Saturday :: Sep 4, 2004

Choosing Between The Liberty Lady And The Atomic Tiger

by pessimist

I recently went to see Hero, and I found it a very interesting movie. It's also a gorgeous movie - the subtitles almost get in the way of enjoying it. More than just your typical kung-fu fighting flick, it tells a tale of how China came to be that could open Western eyes to basic Chinese political philosophies if one pays attention. This knowledge may become very important in the coming years.

Historians will probably point to the Bu$h (mis)Administration as being the one which opened the world's eyes to the fact that they didn't, and maybe shouldn't, have to follow the lead of the United States anymore. Bogged down in third-world Iraq and fourth-world Afghanistan, and fought to a standstill by irregular forces in both countries, the foreign policies of Bu$hCo revealed that the United States wasn't to be feared on a conventional level any longer. Thus, Bu$h'$ empty boasts about winning the 'War on Terra' merely reveal him to be the biggest fool on the planet. The only thing that keeps this disdain from being blatant and open is the fact that this fool is nuclear-armed.

Numerous countries, all Asian interestingly, have been dabbling to various degrees with becoming nuclear powers. North Korea, South Korea, and Iran have been getting assistance from 'War on Terra' ally Pakistan, some in their efforts to keep a Bu$hCo invasion at bay, and Japan has begun discussing whether they should get over the shock of the new suffered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and get on with that atomic thing as well.

But even if these countries eventually choose not to develop weapons of their own, they are still making plans to go their own way - and Bu$hCo can like it.

Look Delhi, talk Tokyo

The Japanese Embassy in Delhi through a survey commissioned by them found that Indians admire Japan most, even more than the US.

China-Japan-India axis strategy

China and India are both countries with ancient civilizations. China, Japan and India should strengthen their ideological and sentimental connections by promoting oriental cultures; particularly they should strengthen the harmony of relationship by developing the Great Harmony idea; and jointly pursue the grand realm of sustainable development by carrying forward the oriental idea of the "Integration of Man and Nature".

Stand-by, Round-eye!

China-Japan-India axis strategy

Compared with East Asia regional cooperation of great concern to the people, the suggestion on China-Japan-India strategic cooperation [must] be regarded as a new thinking in which consideration is given to regional cooperation. Japanese Ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki recently said in New Delhi to media that a China-Japan-India trilateral axis is conducive to regional stability and prosperity.

India, Japan eye new axis

New Delhi has no problem accepting Tokyo's desire for a more visible international role so long as Japan acknowledges India's own interests in this regard. One of the few certainties of the coming decade, apart from China's enhanced military strength, is the fast developing Indian economy. India's average economic growth rate has reached 6% for 10 consecutive years. Goldman Sachs of the US predicts that in light of the present development rate, it is possible for India to become the world's third largest economic entity in 2050, following China and the US. What can also not be ignored is India's ambition for becoming a major power in Asia that plays an increasingly important role in world affairs. One has to only peruse the headlines of some Indian newspapers and other periodicals to know how keen India is to become a major player in international politics.

Japan hints at Asia axis with Delhi

India, Japan and China need to build a trilateral strategic axis for better co-ordination among themselves, ambassador Yasukuni Enoki said. The ambassador today made it clear that Tokyo regarded India as an emerging power in Asia all set to play a pivotal role in the world in the future. The new Japanese envoy, however, made it clear that the move had not formally taken off and much work had to be done before it took final shape. The issue had not been discussed with China and it could take some time to get off the ground.

India, Japan eye new axis

Supporting the idea of an Asian strategic triangle, Feng Zhaokui, a research fellow at the Japan Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, emphasizes that the three Asian giants together account for 20% of the world's gross domestic product. Situated at different levels of development, they enjoy economic complementarity. He cites demographics to buttress his contention. Japan's population has already aged, while the Chinese population, too, will begin to get older by the next decade. By 2020, Feng notes, India will have the largest working and consuming population in the world.

India, Japan eye new axis

The Indian foreign policy establishment is still at a loss to fully understand the whys and wherefores of the Japanese ambassador's suggestion earlier this year for an India-China-Japan trilateral axis, and its noticeable welcome in the official Chinese media. Why Japan would want China to be included in a new axis with India is still not fully understood in New Delhi. While making the suggestion, Japanese ambassador Yasukoni Enoki said it "had been discussed informally with the Indian side and will help India correct its positioning in Japan's diplomacy".

In the sphere of politics, many Japanese who monitor international politics consider India an important strategic ally or a potential ally. To them it is not India per se that is important; rather, it is the balancing role that India can play given Japan's problematic relations with China that is important.

The new United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi is considering this possibility quite seriously, particularly in the context of the diminishing influence of the United States in the region following the mess it has made of its "war on terrorism" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the widely felt need to counter-balance America's global hegemony.

Also, it is a measure of how far Asia's economic integration has already advanced, Indians argue, that China has become Japan's largest foreign market, replacing the US. Greater China, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, is India's third largest-trading partner after the US and the European Union.

China-Japan-India axis strategy

China, Japan and India are all big countries each with a population exceeding a hundred million. Their GDPs are $1.4 trillion, $4.3 trillion and $0.5 trillion respectively. India's GDP, calculated according to purchasing power parity (PPP), is next only to Japan and China in Asia. For this reason the three countries can be called the three "Giants" in Asia. If the three giants can strengthen their strategic cooperation, it is not only conducive to their own development but also to the rejuvenation of Asia.

The total GDP of China, Japan and India tops $6 trillion, accounting for around 20 percent of the world total GDP. The per-capita GDPs of the three countries are quite different, which means China, Japan and India will constitute the largest multi-level market in the world. China and India are much larger than Japan in terms of population and territory. Japan has a labor force of higher quality than those of China and India. The quality of labor force in China is generally higher than that of India. But the problem of a small and aging [Japanese] population is very prominent. China also will face the problem of an aging population in the not distant future.

The population structure of India is relatively young. It is estimated that the population aged between 15 and 59 will make up 47 percent (35 percent for now) of the total population by 2020. By then India will be a country with the largest working population and the biggest number of consumers in the world. This may become a very important reason for the possibility of India's economy to maintain a fairly fast growth in the future.

[And why they are so anxious for American firms to move jobs there - ed.]

The above analysis shows that the three countries have very great potential for economic cooperation. Japan's advantages in capital and technology are of great importance to the development of China and India. However, compared with Sino-Japanese trade volume of more than $130 billion in 2003, the volume of trade between China and India was only $7.6 billion in the same year. The room for the development of Sino-Indian trade is still enormous.

In terms of informationization China, Japan and S. Korea have started active exchange and cooperation in the areas of Linux, IPV6 technology and its standardization and 4G mobile communications. In the future, it's worth considering that India, an internationally recognized information industry giant, should be drawn in and information cooperation among China, Japan and the ROK should be widened to cover India and thus make the three-nation cooperation into four-nation cooperation.

It now lies on all levels of diplomatic interaction by India to ride the favourable winds of change in Asian international politics and seize the opportunity to strengthen political, economic, business and cultural ties with Japan. Especially in the area of business, our commercial ambassadors must highlight our advantages as outlined above to broader segments of Japanese business, including those heading small and medium scale enterprises.

Moving into the realm of business, and again within the context of China, India is perceived to be the better partner for four main reasons. First, business communication in India is in English, an international language. Even though the Japanese themselves are not great speakers of the language, they are more familiar with it than Chinese, irrespective of the Chinese characters that their written language has borrowed. Secondly, India has an independent judiciary. Third, India accepts capitalism (irrespective of the swadeshi debate) ideologically and socially. Most important for business is that few Japanese have succeeded with their investments in mainland China. For India, the Maruti Udyog Limited can be used as a highlight of long-term success (the Department of Industries would do well to keep this in mind, despite Maruti's current state).

Currently, the relations among China, Japan and India are generally good. Admittedly there are some problems and frictions, which exactly indicate that the three countries should seek for a new transcending platform to improve their respective bilateral relations through developing multilateral cooperation.

India, Japan eye new axis

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi visited New Delhi for the second time in two years. An official release said both sides agreed that there was vast, untapped potential for close bilateral relations. Kawaguchi also informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the two sides had agreed they would extend mutual support to each other for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

Indian mandarins feel that the Japanese proposal is a response to its view of the likely changes in the future standing of different countries on the world stage. An earlier proposal from Moscow for developing a Russia-India-China axis had a similar meaning. The fact that China welcomed the Russian proposal and is by and large not averse to the Japanese idea either means that Beijing agrees with the Russian and now Japanese assessment of what the future world scene is going to look like.

Japan is already trying to play a larger role on the international stage by crafting a multilateral resolution of the Iraq crisis. It sent troops to Iraq despite its self-imposed post-World War II rule never to deploy its military on foreign soil in order to remain in the good graces of today's sole superpower.

Above all, the Japanese proposal reflects the famed Japanese penchant for pragmatism. It is now trying to develop close ties with China and India to face the challenges of a multipolar world scenario in which its Asian neighbors are likely to play important roles and the US influence is diminished. The declaration by both countries at the end of Kawaguchi's visit that they will support each other's candidature for the United Nations Security Council "to enhance the effectiveness and credibility" of the UN is being seen in this context.

China-Japan-India axis strategy

Traffic security at sea will become an outstanding question in China-Japan-India strategic cooperation. It is already an established fact that China and Japan depend heavily on Mideast oil. The Indian Ocean is a conveyor connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean for the traffic and transportation of oil. It has been agreed by many Western strategists in history that "five keys lock up the world", among which the Indian Ocean gets hold of three - the Suez Canal, the Malacca Strait and the Cape of Good Hope. India projects out into more than 1,600 kilometers of the Indian Ocean occupying an important strategic guarding position of the Indian Ocean.

China, Japan and India each lay great emphasis on the importance of relations with the United States. In the meantime they should attach great importance to the mutual relations with one another rather than letting oneself become a pawn of a superpower outside Asia in containing one of the countries within the region. This is of particular importance in the case of Japan-US military alliance that shouldn't have the intent of targeting China. China, Japan and India each pay attention to developing relations with ASEAN; all want to establish a free trade area with ASEAN. In dealing with the relations with ASEAN, the three countries should build up a virtuous and healthy competitive relations while at the same time enhance and strengthen their sense of urgency in cooperation among China, Japan and India.

India, Japan eye new axis

Already Japan and India recognize China's growing military strength. Indian and Japanese media published in succession two reports on the subject recently. An evaluation report by the Secretariat of the Indian National Security Committee asserts that China's military strength ranks second in the world next only to the US. The report was compiled by a research group led by Professor Satish Kumar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Ranking 50 countries on the basis of five main indices, namely, national defense capacity, gross national product, human developmental level, research developmental level and population index, it put the top ones in the following order: the US, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Russia, Germany, India, France, Britain and Israel.

Similarly, an article in a Japanese newspaper, World Daily, based on similar research, said that China's military strength will run parallel to that of the US by 2015. A recent article in the Chinese newspaper People's Daily quotes at length Japanese military commentator Kyudai Nineo's paper entitled Making Preparation for US-China New Cold War Structure and seeks to understand the Japanese view of the future world scenario.

In this view, the US-China relationship can take three possible turns by 2015. First, a US-China confrontation (entry into a war state); second, formation of a Cold War structure; third, formation of an alliance relationship. Of these three possibilities, the likelihood of the "formation of a Cold War structure" is the greatest and the possibility for the "formation of alliance" is the smallest.

As in the US-Soviet Union ties during the Cold War, America and China, which possess powerful military strengths in the Asia-Pacific region, will, while retaining their mutually restrictive global strategic relationship, continue to maintain their mutually confronting military strengths and their interdependent economic relationship.

The conclusion is that no matter how the US-China relationship develops in a decade from now, the US ally Japan will have to be involved in it. Hence the need for Japan to be prepared to face an uncertain future.

After World War II, China has continued to grow militarily; Japan has sheltered mainly under the American nuclear umbrella. China remains a military threat not only because of its current might but also because of its historical designs. At the same time, Chinas threat to India is also recognised by the Japanese who are aware of the Chinese occupation of Tibet and other incursions in India's North-east.

Influential Japanese with a broader perspective of international politics recognise that India lost its own nuclear umbrella when the Soviet Union begun to dismantle and are pragmatic enough to understand India's need for ICBMs. While few Japanese opinion leaders would support in public India's decision to conduct nuclear tests, many are now pragmatic enough to recognise India's security requirements.

The People's Daily analyst mentions the general view of Western countries that China, Japan and India are the three Asian countries where "conditions for being big powers are most available". That being so, there is no reason why they should not come together and counter the hegemony of the one superpower in the world.

Being in the middle of this trio, China has had territorial and other disputes with both India and Japan. Japan and India carry no such historical baggage. Japan probably feels that India can play a stabilizing role in its relationship with China. Perhaps China, too, feels the same way. Hence the need for and viability of a trilateral axis.

The Asian security alliance merry-go-round

Relations between India and Japan have come a long way since Japan withdrew its ambassador in protest against India's 1998 nuclear tests. In 2003 India overtook China to become the largest recipient of Japan's soft loans. Last month, Japan's ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki suggested that India, China and Japan can form an 'Asian Axis' - a curious choice of words - that can effectively take the form of an Asian security alliance. While some countries have expressed reservations over what such an alliance could mean for smaller Asian countries, the idea seems to have received some favourable attention in China.

Among China, Japan and India there shouldn't be the kind of thinking of "pulling another over to one's side so as to contain the other" or joining hands with a superpower in regions outside Asia to contain or even encircle one of the three countries. China, Japan and India each lay great emphasis on the importance of relations with the United States. In the meantime they should attach great importance to the mutual relations with one another rather than letting oneself become a pawn of a superpower outside Asia in containing one of the countries within the region. This is of particular importance in the case of Japan-US military alliance that shouldn't have the intent of targeting China [People's Daily]

The United States has also mooted an Asian NATO in partnership with India and its other allies, but the prospects of this received a setback when it declared Pakistan a major non-NATO ally. If continued American patronage of Musharraf works against India's interests in Kashmir, India will not easily be convinced into entering any strategic alliance with the United States at all.

The broad strategic landscape in Asia is still in a state of flux. India has a greater convergence of interests with the United States and to a lesser extent with Japan. But it will be unwise for India to reject a closer strategic relationship with neighbouring China as bilateral trade surges and border disputes recede into the background. At least in the near future, India's growing economy will increasingly engage with China as competitive partner rather than fear it as a threatening rival.

India, Japan eye new axis

Supporters of the trilateral axis in all the three countries are united on one point. The notion of axis should not be understood in its traditional negative sense. The grouping being proposed is not meant to confront any country or alliance, and certainly not the US. In fact, all three are seeking to improve relations with Washington. It is simply an interesting idea at the moment designed to bring the three countries together for mutual benefit. Indeed, while proposing the axis, Japanese ambassador Yasukoni Enoki described it as "important for Asia's stability and prosperity". The Japanese Embassy in New Delhi has hastened to clarify that all that Enoki meant was simply this: formalized cooperation and consultation between the three nations makes eminent political sense.

While the Indian government is seriously considering this initiative, there is a lot of resistance to the idea as well. By and large India's strategic community feels more comfortable with India developing close strategic ties with the US and Israel. Many are particularly opposed to closer ties with China, at least until China vacates thousands of square kilometers of Indian land it captured in the 1962 war. While India and China are discussing their border disputes in earnest, a resolution of the complex issues involved is not expected any time soon. But the strategic community, particularly the strong pro-American lobby, lays greater emphasis on past disputes and their assessment of the inimical intentions of China. So while many strategic thinkers have no problem with India developing closer ties with US ally Japan, they have serious reservations about the idea of a trilateral axis which includes China.

Japan hints at Asia axis with Delhi

Ambassador Enoki went out of his way to praise India’s new image as a responsible power that has announced a moratorium on nuclear tests and had so far stringently ensured a non-proliferation regime. "It is so unlike Pakistan, which has not been as particular," the envoy said. But he stopped short of blaming President Pervez Musharraf’s government. "We still do not have any information whether Pakistan as a government was involved in passing nuclear technology to North Korea, or whether it was the work of individuals. We cannot say anything till there is conclusive proof," the ambassador explained.

The Asian security alliance merry-go-round

Meanwhile Pakistan is going all out to enter the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and has successfully lobbied such minnows as Laos and Cambodia to support its candidature. Jamali has managed to extract some promises of support from Thailand, but most Asean nations have yet get comfortable with the idea that Pakistan will not use ARF as yet another forum to raise the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan is also looking into other alliances - and with China.

China and Pakistan have held joint anti-terror military exercises in China's predominantly Muslim northwestern region. Chinese state media said more than 200 Chinese and Pakistani soldiers participated in the exercises in China's Xinjiang region, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the first land-based military exercise the two allies have held, and followed joint naval exercises last October. Chinese state media say the exercises were aimed at improving both armies' anti-terror capability and "to contain and crack down" on separatism, extremism and terrorism.

However, Li Nan, an expert on China's security at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, says Beijing is less concerned about terrorism than about the growing U.S influence around its borders. Mr. Li says the United States' war on terrorism has allowed Washington to expand its influence in South and Central Asia. The U.S. military has thousands of troops in Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida and Taleban militants. At the same time, Washington has a strong relationship with Islamabad.

Mr. Li says the exercises were aimed at keeping China's long-time ally, Islamabad, within its own circle of influence. "For China, the central concern is to mitigate the U.S. influence in the region. You need to improve relations with a traditional ally," he says. "If the U.S. could exploit counterterrorism to promote its strategic interest, why can't China ?"

China has backed the U.S. war on terror, but human rights groups have accused China of suppressing the restive Uighur population of Xinjiang, a Muslim minority group, under the guise of the international campaign. Mr. Li says China has been successful in containing Uighur separatism, by financing economic development in the northwest and through agreements with its Central Asian neighbors. "It's difficult for these groups to become highly proactive in their activities. They can't find safe haven across the border, or within the border."

China's military exercises with Pakistan came as Beijing is trying to improve relations with Pakistan's rival, India. A border dispute between China and India led to a brief war in the early 1960s, and the two are currently in talks aimed at settling the dispute.

China and India aren't the only Asian neighbors seeking to end a serious dispute:

Pakistan's trade expansion with India

Should major political disputes between India and Pakistan be resolved or be well on their way to a solution before initiating full scale trade exchanges and larger economic cooperation between them? However, the presidents of Pakistan and India, in their independence day exchanges of greetings, have expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the comprehensive talks so far. Both sides now appear to be anxious to be flexible in their approach to the disputes. The promise to do better in the next round. And there is consistency in that positive approach despite pessimistic noises here and there.

Pakistan, frustrated by earlier deadlocks, insists on at least sustained and promising dialogue between them on the political issues, particularly the 57-year-old Kashmir dispute, before serious efforts for comprehensive cooperation begin.

India, on the other hand, argues that economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts will pave the way for an eventual settlement of the political disputes.

The Indian commerce secretary Deepak Chatterjee came to Islamabad last week to seek economic cooperation in 24 new areas, which go far beyond trade. They can be considered seriously by Pakistan if the political dialogue makes a headway. There are too many examples in the modern world of economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between political rivals or antagonistic states leading eventually to a political settlement.

A classical example of economic cooperation and cultural exchanges overriding ideological differences and political disputes was seen in the relationship between the Soviet Union and the US and the West as a whole. They traded with each other amply despite their cold war rhetoric. Later, the same pattern was witnessed in the relations between China and the US and other western countries.

Currently, we have in Asia the example of China and India putting aside their major territorial dispute and promoting increasing economic and political cooperation and even having joint military exercises.

Meanwhile, the areas where the two nuclear armed neighbours have to cooperate have been increasing, and they now include the fight against terrorism, combating the spread of drugs and more confidence-building measures in respect of nuclear arms. The Indian defence minister Pranad Mukherjee says the security concerns of the two countries have increased far more than they were in 1947 and hence the urgency for comprehensive cooperation between them.

What India seeks is deep economic cooperation between the two countries which includes joint enterprises and mutual trade in the capital market. Pakistan is agreeable to such proposals in principle but wants the two countries to make simultaneous headway in the solution of the political disputes, particularly in respect of Kashmir. But India does not want to be bound down by a time-frame or stipulation of simultaneous progress in all the areas.

What is obvious is that war is no option for the nuclear armed neighbours. But real peace with a stable base is far away, although both sides want it but on their own terms. But the alternative to formal trade between them is large scale smuggling at a time when the need for cooperation between the neighbours has been increasing, particularly in the deadly area of combating terror. Hence the leaders on both sides keep an optimistic face and do not want to disappoint their people even if there is no real headway in the negotiations. The people expect of their leaders to triumph over their difficulties or overcome their obstacles with tact, tenacity and farsight.

The United States is maybe going to lose close ties with yet another ally in the East - Australia. Their leaders are looking at the future with an eye toward keeping both sides happy. But, pragmatism is advised, say the Chinese:

Great call of China

As China's economic and political influence steadily becomes more pervasive throughout the region, managing the Canberra-Beijing-Washington axis will become our biggest foreign policy challenge, leading Asian analysts say.

China is now the gatekeeper for future Australian membership of East Asian political forums. That was the implicit message spelled out at yesterday's Asialink forum on Australia's relations with the region by one of China's leading academics, Zhang Yunling.

Zhang, director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warns that Australia cannot become a paid-up member of Asian regional dialogues while it has "two feet" in Washington's camp. Building new regional institutions will require closer relations between China and Japan and a "more balanced" relationship between East Asia and the US, Zhang says. "On this point, hopefully we will find a way, if possible, that Australia is on Asia's side rather than the [US]". Australia's long-term national interest will be better served by charting a more independent foreign policy course, he says. Australia needs to change its image, he concludes, and just play the role of "deputy to the US". China can accept the reality of Canberra's long-term alliance with Washington providing that it has a "foot on each side". As a middle power playing a positive role in the region, Australia should play a more independent role. This is the best long-term choice for Australia's national security, he argues.

John Howard told the forum that the "great canard" levelled at the Government is that deepening ties with Washington has come at the cost of closer ties with Asia. "This charge proceeds on a false assumption -- the false assumption that there is some inevitable zero-sum game where closer relations with the United States are inimical to improved relations in the region," the Prime Minister says. Howard says one of Australia's great foreign policy successes has been the ability to deepen the US alliance and, at the same time, continue to build a close relationship with China. "That achievement was symbolised last year in the national parliament when on successive days the House of Representatives and the Senate were addressed by the President of the United States and the President of China." Howard says it is Canberra's aim to see "calm and constructive" dialogue between the US and China.

Zhang says that understanding the rise of China is a big challenge for all of us. You can't just measure China's growth in terms of gross domestic product. "We have now suddenly realised China is a big factor to influence everything. There will be problems and we will need help from others to manage our economy." There is an emerging sense of East Asian identity with the ASEAN Plus-Three (China, Japan and Korea) meetings as well as the idea of an East Asian summit dialogue. "Sometimes people say we should encourage Australia to join," Zhang says. "Some disagree. From Australia itself we see a debate whether you are an Asian country or a partner with Asia. Australia from a Chinese perspective is not an Asian country. It's a Western country but close to Asia ... a special neighbour."

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says that China is emerging as one of the greatest change drivers affecting the future economic and strategic shape of East Asia. A pivotal challenge for regional policy-makers is the task of maintaining a constructive relationship between China and the US. "The one pivotal black spot on this developing relationship is continuing disagreement over Taiwan," he says.

Zhang agrees that the most dangerous factor affecting East Asia's security is Taiwan. For China, Taiwan is an emotional and sentimental issue.

Zhang also delivered a stark warning: China is seriously preparing for a "real war" with Taiwan. "Certainly China does not want a war. But at the moment China is seriously preparing for a real war." China's worries about Taiwan are based on two judgments: the independence trend on the island and increasing US military co-operation with Taiwan. The Chinese people cannot go on accepting a steady move by Taiwan towards independence, he explains.

China, he says, believes there is a danger of a divided region in terms of the evolving security architecture in East Asia. There has been a lot of discussion since the end of the Cold War but now there is a different trend, with a US-led alliance group separate from the other players, Zhang says. "The task: how to create a regional security architecture that has China and ASEAN in it. That's an unresolved question. If we follow the current US-led alliance group, the region will be divided and there will be a lot of dangers."

Rudd says there is a danger that the regional political architecture developing in East Asia can occur without Australia's participation. "This is a profound and deep challenge for Australian diplomacy," he says. "I do not confess that is is easy. Recent changes in the political leadership in parts of the region will assist the process. But it must be in the top three diplomatic priorities of any incoming government for Australia."

Rudd promises a Labor government will develop a far more comprehensive relationship with Asia's other emerging giant, India. The Department of Foreign Affairs will establish an India division to inject greater political ballast into the relationship. One of India's most senior newspaper editors, Narasimhan Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, told the forum that Australia has placed itself on the wrong side of the Iraq issue. "This has to be followed through," Ram says. "Australia has really painted itself into the wrong corner in the perception of many of us in this region."

It isn't just in Asia that Uncle Sam gets the back of the hand. La Belle Europa, still smarting at the crass insult of being called 'Old' by Bu$h, has some independence plans of her own.

A degree in bullying and self-interest? No thanks
The decline of American studies reveals our increasing dislike of the US

Until recently, American studies departments sprang up everywhere. But no longer. Due to lack of demand, five universities have closed American studies departments while others have cut staff. Professor Ian Bell at Keele says: "Students don't want to be branded by doing American studies. They still want to do American modules as part of English or history but, after Bush, they shy away from being labelled as pro-American - not after the obscenity of Iraq."

It's only a straw in the wind: student choices are notoriously fickle. But it fits the picture of a groundswell of anti-American feeling. Where in the world could you walk down the street and not collect overwhelmingly negative vox pops on Bush's America and its global impact?

That is not necessarily the same as anti-Americanism. The Bushites in their daily, foul-mouthed email assaults on Guardian writers try to portray current anti-American sentiment as racist, akin to anti-semitic. They dismiss anti-Bush disgust in developing countries as envy and as ignorant support for terror. They try to pretend "old" Europe is just effetely snobbish about the Ugly Americans.

How much wider the Atlantic has grown under Bush. A Mori poll for the German Marshall Fund examined European attitudes towards America. It found massive condemnation of US Middle East policy (among the British just as strongly) and equally strong opprobrium for US policies on global warming and nuclear proliferation.

Most Europeans - the British too - want the European Union to become a superpower to match the US, with a strong leadership in world affairs. (Americans said they wanted to be the only superpower.) Yet there was also surprisingly strong support among two-thirds of Europeans for strengthening Nato - even in France.

However, President Bush's election pledge this week to withdraw 70,000 troops from Germany and Korea may bring an abrupt end to Europe's old doublethink on Nato. If the troops go, it may force Europe to confront the hypocrisy of detesting America while relying on it to provide the defence European nations refuse to pay for.

The Bushite emailers are justified in sneering, "We pulled your sorry asses out of two world wars" (the printable version), and it's just as well Fox News hasn't covered celebrations in Paris this week that pretend France liberated itself, with never a mention of Europe's American saviours.

The world waits on the US elections with particular trepidation this time. The fall of the Berlin wall was a great opportunity missed for America the victor to become the global force for good it thinks it is. The fall of the twin towers was a chance to reclaim that lost global respect, but in every action Bush has swelled the ranks of those who cheered in the streets when it happened.

If a Bush victory brings a major withdrawal from Europe, it should prod the EU into coordinating its defence capability, without having to beg the US for a transport plane to mount every tiny border peacekeeping operation in Macedonia. If the EU starts to put its still considerable defence spending to better collective use, Bush won't like it: his ministers protested when Blair and Chirac began the task.

If Bush wins it may galvanise Europe into a stronger sense of what it must do in response. Forget Blair's phantom "bridge" across the Atlantic, and start building across the Channel. (Sadly there has been no growth in university applications to read European studies or languages.)

A Kerry win might still do much to heal the rift, just by showing America publicly renouncing Bush and all his works. Peering into Kerry's muddy campaign messages, it is unclear whether the man can be far-sighted, brave and decisive. On Nato troops, for example, he first said he would consider withdrawing them, then said it was a mistake, then that it should be done but more slowly.

The insane necessities of a presidential campaign make it impossible to know what manner of president will emerge at the end, but if Kerry does indeed make it his mission to repair America's global standing, he will have a brief window of global goodwill in which to try his best.

But opinion polls make it clear that people are well able to separate their feelings about Americans from the politicians and policies now occupying the White House: 81% of the British say, "I like the Americans as people", according to Mori, but only 19% admire American society. They overwhelmingly reject the proposition "We would be better off if we were more like the Americans in many respects" - the view of the right and of younger Tories infatuated with US neo-conservatism.

Last year's BBC/ICM poll, taken in a string of countries across the continents, found only Israel in support of Bush - with Canada, Australia and Korea least unfavourable, but still with a majority against. ICM's poll reveals a world that thinks America arrogant, less cultured, a worse place to live than their own countries and a threat to world peace. Is that hatred now irreversibly hardwired?

The underlying picture of attitudes towards America suggests a miasma of confusion and deep emotion: the idea of America is woven deep into the universal imagination. When prompted, the world can also admit to seeing the US as that beacon of liberty and opportunity that Americans dream themselves to be.

Hardly a child born can avoid drinking in the great American myth from those Disney realms where the simple, humble and virtuous win through every time against the rich, corrupt and greedy. How is that self-image squared with the monster the world perceives? The old Hollywood morality tales from Shane and It's a Wonderful Life still spin out into Spiderman or I, Robot, celebrating the little guy who beats the monster corporation. Homespun American goodness warring with the cruelties of raw capitalism is the dominant Hollywood theme, yet little of this culture enters the US political bloodstream.

Between the American ideal and the American reality falls the longest shadow. Discuss. It's well worth more study. If John Kerry wins and sets about repairing the damage Bush has done, it may get American studies flourishing again - and stem the global tide of anti-Americanism.

Which would you prefer to be the motto of your nation - 'We want to be a part of the world community' or "You're either with us or you're against us"?

It's either the 'Lady' or the "Tiger" - so choose wisely.

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