At the start of the twentieth century, Britain, the superpower of the time, was faced with a strategic dilemma: what to do about a newly unified and nationalist Germany, which was rising fast economically and building up its military. One school of thought held that Germany could be accommodated within the existing international system; the other argument was that it needed to be confronted and contained. The hawks won out. During the Boer War, London threatened to blockade the German coast if Berlin intervened in favor of the Dutch settlers in South Africa. There followed a big arms race, as Germany, which had already been strengthening its marine capabilities, rushed to catch up with the Royal Navy, and Britain responded by constructing the dreadnoughts, a deadly family of steam-powered battleships. In 1907, Britain joined France and Russia in an alliance—the Triple Entente—against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

We all know how the story ended: a devastating, continent-wide conflict that lasted more than four years, killed over nine million combatants, and facilitated the rise of Communism and Fascism. And one of the worst things about the First World War was that it could quite possibly have been avoided. Although the rise of Wilhelmine Germany represented a dangerous challenge to the balance of power in Europe, neither side wanted a full-scale confrontation. In 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, the European powers blundered into war because of decisions they had made, and commitments they had taken on, during the years of heightening rivalry.

The analogy between twentieth-century Germany and twenty-first-century China isn’t perfect, of course, and neither is the comparison of the British Empire to Pax Americana. But the likenesses are close enough to be discomforting, especially as President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet for a two-day summit in Southern California that begins on Friday. (Evan Osnos has more on the summit.) Like Wilhemine Germany, China combines a vibrant economy with an authoritarian political system. Its culture has nationalistic elements, and, partly through the vigorous pursuit of economic relationships, it is expanding its influence around the world.

To its credit, the Obama Administration recognized from the start that China’s ascent represents the central strategic challenge of our era, and that it—rather than an ill-defined “War on Terror”—ought to be the focus of U.S. foreign policy. During the President’s first term, his team launched a so-called “pivot” to Asia. Unfortunately, though, the way this policy has been presented, and provisionally enacted, has put the Administration on the wrong side of history. Rather than seek to accommodate China, and afford it the respect its remarkable transformation demands, the White House and the Pentagon have sometimes given the impression that they are trying to contain or stifle the Asian giant. And down that route lies great peril.

China, like Wilhelmine Germany, isn’t just a rising power; it is an insecure one. The country, with a history of being invaded and exploited by foreign powers—Britain and Japan, most notably—remains suspicious of outsiders, and its leaders, who owe their positions to a monolithic one-party system that has perished elsewhere, have particular reason to be wary. And insecurity can easily give rise to hostility—especially when the perception spreads that other countries are acting provocatively.

When the Chinese government sees the Pentagon sending more than half of the U.S. Navy’s fleet to the Pacific; dispatching hundreds—eventually thousands—of Marines to Darwin, in northern Australia; building up U.S. forces in South Korea; and returning, for the first time in twenty years, to Subic Bay, in the Philippines, it sees the potential for military encirclement. When it watches the U.S. government put together a free-trade agreement for the Pacific Rim that encompasses many of China’s neighbors, including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and now perhaps Japan, its historical rival and enemy, it sees an effort to exclude China. And when the Chinese see American officials, prosecutors, and newspapers accusing them of stealing trade secrets and technology from American corporations, they see a concerted effort to retard China’s industrial development.

To be sure, some of China’s concerns are overblown. An increased U.S. military presence in South Korea has more to do with developments in North Korea than sending a message to Beijing. The Pacific Rim trade agreement, which would greatly expand the existing Trans-Pacific Partnership, is still in the fledgling stage. And Chinese companies do often copy, purloin, or reverse engineer Western designs. For big American corporations that have a presence in China, which is most of them, it’s a widely acknowledged cost of doing business there. But doesn’t mean we can simply ignore or dismiss Chinese anxieties, some of which have a sound historical basis. The last thing the world needs is a resurgent and nationalist China that feels cornered or slighted.

We aren’t there yet, thank goodness, but the pivot to Asia (particularly its military aspect) hasn’t helped matters. As Robert S. Ross, a professor of political science at Boston College and an expert on China, puts it in a recent essay in Foreign Affairs: “The new U.S. policy unnecessarily compounds Beijing’s insecurities and will only feed China’s aggressiveness, undermine regional stability, and decrease the possibility of cooperation between Beijing and Washington.” Even some foreign-policy experts who support the Obama Administration’s policy concede this is a danger. “Although China has long harbored concerns and conspiracy theories about U.S. efforts to weaken and encircle China, these perceptions are becoming increasingly dominant in Beijing,” Ely Ratner, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who formerly served on the China desk at the State Department, writes in the Washington Quarterly. To prevent hostility toward the U.S. from rising, and to maintain support for its policies, “Washington will have to better explain the content and origin of the strategy” it is pursuing, Ratner writes.

At the summit, Obama will have an excellent opportunity to do just that. Xi Jinping, who is still fairly new to his job, will surely be all ears. According to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who met Xi in Beijing recently, the Chinese President is a down-to-earth fellow who speaks without notes and appears more open to discussion than his predecessor, Hu Jintao. But Xi’s primary concerns will be the same as Hu’s were: Is the United States looking to extend China a warm welcome to the superpower club, or is it seeking to keep the membership roster to one?

The true answer is that the Administration is trying to have it both ways, and so are the rest of us. To the extent that China’s renaissance provides us with cheap goods, powers the global economy, and lifts hundreds of millions of people out of grinding poverty, we welcome it. At the same time, we find its scope and pace disturbing, partly because it has been associated with authoritarianism and environmental degradation, and partly because we rather like the idea of the United States being the undisputed top dog.

In the long run, though, accommodation is the only practical option. China is too big and it’s growing too fast to be contained. By 2016, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Coöperation and Development, it will be the world’s biggest economy, and that is only the beginning. Despite a slight slowdown in recent months, China continues to invest heavily in the future. During the next couple of years alone, it is planning to build more than a hundred thousand miles of highways, fifty new airports, and more than five thousand miles of high-speed rail track.

What, then, should Obama do? Despite all the uproar about corporate espionage and hacking, the first thing on his to-do list should be reassuring the Chinese government, and the Chinese people, that the United States seeks coöperation rather than confrontation. As Ross wrote: “The right China policy would assuage, not exploit, Beijing’s anxieties, while protecting U.S. interests in the region.” That doesn’t mean ignoring examples of egregious behavior by Chinese, but it means dealing with them in the right setting. For example, complaints about intellectual property theft can be pursued through the World Trade Organization, which China joined more than a decade ago.

History demonstrates that economic strength eventually brings with it military and diplomatic clout. According to a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute, which the Financial Times cited Wednesday, the Chinese economic transformation is happening at a hundred times the scale and ten times the pace of the industrial revolution that gave rise to Britain’s preëminence. One way or another, China is going to be a superpower. With the centenary of the start of the First World War almost upon us, we shouldn’t need reminding how imperative it is to make sure that the transformation from the current unipolar system is an amicable and peaceful one.

Photograph by Feng Li/Getty.


Syria’s strongman Vs Cambodia’s Strongman in Comparison

well can we compare Libya to Syria and finally to Cambodia? Or another word, can we compare Cambodia to Syria and finally to Libya? It is really comparable? Yet, it is  thinkable. Let compare it.

In Libya,

In Syria, there is no support from the United Nations or other international community as in Libya. Both regional and United Nations do not support the intervention in Syria. In UN, China and Russia have blocked the UN intervention mandate due to the economic tier with Syria. The recent anti missile S-300 transferred from  Russia to Syria is a clear signal of Russia diplomatic stance toward Syria.

In Cambodia, China would be the main supporter for Cambodia in the United Nations. Diplomatic and economic relationship between the two countries have increased sharply every year for the last two decades. In addition, with the Chinese influence at the international stage have expanded from day to day, it voice is always count. If China vow to protect Cambodia from any actions from the UN against Cambodia, it will provide the safe heaven to its leader; however, if it is against Cambodia, the process will go very quickly.

China’s Economic Empire

HONG KONG — THE combination of a strong, rising China and economic stagnation in Europe and America is making the West increasingly uncomfortable. While China is not taking over the world militarily, it seems to be steadily taking it over commercially. In just the past week, Chinese companies and investors have sought to buy two iconic Western companies, Smithfield Foods, the American pork producer, and Club Med, the French resort company.

Related in Opinion

Alkis Konstantinidis/European Pressphoto Agency

A heavy load carrier moored at the terminal of the Chinese shipping company Cosco, carrying five cranes for the expansion of the terminal in Piraeus, Greece.

Jenny Vaughan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Chinese and Ethiopian flags fly at the office complex for the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.

Pool photo by Kazuhiro Ibuki

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and the former president of China, Hu Jintao.

Europeans and Americans tend to fret over Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, its territorial disputes with Japan, and cyberattacks on Western firms, but all of this is much less important than a phenomenon that is less visible but more disturbing: the aggressive worldwide push of Chinese state capitalism.

By buying companies, exploiting natural resources, building infrastructure and giving loans all over the world, China is pursuing a soft but unstoppable form of economic domination. Beijing’s essentially unlimited financial resources allow the country to be a game-changing force in both the developed and developing world, one that threatens to obliterate the competitive edge of Western firms, kill jobs in Europe and America and blunt criticism of human rights abuses in China.

Ultimately, thanks to the deposits of over a billion Chinese savers, China Inc. has been able to acquire strategic assets worldwide. This is possible because those deposits are financially repressed — savers receive negative returns because of interest rates below the inflation rate and strict capital controls that prevent savers from investing their money in more profitable investments abroad. Consequently, the Chinese government now controls oiland gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to China and from South Sudan to the Red Sea.

Another pipeline, from the Indian Ocean to the Chinese city of Kunming, running through Myanmar, is scheduled to be completed soon, and yet another, from Siberia to northern China, has already been built. China has also invested heavily in building infrastructure, undertaking huge hydroelectric projects like the Merowe Dam on the Nile in Sudan — the biggest Chinese engineering project in Africa — and Ecuador’s $2.3 billion Coca Codo Sinclair Dam. And China is currently involved in the building of more than 200 other dams across the planet, according to International Rivers, a nonprofit environmental organization.

China has become the world’s leading exporter; it also surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest trading nation in 2012. In the span of just a few years, China has become the leading trading partner of countries like Australia, Brazil and Chile as it seeks resources like iron ore, soybeans and copper. Lower tariffs and China’s booming economy explain this exponential growth. By buying mainly natural resources and food, China is ensuring that two of the country’s economic engines — urbanization and the export sector — are securely supplied with the needed resources.

In Europe and North America, China’s arrival on the scene has been more recent but the figures clearly show a growing trend: annual investment from China to the European Union grew from less than $1 billion annually before 2008 to more than $10 billion in the past two years. And in the United States, investment surged from less than $1 billion in 2008 to a record high of $6.7 billion in 2012, according to the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm. Last year, Europe was the destination for 33 percent of China’s foreign direct investment.

Government support, through hidden subsidies and cheap financing, gives Chinese state-owned firms a major advantage over competitors. Since 2008, the West’s economic downturn has allowed them to gain broad access to Western markets to hunt for technology, know-how and deals that weren’t previously available to them. Western assets that weren’t on sale in the past now are, and Chinese investments have provided desperately needed liquidity.

This trend will only increase in the future, as China’s foreign direct investment skyrockets in the coming years. It is projected to reach as much as $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2020, according to the Rhodium Group. This means that Chinese state-owned companies that enjoy a monopolistic position at home can now pursue ambitious international expansions and compete with global corporate giants. The unfairness of this situation is clearest in the steel and solar- panel industries, where China has gone from a net importer to the world’s largest producer and exporter in only a few years. It has been able to flood the market with products well below market price — and consequently destroy industries and employment in the West and elsewhere.

THIS is the real threat to the United States and other countries. However, most Western governments don’t seem to be addressing China’s state-driven expansionism as an immediate priority.

On the contrary, European governments dealing with their own economic crises see China as a country that can help, either by buying sovereign debt or going ahead with investments in their countries that will create jobs.

The Chinese state-owned company Cosco currently manages the main cargo terminal in the biggest Greek port, Piraeus, near Athens — a 35-year concession deal. And China’ssovereign wealth fund, C.I.C., took a 10 percent stake in London’s Heathrow Airport in 2012, as well as a nearly 9 percent stake in the British utility company Thames Water. The state-owned firms Three Gorges Corporation and State Grid are the main foreign investors in Portugal’s power-generation sector, and C.I.C. also bought a 7 percent stake in France’s Eutelsat Communications.

In the Greek port the Chinese have been able to triple capacity, amid local unions’ criticism of worsening labor conditions. It’s too early to measure China’s impact in the other investments, but the fact that Chinese companies are able to invest in sectors that are closed or restricted for European firms in China says a lot about how minimal Europe’s leverage with China is.

Take Germany, which accounts for nearly half of the European Union’s exports to China. It’s highly unlikely that Berlin would make unfair competition the cornerstone of its China policy. Moreover, the lack of leverage and leadership in Brussels means that the union is unable to take firm action to force China into adopting measures that would level the playing field or guarantee reciprocity in its domestic market.

The only exception is the United States, which seems to be addressing the issue by pushing forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade association that is seen by critics in Beijing and elsewhere as an American-led policy to contain China. The club is thought to be restricted to countries that meet high American standards on issues like free competition, labor and environmental standards and intellectual property rights. As China doesn’t meet those standards, it will have to reform or risk regional isolation. Moreover, the United States has made life difficult for the Chinese telecom giant Huawei by refusing to grant it contracts from leading American telecom companies. This is not just about national security concerns but also about sending Beijing a clear message that the United States government is willing to block one of China’s most visible and successful companies.

While Western companies complain about barriers to public procurement and bidding and struggles to compete in restricted sectors in China, Chinese companies enjoy red carpet treatment in Europe, buying up strategic assets and major companies like Volvo and the German equipment manufacturer Putzmeister.

The perception is that China is now unavoidable and, consequently, the only option is to be accommodating — offering everything from a generous investment environment to essentially dropping human rights from the agenda. “We don’t have any stick. We can just offer carrots and hope for the best,” a senior European official told us.

Greenland, a massive resource-rich territory largely controlled by Denmark, is a case in point. Last year, it passed legislation to allow foreign workers into the country who earned salaries below the local legal minimum wage (the minimum wage there is one of the highest in the world). Chinese representatives had made it clear that Chinese state-owned banks and companies would invest in the high-risk, costly exploitation of Greenland’s vast mining resources only if the modification of local regulations would allow the arrival of thousands of low-wage Chinese workers.

The Arctic territory didn’t have too many alternatives. No other country is in a position to become Greenland’s strategic partner for its future development, given the business risks involved in the Arctic region and the scale of the investment needed in a territory bigger than Mexico but without a single highway. An American oil company couldn’t have handled the task alone. The Chinese state capitalist system, by contrast, allows multiple state-owned companies to work together, making it possible for the China National Petroleum Corporation, for instance, to extract oil while China Railway builds basic infrastructure.

Greenland’s leaders accepted China’s terms because they likely believed these costly projects might never go ahead if the Chinese didn’t get involved; only China has the money, the demand, the experience and the political will to proceed. Moreover, there are not enough skilled workers in Greenland for such projects, so the Greenlandic government made an exception to the law, allowing Chinese laborers to earn less than minimum wage figuring that local residents would benefit from new infrastructure and royalties.

China’s deep pockets, as well as its extensive labor force and unlimited demand for natural resources, made all the difference, and accordingly Greenland was prepared to pass tailor-made legislation to meet Chinese needs. Even Denmark, which holds authority in Greenland in areas like migration and foreign policy, decided not to interfere.

IT is even happening in progressive bastions like Canada. President Obama’s refusal thus far to approve the Keystone pipeline project has made Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government turn to China to secure an export market for Canadian crude oil reserves. The Calgary-based oil industry has lobbied Mr. Harper to adopt a new diversification strategy that includes the construction of a controversial pipeline to western British Columbia, despite strong opposition from environmental groups, the First Nations aboriginal communities and the public. In the meantime, Canada also signed a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China, which gives remarkably generous investment protection to the Chinese.

With China in the center of debates over FIPA and the west coast pipeline, Canada’s government then approved the takeover of the Canadian energy giant Nexen by the Chinese state-owned oil firm Cnooc. The $15.1 billion transaction was China’s largest Imageforeign takeover.

Closer economic ties have had political side effects; the Harper administration now seems much more cautious in criticizing China’s human rights record. Given that Canada was until very recently one of the fiercest voices on China’s handling of dissidents, this is not only a remarkable 180-degree turn, but also a clear indication of how China’s economic influence can push the political agenda to the sidelines, even in the West.

In Australia, Chinese accumulated investment inflows at the end of 2012 surpassed $50 billion. The trend is striking: Chinese direct investment in Australia in 2012 increased 21 percent from 2011 levels to reach $11.4 billion, making it an important player in Australia’s mining industry. Australia’s trade portfolio remains highly diversified, but the Chinese share is growing rapidly.

China has also become the biggest investor in Germany (in terms of the number of deals), surpassing the United States. Chinese companies are looking for companies that, like Putzmeister, have a technological edge and have become world leaders in niche markets. Those takeovers also allow them to absorb Western know-how on branding, marketing, distribution and customer relations. Others are more opportunistic. Faced with recession, struggling European firms like Volvo quickly welcomed Chinese partners who were ready to inject capital and take full control.

The loans that Beijing is giving worldwide are even more significant, in dollar terms, than direct foreign investment. These loans include $40 billion to Venezuela and more than $8 billion to Turkmenistan in recent years. China’s policy banks (China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China) are the key institutions supporting China’s “Go global” strategy, as they provide billions of dollars in loans to foreign countries to acquire Chinese goods; finance Chinese-built infrastructure; and start projects in the extractive and other industries.

This is clearest in countries where the West claims to link its aid to human rights and good business practices. Chinese loans have been crucial in countries like Angola that have faced threats of a cutoff in financing from Western creditors, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Ecuador, Venezuela, Turkmenistan, Sudan and Iran have all faced such difficulties, and China has stepped in without political or ethical strings attached. Chinese statistics reveal little about these loans, but a study by The Financial Times showed that, between 2009 and 2010, China was the world’s largest lender, doling out $110 billion, more than the World Bank.

It is important to remember what is really behind China’s global economic expansion: the state. China may be moving in the right direction on a number of issues, but when Chinese state-owned companies go abroad and seek to play by rules that emanate from an authoritarian regime, there is grave danger that Western countries will, out of economic need, end up playing by Beijing’s rules.

As China becomes a global player and a fierce competitor in American and European markets, its political system and state capitalist ideology pose a threat. It is therefore essential that Western governments stick to what has been the core of Western prosperity: the rule of law, political freedom and fair competition.

They must not think shortsightedly. Giving up on our commitment to human rights, or being compliant in the face of rapacious state capitalism, will hurt Western countries in the long term. It is China that needs to adapt to the world, not the other way around.


Political Prisoners—a Question of Definition

U.S. President Barack Obama wants them freed. Prime Minister Hun Sen says there are none. And while human rights groups say there are many, they cannot agree on just how to define these “political prisoners,” let alone how many there might be in Cambodia.

The answer does matter, though.

Mr. Obama warned during his recent visit to Phnom Penh that the future of U.S.-Cambodian relations depended on their release but highlighted only one case, that of imprisoned radio station owner and frequent government critic Mam Sonando.

The U.N. human rights office in Phnom Penh said it did not know how many political prisoners Cambodia had and was not keeping track. The U.N.’s human rights envoy to the country, Surya Subedi, said he needed some time to define what a political prisoner was in the Cambodian context.

The only organization apparently not struggling with the issue is local human rights group Licadho.

Among the 20 of the 26 Cambodian jails it monitors, Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said 13 detainees currently fit its definition of political prisoner: anyone persecuted unjustly for promoting and protecting the human rights of their community or other groups using non-violence.

Though each of the 13 were charged or convicted for a nominal crime, from fraud to attempted murder, Ms. Pilorge believes that all but one, Mr. Sonando, were targeted for actively—but peacefully—opposing various land evictions.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal aid NGO, said criminal prosecutions made political cases hard to discern.

“It’s very hard because sometimes the [criminal] conviction is suspicious,” Mr. Sam Oeun said.

A definition is even harder still when cases are coupled with an element of organized violence, Mr. Sam Oeun said, noting the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. Several members were convicted of staging a violent attack on government buildings and security forces in 2000.

“The Cambodian Freedom Fighters, though it is a crime, it is still political,” Mr. Sam Oeun said.

Because some political prisoners can be involved in acts of violence, some groups prefer the phrase “prisoner of conscience.”

Amnesty International, which coined the phrase, defines a prisoner of conscience as “someone jailed because of her/his political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, provided they have neither used nor advocated violence.”

Though Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, Rupert Abbott, said he could not say how many such prisoners existed in Cambodia, some of the people on Licadho’s list were candidates.

“Particularly in the context of the land crisis in Cambodia—where forced evictions, land disputes and land grabbing have affected thousands of people—human rights defenders and peaceful protesters face harassment, increasing violence, legal action and imprisonment,” he said. “Amnesty International would define some of those imprisoned as [prisoners of conscience].”

Mr. Abbott also included the 13 women arrested in May while peacefully protesting against a Phnom Penh land eviction and convicted that same month on charges of inciting rebellion and illegally occupying land after a summary trial. Sentenced to two-and-a-half years each, the women have since been released but remain convicted.

Rights workers also included those convicted in recent years for distributing anti-government leaflets, usually on grounds of incitement. In 2010, a World Food Program employee was convicted of incitement for printing out pages from the website of K.I. [Khmer Intelligence] Media and sentenced to six months in prison.

But none of these cases add up to a consensus on the definition of political prisoner or prisoner of conscience.

Even in Burma, where America very publicly made the release of political prisoners a key condition for lifting sanctions on the country, the U.S. is still trying to figure out what the phrase should mean.

Just last month, the U.S. government’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) said a definition was in the works.

“The State Department is actively discussing the political prisoner issue—including the definition of political prisoners—with the Burmese government, opposition parties and representatives of some ethnic groups,” the CRS said in a briefing paper.

Borrowing figures from the Burmese government and NGOs, the CRS said the government of Burmese President Thein Sein had nonetheless released hundreds of political prisoners over the past year and that anywhere from 128 to 914 remained.

Faced with the definition dilemma, the U.N.’s human rights envoy to Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, offered his own, two-pronged description of a prisoner of conscience.

By Mr. Quintana’s definition, a prisoner of conscience is anyone prosecuted for breaking laws that impede “reasonable enjoyment of freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly or association” and who is denied access to a court or only has access to a court that lacks independence or denies due process.

In past reports, Cambodia’s U.N. envoy Mr. Subedi has described an abjectly corrupt court system here.

“Corruption seems to be widespread at all levels in the judiciary,” he said in a 2010 report. “Because the laws needed to protect the judges are not there, the judges are treated as civil servants and seem to rely on patronage and political protection rather than on the laws for the security of their jobs. This has resulted in individual judges and prosecutors compromising their independence.”

Like other local groups in Cambodia, the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), a legal aid NGO, has neither a definition for political prisoners nor a number. But CLEC program manager Houn Chundy said despite what the government claimed, there was no doubt Cambodia had them.

For all the prime minister’s denials, he said, “people, the public, see that they are politically related.”

© 2012, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

by Zsombor Peter

THE “TENSE” Relationship


, ,

How the recent U.S president Barack Obama trip has done to Cambodia and its people?  My overall observation is the recent meeting of both leaders was an “awkward meeting” while Mr. Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes described as “tense”. In short, Mr. Obama has done some and probably nothing to Cambodia and its people.

It is difficult to understand why each leaders do what they did by ignoring the U.S Cambodia relationship history. First of all, both countries had a feeling of betrayal from each side. To Cambodia, the U.S secret bombing in northern Cambodia territorial along the Vietnamese border created an opportunity for the rise of the Khmer Rough regime. On the other hand, the U.S see Cambodian secretly betrayed its neutral policy by allowed Vietnamese the “Viet Cong” to use its territory against the U.S during the Vietnam war in the South Vietnam. Up until today, none of the parties has publicly apology to their action. These two unfortunate move by both sides had created a wound relationship between the two parties; even thought, it is a matter of conflict of national interest.

Now, after four decades, Mr. Obama’s policy “pivot to Asia” has to bring the matter to the spotlight again whether this president want or not. What Mr. Obama trying to do is the very first direct U.S foreign policy to engage with Cambodia for over four decades. During the absent time, there were no major diplomacy relationship engaging between the two parties. Although, there are some small humanitarian actions from the U.S to Cambodia during the last two decades, but having the U.S president to visit Cambodia has never happened before in the history. In addition, the new President Obama policy’s mean new strategy and that mean more and direct engaging with Cambodia. In addition, China has always been a support to Cambodia during the absence of U.S support, and both countries have a good diplomatic relationship ever since.  Thus, to change Cambodia direction from China is going to be a difficult task and will require a lot of effort from the U.S side.

Unfortunately, the uneasy relationship is not yet cool down from both sides. No time wasting, Cambodia shows its stance with an unwelcome receiving upon the arrival of Mr. Obama to the kingdom. It was an unwelcome receiving environment. Compare to the last two trips of Mr. Obama to Cambodia neighbors, he was warmly received with thousand of Burmese people from the airport to Mrs Ang San Su Kyi’s house and an honorable state red carpet received by Thai official, but it was not the case in Cambodia. It was an unimpressed moment and which i would call it a disappointed and insulted receiving to the U.S as well as to president Obama when he arrived in Cambodia. There were two low ranks Cambodian ministers and a U.S ambassador to Cambodia Mr, William (Bill) E. Todd, were presented upon the arrival. There was no red carpet and state honorable receiving ceremony. Along the way from the airport to the peace palace where Cambodia prime minster was waiting, the street was quite and all business were closed. The environment that gave Mr. Obama a feeling of unwelcoming trip from the host.

Nevertheless, due to the important of the mission, Mr. Obama has to put his personal feeling aside, if he had one. Mr. Obama main mission is more important than Mr. Obama personal feeling. Mr. Obama wants to left his legacy under his second president term to bring U.S closer to Asia and to re-balancing Chinese power in Asia. Doing that Cambodia and Burma are the two countries that have closer relationship to China while the rest of  ASEAN nations are good friends to America. While Burma is on the rout of reform toward democracy, Cambodia is considered as walking out of track according to the western standard of democracy.

As i mentioned in my early blog, would the U.S care about improving the relationship with the Cambodia is a pessimistic question. In fact, it is up to U.S if it want to divert Cambodia back on to democracy track. Unlike in Thailand and Burma, Mr. Obama behavior in Cambodia was tense since the beginning to the end. Mr. Obama’s stone face while in Phnom Penh was a sign of uneasy relationship with the host. There were only two words that Mr. Obama said to Prime Minister Hun Sen were “How are you” and “Good to see you” but nothing else. There were no join ending statements and most importantly the president did not even pay a visit to the dead body of Cambodia former king Norodom Sihanouk either, yet he paid a visit to the Thai King at the hospital.

In addition, the Cambodia human rights record is also another reason that prevents the U.S from being to close to Cambodia. As what Mr. Obama told to Prime minister Hun Sen that Cambodia’s record on human rights would be an impediment to deeper ties with the United States during his visit. In fact, Mr. Obama made it clear that his trip to Cambodia was for the summit reason. If only the Cambodia was not the host of the host of the ASEAN summit, he would have not visit the country. Beside, months before the arrival of Mr. Obama to the kingdom, many organisations, politician, activists and law makers around the world had appealed to Mr. Obama to cancelled his trip and to rise the human rights issue with the Cambodian leader as well. As expected, most of his conversation with Prime minister Hun Sen was about human rights condition although he also urged the Cambodia to improve its election environment toward free and fair election.

Overall, base on the fact of diplomatic history and the current Cambodia human right condition, Mr. Obama did was to minimize his relationship as much as possible with Cambodia. In fact, he should have done more during this valuable trip if Cambodia is in the interest of America realm of interest. Mr. Obama should meet with protesters and other activists and exchange some conversation to show the U.S support for their actions, but he did not. What he did was exactly what Mr. prime minister wanted to prevent him from meeting those protesters and that is why i see that he had done nothing to Cambodia at all during his very first trip to Cambodia this time.

What would the future of US Cambodia relationship in the next five years be?


, ,

What would the future of US Cambodia relationship in the next fives years be?

One particular question that need to be asked before any further discussion is would Obama bother to stop in Cambodia if Cambodia is not the President of Association of South East Asian Nations, ASEAN? the answer is most likely no. Although, there were some high-ranking U.S official visit in the kingdoms since the 90s, but none of them were majors visit of U.S foreign policy but rather were stop by visit from other regional official trip. So would neither side care about improving this relationship?

Well in American foreign political point of view, U.S Cambodian relationship is not a key player in the regional politic. On the northern side of Cambodia, U.S has a traditional ally of Thailand that has long been a U.S ally since the Vietnam war. Although the War end three decades ago, their relationship has never been downgraded. On the Southern side of the Cambodian border, Vietnam has become an important strategic friend to U.S South East Asian foreign policy to counter Chinese influence in the region. America sees China’s expanding in both economic and military is a threat in the long run to American power in the pacific. So, U.S needs as many support as it could get from the regional nations.

So what would Cambodia could do to U.S? Probably none. Politically, beside the Lon Nol regime, Cambodia policy has never officially supported the U.S foreign politic in the region. In contrast, while Chinese president Hu Jintoa paid a visit to former king body during his funeral and half the Chinese flag at the Thiamine Square and also provided a state official plan for returning of the former king body to his motherland, the U.S president did not even make any formal speech or an official condolence letter for the king funeral at all, but a condolence letter from an ordinary of the U.S ambassador. To Cambodian, the U.S president is the proper level according to the majesty rank.

On the one hand, America has well understood the Sino-Cambodian relationship since 1960s. Chinese Cambodian relationship has never been disrupted but improving since the former King Norodom Shinouk’s cabinet. A case in point during the recent annual regional ASEAN submit in 2011 under the Prime minster Hun Sen cabinet, the Cambodian government which was the President of ASEAN, postponed the South China sea dispute agenda to be discussed during the formal session. It was a decision that disappointed many of its members including Vietnam the closest Cambodia ally. It is easy to understand the reason behind this decision since China is the biggest investor and donor in Cambodia. This giving face decision that Cambodia government made is unofficially and indirectly avoid any confrontation with China as much as possible; even thought, many of its members criticized the Cambodian stance over the issues. From this political stance, American see Cambodia is not in American South East Asian political interest.

On the other hand, Cambodia is in both need and hate relationship with the America. Why US Cambodia relationship matter to Cambodia? Yes it is matter. In fact, Cambodia needs U.S support as much as it could get from the U.S. For instance, the upcoming trip of the sitting U.S president Barack Obama, for the first in history, to the Kingdom mean differently to different groups. To most ordinary Cambodian, they do not see the Obama or any U.S president visit as an important visit but just another foreign leaders visit to the kingdom. However, for the Cambodian government and international community, it is a seal of stability, security, and friendship. In addition, one other significant view that international community see is recognition of the legitimacy of the current government, and that is what maybe the current Cambodian government needs the most from the United States.

In contrast, the Cambodia government does not like the American arrogant politic. Cambodia sees that American foreign policy as an arrogant politic due to its natural policy that like to tell any countries in the world to do this and that especially to export its democracy ideology to the world. Since the United Nations was established based on the foundation of American politic, it is just only a U.S political instrument to export American democratic ideology. Unfortunately, the current Cambodian democracy vocabulary does not have the same meaning to U.S democracy definition. While the two definitions share the same idea of multiple parities and election, Cambodian put order and security first where as American put freedom and civil right above everything in its politic. These fundamental differences between the two versions of democracy definition divide these two countries from walking the same path and share the same goal.

In fact, base on Cambodian history United States is not an ideal friend of Cambodia. As what i have mentioned above that the Cambodian governmet could benefit from being a friend with super power nation like the United States; however, U.S has never been a trust friend to Cambodia in the past and maybe today also. To the western world, they see that U.S up coming visit to Cambodia is a seal of recognition of legitimacy of the current Cambodia government. To Cambodian government, regardless to what the outside world see, there is only one Cambodia government in the world that established by the choice of the Cambodian people, so it has always been a legitmate government. With or without the U.S, Cambodia is moving forward.

Base on the conflict of interest of what have described above, the U.S and Cambodia will never share the same political boat at least at the moment. We can expect to see the same relationship between the two will continue to drag on for the next fives years, at least.

From Phnom Penh Post, “Rainsy hints at imminent return.” Can he come back?

According to the Phnom Penh Post News article, it seem like Mr. Sam Rainsy, The Sam Rainsy Party leader, is hoping that Cambodian People Party leader under Mr. Hun Sen lead would surrender to international pressure and allow him to join the national election in 2013. However, I do not share the same view.

Firstly, CPP power is in an independent political environment that is no longer need the western government support which Mr. Sam Rainsy refers to as “the international community”. Politically, the CPP has strengthen its power through out the country everyday, and it is getting stronger and stronger. From the top to the bottom, the CPP official are on the rise in number and opposition parties are losing they seats since the last general election.

Some people might argue that CPP gains their seats through duty activities. By “duty activity” mean threatening, killing, buying. To be frankly speaking, there is no conflict of the claim statement and in fact evidences and fact can be self observed through everyday newspapers or other national news network through out the country. Anyway, although all of those statements are true, nothing have been done in stopping them, yet it is continuing to be carried on. The point is CPP is getting stronger and Opposition parties are getting weaker.

Financially, CPP has diverted the country interest from the western dollars but the Chinese Yen, a long time friend and foe of Cambodia. China future can not be underestimated. China has enjoyed its economic boom for over three decades and recently it ranks as the second biggest economy in the world after the United States. This positive economic health give China an opportunity to expand its influence in the region. A case in point, since the first Cambodian democratic government was born in 1993, China has helped Cambodia in several fields such as infrastructure, military, and financially. Unlike the western friend, Chinese aids does not come with any string attache like human rights condition and etc…  In addition, Chinese aids has been doubled during the last fives years. On the other hand, Western aids has been reduced due to political reasons between the kingdom.

It is obvious that the western aids has been reduced, so its influence as well. As we’re all aware that foreign aids has been so crucial to kingdom economic health since Cambodia is still in a developing country. Financially, it faces financial difficulty without the international aids to keep the Kingdom government running. Nevertheless, CPP just got a richer and kinder friend, The Chinese, than the western world. To Cambodia as well as the CPP leader, base on rational reason, see China is both more useful and important than the western nations, and that would most likely disappointed Mr. Sam Rainsy hope.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that the end of Mr Sam Rainsy returning. Best case scenario, there is possibility that party leader would be able to join the election for two reasons. Firstly, base on the political environment in the kingdom, CPP would has optimistic expectation over the general election result for whatever reasons. Secondly, base on the first reason, the CPP leader could allow Mr. Rainsy to return and join the election and get legitimate and international recognition upon victory.

Just a short respond to the article.


South Korea Vows to Avenge Sailors’ Deaths?

About a month ago, a South Korean’s guard ship exploded near the sea border between South Korea and North Korea while patrolling the area which results of 46 people dead, yet there is no clear public explanation of the cause from the government. However, North Korea is also believed to be a suspect that stay behind this attack according to South Korean’s defense minister, although he had not yet openly confirm the case. Despite the South Korean accusation, North Korea denied the involvement with the explosion. (Sang-Hun A10)

In the case above, if the South Korean’s defense minister and South Korean majority suspicion is right, as a state actor, South Korea is expected to provide safety and security to their citizens. Therefore, any kind counters attack either diplomatically or militarily to respond to crisis that is considered as a violation of South Korean’s security and sovereignty is expected. Even though, military option is the most proper way to respond, yet South Korea does not has a capability to carry on the attack by itself; since its military firepower is outnumbers by the North Korean army. Nevertheless, South Korean government can protest through diplomatic means. The point is diplomatic respond is not effectual to deal with North Korea. It has isolated its self from the rest of the world for more than 50 years so far, so another diplomatic protest is not working.

In this case, if South Korean decided to respond hostilely, will it leads to the second Korean War? Will the history repeat itself again or not it is not up to the South Korean government alone to decide. There are many interests get involve with this issue. Firstly, the total security of South Korean population is the most important. So far as I know, there are more than 1000 missiles are targeting Seoul, the Capital of South Korea, and they are ready to strike at any time if ordered. Secondly, the world security as a whole is also a reason that could influence the South Korean government decision. This matter is not only about both Korean countries, but it will spill over to international level if it allows getting out of control. United States government’s stance to protect the South Korean interest is absolute and no doubt. However, we do not know what will the China stance behind the North Korea. Could the history repeat itself, we do not know yet.

In addition, unlike the first Korean War, the second Korean War will have a different and serious out come. Currently North Korea is also considered as a nuclear arm nation. Even though, its nuclear weapon is not yet as powerful as the western nuclear weapons, but it will be powerful enough to flat Seoul city to the ground in one bomb. Since this issue relate to human lives and especially to the use of nuclear weapon, there are strongly expect some kind of reactions at lease from human right organization from both locally and internationally that will influence to the government decision as well.

Therefore, both of theoretical perspectives, realism and pluralism, share the common point of national security interest, but they do not share who has the absolute power to decide. In fact, realism seems to losing its ground to the pluralism; since it cannot successful persuade the South Korea and its U.S allied to go to war with North Korea. And if there is no war breaking out, we can assume that the South Korea and its allies, the United States, based on strategic calculation could foresee the cost and effect of the war especially to put the South Korea national life at stage. Most likely, the decision to go to war with North Korea will be less likely to happen.

The Dead Aid: does foreign financial aid is really work?

I am not really sure yet, but let me lay it out straight on the paper. I feel that foreign financial aid to most of underdeveloped country is just like a heroin drug that make the underdeveloped country addict. I am not saying to all countries. In my conclusion is that financial aid is not an effective way to help the poor country; in contrast, it just a waste both time and resource even though it will be considered as a good-will by donator. If you want to joint and share your ideas, then you welcome to joint me.

Does foreign financial aid really work? as a Cambodian citizen, which is my mother country. I have heard that this donates this $$ millions and that that country gave $$$ millions every year. Sometime the aid reached to a billion of dollars a year, just like China a month ago. What a great amount of money? As a case in point, this is only just a small country like Cambodia. how about the other countries? how many Cambodia in the world? what would be the final amount of money if we actually add those money together? For Cambodia, among the donors countries, China , at the moment, is the largest donor to Cambodia. Honestly, a part of my mind is really appreciate to those countries that are helping Cambodia whether by financially or other form of picture of humanitarian help; however, the other part of me is keep asking is it really work?

The fund or aid usually come in package some have conditionally obligation and some do not. Such as China tend to offer a free obligation aid to Cambodian government but the western countries tend to put some specific conditions before they can release the money. In addition, the world body institutions, such IMF and world bank, also offer some kind of conditionally aid to the Cambodian government also, and most of the fund are using in humanitarian purpose such as health care and infrastructure; even though, some aid use for political purpose in form of appreciation.

Unfortunately, those money does not seems to work as it suppose to be. Instead, almost of 50% of the aid fund have been misappropriate used, in other word disappeared, according to the daily news paper, you can google it. Maybe the term “Corruption” is better fit than “disappearing”. And of course we all know that there is no such a perfect society in the world that have no corruption. But maximize the effect of the fund is all donors hope.

To me personally, I tend to call current Cambodian government economic policy as “Begger” policy, because it seems like every where their official cabinet go and do their official jobs, it does not matter of domestically or internationally, they always finish with a begging policy. Such as this project and there projects. As recently, Cambodia government had asked for cancellation of the old debt from the United States. So how can a nation-state put its national reputation and live on other nations hand? where are those honor as a sovereign state as it claims. This is really ashame. But please don’t misjudge the general Cambodian. As tourist visite Cambodia especially the Angkor area. Every single tourist encounter beggars at least once in their whole trip if not all the time. This poor Cambodian kids and beggars are the victims of the current government policy, the “beggar” economic policy. But i pledge to all tourists, if you counter them please don’t hate them but instead show some sympathy to them; even though, if you can not give them some money, but just only your good will heart of “poor you” in your mind should be enough. This is how the foreign financial fund program was created internationally, and that is why, regardless to the current Cambodian government action, policy, and corruption, they still get financial fund from the foreign countries around the world. If you might think that I am implying that the government just want to keep those poor people around in order to get some more fund, actually it is not what I mean, but maybe in reality is one of those reason too. You make your own judgment.

The point is the government should take responsibility for the poor. The pictures of disability, homeless, widow, thickness face, and robbery are all the real face of the government. The people are just mirror that reflect the true government policy and their incapability policy.

So why I claim that those foreign financial aid is not really work? because those money is just like an addict drug that they got it for free without doing nothing. So whenever it run out, they are going to beg some more regardless how they use them, whether for the people or for their own personal interest. Remember what happened between Thailand and Cambodia couple month ago about the loan to build the national road 68 along the Thai and Cambodian border. It was really hurt when we were turned down regardless of any reason. Yeah, I know there was some political and nationalism reasons get involved. However, there is national pride get involve with the issue.  So it does not matter how much amount of money they receive, whether billions or trillion of dollars, as long as there is no reliable economic policy exist, Cambodia will be the beggar for the rest of its national live; and we don’t want to be like that. Therefore, I think instead of wasting time to go out and beg some people money, they should concentrate on their own feet, find resolution, and create a reliable national economic plan for the sake of Cambodia, Cambodian citizens, and maybe for the Cambodian ancestors, the Angkorian people. So whoever read my blog from the start until now, it does not matter you understand what I talk above or not but if you understand the follow sentence that I am going to say right now then you fully understand what I mean.

“For the readers, regardless what nationality you are, you tell me what do you see when you go to visit Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and you see a group of beggar kids come to beg you some money with their broken English, French, Japanese, Chinese,… in front of Angkor Wat temple which is well-known to the world as the world greatest religious monument in the world? please tell me or you tell your self quietly if you don’t want to talk out loud.

Peter Na