Opinion / Featured Contributors

The paradox of the US election and where to go next

By Nathan Gardels ( Updated: 2016-10-13 17:14

A few further observations

From Brexit to Trump and the opposition of TPP, an anti-globalization backlash is setting in across the West. Perhaps we are seeing a new division – Asia favors globalization and the West wants to pull back. On the other hand, some see the neo-Maoist nostalgia sweeping parts of China today as “populism with Chinese characteristics” – also challenging the lack of inclusiveness in the prosperity globalization has created for some while leaving others behind.

To the extent this is true, both the West and China in the coming years will be absorbed in reconfiguring the social contract, adjusting globalization according to domestic policies that ensure there are fewer losers than winners.

What should be on the agenda

From the US side, the first gesture of a new Clinton administration should be to join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Development Bank) to demonstrate there is ground for agreement on rules and inclusive institutions for the future, and not only contestation. Many policy voices in the US regard opposition to AIIB as a major mistake of the Obama administration.

The most urgent problem, North Korea, could prove the most ready ground for creating new security arrangements outside the old alliance system. Clinton advisors have told me they put North Korea high on their early agenda.

It seems clear that further sanctions only will generate further bombs and missiles from Pyongyang. That has been the consistent pattern. Unlike in Iran, where there is vigorous public discourse and elections, the sanctions approach can produce political pressure for change. That does not work in a totalitarian state like North Korea.

It is time to take a bold alternative and open up direct talks between the US and North Korea that focus on diplomatic recognition in exchange for a freeze on nuclear weapons and missile development. China should be a key part, if not the leading role, of any inspection regime to verify such a freeze. If that arrangement can hold out over time, the ultimate step would be a formal peace treaty with the US to replace the armistice and formally end hostilities. South Korea would have to agree, of course, with such an approach. And China would have to play a key role in guaranteeing it is adhered to.

If such a deal could be put together, not only would the danger of North Korean nukes to the region be dampened, but this common security approach by the US and China would be the embryo of Northeast Asia architecture that is inclusive of all key powers.

If this were combined with the US joining AIIB, it would show there are scenarios for cooperation instead of only conflict. It would be a step out of the Thucydides trap – the conflict between rising and established powers – into which the US and China have now drifted.

The author is editor-in-chief of The World Post and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council.



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