America’s Strategic Pivot Toward the Asia-Pacific

MS. DIANE REHM

10:06:56
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. During his trip to the Asia-Pacific region last week, President Obama announced an agreement to station U.S. Marines in Australia. He held meetings with Chinese officials and other leaders on economic and security issues, and he participated in two summits with Asia-Pacific nations.

MS. DIANE REHM

10:07:28
Here for a look at America's Pacific century. David Lampton, he's professor of China studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Satu Limaye, he's director of the East-West Center in Washington, and Graham Fletcher, deputy head of Australian mission here in Washington. Throughout the hour, I invite your calls, questions, comments, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, gentlemen.

PROF. DAVID LAMPTON

10:08:15
Good morning.

MR. SATU LIMAYE

10:08:15
Good morning.

MR. GRAHAM FLETCHER

10:08:15
Good morning.

REHM

10:08:17
David Lampton, if I could start to you, what do we know about this surprise meeting between the Chinese premier and President Obama?

LAMPTON

10:08:29
Well, the details are unclear, but I think the setting and what must have been discussed would be, basically, in the last two years, particularly in 2010, latter part of 2009, China had the least skillful foreign policy it's had in the last 30 years. It basically created a high level of anxiety about how a growing and a more powerful China would use its strength. And at the end of 2010, China, through its state councilor, tried to reassure the world that it was still on its peaceful cooperative foreign policy. And China, since late 2010, has been on an effort to try to reassure the world. But there are always lags in the world.

LAMPTON

10:09:21
We are reacting still to that 2010 period. And I'm sure that the bottom line of what Wen Jiabao, China's premier, had to tell President Obama is China wants to be cooperative in the region, China welcomes the United States in the region -- though I think it's quite ambivalent, to be truthful -- and that China will not be a disruptive force in the region but that it's deeply anxious about the solidification of U.S. alliances in the region, building trade partnerships that may or may not include China. So I think China wants to reassure, but is deeply anxious about what it's seen.

REHM

10:10:06
Satu Limaye, it -- the meeting came at the request of the Chinese premier, did it not?

LIMAYE

10:10:18
I don't know the details of exactly how the meeting was formulated, but I think that the big issue here is that the U.S.-China relationship hovers over how the region sees evolving dynamics. On the one hand, they see China, as David had said, rising economically, militarily, diplomatically. And, until recently, the -- there's some concern about U.S. staying power, U.S. sustainability, given our own economic difficulties, our attentions elsewhere.

LIMAYE

10:10:53
So I think what's happened is the secretary of defense's visit, Mr. Panetta's visit, Secretary of State Clinton's and, now, of course, President Obama's long, eight -- nine-day trip through the region has kind of reconsolidated our presence and our commitment to the region. And I think in that context, the region looks forward to, you know, a Goldilocks relationship between the U.S. -- not too hot, not too cold.

LIMAYE

10:11:18
They don't want a G2 between the U.S. and China running things, and they don't want us to be on the outs, on the skids with each other 'cause it creates a lot of complexities and choices they don't want to make.

REHM

10:11:28
Graham, to you, what is the significance of the U.S. placing troops in Australia?

FLETCHER

10:11:39
For me, the significance is more of the political messaging it sends than the actual military impact. I'm not a military strategist, and I'm not sure what a six-month rotational deployment of 2,500 Marines necessarily signifies, but it certainly is a strong political message -- backing up the U.S.' intention to remain an Asia-Pacific power and to stay in the Pacific region.

REHM

10:12:05
What about the political significance, however?

FLETCHER

10:12:10
Well, as I said, the political significance is it confirms U.S. policy statements that it intends to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific region.

REHM

10:12:22
But, I guess, the question is, how do you define engaged?

FLETCHER

10:12:29
Well, I think, as Satu mentioned, the context has been some doubts or questioning about a longer term U.S. commitment. We believe that U.S. -- the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region is vital to continued prosperity and stability, and it's a very welcomed confirmation of U.S. intentions to say that it's going to recalibrate, rebalance, pivot -- several words have been used by U.S. government leaders. As time goes on, the U.S. will not be retreating or withdrawing.

REHM

10:13:08
So, as I understand it, U.S. troops will be located on Australian bases around Darwin. What will they do?

FLETCHER

10:13:21
I won't answer the question what do they do on any other day, but they will be training in Australia with Australian forces for -- the west -- the north part of Australia has a wet season, which makes military activity quite difficult. But there's a dry season, and it's -- we have a lot of room, and our forces will be training with the U.S.

REHM

10:13:45
You know, frankly, I think there are lots of questions. Why is the U.S. placing forces in Australia? David, how do you see it?

LAMPTON

10:13:58
Well, of course, the future is yet to be written. We don't know how the script ends. But both of our countries are involved in a political election season -- ours here and China is. So one of my concerns is, is China's leadership is contesting for the party Congress and leadership of China for the next 10 years. This is going to feed the extremist voices in China, so I'm afraid we're in a kind of unfortunate cycle perhaps here, that we're tough talk on one side, and action is going to feed the other. So I think we have to be mindful of that.

LAMPTON

10:14:34
But the fundamental question I'm worried about is, first of all, it's not self-evident that all our problems in Central Asia and the Middle East are done. So how much of that resource, in fact, can be pulled out is yet to be determined. Secondly, the United States in the future -- just witnessed our discussions on Capitol Hill on the budget -- we're going to have fewer resources. Also, as has been mentioned, there is some credibility issue of U.S. staying power in the region.

LAMPTON

10:15:06
So what I see from the big picture is we're expanding our commitments, and we're going to have diminished resources, and, quite frankly, this is going to feed the least constructive forces in China.

REHM

10:15:19
Of course, we're starting, apparently, with just 250 troops. It could increase to as much as 2,500 troops. How do you see it, Satu?

LIMAYE

10:15:33
Well, you know, I tend to think of these things a little bit in terms of demand-supply. I mean, the United States is still an awesomely powerful military force. And the requirements we have in the Asia-Pacific region are, of course, as Graham said, partly symbolic message sending that we are committed to the region. Our interests are in the region. Second, there is a demand pull from the region. They want the United States. There's a high demand for U.S. exercises, U.S. training, U.S. equipment. We see that throughout the region.

LIMAYE

10:16:09
And one of the -- a third point I'd make is our kind of capacity to deal in the region in terms of this cooperation is increased. Vietnam, which wasn't -- till just a few years ago -- the kind of place where we could have shift visits or, you know, just mutual meetings of military officers. These things are beginning to expand throughout the region, and part of this is because of what David said about Chinese foreign policy and Chinese behavior in the region. So there is a kind of supply question and demand section.

LIMAYE

10:16:42
But one thing I would say about supply, yes, the U.S. is facing some economic difficulty. There's no question about it. On the other hand, you know, our partners and allies in the region do do a lot of things to support U.S. military and security presence in the region. Host nations support by Japan, large bases in the region, in Korea and Japan, so there are things that regional countries are doing as well. And one final point I'd make is it's important not to think of the recent sort of pivot to Asia just in terms of Chinese behavior over the last two, three years.

LIMAYE

10:17:16
It's important to remember the structural things that are happening. We are beginning to trade more with Asia than with Europe. Twenty-five percent, roughly, of our foreign-born population comes from Asia. Over half of our foreign students providing $10 billion to the U.S. economy come from the region. Countries in the region, Australia, India and Japan in 2010 -- one year is not basis of a long-term trend, but it's quite interesting. Those three countries invested more in that year in the United States than we invested in their countries.

LIMAYE

10:17:48
So there's a kind of structural move towards these big economies, big populations, fast growing economies, and so we're going to be there for a long time, regardless of immediate behavior.

REHM

10:17:59
So if China has, in the past at least, been -- the word prickly has been used. What is the likely reaction now? Would the Chinese Premier have indicated to President Obama his concerns about placing troops in Australia, being more involved with the region? Those are just a few of the questions I know that people have in their minds. We're going to take a short break here. And when we come back, we'll talk further, take your calls. Stay with us.

REHM

10:20:04
And we're back, talking about the president's recent trip to the Far East. We have an email from Alan Tidwell of Georgetown University. He's director for Australian and New Zealand Studies. He says, "One can't help but note that the U.S. Congress super committee's likely failure in achieving budget cuts and the emerging across-the-board cuts that will be triggered will simply increase the likelihood of America's inability to live up to its Asia-Pacific promise."

REHM

10:20:48
"In a recent discussion with the U.S. Defense Department official, he stated categorically that the U.S. would not be able to implement its Asia-Pacific strategy in the face of those looming budget cuts. And it's fascinating that the president made this trip while the super committee was presumably engaged in discussions to try to address this problem." Graham Fletcher, how do you see that?

FLETCHER

10:21:24
Well, we were very pleased that the president did visit Australia last week. And while he was in Canberra, he addressed that parliament. And I'll just read you one line from his speech. He said, "Reductions in U.S. defense spending will not, I repeat, will not come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific." Now, it's obviously up to the U.S. to decide how it works through its budget challenges over the next few years. But we're very pleased to have that commitment from the president.

REHM

10:21:52
David Lampton, how strong do you believe that commitment can be in the face of the super committee's apparent failure in reaching agreement?

LAMPTON

10:22:07
Well, I think the president is sincere, but it's more aspirational than factual, perhaps, in the future. I mean, we have this fundamental problem of, how do we balance our commitments in a world of shrinking resources? And all the talk in the world isn't going to change that fundamental reality. So I would have to say I'm skeptical, and I would imagine underneath many people in Asia, at least, are asking themselves that question.

LAMPTON

10:22:37
I'd just say one other thing that Vietnam and Philippines and each of these countries in Asia has their -- have their own objectives. And those objectives may be more or less in synchronization with those of the United States. Let me just give you an example. Oil production in Vietnam, onshore Vietnam is declining. And Vietnam is becoming increasingly desperate, I would say, to stake its claims to offshore oil. And they're inviting in American and other international companies.

LAMPTON

10:23:11
Some of these wells are going in at least what would be called disputed waters. Does the United States really want to get entangled in all of the claims and aspirations of the Philippines and Vietnam in the face of China, in the face of declining resources? And is the Middle East and Central Asia going to cooperate in our pivot? I think these are all questions. I'm hopeful. I'm very pleased with the general attention given to Asia. But we have to have a nuanced policy. Otherwise, we're going to get entangled in games not of our making and not of our interest.

REHM

10:23:49
Here is another email from Jonathan, who says, "I am unclear how China's expansive claims on the South China Sea are anything but threatening to the region. Combined with its increased naval aspirations, it seems like a clear and present danger the world should be addressing, and not only the United States Navy." Satu.

LIMAYE

10:24:19
Well, as we've been discussing already -- and, you know, there are concerns -- if the concerns in the region are partly about U.S. sustainability -- ability to afford the commitments and the kinds of statements it's making about presence in the region, then, surely, the concern in the region is about how China has made historical claims to territorial waters, how it's implicitly and explicitly held economic threats over the region and sort of maybe been seen as maybe a bit heavy-handed in its charm offensive or smile diplomacy as some have put it. So I think there are both of these concerns.

LIMAYE

10:25:02
Now, one thing we're responding to, in part, if you go from roughly -- you know, we've called this the Indo-Pacific region. So from India East, a lot of countries really want the U.S. to make a statement about -- and I think there are two things operating here -- make a statement about our presence and commitment to make sure that things don't get out of hand in the region.

LIMAYE

10:25:24
Second, from our point of view, there's also -- we haven't talked much about -- but apart from the military strategic dimension, this is where the president's plan to double exports and jobs and future investment and trade and all kinds of socioeconomic collaboration are set to occur. So let's not focus only on the strategic picture 'cause there is two coins on that. As I continue to say, there is this kind of demand from the region, too, that we show our presence, demonstrate our presence because of concerns about China.

REHM

10:25:58
And, of course, he delivered his weekly address from Bali in Indonesia saying that the trip helped to cement trade deals that will support 130,000 jobs. He has used the words America's Pacific century. What does that mean to you?

LIMAYE

10:26:25
Well, to me, it's very important. You'll notice that all of our official statements -- Mr. Panetta, Secretary Gates -- talked about being a resident power in the Pacific. Pacific is important because we're -- this is the Pacific Rim. The first meeting on his trip out before Bali was APEC in Honolulu. And the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, that's very important, 'cause there are two kind of things happening in the region.

LIMAYE

10:26:46
One is a kind of effort to make the region exclusive, sort of Asia only, or mostly Asia. For the United States, we engage with Asia across the Pacific. So we tend to speak in terms of being a Pacific power. And that's how that Asia-Pacific connection comes. And that's very important because we don't want an Asia that's closed to the United States on trade and investment or diplomacy or strategic issues. So I think that's what he means is that we're looking across the Pacific to be engaged in Asian affair.

REHM

10:27:19
But one cannot do that and exclude China at the same time, David?

LAMPTON

10:27:25
Right. I think the -- if you look at what's happening is we're reinforcing a security structure that was built in the height of the Cold War, actually in the early days of the Cold War. And I think that we need to stick with our traditional allies. I think that's one part of it. But on the other hand, the long-term challenge is really to build a security structure in Asia, where China's not the object of the security structure, that China's part of it and a stakeholder within the security structure.

LAMPTON

10:27:58
And so we kind of face this very delicate problem of, how do we deter undesirable, uncooperative Chinese behavior without provoking it, and how, at the same time, we strengthen our relationship with our traditional friends? Do we not make it such an exclusive relationship that China sees itself as the target of it? And this is going to call for sophistication. I think terms like forward deployed diplomacy suggest a more military approach to it than a diplomatic. So I think we're in for a very long period of trying to run a nuanced policy in a not-very-subtle political environment.

REHM

10:28:39
Graham, do you expect to see U.S. troops deployed in other areas around that region?

FLETCHER

10:28:51
The U.S. announcement last week was part of the U.S. global force posture review, which is still underway. And I don't know what that review will end up concluding. But in relation to Australia, we've made an announcement about its impact on us. I think it's worth rounding out a little what the troops will do in Australia. I mean, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance is a big need for that part of the world, which has suffered tsunamis and earthquakes and other disasters recently.

FLETCHER

10:29:26
At the meeting the president attended in Bali, Australia and Indonesia put forward a proposal for a cooperative mechanism to step up consultation for disaster relief. Now, necessarily, reactions to disasters involve the military in terms of just getting supplies and people to disaster zones, so one of the benefits of having an -- or a geographically-dispersed U.S. presence is that it assists us to respond to disasters when they occur.

REHM

10:30:00
And what about Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Manila and bolstering relations with the Philippines, David?

LAMPTON

10:30:10
Well, I think it's good that we're active. And Secretary Clinton's gone not only to Philippines, but Thailand, and soon we'll go to Burma. I think this is a degree of activism that's terrific. The United States should have as many friends and allies in the region as possible. So I'm all in favor of that. Sometimes I think, though, our rhetoric gets a little carried away. I do get a little nervous when the secretary is in the Philippines and says we will stand and fight with you, our ally -- alliance obligates us in that direction.

LAMPTON

10:30:44
But I don't think that necessarily is what we want to be emphasizing at this point. I think -- I would wish to hear the word cooperation a little more frequently. And in today's New York Times, there's an interesting article written by a Chinese professor that essentially says the United States and China have a zero-sum relationship, meaning one side wins, the other loses. I think this is very dangerous thinking in China, and we both have zero-sum thinkers in our societies.

LAMPTON

10:31:16
And it's important that we -- that leaders modulate what they say because it's going to -- the extremists in each of the societies are going to feed on one another.

REHM

10:31:27
So -- but, Satu, how would you expect China to react to more muscular statements like that from the secretary of state, plus the added military presence in Australia?

LIMAYE

10:31:48
Well, I think political leadership and diplomatic leadership will be, you know, very professional in the way they express these things. But I can't help but think that there are concerns about the way we framed issues in China. And I couldn't agree more with David in the sense that we don't want to engage the region in such a mad manner, as I said at the very beginning, which is too hot or too cold.

LIMAYE

10:32:11
We don't want to be too removed from the region. We don't want to be so engaged in the reason and say the reason is China because something very different has occurred in the region. Almost every country in the region now trades more with China than with the United States. They have educational relationships, diplomatic relationships, social relationships, tourism relationships.

LIMAYE

10:32:31
If we try to build an Asia-Pacific security order that serves American interest, that simply seeks to isolate China and not build a set of bilateral relations, multilateral groupings like APEC, like East Asia Summit, these kinds of efforts that are inclusive and are win-win rather than the zero-sum that David characterized, we're going to be in trouble.

REHM

10:32:56
Satu Limaye, he's director of the East-West Center in Washington, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have callers who'd like to take part in the conversation. Let's go first to Norfolk, Va. Good morning, John.

JOHN

10:33:19
Hi. Good morning to you...

REHM

10:33:20
Good morning.

JOHN

10:33:20
...and your panel, Diane. Love your show.

REHM

10:33:22
Thank you.

JOHN

10:33:22
I'd just like to say that I think we have become such the enabler for China. I mean, they -- they're number one in manufacture of goods and exporting. Majority of our stuff -- majority of our goods are made over there. We don't apply the same regulations. We don't apply the same taxation rules. We allow them to over-evaluate their dollar. And I read last week, or a couple of weeks ago, that the majority of our pharmaceutical materials come from Asia.

JOHN

10:33:51
So I'm just trying to figure out, are we just building them up? I mean, we're like the bully in the schoolyard that's just poking them in the shoulder, not just really realizing that, you know, we're just building them up. And I just -- I don't think we should be the enabler for China. I think we should have regulations now before it gets bigger than life itself. Thank you.

REHM

10:34:10
Graham Fletcher.

FLETCHER

10:34:13
Well, I think what the U.S. has done over the past 30 years has been very good for China and for the whole region in inviting and welcoming China into the international system as a important trading partner. And, in fact, it's the success of U.S. policy since the Second World War that we're now seeing. The countries of Asia have been able to prosper and develop, thanks to the stability that has been provided by the U.S. presence. Now, that leads us to more challenges, but it's good news to have these problems.

REHM

10:34:43
Of course, aren't there likely to be new leaders in China quite soon, Satu?

LIMAYE

10:34:53
Yes. There is both a leadership change but also, as I understand it -- and David will have, I'm sure, more to say on the details of this -- but also a new generation of Chinese leadership. So not only leadership at the very top, but also a structural change within the society of a new leadership that's come up and grown up and seen the world in a very different time, so...

REHM

10:35:13
And is that new leadership, David, likely to be more interested in a cooperative relationship with the rest of the world or more focused on differences over particular regions?

LAMPTON

10:35:34
Well, of course, that's a $64,000 question, but I think we can be hopeful but not certain about what the next generation of Chinese leaders is going to think. Certainly it will have some bearing, will be the result of how they interpret the current environment and the direction, so it's not just their disposition but also their understanding of the world that they're confronting. But taking that aside, I think there are reasons to be hopeful.

LAMPTON

10:36:03
The person that will, at the end of 2012, emerge as the supreme leader of China, Xi Jinping, his father was close to Deng Xiaoping and a trusted aide that helped China open up in 1978-'79. So he comes from a family, you might say, that's in on the ground floor of reform and opening of China. Secondly, he's been the political leader in three of China's most prosperous trade-oriented, provincial-level units: Zhejiang Province, Fujian Province and Shanghai.

LAMPTON

10:36:37
He's been the leader in all, and those are areas where your job is meeting foreigners, soliciting foreign direct investment, trying to build trade relations and so forth. So he's, I think, a cosmopolitan and somebody with whom we can work.

REHM

10:36:51
But how would you expect him to view the disagreements over the South China Sea?

LAMPTON

10:37:01
Well, I think he, like probably most of the Chinese leadership, is caught in a very difficult place. Their -- the Chinese claim is actually nine dash lines that -- in the ocean that run down almost to Indonesia. It's a remarkable line. It was drawn by Chiang Kai-shek, our ally in the Republic of China. And China's leaders, of course, came to power as defenders of China's territorial integrity, and they inherited this line from Chiang Kai-shek, which they are now defending vigorously. But it's a nonsensical line. I don't think they know how to back off that commitment.

REHM

10:37:42
David Lampton of Johns Hopkins University. Short break. We'll be right back.

REHM

10:40:04
We have a number of listeners who are asking, "What about this U.S. commitment of soldiers to Australia? Is Australia paying for any of that? What does the U.S.A. get in return?" Graham.

FLETCHER

10:40:27
At this stage, the announcement has been made of a target of 2,500 over the next few years and no further details of actually being released as to how it's going to operate. But I should say that we're strong allies of the United States, and we've had deployments of marines and other forces in and out of Australia every year or two for a long time. This is not unusual in terms of number.

FLETCHER

10:40:52
It is -- it's an increased tempo and frequency. But in terms of having U.S. troops train in Australia or in these numbers, we've certainly seen them a day before aircraft, the same thing.

REHM

10:41:06
But we're still talking about cost.

FLETCHER

10:41:09
Yes. And I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you on how the practical arrangements are going to be with that.

REHM

10:41:15
I'm sure an awful lot of people in this country are going to be wondering about that, considering the cost that the U.S. has borne -- U.S. taxpayers had borne for our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Let's go now to Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Zachary.

ZACHARY

10:41:40
Good morning. Thanks for your time. My question was just -- you guys touched on it a little bit. But is this now a part of some kind of larger containment strategy with China in the region and expanding our influence? And if we're to maintain our hegemony, can we afford not to expand our influence in the region?

REHM

10:41:58
David Lampton.

LAMPTON

10:41:59
Well, it's funny you used the word containment. I think if you had a -- if one had a serious understanding of the containment, you wouldn't be running a huge trade deficit with China and providing them the capital we are. You wouldn't have 129,000 students in America's best universities learning high technology. So this -- there's a lot more to our policy than we're just discussing this morning, and much of it has nothing to do with any construction of containment. But you raised that word, and you're accurate because that's exactly how the Chinese would put it.

LAMPTON

10:42:33
If I was sitting in the Chinese foreign ministry, I'd say, what is the list of countries in areas with which we have problems? And I'd have my list. And on it would be Vietnam, would be India, would be the Philippines. I'd have a list. And then I would look where is the -- where are the Americans concentrating their activity in building new relationships or reinforcing old relationships? And the list would be pretty much the same. So I think the Chinese are looking at this through the lens of their history, Cold War containment...

REHM

10:43:05
Exactly.

LAMPTON

10:43:06
...reinvigorating our alliances, all of which, I think, doesn't carry the same message to us as Westerners as it does to China. And...

REHM

10:43:15
Interesting. Satu, during the break, you were talking about cellphones, something as simple as a cellphone and the components therein versus the case itself. Talk about how much of that cellphone is actually made in China.

LIMAYE

10:43:40
Yeah. There's a very famous or well-known study done by the Asian Development Bank Institute on this, looking at -- using the cellphone as an example, and what they were trying to get out of it is to understand the trade deficit between the United States and China. So they took the cellphone as an example, any product like that. And you can put it out to some other manufactured good. But it has components. And a lot of components come from other places, whether it be European suppliers, Japanese, American.

LIMAYE

10:44:11
So the basic point is the Chinese share value of a product like that may be only around 6, 7 percent of the actual product. So to say that it's all coming from China is not accurate.

REHM

10:44:23
But why is our trade balance with China out of whack?

LIMAYE

10:44:30
That's a question for an economist, not really for me, because I don't know all -- people allege all kinds of things, everything from market restrictions to manipulation of...

REHM

10:44:39
And did President Obama talk with the Chinese premier about that manipulation of currency, that trade balance and how to address those problems?

LAMPTON

10:44:53
If you get every stage, including this talk with the prime minister of China -- he talked about the trade deficit and China's currency -- I think, by most standards, it is undervalued. I think one thing that hasn't come through is since 2005, the exchange rate, the renminbi, the Chinese dollar has appreciated about 30 percent. So from the Chinese viewpoint, they've already done a lot, but they always keep hearing from the Americans it's not enough.

LAMPTON

10:45:22
And so you're destined to -- I think the Chinese will continue to revalue their currency. Just on the made-in-China issue, trade statistics are kept where what is called the last substantial transformation occurs. And that is where all the parts were put together with China because -- is China because its labor costs are still lower. And so all of these parts that come from the United States, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and so forth, that is -- the 90 percent of the value of the good is imported to China, assembled, and then the made-in-China label is put on it. And all of that value counts.

REHM

10:46:01
Interesting.

LAMPTON

10:46:03
I thought it was very interesting that, during this last week, China's supreme leader Hu Jintao says, you know, we aspire not to put made-in-China labels on things. We aspire to put created-in-China labels. That is where we do the heavy lifting of innovation and make goods that are much more valuable and -- that's the real competition. We shouldn't be fighting with China over the low-end jobs. We've -- we're going to be in the fight of our life for the high-end jobs.

REHM

10:46:35
All right. Let's go to Arlington, Texas. Good morning, Ken. You're on the air.

KEN

10:46:41
Yes. Good morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.

REHM

10:46:44
Certainly. Go right ahead. Are you there? Oh, my goodness. He dropped. Scott? Let's see. What's happened here? Scott in Cincinnati, Ohio, are you there?

SCOTT

10:47:03
Good morning. Thanks for taking my call.

REHM

10:47:04
Good morning, sir. Yes, sir.

SCOTT

10:47:06
My only point is that I believe that, you know, with China owning so much of our debt and us buying so much from China, that this posturing and bravado from -- that military standpoint would just wreck anybody's economy if anything came of it. So I think that these countries, for everything they say, probably will sit back and realize that it's just more -- much more beneficial to work together or solve problems in the future. Thank you.

REHM

10:47:34
I would certainly hope so. Graham Fletcher, is that how you see it?

FLETCHER

10:47:39
We certainly do. The meeting that had occurred in Bali last week was the East Asia Summit. It's the first time it's brought together the United States with all the countries of the region. And the main theme of that meeting is to talk about cooperation. Now, of course, there are political differences, economic trade disputes. But the overall objective of the meeting that occurred last week and what the countries of the region are trying to do is build habits of cooperation which will stand the region in good stead when challenges arise in the future.

REHM

10:48:12
Let's turn to the decision to send Secretary of State Clinton to the former Burma, now called Myanmar. How does that fit into what you see as the administration strategy, Satu?

LIMAYE

10:48:30
Well, this is really a rather dramatic development and part and parcel of a reengagement across Southeast Asia, all of the Southeast Asian countries as we've been talking about -- Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia. The president had a bilateral with Malaysia as well. The Burma one is dramatic because the president's telephone call from Air Force One to Aung San Suu Kyi, the national opposition leader, basically the green light to go ahead with the reengagement.

LIMAYE

10:49:00
And this is very important because both, in congressional circles as well as administration and American general public, we feel very much that Aung San Suu Kyi has been very mistreated and badly treated. And to have her go ahead that this is a point juncture of which we can reengage with the government, the SPDC, is a favorable outcome. I would be hesitant again about putting -- hanging the Burma reengagement on the China hook because it's not only about China or are all about China. And the president addressed this directly when asked this question by the press during his visit.

LIMAYE

10:49:36
The Burmese government, for reasons that remain somewhat unclear, are making the kinds of reform: freeing political prisoners, doing media -- loosening restrictions on the media, perhaps some overtures on the ethnic conflicts that will allow us to have a progress in Burma for the people there. And I think sending the secretary is a wonderful opportunity.

REHM

10:49:56
And what does Myanmar have to offer to the U.S.?

LIMAYE

10:50:02
Well, it has lots of things. First of all, I forgot the exact population, but maybe around 50-, 60 million people -- it's got lots of energy resources, mineral resources. It's an important -- you know, the ASEAN countries, the 10 Southeast Asian countries have decided to let Burma chair the 2014 ASEAN Summit, which, as you know, we have now a regularized dialogue with these 10 countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

LIMAYE

10:50:33
So, diplomatically, we have to engage. American corporate business interests will be interested in engaging. Civil society, NGOs will be interested in engaging -- all across the board. So I think this is a -- potentially, if reform continuous and opens up, it's an opportunity.

REHM

10:50:49
David.

LAMPTON

10:50:50
Well, I think this is a wonderful move. And it's been in the works since this administration came in. The Burmese have periodically repressed it. Their population made it difficult to continue. You asked why the U.S. is doing this. And I agree -- part of that answer. First of all, most Southeast Asian countries wanted the U.S. to engage with Burma because they want to consolidate ASEAN and build themselves as a united area that can pursue their interests in a more cohesive way. And Burma is part of that picture.

LAMPTON

10:51:27
Also, the Burmese did not like the fact that they were totally dependent on the Chinese economically, and the Chinese were, in effect -- I hesitate to use the word colonizing northern Burma, but I think many Burmese saw it that way. Now, given that there are many good reasons for the U.S. to do what it's done, and I wholly support it, the fact is the Chinese will filter it through this containment lands.

LAMPTON

10:51:51
The Burmese just ended a big dam project the Chinese were helping them build, and there's been a distinct drawback. And so I think as Burma is taking a tougher line to China, it's, in fact, looking for big power friends elsewhere, one of which is, of course, the United States. So the Chinese will interpret this in that more negative containment picture, even though we have many good and non-China-related reasons to do what we're doing.

FLETCHER

10:52:16
And if I could just say, you know, the China factor has not led to U.S. engagement with Burma since the Burmese government didn't accept the results of the election in 1990. So to hang these all on the hook of China, on one fine day, is just simply inaccurate. It wasn't sufficient to do it for 20 years, and so I think we need to look beyond just that factor.

REHM

10:52:38
All right. To Ken, who's in Arlington, Texas. I hope we have you back now.

KEN

10:52:45
Yes. Good morning, Diane. Can you hear me okay?

REHM

10:52:47
Yes, sir. Go right ahead.

KEN

10:52:50
Yes. Diane, I'm hoping that the expertise from the North Sea, when Britain and Denmark and Norway, they peacefully sorted out their exploration areas. I'm hoping that expertise is now being translated into the China area so that they'll have that to conduct the negotiations peacefully.

REHM

10:53:12
All right. Sir, thanks for calling. David.

LAMPTON

10:53:15
Well, I think the seas in -- to the north of Europe had been a model for cooperative development. And I would hope that what we could end up with is a situation in which you shelf the sovereignty issues and reach agreements over the joint cooperative development of this area, that it, in fact, had, for many years, been the Chinese line.

LAMPTON

10:53:38
But, in fact, there had never been any significant movement to implement it. And my hope is that, rather than behave defensively, China will see that there are great support in Asia for a cooperative development, and I'd like to -- I would hope -- I'm not confident -- but would like to hope that's the case.

REHM

10:53:55
David Lampton. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." One last call from Justin here in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.

JUSTIN (CALLER

10:54:08
Good morning, Diane. I'd like to ask your guests whether human rights, the prospect of human rights discussion in the U.S.-China relations, with respect to the most oppressed Uighur minority and Tibetans. And this administration has been tiptoeing around the topic of human rights and in its dealing with the Chinese famous cases. Hillary Clinton said that human rights should not be a distraction to the discussion of economic issues.

JUSTIN (CALLER

10:54:34
And I wonder if that will change. It seems like there's been some sort of change in the U.S. government's position. I wonder if the Chinese will respond differently in the future.

REHM

10:54:46
All right. Sir, thanks for calling. David.

LAMPTON

10:54:49
Well, throughout the speeches, both by the secretary of state and by President Obama, certainly, democracy and human rights were mentioned at every single occasion. And I think the remarks of Secretary Clinton early in the administration, that you mentioned, in fact, didn't quite strike the tone that the secretary of state herself, I think, eventually felt comfortable with. And so I think there's much greater, at least rhetorical and, I think, some factual, emphasis on human rights.

LAMPTON

10:55:20
You asked how the Chinese will respond, and, frankly, the Chinese leadership, now, between the succession under way and its general fear of the Arab Spring and before that the culture -- colour revolutions, all of this have made the Chinese, despite all of their great successes economically in China, very nervous. And so you see this odd combination of an assertive China demanding to be respected, at the same time it's clamping down on its people because it's deeply nervous.

REHM

10:55:51
When you say clamping down on its people because it's deeply nervous, and you have the United States involved in this new effort, do you believe that that could change China's stance toward its own people? Satu.

LIMAYE

10:56:15
Well, I -- you know, I'm sort of interpreting what the Chinese might think. They might see, as David and others have talked about, sort of the U.S. being engaged to surround China, if that's what they're perceiving, which puts in their eyes, perhaps, more pressures on them, which makes them less interested in dissent and wanting to keep controls over their society and their politics and their economics.

LIMAYE

10:56:38
So that would have a very negative effect, obviously. I'm not sure whether that relationship is occurring or not, but, certainly, from the Chinese leadership point, stability, above all, matters. And they would be very watchful of that.

REHM

10:56:51
Satu Limaye, he's director of the East-West Center in Washington, David Lampton of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Graham Fletcher of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

ANNOUNCER

10:57:18
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