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Letter from the Editors
It matters immensely who leads a nation, particularly in periods of major transformation, when long dormant tensions or trends assert themselves and begin to reshape political discourse. The chronicles of history are filled with tales of leaders who rose to the occasion under these circumstances and redefined the destiny of their countries, as well as those who were overcome and ultimately felled by events.
The world today is facing a backlash against globalization; an unsettling of the liberal democratic order that has prevailed since the end of the Second World War; the rise of populist and nationalist politics; and an emerging challenge by China to the world leadership of the United States. The signs of those changes are playing out loudly in the US and Europe, where nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-globalist politicians are challenging long-held assumptions and beginning to rock the foundations of existing political and governance structures.
In Asia too, leaders are facing a raft of new challenges, seeking to come to terms with rapidly changing domestic circumstances while also navigating potential tectonic shifts in the international order. In the cover package of this issue of Global Asia, we examine the rise of populism and identity politics, particularly in the US and Europe, and then profile the leaders of a number of key Asian countries to explore how they are managing these emerging forces and other domestic challenges. The fact that almost all of these countries are democracies only underscores the vulnerability of these leaders to popular opinion. But even in China, leaders are keenly aware of the volatile nature of popular opinion, particularly nationalist sentiments.
Elsewhere in this issue of Global Asia, our Features section includes a detailed account of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and how it aims to forge an international vision of President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream;” a look at how and why the Trump Administration is placing greater emphasis on Central Asia, which Washington has long neglected; an essay on how the US and China could mitigate the negative aspects of their great power rivalry and achieve greater opportunities for cooperation; an examination of the risks of war over disputed claims in the South China Sea and why that could prove so costly; and finally, why Indonesia should step up to a leadership role in the Indo-Pacific region.
Our In Focus section dissects the aftermath of the summit diplomacy with North Korea earlier this year and explores the hard challenges ahead to achieve denuclearization. It also raises the intriguing question of whether Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un was really aimed at buying time to focus on the US standoff with Iran. In our Debate section, meanwhile, we present two views on the emerging trade war between the US and China, both of them suggesting a trade war is ultimately a bad idea for everyone.
As always, we also feature reviews of some of the best recent books on Asia.
Walter C. Clemens, Jr
07 Feb 2018 - North Korea now deigns to take part in the Winter Olympics. Its rulers may again be ready to negotiate—not only with South Korea but also with the United States. Claiming that it now has the means to deter an American attack, Pyongyang exudes confidence that it can counter threats by the US and its South Korean ally. US Ambassador Nikki Haley complains that North Korea is “obses… Read full post
05 Dec 2017 - The recent electoral victory of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition has brought down the curtains -- at least for now -- on a period of political flux and uncertainty in the country’s political landscape. In the run-up to the elections held on Oct. 22, the Abe government had been plagued by a series of scandals and g… Read full post
20 Sep 2017 - The Malabar 2017 naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal during July 10-17 with participation from the Indian, US and Japanese navies to “increase interoperability amongst the three navies as well as to develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.”1 Although the Malabar started out as bilateral exercises between India and the US back in 19… Read full post
06 Sep 2017 - Amid the growing anxiety generated by North Korea’s recent missile tests and its dramatic sixth nuclear test, the Trump administration is grappling with the challenge of finding a proportionate response. Somehow, it needs to simultaneously punish the North for its continuing provocations, slow down and ultimately reverse Kim Jong-un’s WMD modernization program, and ensure that t… Read full post
Robert E. McCoy
25 Aug 2017 - Much has been made of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s desire to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the special industrial zone set up in 2002 in North Korea where South Korean businesses could operate using workers from the North. As most readers will recall, Moon’s predecessor shut down the KIC in February 2016 in response to an earlier North Korean nuclear test … Read full post
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