Various organizations and disciplines define “East Asia” in different ways. The region is incredibly diverse from the point of view of the many people who live there. The United Nations Organization officially classifies South-east Asia (the 10 ASEAN members plus East Timor) as a distinct region, but other sources add North-east and South-east Asia together to form East Asia which is the practice in many scholarly and popular articles. I tend to see the Region as North East Asia, Greater Malaya composed mostly of great archipelagos, Southeast Asia and then its great neighbor which is Greater Hindustan. The reader may struggle along but eventually get plenty enough feel for my subject to derive some benefit. It is always important to remember that China is vast, diverse and encompasses many climates, racial types and cultural groups. But almost all of it is north of almost all of Greater Malaya where President Obama and I spent some of our younger years. He was in Muslim Indonesia and I was in the Christian Philippines. Nepal and Bhutan have nothing to do with Southeast Asia in any strict sense but are continental land-locked and are more like other countries sandwiched between Northeast Asia and Greater Malaya than they are like Greater Hindustan. They are a border of two regions North East Asia and Greater Hindustan made to resemble Southeast Asia ( a third region) in recent centuries. But this whole part of the world is the subject of this post and you do not have to know it all very well to understand my post..
The economic and national entities of East Asia are thus Japan; the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea; the Republic of (South) Korea; the People’s Republic of China (and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau) Republic of China (Taiwan); and the 10 ASEAN members: the Philippines, Vietnam, The Kingdom of Cambodia, Laos, The Kingdom of Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia. The lack of useful statistical data makes including East Timor problematic and Bhutan and Nepal are simply remembered without much to actually say about them and so unless otherwise indicated, it will be omitted. Bhutan is a beautiful kingdom that holds its own in changing times and seeks a community path for its traditions in the modern world and the educated in the region largely know of its existence.
As I look around at China coverage in the United States I am reminded of something I brought up when I was recently remarking in a comment made on a post by Baroness Valentine on the Lords of the Blog.There I wrote that I hoped the House of Lords has paid sufficient attention to the visit of Premiere Li Keqiang and his wife Cheng Hong to Britain despite the lack of discussion of this and Spanish succession in the Lords of the Blog. While China is not in the World Cup and China is not involved in a state visit here it seems clear to me that most Americans know too little of China.
China is the country doing too much for job creation, too much for overall growth, too much for long-term growth. I mean it when I say “the country” at least among major players. Their problems are largely from too much emphasis on economic growth. Almost all other major players have made this a priority which is very low and even though economic abuses are causing problems everywhere they pale compared to problems related to other causes. Because of this national attitude relations with China will determine a significant part of the employment picture for the EU, the USA and others for some years ahead. It is a bit strange for me to write about anything related to employment as I have never been all that secure and right now I run errands and do lawn work and keep house in a situation where I am continuously exposed to risks of being blamed for some kind of financial malfeasance because unlike China where cash payments hand-delivered and my very secure debit and ATM card at the Agricultural Bank of China were usable for all things and sufficient for them here I have never been able to negotiate the vast ocean of requirements which inflate our personal debt and exposure in so many ways and are so tied to a pervasive ideology not subject to much criticism. here my finances are always subject not to one but to many factors over which I have no control despite which I only have a few big financial problems and penury I do not have lots of bad checks, huge credit card balances or anything else. of that type. My view of America is not that of a financial columnist and it is from the point of view of such insecurity that writing something like this becomes somewhat absurd but also offers unique opportunities for insight. On the one hand as I write about American policy in Asia I write knowing I have spent a huge amount of time in Asia and know a lot about the region but on the other hand my situation in life is so bad that it seems pointless to discuss any of it when I am so weak and vulnerable here. But that is the nature of the things I really cannot change. Whatever happens for the rest of my life I certainly feel that I have learned something about Asia and its surrounds which continues to form my view of the world.
I recognize that the big opportunities in Asia will not be to mimic me exactly. But in my life so far politics, military exchanges and business have gone on around me in Asia and I have tried to stay abreast of those things while focusing on my other more immediate concerns.I do not believe that these facts of potential which exist in Asia demonstrate a set of facts that has to be good or bad for the EU, the United States or other players. But a realistic American economist should realize that Mandarin speaking tour guides, agents and brokers with several Asian languages, English teachers in China, experts on trilateral trade with China in the developing world and those selling products at competitive prices to deal with growth related problems in China ought to be part of a picture of long term growth and accessible growth today. In Asia itself those who have ancestors and ties in the region and resemble the dominant racial group of any given market will often find it much easier to succeed. The Philippines is an exception where White Americans of all types and Mestizo Hispanic Americans can hope to find advantages which offset racial minority status disadvantages. Black people can usually expect that their race will be a significant disadvantage in most business contacts with pockets and current where it may be an advantage. Racial consciousness is in general very high in the region. China no longer uses terms like foreign devil in general but most countries do have some similar practice that is common enough. Arabs can hope for some ethnic and possible racial prejudice in their favor if they are Muslims in a Muslim area but like the Philippines for Americans it should not be thought to be more than it is.
Further those who can find a fascination with the Chinese mindset ought to have a special role in munitions sales, peace studies and international development planning. China is not the only story but it cannot be ignored. That is where a great deal of the potential in the world will remain regardless of what really happens in the next few years.
I am trying here to lay out my first real Asia policy post on this blog since Premiere Li Keqiang came to power in China and he and his sophisticated wife Cheng Hong began touring the world. There is a lot going on that needs to be addressed in a post like this if it is to have any significance as regards the state of things out there. I graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in May of 1989 with a degree in English and the honor of a Latin phrase after the designation of a bachelors degree. There have been many days since mid May of 1989. Each of them was a bit different than the others. Suddenly I am coming up on 20 years. Sooner or later it had to happen. Actually it had to happen exactly 20 years after I graduated unless I died. It was always likely to make me feel that my life was not exactly where I had hoped it would be. Twenty years ago was a rather high mark in my life. But not a perfect time at all. However, the Republic of the Philippine Islands was very much part of my context for life in those days. I left the Philippines with my whole family when we came to the United States and my brother Simon Peter Emmanuel Summers sought medical treatment for Prader-Willi Syndrome. It was at that time that I enrolled at what was then USL and is now the University of Louisiana. Then after earning a year’s worth of credits in one semester I returned to the Philippines and stayed there till my brother Joseph was born and then returned to the United States, lived the summer in Abbeville and went to school at the Franciscan University of Steubenville the next fall. The following summer I visited my parents in the Philippines and then went back to Steubenville and after some complications finished up at USL — marrying in 1987 and graduating in 1989.
Leading my sisters on a carabao in the Philippines.
The journey since those days has been a complex one at least. I do not suppose there is much to say about it which is not laced with anecdotes of trial and There have been other good things and times. I have done a wide variety of work with lots of writing, teaching and organizing in the mix. I would not have done most of those things if my life had been more successful as it seemed to promise to be. What I know is that my life has been a journey in a very literal sense. When I graduated I went to work that summer for the law Firm of Mangham, Hardy, Rolfs and Abadie in the offices near the top of the First National Bank Tower in downtown Lafayette. It was as close as I have ever come to feeling like my life was on a smooth and established track and not a trek through dangerous places. I was headed off to Tulane Law School in the fall. A lot of people in my life who have always behaved badly toward me when they were around chose not to that summer. I had been on television and in the newspapers a great deal when I won the Outstanding Graduate award and it seemed like I would be given some space to do things one step at a time in a way that I have never really known at any other time. My time at Tulane Law School that first run was one of the worst times of my life. That is from my point of view saying a great deal. We lived next to a family who were in charge of our floor in student housing and screamed and roared many hours every day. These were among the many experiences in my life which really have provided no benefit to me here. Although I did not stay in China for many reasons I did feel that my advice to students and other work there could draw more on these experiences. Almost all work here in the USA in recent decades has bordered on pure hell for many reasons. I am not sure how typical that contrast is among people who have been in both regions. China had plenty of problems but I felt less malicious interference built into the work structure itself.
My trip to China ranks near the top of these events. I have posted the link to the university level institution called the Shandong Institute of Business and Technology where I taught that was the China Coal Economic College a few years before I was there. Set on the Shandong Peninsula where Confucius and Mencius began Classical Chinese scholarship the Campus overlooked the glorious Yellow Sea.
These young women in the photo are some of my students and advisees graduating two years after I left. It was a time with many opportunities to learn a lot more about China than I had in all of my reading prior to that point in time and it had a deep influence on my life and thinking. When I returned to America I wrote an article for a newspaper I had written for before many times about my experiences. When I wrote the article I intended to go back to China but that did not happen.
This is the front page of an article I wrote about my journey to China and time there. The top photograph is of English Corner which was largely organized and facilitated by Lu Ting ting who is on my Friends List on Facebook when she can be and my contact on Linked In. Although her name appears in characters I cannot always reproduce online or by hand.
One of the most influential political figures of my life has been Bill Clinton. When I lived in China during the 2004-2005 academic year his book My Life was widely sold there in English and Mandarin. When Clinton ran for President the first time he had a sign in his campaign headquarters viewable by most in the movement which said: “It’s the economy — stupid!” My own personal economic failure has been enormous at many levels. But I had a pretty good economic existence in China. I brought some money with me but I was furnished with a home apartment, cable, high speed internet, steam radiator heat, electricity, travel credits, bonuses for extra and exceptional work through my job and it was an extraordinary opportunity to see and do many things.The economy of East Asia is one of the most successful regional economies of this time around world. There is history is a long history of dealing with many of the same issues that challenge the global economy today. In broader East Asia we find a group of some of the world’s largest and most prosperous economies : China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore,Taiwan and South Korea. This post brief as it is will at least link to some details about these major economic powers.
Major powers come and go from the center stage of geopolitics and alliances are even more perishable than powerful global status but one of the more durable facts about this planet is the economic importance of East Asia. In this post I will refine the idea of regions a bit more, rambling as I often do rather than sticking with a single definition from the start. I will start by asserting that there is no real American foreign policy that will work unless it is also a pretty solid policy as regards a region with these powers and the overlapping group of our treaty partners which includes Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.
Major positive factors have ranged from favorable political-legal environments for industry and commerce, through abundant natural resources of various kinds, to plentiful supplies of relatively low-cost, skilled and adaptable labor. I taught a talented group of undergraduates whose contribution I valued in China. I will however say that they were in general not the most privileged or secure in their society just as most of my friends from the university years were not among that group of the most privileged in my society. It caused me to think back on my own years in college. However, China is not the only place that I have been. There were journeys to Micronesia, Mexico (on numerous occasions) as well as to Nova Scotia/ Acadie. Each of these journeys has added to the long route across and just above the surface of this planet which I have drawn out in my life. Nor have I really increased my rate of travel as an adult — in fact the contrary is true. Prior to graduation from USL I could list the Philippines, Europe, Colombia, Mexico, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand were among the places that I had visited long enough to feel that I had lived there. Travel has been a very large part of my education and personal development. One fact is that I claim to propose a movement from the right and yet many of my values are universal to all human beings and much of my life experience is international which contrasts starkly with the rightist Nationalism that many will be more familiar with. This is in part because I believe in creating games that are not zero-sum in international affairs and developing such structures where they already exist. It is in part because I really believe in space colonization as the means to reshape our very long-term future. Lastly, it is in part because I am a Christian and take the charge of the gospel seriously in all aspects — although I do not always conform to it very well.
Although I had one failed business attempt of substance in the Philippines and a few other smaller failures I was successful in some endeavors in church related ministry and through that lens got to known some significant business and government figures. Likewise in China I was not in business but I assisted students majoring in business, taught some business writing and taught a large number of students who were International Finance majors. Wikipedia states in an article on East Asia that:
East Asian populations have demonstrated rapid learning capabilities – skills in utilizing new technologies and scientific discoveries – and putting them to good use in production. Work ethics in general tend to be highly positive.
I reached the conclusion shared by many that in modern societies, a high level of structural differentiation, functional specialization, and autonomy of the economic system from government is a major contributor to industrial-commercial growth and prosperity. I brought to China some experience in business, although no great successes a few successes that won some significant recognition. Among these was a bit of international trade: Then I was working in seafood sales and brokering as I had done many times before including even during my time at Tulane Law. I went down with the owner and chief sales manager of the privately held company that was my employer on a buying trip to Merida. This was typical of a lot of things about my seafood crowd. The owner paid for four tickets, four registration packages, four hotel and food packages and in me provided one of the two or three best interpreters on the trip. However, the trip was supposed to be a sales trip sponsored by the US Department of Commerce and we were there buying. While that exact event was unique it somehow encapsulates all of my considerable experiences in the fishmongering world. While there Lieutenant Governor Paul Hardy presented me with the honor of Honorary Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana. He gave me a very large and beautiful certificate that I was proud to display as I was to mention the honor on my resume. When I got back I set up those purchases and set up a series of chain and institutional sales for off-main-demand-curve size catfish. I would leave that industry to teach but would return to it and other business ventures from time to time.
The US dollar is freely traded currency in the entirety of the Far East as far as I know and few contend that any currency from outside the region challenges its level of acceptance. However, that is changing as the British Pound has just become exchangeable with the Chinese Yuan or Renminbi on the markets in Shanghai. But the USA has an historic advantage over the Pound not found elsewhere in a trading systems that covers much of the human population and a region where trading systems are relatively open. Exports are desired as imports throughout the region and the risks are quantifiable. Military and security imports are the most desired in China and other product bought in China and elsewhere with zero or low duties attached on imports of consumer and capital goods do considerably helped stimulate cost-efficiency and change in their own often harsh economic system. However legal mimicry on the edge of the law and piratical patent and copyright infringement are more common in this region as sophisticated threats to US companies than perhaps in almost any other region except the surround of true East Asia which I am including to some degree in this post. While soaring poverty rates in the Philippines and Vietnam and extreme consequences of displacement in China are factors tha t must be addressed by American corporations and governments the truth remains that compared to many places free contract for employment and the flexible mindset and work that comes with the genetic and cultural heritage of the labor force in the region makes a desirable labor market for Americans to be involved in over the long term. There are many assets difficult to reproduce elsewhere which are very significant factors making for promising and sustained business-economic performance across these economies.
Finally, globalization is likely to continue to benefit the Asian economies for some time in general terms. These benefits will increase the buying power of many kinds of potential clients and consumers and it is these relatively large and fast-growing markets for consumer goods and services of all kinds which can play a vital role in America’s future as well. The path of my life has not included my personal return to the Philippines since I was there in my college years nor a return to China since those days described here. Liu Ting ting responded to one of my posts on Facebook with correspondence that may not belong here . But I reproduce it anyway as being illuminating:
- Ting ting, It makes me happy to hear from you. I am glad you are made nostalgic by the pictures.
However, that personal connection to these people is not the sole basis of my thoughts about China and Asia. I read a great deal and communicate with a lot of people as I did when I was there — and I have maintained ties since I left. I did take the time when I was in China to watch television and buy a periodical now and then and I have done such things since arriving back in the United States. All of that has led to a bit of an understanding acquired over time. But not the deepest one.
My family and I have shared connections we have preserved with the Philippines and through the Philippines to the rest of Asia. One of those connections comes from having been connected with the East Asian Pastoral Institute where I studied for a while with my father in Manila. When we did the Scripture Ventures program there we met with people from many Asian countries and got to know some of them. Some we stayed in touch with for a while but that has all faded away over time for me at least.
Meeting at Big Woods with Filipino friends who are US citizens now.
But this is not simply a post to rehash a series of older posts and pages in this blog. I am trying to discuss primarily how the United States of America should relate to the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Japan (and its Emperor), Mongolia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. Secondarily, I am discussing how the USA should relate to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thirdly, I am discussing how the USA should relate to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Four regions then fall into this discussion: North East Asia and Malaya (or Maphilindo) are two regions at the center of my focus. Southeast Asia is the Secondary focus and Greater Hindustan is the Tertiary Focus. In other words, East Russia, The Great Northern Corridor, Persia, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula would all be regions in Asia which would not be part of this discussion directly. Most people in the world live in the regions that I am discussing here. Is there a policy that works for all of these places? Is it meaningful to write and speak in such terms. I live in a region of Louisiana with a significant Vietnamese population. The valedictorian of my niece’s recent graduating class is a young Vietnamese American surnamed Nguyen. But it is fascinating how despite many successes in the story of these migrants so little has been done to use the ties, skills and appearance of these people to increase US and Louisiana ties to South East Asia. The top three students in academic achievement were all of Asian descent.
I do have deep ties not only to the United States but also to Europe and the Americas as a whole. In the years since I graduated from there have been opportunities to do things that I had not done including but not limited to teaching in China. I have had many experiences that are meaningful to me here in America and ties me to the region of North America just as Asians are tied to their region. I do not think we should forget that trade and ties and knowledge do not mean ceasing to be distinctive. But we will have better chances to understand one another in the future.
The journey has had its surprising joys.Mary graduates from UL L as I did. A young mom who does not make time for Facebook yet. Watching one brother Joseph and one sister Mary graduate with higher Latin honors than I earned from my college alma mater has been a joy and a blessing. It has been a joy to see another sister Sarah graduate with a perfect GPA from Louisiana State University where I got my masters degree. It has been a joy to have my middle sister Susanna graduate with honors from the Franciscan University of Steubenville where I won one of two Sophomore Class Awards (one for men and one for women) in 1985. I look forward to having my youngest brother graduate from UL-L which is my renamed alma mater in his time. My handicapped brother Simon received his certificate of Academic completion of merit from Abbeville High School when I was working for the school board in which they are located and which administers them. All of those were joyous milestones.
I have mentioned my trade mission experience in Mexico and I have traveled a great deal in the US, Mexico, Canada and Colombia. It is important that America chart its course and know its own surroundings. It is also important to see that booming trade between China and Brazil is an important factor in the world economy. China is part of this hemisphere in many ways. I like China although there are plenty of things I found to criticize and oppose. I also had problems there and in the Philippines which I have written about and discussed but which do not make an appearance in this post. My view of things calls mostly for awareness. In some ways I find the Chinese and I to be a bit alike in that regard. They are in general less eager for open confrontation than Westerners. The Chinese military is into diplomacy, espionage, training, digging tunnels, fortifying basements, buying hardware, maintaining discipline and planning for all outcomes. This is in stark contrast to many other groups, nations and powers that need much more direct confrontation to preserve their institutions and the support their forces need to survive.
I speak Spanish and I have also taught that language in the USA. I have enjoyed and do enjoy my Acadian heritage and ties to Canada. I am not an excessive Sinophile. This post is one part of my overall view of things.
Libby Maturin, Ashley Mire, Anika, Alyse, Sarah and Maria. Mine in Zacatecas is locale.Lower : Soren, Alyse and Anika in Zacatecas. Zacatecas is a great cultural and historic center in Mexico. Mexico is a huge part of any real economic plan for the United States of America. Family Missions Company run by my family members operate in China and Mexico among other places. I have also been a bit below the surface of the planet a few times. Mammoth Caves is one of my favorite US National parks and I have enjoyed visiting mines like those in the beautiful Mexican city of Zacatecas.
My advice is that we should know Asia and ourselves and understand each new set of circumstances that emerges. The future will be full of surprises.