barack Obama his nation does not seek a trade surplus with the United States and wants to balance flows, striking a conciliatory note but avoiding public comment on currency rifts.

Wen made the comments on Wednesday during a meeting with the US President, according to a report on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

“China does not pursue a trade surplus,” Wen said, adding that his government wants “to encourage a steady balancing of bilateral trade.”

“Lively global trade and investment will help to overcome the international financial crisis and accelerate global economic recovery,” said the Chinese Premier, also urging both countries to “together oppose trade and investment protectionism.”

Wen’s comments are unlikely to mollify US industry groups and politicians who say Beijing is holding its yuan currency so low against the dollar that it is stoking a US trade deficit with China and worsening global economic imbalances.

But Wen’s reassuring language, as well as praise for Obama in Chinese state media, set a guardedly upbeat tone at the end of a four-day visit that exposed rifts over trade and currency policy.

“The West’s perception of China has been changing gradually, and a positive turn has occurred as Obama has said more than once during his ongoing Asia tour that the United States would not seek to contain China’s rise but welcome China as a strong and prosperous player in the community of nations,” said a commentary issued by Xinhua news agency.

Obama’s words “forged a good starting point to further Chinese-US ties”, it said.

After the talks with Wen, Obama visited the Great Wall, for Chinese people a proud symbol of their heritage.

But the absence of any comment on the yuan in Wen’s published comments was a telling reminder of the rifts remaining as Obama prepared to head for South Korea on Wednesday evening.

The report said that Obama did raise reform of China’s exchange rate policies.

At a summit on Tuesday, Obama made plain to President Hu Jintao that he wants movement on China’s currency policy. Hu also avoided mentioning currencies in comments to reporters.

China has had a huge trade surplus with the United States, and is also the largest foreign holder of US government bonds.

The US trade deficit with China widened 9.2 per cent in September to $22.1 billion, the highest since November last year, according to US data released last week.

“A stable, co-operative, forward-looking China-US relationship will benefit our two countries and all the world,” Wen told Obama.

Despite the bright rhetoric, officials and experts from both sides have stressed Obama’s visit will not bring about immediate policy shifts, or end friction over the yuan, US anti-dumping rules, and Washington’s criticism of China’s controls on citizens’ rights and policies in Tibet.

Such summits are about setting priorities for future dealings, not making immediate policy changes, said Jin Canrong, an expert on China-US ties at Renmin University in Beijing.

The issue of currencies has drawn testy comments from US and Chinese officials. China’s Commerce Ministry on Monday rebuffed calls for the yuan to appreciate, signalling resistance to change foreign exchange policy.

Outside pressure has been building on Beijing to let the yuan rise after more than a year of it being nearly frozen in place against the weakening dollar, with the latest appeal voiced by the head of the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.

But Chinese officials have swatted down speculation of any big moves soon, and the government appears likely to keep the currency on a tight rein at least until the middle of next year to cement the country’s economic recovery.

“Any policy changes by China, including on the exchange rate, will be based on its assessment of its own interests, not on external pressure,” said Jin, the professor.

Wen has voiced his own worries about the US economy.

In March, he took Washington to task over its fiscal policies, saying he was worried about the health of China’s vast US assets, and repeated those worries at a summit in Africa this month.

China has amassed US$2.27 trillion of foreign exchange reserves, the world’s largest stockpile, and analysts think about two-thirds of this is invested in dollar-denominated assets.

The Xinhua commentary said the United States, and not only China, needed to absorb some lessons and “figure out effective new ways to tackle its own chronic problems”.

It also warned that US mid-term congressional elections next year might encourage “more finger-pointing and protectionism” aimed at China.

Obama and Hu have said that strains over trade and US criticism of China’s human rights restrictions should not overshadow co-operation.

Bonnie Glaser, an expert on China at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, said the statement issued by Obama and Hu underscored “the two countries have a lot of common interests, but it remains to be seen whether they can co-operate to advance them”.


I came to know the term ‘Eurabia’ when watching journalist Mark Steyn. Listening to him awakened in me, the shift that is happening in Europe within the next generations.  In America Alone, the book he wrote, it would seem that any democratic country with a majority of 20 percent of Muslim population would be very tough to govern.

Europe is feared to be in shambles soon as the demographics are laid. America Alone of the super powers would be able to resist the surge of Islam.

Mark Steyn believes that  Eurabia – a future where the European continent is dominated by Islam – is an imminent reality that cannot be reversed. “The problem, after all, is not that the sons of Allah are ‘long shots’ but that they’re certainties. Every Continental under the age of 40 – make that 60, if not 75 – is all but guaranteed to end his days living in an Islamified Europe.” “Native populations on the continent are aging and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic. Steyn claims that Muslims will account for perhaps 40 percent of the population by 2020, but The globe & Mail  correspondent  Doug Saunders labels the assertion false:

Slightly more than 4 percent of Europe’s population is Muslim, as defined by demographers (though about 80 per cent of these people are not religiously observant, so they are better defined as secular citizens who have escaped religious nations). It is possible, though not certain, that this number could rise to 6 percent by 2020. If current immigration and birth rates remain the same, it could even rise to 10 percent within 100 years. But it won’t, because Muslims don’t actually have more babies than other populations do under the same circumstances. The declining population growth rates are not confined to native populations. In fact, immigrants from Muslim countries are experiencing a faster drop in reproduction rates than the larger European population. In his book “America Alone”, Steyn posits that  Muslim population growth  has already contributed to a modern European genocide:

Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since the second World War? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography — except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out, as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you cannot outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.

Nearer to us, because of the numerous visit of Tariq Ramadan, I was also pleased to read an article published on his repudiation by Stephen Schwartz on American Thinker on August 28, 2009.

As a very liberal observer I find the topic very interesting.

Parag Khanna

It was great watching Parag Khanna on TED mapping the future of countries. He published ‘The second world’ last year and talks with authority of current geopolitics.

Here is an interview he gave recently:

What is “The Second World” from the title of your book?

The “second world” is a swath of the world’s most strategic countries around the world that are located between or on the peripheries of the three dominant empires: America, the European Union, and China. These countries include: Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others. Second world countries are the emerging markets, but we have to understand them more than just economically: they now hold the majority of the world’s reserves and a growing share of the total global economy, but they are also endowed with natural resources and are pursuing political agendas on their own. In every second world country I have heard people talk about how they will no longer be listening to the US but doing things “our own way.”

Europe is often portrayed in the U.S. as having an unsustainable socialist economy that will soon collapse under its own weight. You see it in a very different light.

Every day on the news we hear about how our own medicare and social security systems are under great stress and may collapse, so I’m dubious about such characterizations of Europe. At least their system works now and has for decades. Europeans are for more efficient in public management with far lower inequality – America has a great deal to learn from them.

Your view of Russia and its future is something I had never heard before. Would you talk a little about that?

There are two very different views on Russia today, pitting those who view its recent short-term resurgence as heralding its return as a superpower (or at least an energy superpower) versus those who see the underlying instability in almost all aspects of its governance and economy. It has poor technology, a crippled infrastructure, a dying and sick population, an authoritarian government, and a great deal more weaknesses which will prevent it from ever becoming a superpower again. It continues to face widespread unrest in its south, while it’s de-populating eastern zones are increasingly Chinese populated. It simply isn’t logical to look at Russia on the map, as gigantic as it is, and think of it as a truly single, coherent, unified country. The world map is always changing, and Russia, whose map changed drastically for the worse when the Soviet Union collapsed, will continue to suffer in the coming decades.

Where do India and Japan fit into your global view?

I see India and Japan as two powerful swing states, sort of the second geopolitical tier behind the “Big Three.” They are not superpowers (Japan no longer and India not yet), but they can be important balancers in determing whether America or China becomes more powerful in the Pacific Rim region. At present, both lean towards the US and are suspicious of China, yet at the same time both are integrating with China economically much faster than before. So it is a delicate and precarious situation, one that very much embodies the tension throughout my book between globalization and geopolitics. It’s not clear to anyone how it will play out.

Although the United States has, by far, the world’s most powerful military, you don’t seem to believe it is of much importance.

Given that we are batting .000 in our foreign policy objectives such as stabilizing Iraq, resurrecting Afghanistan, and countering global terrorism, the burden of proof really falls on those who believe military power is most important. Around the entire world what I see is Europe and China investing into and buying greater shares of foreign economies—and thus gaining significant political and even military leverage over them—at our expense. Power has to be a fair balance among a range of tools, including the military, in order to be used effectively. We’re not doing that now, and I don’t see a good strategy coming out of Washington as to how to do it better.

The big three—U.S., China and Europe—are all pursuing Central Asia with its huge oil and gas reserves. It also offers a textbook look at the different methodologies that each one uses to engage with the world.

Very much so. The U.S. is the geographically most distant player and has at best been able to establish very small forward bases in the region in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. But in the former Soviet republics, this presence is highly unstable: we were kicked off our base in Uzbekistan in 2005, and the same could happen at Manas in Kyrgyzstan. Europe has been investing more and more in the region and has been very tough on political conditionality, freezing the travel of Uzbek officials and so forth. China directly borders the region, so has been pursuing pipelines, roads and trade in tandem to boost its connections to the region. All three styles of diplomacy are at play and in competition with each other. Whether the future of the region will be a return to the Silk Road era or the “Great Game” era is what I try to answer in the book.

You write that economic well-being trumps ideology. Radical Islam, in the minds of most Americans, does not follow any norms of rational economic self-interest. Is our view distorted? How do you recommend we deal radical Islam and also the Middle East?

Our view is beyond distorted: it is itself more irrational than the people to whom we ascribe irrationality. Quite a few studies have shown that terrorists largely come from the middle class and are pursuing very clearly articulated political objectives of resisting authoritarian regimes and American-backed aggression. There is no one policy for the Middle East, nor is there even a “Middle East” in my book. There are Arabs, and among them there are North Africans who can be elevated through the economic and political efforts of the EU; then there is the Mashreq where we need to push for a re-arranging of the borders of states such as Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan so that populations and ethic groups are not so fragmented and divided, but also allowing them to integrate more peacefully with their neighbors. Radicalism would not go away even if we did, but it could be dealt with through more socio-economically oriented programs that are driven from the ground-up rather than through our outside interventions.

You’ve written about America decaying from within, particularly with its growing gap between the rich and poor. Can we even afford to be playing the Empire game? Is there any historical precedent for a country going into debt to a rival (in our case China) to fund its foreign wars?

Wars do of course often cause indebtedness, but indeed we are already there! The American government does not think in guns or butter terms though, so the rich-poor gap is not an effective argument against changing our foreign policies. Those who defend our current over-stretch will always say that the percentage of GDP spent on the military remains very low, which is true. I argue that playing the empire game is nothing less than playing the globalization game, which means we need to channel even more foreign investment into America, but steer it towards rebuilding our society and creating jobs.

Charles Krauthammer once wrote that “America’s purpose should be to steer the world away from its coming multipolar future toward a qualitatively new outcome — a unipolar world whose center is a confederated West.” It’s clear from your book that you disagree, but what are the long and short-term consequences of America pursuing this neoconservative ideology.

At present we are pursuing neither the course Krauthammer advocates nor the one I do! We have alienated Europe and accelerated its coalescence into an alternative pole of power within Western civilization. America and Europe will surely continue to partner on a great many things (trade, Afghanistan, Mideast issues, etc.), but that still ignores the fact that the East already is far too powerful for anyone to claim that the West alone would be the sole pole of power. In other words, Krauthammer’s vision is not only wrong, but it’s too late anyway. We need to do things that integrate East and West, not things that inspire the East to rise against the West.

Beyond the Age of Innocence

I am almost  through with Kishore Mahbabani’s book Beyond the age of Innocence. This book is a call to the Americans to rebuild their trust to the world. Kishore’s reading of the actions of America post the fall of the Berlin’s wall and the conduct of its foreign policies –or should I call non action in some areas-is most insightful.

The book structured in chapters treating topics as:

How America benefits the world

How America has harmed the world

America and Islam

America and China

The nature of American Power

Managing American Power

The Way Ahead

Adam Luck of The Standard in Hong Kong in his book review wrote:

I n the early hours of May 8, 1999 a B-2 stealth bomber from the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri dropped five 910-kilogram satellite-guided bombs on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three journalists and wounding 20 others.

If the explosion was heard across the capital of the former Yugoslavia, the reverberations were felt across China as anti-American marches and riots paralysed Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou. In Chengdu the residence of the United States consul general was stormed and set alight.

For the distinguished Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani, reaction to those events should have been a wake-up call for America in its relationship not only with Asia, but the world beyond.

No coincidence then that the cover of his book Beyond the Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust Between America and the World sees a face-off between the Asian tiger and the bald eagle, America’s national symbol. But his is no exercise in Washington bashing. Rather Mahbubani is unashamedly pro- American as he seeks to explain the root causes of the antipathy much of the world’s population has toward the superpower, arguing that America must shape up to the challenges of the 21st century – not least China and Islam.

Mahbubani says: “The US is the greatest power of our time.

It affects the whole world so if it manages policies that are good for the world, everyone benefits, but if they are handled badly then the whole world suffers.

“Sadly Americans can never step outside there own skins and see how the rest of the world perceives them.”

On September 11, 2001, little more than two years after the NATO-led attack on Belgrade, designed to force Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo, America was on the receiving end. Mahbubani, who is married to an American, was in Manhattan when the planes struck the World Trade Center towers. It was the critical spark for his book, he says.

“I was shocked at how bewildered Americans were, they were not even aware that the US was doing things that had annoyed the world. The ignorance was amazing,” Mahbubani says.

“I wanted to explain what people in Asia and the rest of the world thought: `How can America promote human rights for everyone except for Muslims?”‘

Mahbubani is quick to add the coda that these sentiments are not his own. Instead he describes the US as the acme of human development, a nation that has “conquered the world with its ideas (and) values.” He believes the merit- based structure of American society has given hope to hundreds of millions from countries where class, religion, ethnicity and gender are constant barriers to people. Such has been America’s success at globalization, he argues, it has helped create a global middle class – or “America’s children.”

However, globalization has shrunk the world and brought its problems to America’s doorstep. Thus, an “age of innocence” is over and the US and the world are in the same boat. Now when it makes a mistake, it is held to account in the court of global public opinion.

Mahbubani says: “The bombing of the embassy in Belgrade was seen as deliberate by the Chinese people. I do not know of one who thinks otherwise. If you have that kind of reaction you have real problems.

“Look at the spy plane incident over Hainan Island. Even in Hong Kong – which is not necessarily seen as sympathetic to Beijing – China was seen as being in the right.”

This is not the only time that Mahbubani refers to the former British colony. In the book he warns America against using Hong Kong democracy and Taiwanese independence as sticks with which to beat Beijing.

He says: “It would be good to see Hong Kong and Taiwan succeed as autonomous entities but it is best if they do not enter into a confrontational position with China. If it is between 1.2 billion people and eight million in Hong Kong there is no doubt who will come first. Hong Kong people will have to be patient when it comes to democracy.”

This utilitarian approach can best be seen in Mahbubani’s barely qualified admiration for Mao Zedong and unqualified praise for Deng Xiaoping, who he calls “one of the world’s greatest leaders” for setting China on the path to capitalism. What will shock readers more perhaps is his evident admiration for the Cultural Revolution.

He says: “We all hope that this could have been achieved with far less destruction but when you are trying to get rid of feudalism it is very difficult.”

His reasoning is unlikely to win support in many Hong Kong households with bitter memories of this passage in China’s history, but Mahbubani is not apologetic: “Yes, I do try and weigh up the benefits and costs. If you looked at the number of people who lived in absolute poverty in China and the China of today you would see that people have real hope now.”

To this end he cites the global institutions that America has helped foster and he believes have helped create a world of comparative peace and stability.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II and with civil war raging in China, America, writes Mahbubani, helped set up many of the multilateral structures that persist to this day, including Asean, which he believes has helped to prevent war across the region.

Some would be tempted to cite Vietnam and, further afield, Korea but it is clear that Mahbubani sees them as America’s justified bid to fight off communism.

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Security Council are also cited as proof positive of America’s benevolent intentions throughout the ensuing Cold War, where successive presidents helped keep in check the malign influence of Soviet-sponsored communism.

Born in 1948, Mahbubani, like many of his generation, faced a polarized choice between capitalism rather than communism, and once he had rejected the latter was rewarded with the opportunity to live the American dream.

From a poor Hindu family who fled Pakistan in the aftermath of partition, he was plucked from poverty by a Lee Kuan Yew program designed to promote young talent. His distinguished diplomatic career eventually saw him become Singapore’s ambassador to the UN.

From that perch he saw the implosion of the USSR. But Mahbubani believes that America made a catastrophic mistake then by withdrawing into itself. This created a vacuum in regions such as East Africa and states such as Afghanistan and Pakistan in which extremism could breed.

Now Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, in Singapore, Mahbubani believes this isolationist mindset was also directly responsible for the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which saw the US-controlled IMF refuse to bail out long term allies such as Indonesia and Thailand.

The clear implication is that the ensuing popular discontent, particularly in Indonesia, has helped fuel anti- Americanism, spread Islamic extremism and encouraged the terrorists to ever-baser acts.

Nevertheless, Mahbubani believes all is not lost.

He says: “It matters a lot what dream you buy. If you are a young Pakistani or Bangladeshi and if you are given the choice between Osama Bin Laden and the American dream – your choice makes a huge difference to the world we live in. The fact that many still want to buy the American dream cannot be denied. But if they start choosing Bin Laden then we are in huge trouble.”

From Kyoto to Iraq, however, Mahbubani believes America is now making the wrong choices, even if they are well- intentioned.

Instead it must face up to the consequences of its policies, take heed of the world community and lead by positive example in all spheres.

Nowhere is this more important than in relation to China.

Mahbubani is in no doubt that China is shaping up to be the next global superpower and America’s attitude towards this challenge will help shape the 21st century.

How Asia will change the world is partly the subject of his next book, he says.

“We are at a crossroads: if China believes the US will not block its way then it will become a responsible stakeholder in the future. But if the US is perceived as trying to stop it, China will become embittered.

“The US must get the policy right and right now because if they get it wrong we will all suffer for decades to come.”

The above document though written in 2006 still holds…however let us see the new policy of America with President Obama as well as the evolution of the relationship of America with the world.

Victor Bout

Victor Bout

I recently saw yesterday on TV, the development of the case of Victor Bout. I believe that he is still in Thailand waiting for extradition. The extradition process has been more complicated than forecasted it would seemed. He will appear in court in Thailand on the 11 August 2009 following his arrest on March 6, 2008.

You will recall that I blogged on this case earlier in mid March.

More than a James Bond thriller, the story of Victor A Bout arrest which I saw on TV and fully described by BBC seemed to me unreal.

I am keen to see the unwinding of this story which later might be taken as a base story for a thriller or a big screen film.

a latest blog written on Bout:

Those who do not know are

Those who do not know are the bread and butter of the regimes that aim to dominate the world; regimes like the United States and previously the Soviet Union. Both want to dominate and exploit with the differences of ideology, slogan, and propaganda. The US-style democracy is no different than the Soviet-style socialism; well with the exceptions of McDonalds and slavery consumerism.

As to Viktor Bout matter, those who are wasting band-width on repeating the left-over of Bush propaganda are blessed with ignorance. They talk as they were well-informed while in reality what they now is nothing. Here’s a quiz for your basic knowledge:

When was Viktor Bout arrested? If you say March 6, 2008 you are wrong! He was arrested on April 29, 2008 – about two month after his illegal detention. Need evidence? See the request of the request for extradition submitted by the US Embassy in Thailand….. The type of March 6th illegal detention handed to Bout, is what await all of those supporting the US definition of democracy should they decide to be “unslaved” from “consumerism.” Here another quiz:

What did the US government do to cause Bout illegal arrest on March 6th? They either conspired or “officially” lied to the Thai government by telling them that Viktor is a terrorist! Still need to see evidence, suite yourself and see a copy of the letter sent by the US Embassy in Thailand to cause the arrest of Viktor. (source: Victorbout.com) Need More? Here’s more

Did Robert Zaharievitch the “DEA Lead Agent” lied under oath in his Thai court testimony? Say “YES” with 1000% confidence (see highlighted paragraph in page 4.) One “unquestionable” lie is said to be concerning whether Viktor had a business registered in the United States. The US government acting outside the US legal system by OFAC seized a CPA accounting practice, used-car dealership, and a swimming pool cleaning business among others from a US Army veteran named Richard Chichakli and claimed that Chichakli’s businesses belong to Viktor Bout! Evidence… they provided none but they wanted you to take their word for it. So he is Bout cleaning swimming pool and selling used cars, and …… perhaps if you are lucky enough you may get Viktor Bout to prepare your next tax return pretending to be your trusty CPA.

Louise Richardson Expert on Terrorism

Terrorism may well be the word that has dominated the final years of the tenure of President Bush Jr. I asked myself recently after listening to what is happening in Iran last week and the mounting actions taken by the extremists of the Islam: how do I define a terrorist?

Perhaps a better understanding of the terrorist and his motivation could help us curtail the rise of terrorist’s action. Have there been serious studies thereon?

For sure the actions taken by the Bush administration have not reduced terrorist growth. In the contrary, I am inclined to think that the radical actions taken have created more terrorist activities. Muslim extremists’ actions may be one of the terrorist’s actions in operation, but there are far more happenings in the world, like the Irish IRA, the Basque movements, the Tamil Tigers…. In fact each time an individual feels oppressed beyond a limit he cannot sustain, the seed of becoming a terrorist is germinating.

I came across a document and book written by an academic who has studied terrorism and worth listening to.

Louise Richardson is one of the relative handful of experts who have been studying the history and practice of terrorism since the cold war.

Born in Ireland to Catholic parents, she experienced the seductive nature of terrorist groups at an early age. From the society she grew up in, she learned a remembered history of Ireland’s long struggle with England that was full of heroes and villains, and was oversimplified to motivate the next generation. The facts didn’t seem to matter so much.

After the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972, in which 26 Irish protesters were shot by British troops in Derry, Northern Ireland, Richardson would have joined the IRA “in a heartbeat,” she writes.

But she was only 14, and as she attended university and learned the real story behind some of her childhood myths, she became more interested in understanding terrorism than in joining it.

Eventually she received advanced degrees in government from Harvard University and began teaching international security classes. Today she is executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, among other academic posts.

She has interviewed all the terrorists she can contact, as well as pored over transcripts of captured terrorists and other source material. From this, she’s determined, she believes, this important point: They’re not nuts.

The popular picture of terrorists as insane radicals isn’t true, she insists. “Terrorists are human beings who think like we do. They have goals they are trying to achieve, and in a different set of circumstances they, and perhaps we, would lead very different lives,” she writes.

But they do have distinguishing, abnormal characteristics.

“Terrorists see the world in Manichean, black-and-white terms; they identify with others; and they desire revenge,” according to Richardson.

Lots of people are called “terrorists” by their enemies, of course. That doesn’t mean they all are. Terrorism’s true definition, Richardson writes, is “deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes.”

Terrorists want change, but lack the strength to prevail in other political or military ways. Individual terrorists are generally disaffected people, from any level of society. They encounter an enabling group (such as radical Islamists at a local mosque) who spout an ideology that purports to justify violent actions.

Their motivations can be summed up in a three-word phrase, according to Richardson: “Revenge, Renown, Reaction.”

Louise may be viewed on youtube too!

World Politics and the entrepreneur

A lecture, last month from Thierry Garcin, a commentator on the French Radio, boasted my interest in world affairs. We listened daily to world news; perhaps we may tender a soft ear to these world occurrences. As I am quite keen on world affairs, I need to document more on the subject. With the internet, it is possible and convenient to read the worldwide media there on.

Much like a jig saw, the small pieces of news diffused everyday fit in a larger frame that in time draws the world wide trends. More so, in the globalised economies of different countries and the speed of transmission of news, geopolitical events and for that matter any large events affect any country fast. Thus an entrepreneur cannot turn a deaf ear to world news and needs to constantly updated and analyse the impact of ourselves.

As we are not on the fore front of world economics, we have the time and more interestingly the advance knowledge of seeing the impact of world happenings reaching our shore. We saw few months ago, the impact of the financial crisis and its delayed effect on us. The crunch on world travel and its repercussions on Tourism are now felt.

I have to deplore the reaction time of us Mauritians to deal with these situations. I must admit that in the case of the tourism sector, the industry reacted reasonably well. A smart operator will thus be able to bank on the slot of the changing time to maximise on his profits. I must admit that I was not smart enough to review my portfolio of investment the last time to minimise my book lost.

The wish and deployment of China in building their infra structure of their country in the last decade has put on pressure on the price on building material, petroleum products, coal and even shipping chartering. As a businessman, the strategy deployed on your market is different depending the way you perceive the trend of the market. In a recession, whilst demand is on a decrease and the prices are going up, the entrepreneur needs to readjust his actions. As recently as 2years ago, an entrepreneur who was in building material in Mauritius, was in a euphoric expanding market with the depression in prices of materials. It was possibly to maximise his profits in turning around his stock fast. The global scene has suddenly changed now, a quick readjustment is required.

Thank you Thierry Garcin for opening my mind and giving my tips on analysis world happenings.

Amy Chua and my life lessons

Watching the interview of AMY Chua in the Berkeley series ‘conversations with history’ was a delight for me. The over one hour listening absorbed me intensely and provided some insights which I could relate to in my working career.

First let me set the scene. What Amy Chua ‘Day of empire: How hyper powers rise to global dominance and why they fall’ has to do with the business of Rogers aviation of the 80’s and 90’s? To me, Amy Chua is dealing with dominating your sphere with hyper powers.

Here are some reviews on her book to have a brief view of Amy Chua’s thesis.

This analysis of world-dominant powers …

… from ancient Persia to the modern United States yields an intriguing set of common traits and progressions. Chua’s bestselling World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic … more » Hatred and Global Instability (2002) led the pack in sizing up the backlash against global free-marketers. Now she examines hegemony and the handful of entities worthy of the title “hyperpower,” which extends to the earliest civilizations: Persia, at its peak under Darius, the Macedonia of Alexander the Great and, of course, imperial Rome. There are also some surprises: Ghenghis Khan’s 13th-century Mongolian domain, for instance, eventually extended from Vienna to the Sea of Japan, far exceeding any before or since in contiguous territory. And the Mongols did it without original technology or literacy, absorbing both from cultures that came under their dominion. Likewise, the Dutch Republic of the late 17th century, a midget among Europe’s giants, became so dominant in world commerce that it eventually exported a king, William of Orange, to England. The commonality among these empires, says Chua, was tolerance. They were diverse societies, harbouring—and exploiting—a wide range of ethnicities and unrestricted religions. The enduring model is Rome, which handed its adversaries a bloody defeat and proffered full citizenship the next day. The author notes that even China in its day of empire, the eighth-century Tang Dynasty, was a far more open society than it would be 1,000 years later. Tolerance alone won’t create a hyper power, though, says the author; the United States needed the collapse of the Soviet Union to achieve its status. Chua concludes that hyper powers ultimately tend to come “unglued” as a result of resistance to their own diversity. She cautions that the global rise of anti-Americanism today, which stems from attempts to export democracy in the service of self-interest, could be a negative sign. The author gives short shrift to forces introduced by petro-politics or the nuclear threat, but still an illuminating exploration of what makes a superpower.

Put positively, such hyper powers practice tolerance. As far as it goes, this is hardly an original observation, and while Chua attempts to offer solid examples from history of how tolerance helps build empires and how intolerance leads to their downfall, she is ultimately unsuccessful.

Translating back to my then work situation in business: Rogers Aviation was a super power in the field of commercial aviation in Mauritius in the 70’s through to the 90’s. Rogers aviation occupied 80 percent of the passenger ticket sales and over 99 percent of the air cargo sales in 1970. In a sense within its sphere I extrapolate, that Rogers was a super power. Just like any super powers of history, at a stage the super power must ask himself; “ how do I maintain my dominance forever?” I must admit that in the case of passenger sales I had no say in the formulation of the strategy. When I came on the scene in early 80’s, Rogers had lost on the passenger side its supremacy as a Super Power, the market share dropped to approximately 65 percent but on the other hand on the air cargo front it was different with a market share of over 90 percent.

With the strategic planning department of Rogers in the 80’s the team at air cargo took time to study the issue and devise strategies for Rogers to maintain a role of super power and continue to reap extra monetary benefits from this position. I was one of the proponents that pushed the thesis that our super position as super power is doomed not to last and that we had to look at enlarging our sphere by looking to conquering other areas. So there was a distinct, two legs strategy: on the local scene maintaining supremacy by joint ventures association and on the overseas scene conquer the regional areas. A smaller share of a bigger cake is better that defending our share of a small cake.

On the local front knowingly, we planned to reduce your dominance as the apparent super power by diluting our market share. One of the thoughts of that time was: the thousand of freight forwarders in the world will surely come in the Mauritius market to have their share. Will we fight them or make it easy to penetrate the market whilst retaining a fair share of the conquered market? Having experienced the fate of the passenger market we opted to control the market by making easy for our opponents to enter whilst taking a large chunk of their profits in the supply of other services. We were strategically tolerant would have been a Chua definition.

On the international scene, as we were not a super power, we had to use other strategies. We had to build our strength by working differently. In the hind sight, I have to admit that today, after listening to Amy Chua I came to realise that the strategies and mind set of our people on the international scene were not appropriate. More Guerrilla warfare strategy should have been utilised.

This strategy defined in 1980’s bored the fruits that we seeded up to 1997. Thereafter, the market situation changed and the new leaders at the helm of the company did not seem to have a clue of the strategic thinking needed to sustain the position of super power to collect the premium that the status gave you.

This phase of my working career will always be cherished. Thank you Rogers for these fabulous years.

Kishore Mahbubani

If you do not have 2 days to spare on reading an interesting book and you are interested in world politics and would like to know the way the world will be transformed to in the next years, then watch the video of Kishore Mahbubani on Conversation with history from the most famous American university. I did that today for a whole hour and redoubled the vision twice lest I had missed some important issues.

No, ‘ The new Asian hemisphere, the irresistible shift of global power to the east’ is not only a critique to the way the west is seeing the world more importantly it is an appeal to the western powers to change course in their thinking and deeds. For 200 years, the west has controlled and directed the world affairs, time has now come for the East to be reinstalled. The new world order passed the 2nd world war which has worked for decades need now to be reviewed and amended to the reality of today. May the world leaders in the west hear his call and work towards restoring the right place to the East in the affair of the world.

As an avid reader on world politics and geo political the listening of Kishore Mahbubani was a delightful relish. I immediately researched more of Kishore Mahbubani’s writings or interviews on the web. I struck lucky. There were a couple excerpt of Mahbubani’s interviews BBC Hard Talk.

Very enjoyable and pleasant conversations from a cool marcher to Modernity I noted, his choice of words makes his delivery simple and easily understandable. I also observed his very frequent use of metaphors to support his thesis. The story of the looting of Bagdad to illustrate the non considerations of America for the Iraqis as opposed to the consideration of Japanese in their invasion of Singapore in respect of the botanical garden is yet another example of Mahbubani’s depth of thoughts.

The book review of Paul Bracken from the most prestigious Yale University excites me even more and causes me to order a copy of the book.

Reviewed by Paul Bracken, Professor of Management & Political Science, Yale


A number of new books have appeared this year on the world’s shifting

power structure accompanied by the rise of Asian giants China and India. This in

itself is a noteworthy development. Apparently the period of America as sole

superpower, or the American Empire to its critics, is over. Having lasted a very

few short years American power seems not so much in decline as checked by

many realties.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor of the Lee Kuan Yew

School of Public Policy in Singapore, has written an absorbing account of some of

the consequences of the rise of the two Asian giants, and also of the smaller

countries who are part of this new power system. His perch in Singapore give

Mahbubani, a widely respected observer of international politics, a refreshing

view which is not contaminated by many of the U.S. based accounts of what’s

going on. One may disagree with some of his arguments. But his larger message

is the need to open up and broaden the global dialogue. Here, his book is right on

the mark. Its critique of the U.S. is a friendly one, of someone trying to be helpful.

This is a good thing and is likely to get more sympathy than the more harsh

critiques which come from those lacking this friendly attitude.

His core thesis is that the West which has been running the world for twohundred

years created institutions – organizations and laws – to maintain its hold

on things. The incapacity of these institutions to come to grips with the challenges

of the 21st century is evident, and so Asia must come to the rescue to insert its

own values and interests into the global dialogue. He foresees major transition

problems, largely around the difficulty of accepting the new powers into the

global system by the United States.

Mahbubani offers some trenchant insights into important matters. On

democracy, he describes how it has become an ideological crusade for the United

States, which in the process overlooks many of this form of governance’s

deficiencies. You will not find many American accounts that openly say how the

spread of democracy, pushed by Washington, to Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq has

proven disastrous. Again, Mahbubani is speaking as a friend when he says these

things. On the positive side, he emphasizes how many aspects of Western

democracy have spread around the world. Chinese, Indian, or Singaporean

citizens who start a business, point out environmental degradation, or stand up for

human rights are empowered to do so, in part, because Western democracy points

to just such actions.

Mahbubani’s greatest fear is the reluctance of Western minds to

acknowledge the unsustainability of Western global domination. His critique of

Western institutions in this regard is the best I have seen. In particular, his acidic

comments about the self promotion of the G-7 as the arbiter of everything from

macroeconomic order to climate change, and every other problem in between is

brilliant. I know I won’t ever be able to listen to a G-7 communiqué quite the

same way ever again.

The policies he advances to avoid disaster scenarios follow from his fear.

Openness to the views of others, and consideration of the best of Asian values

(meritocracy, order, competence) rank high here. His comparison of the U.S.

occupation of Japan after World War II and of Iraq is quite telling. He

underscores the sharp decline in simple competence, leaving aside the merits of

the Iraq war. In 1945 the U.S. took the occupation of Japan as a serious matter. In

2003 it did not, with respect to Iraq. He describes American ignorance of history

and culture as inevitably leading to disaster, regardless of the cause. What is

frightening about his observation is not only how valid it is. It is also how general

it is, applying to so many policy arenas that go beyond the war in Iraq. What he’s

saying, I think, is that the Iraqi occupation is symptomatic of a lack of seriousness

that has overtaken the American policy process generally.

His advice on where to go next is centered on pragmatism. But it is a two

way pragmatism. Each has to listen to the other. Asian hectoring of the U.S. isn’t

likely to be any more effective than the West trying to keep its grip on the U.N.

Security Council by pretending that France and Britain are the serious world

powers that they once were.

Pragmatism was once considered a definitive American characteristic. It

was the American positive spin to existentialism. Mahbubani thinks that Asians

have a good pragmatic streak as well. The two worlds could meet on this basis.

This requires the U.S. to give up some of its cherished illusions of recent years.

But it’s a path that offers a meeting ground between new and old power centers

where a more productive conversation could tackle the challenges facing the

global order.