Friday, February 26, 2016

Martin Jacques explains UK's pivot to China

This article was first published in Asia Ti Asia Times top writer George Koo recently interviewed Martin Jacques, the author of the global bestseller, “When China Rules the World.” The British journalist and scholar was a guest speaker at a Feb. 18 forum in Palo Alto, Calif. hosted by the Committee of 100 and the Commonwealth Club. (Hear the audio cast here.) The topic was “Why the UK sees China as a friend and the US doesn’t.” Koo moderated and afterwards spoke with Jacques in an exclusive interview for Asia Times.
China coverKoo: The UK and China both claim that their relationship has entered a golden era. Why do they say this? What does it mean?
Jacques: Hitherto the relationship between the UK and China has not been particularly positive. Until very recently, the UK has consistently emphasized the negative aspects of China, such as human rights and lack of democracy, as much as the positive. The new relationship between the two countries represents a big shift. The UK now views China as overwhelmingly positive. It sees China’s rise as crucial to its own future. It is seeking a comprehensive engagement with China and it perceives this as central to the UK’s economic future.
The Chinese welcome the UK shift; they are pragmatic and don’t allow the past to stand in the way. The fact that Britain has been America’s closest ally for over 60 years makes the new relationship with Britain an even bigger prize.
Koo: You have indicated that the UK approach to China was a recent decision made by the Cameron government. Can you tell us how this came about?
Jacques: In 2012, Cameron had a public meeting with the Dalai Lama. In response, Beijing put the relationship with Britain into the deep freeze. It would appear to have been a salutary experience. When normal relations were resumed, the British moved quickly and boldly to reassure China of their good intent and their desire to develop a different kind of relationship. The British had used their period in the deep freeze wisely: they no longer saw the world in such an overwhelmingly western-centric way, but came to the view that China was crucial to both the UK’s future and that of the world.
Koo: Recently, you gave a talk to the British government about the UK’s pivot to China and what it means for the future. Are there a lot of people in the UK that do not understand the nature and reason for the new relationship with China?
Jacques: It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the UK’s new attitude towards China represents a sea change. It goes against the grain of the bulk of previous conventional wisdom. Many in political circles and in the media are still singing from the old hymn sheet, emphasizing the negative over the positive.
Koo: The UK joined the AIIB against the wishes of the United States. Why? What does this tell us about the UK’s relationship with China and its relationship with the US?
Jacques: The US opposed the formation of the AIIB essentially because it saw the bank as a threat to the existing US global economic order and its institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. The UK has a different view. It saw the AIIB as an institution that could help meet the vast infrastructural needs in Asia. In addition, the UK government saw joining AIIB as a way of demonstrating to China, and the rest of the world, its new embrace of China. I don’t think we should anticipate any fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with the United States except that Britain has now shown a willingness to act independently of the US and even go against its wishes. That is new.
Koo: Did the US make a serious error in not joining the AIIB? Why didn’t it? Should it have done so?
Jacques: Without doubt the US made a serious error. The British decision to join demonstrated this mistake very clearly. After the British made the announcement, 24 other countries, including important European countries like Germany and France, applied to join the AIIB making a total of 57 rather than the previous 22 members. Presently, 30 other nations have applied and are on the wait list to join. That would make almost 90. The US succeeded in isolating itself with only Japan as its friend.
Koo: How do you explain the two different points of view?
Jacques: The US is the global hegemon. The present global order was designed by America and is essentially run by America. It is extremely anxious to preserve its global dominance. It regards China to be a threat to this. The UK is in a very different position; it long ago ceased to be a global hegemon. It therefore has no interest of this kind to defend. Its preoccupation is how to enhance and promote the economic fortunes of the UK. And it sees China as crucial to this.
Koo: According to the US, China has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars of intellectual property, costing the US millions of jobs. To what extent is Britain concerned about the theft of IP by China?
Jacques: Personally, I think these claims are greatly exaggerated. They belong more to the sphere of propaganda than reality. In comparison, the UK has so far been relatively unconcerned about this issue. Certainly it has made nothing like the same kind of fuss.
In this context it should be noted that while the US has been hostile to Huawei, the British attitude has been to encourage Huawei to invest on a large scale in UK, which is exactly what Huawei is doing.
Author Martin Jacques with his book "When China Rules the World"
Author Martin Jacques with his book “When China Rules the World”
Koo: The Cameron government faces the conundrum of whether or not to remain in the EU, promising to hold a national referendum on June 23. To what extent is this knotty issue influencing the UK’s policy towards China?
Jacques: The present British government believes the UK should remain in the EU. Bear in mind that two key players in the EU, Germany and France, share Britain’s new attitude towards China. China, like the US, strongly supports the UK remaining a member of the EU.
Koo: The US has always believed that other countries should adopt its democratic principles and values. But China comes from a profoundly different history and culture. Will it always be very different? Can the US accept that China will always be different?
Jacques: It will be very difficult for the US to accept that China is, and always will be, profoundly different from the US. The US believes that every country in the world should be like the US. This kind of missionary mentality is part of America’s DNA. But China isn’t and never will. It is impossible. If the US fails to accept this reality, then the future of China-US relations and world peace will be very bleak. But the US can come to a new attitude. Henry Kissinger, for example, has long accepted and argued that, for historical and cultural reasons, China will always be very different.
Koo: Is it inevitable, with the rise of China, that US-China relations will progressively deteriorate and acquire ‘cold war’ characteristics? What does history tell us about rising and declining powers?
Jacques: In my view, the main reason for the recent deterioration in the bilateral relationship is that with China’s continuing rise, the US has come to regard China as a growing threat to its own global preeminence. This does not mean it is inevitable that this process of deterioration will continue, leading to a new cold war and even open conflict. But the US will increasingly need to accept that its relationship with China must be one of parity rather than primacy. It is historically not true that a rising and a declining power inevitably leads to war; a classic exception to Thucydides Trap was the relationship between a rising US and a declining UK after 1945. The UK came to accept that it could not compete with the US and instead chose what we have come to know as the “special relationship.”
Koo: How serious are the present difficulties afflicting the Chinese economy? What are the chances of them getting much worse? What are the prospects for the Chinese economy, short and long term?
Jacques: China is facing a great economic challenge. Since 1978, its economy has been based on the Deng model of rapid economic growth, exports, high levels of investment, and cheap labor. Now this model is no longer sustainable. China is trying to shift to a new kind of economic model based on domestic consumption, a much larger service sector, and much higher productivity of both capital and labor. There are no guarantees that this transition will succeed. There are likely to be many mistakes along the way. It will be bumpy ride. But I have confidence that in the long term China will succeed.
Koo: Does the pivot to China reflect a break in the alliance with the US?
Jacques: The UK’s pivot towards China shows that its attitude regarding China is different from that of the US. This is the most important public disagreement between the two countries since 1956 (the Suez crisis). This does not mean that the intimate relationship between the US and UK is coming to an end. This is extremely unlikely. But it does suggest that the UK is willing to consider its future in a rather more independent way with regard to the US than it has hitherto since 1945.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Peter Liang is Unlucky to be an Asian New York Cop

This piece was first posted on Asia Times.

The American scale of justice is tilted not only against black Americans but also against Asian Americans. The conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang once again demonstrates that a white officer could shoot a black man in the back and not pay a price, but if an Asian officer’s ricochet bullet accidentally kills a black bystander, he faces a potential prison stay of 15 years.
Peter Liang arriving at Brookyn Supreme Court on day of conviction.
Peter Liang arriving at Brooklyn Supreme Court on day of conviction.
Unfortunately for Liang, the presiding judge, Danny K. Chun, who will be pronouncing his sentence in April is also an Asian American. Whereas a white judge or a black judge might enjoy the independence to rule, based on the merits and circumstances, the Asian judge may feel compelled to levy a harsh sentence so that he can’t be accused of being soft on another Asian; in other words not being guilty of reverse racial prejudice.
Photo of Akai Gurley and Brooklyn housing project where he was shot.
Photo of Akai Gurley and Brooklyn housing project where he was shot.
According to the reports in the ethnic press, the basis for Liang’s conviction was that he should not have had his finger on the trigger. Without the finger on the trigger, his gun would not have discharged. He and his partner officer were in the dark stairwell of a notorious housing project and they did not know that Akai Gurley, an unarmed African American man, was on the stairs.
Thanks to a compilation by the New York Times (fatal police encounters), there is a history of police shootings of unarmed black men in New York City and how these cases were disposed of could serve as a guide for Judge Chun as he weighs the circumstances in arriving at an appropriate sentence in Liang’s case.
Teenager Nicholas Heyward, only 13, was holding a toy rifle when Officer Brian George fatally shot him. The Brooklyn district attorney did not even present the case to a grand jury because the toy gun was at fault for appearing overly authentic.
Akai Gurley's aunt speaks to a crowd outside the NYPD's headquarters on Friday after the conviction of officer Peter Liang.
Akai Gurley’s aunt speaks to a crowd outside the NYPD’s headquarters on Friday after the conviction of officer Peter Liang.
Amadou Diallo was a 22-year old immigrant from Guinea, who was shot by four officers at his apartment building in Bronx. The officers thought he had a gun and fired 41 times at him. The four white officers were acquitted of 2nd degree murder and other charges.
Patrick Dorismond then 26 was an unarmed black security guard shot dead by an undercover narcotics detective, Anthony Vasquez. The grand jury decided not to file criminal charges against the detective because the shooting was not intentional.
Ousmane Zongo then 43 had the misfortune of looking very black and in the Chelsea warehouse when the police staged a raid trying to catch CD counterfeiters. He was shot and killed by a white officer who was convicted at the second trial and the judge sentenced him to probation on the grounds that he was poorly trained and supervised by the Police Department.
Another teenager Timothy Stansbury, then 19, was in a hurry to attend a party and took a rooftop short cut. The white officer patrolling the roof shot him dead and the grand jury declined to indict the officer. He was suspended without pay for 30 days by the NYPD.
Sean Bell then 23 sat in a car on his wedding day with two others. Five detectives fired 50 times into the car killing Bell. After a nonjury trial, the judge found the detectives not guilty of all charges.
The most recent case that caught national attention was Eric Garner, then 43, who died in custody due to the chokehold the white officer used on him, a hold banned by the NYPD for more than 20 years. The grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the officer. Garner’s death happened just four months before Gurley’s shooting.
Killer cop protest poster focusing on Liang
Killer cop protest poster focusing on Liang
In every case, the victim was black and the officer was white. Even though the officers involved did not go to jail, the City of New York must have felt some responsibility and paid monetary compensation to all the victims’ family in the order of millions of dollars.
If Judge Chun needs any precedents to guide his sentencing, the above-mentioned cases should offer plenty. Liang was inexperienced and poorly trained. He was scared and his gun went off by accident. Hitting Gurley was strictly unintentional. Action in the line of duty has never been a cause for criminal conviction — at least that has been the case for cops that weren’t of Asian ancestry. The judge has ample justification for sentencing Liang to probation, but will he?
Unfortunately for Liang, tipping the other side of the scale of justice is the “Black Lives Matter” movement. This is a nationwide movement born out of an accumulation of white police brutality against young black men. The anger is directed against the white police forces in this country.
As Frank Wu, former dean of Hastings Law School, pointed out in the Huffington Post, Asians along with Latinos and Blacks are on the same side of the racial divide not on opposite sides. The injustice is white vs. all the colored minorities. Liang is unlucky to become a cause celebre just when the emotional cauldron is at full boil.