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tv   Book Discussion on Asias Cauldron  CSPAN  May 4, 2014 5:30pm-6:31pm EDT

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know, what i love -- so it covered this epic migration of african-americans from the south to northern cities to the midwest, out to the west coast. what i love about the book is that she looks at it that it was never appreciated fully through the lens of social justice, politics, and political protest, and she wrote about this migration using the story or through the stories of three people in this way that made this migration just so heroic, just such an epic, one of the modern american epics, perhaps thee american epics, you know, and she wrote about it as a protest of the feat of millions of african-americans, 6 million african-americans voted with their feet for, yu know 6million african-americans
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voted with their feet for, youy, know, and more just society.e of think that, you know, looking at the experience of this other establishment and other members of our community when need to gu home and collectively decide, you know, what are heroic acts in our community.ions in now the lead for them? hem? for haag's about the public great grandmother came here on a the above.n't th i mean, man, that was a time when i don't even think i was allowed to stay home.t on i think had a baby sitter. you know, there are such storien of strength and resistance and m our own families and communitieh , and we need tolue e definem those for ourselves and value and listen to them and shen figure out how today we cai implement that and move thisqueo forward because it is a question of redefinition, but it is alsoi
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in my mind really a question ofp amplifying these actions becausw we are on thee're timeline,njus, experiencing massive injustice. today really is the date is noto last week that although people,o were active already and we have to get started.or >> let us all think laura. >> this is about an hour.
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>> well, my name is bob work. as the chief executive officer it is my honor and privilege to welcome you here tonight before the book launch, ages caldron, the south china sea and the end of a stable pacific. we're going not i just ask everybody if you have any electronic devices, please check them and make sure that they are silenced. i would appreciate it. we don't want them to disturb the goings on. as this great crowd suggests bob kaplan is one of today's most recognized and respected american journalists to mike currently in national correspondent for the atlantic magazine. he also is a senior fellow at the foreign policy research institute, and i am happy to say and jack senior fellow at the center for new american security i think bob first kind of hit the national security policy seen in a big way with his publication, the coming anarchy
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in the atlantic monthly in 1994. i was talking to him just before the event kicked off. yesterday he spoke to the leaders of the department of defense command the aston to update data very similar article that article has been widely cited and debated and was the first of his many articles that highlighted the reef the ridges of cultural and regional tensions. there were suspended during the cold war. he has since offered numerous books, among them monsoon, imperial gruntal on pilots and blue water grants to my personal favorite the revenge of geography. a commentator whose work has been featured in numerous publications, including the "washington post", the new york times, the new republic, the national interest, foreign affairs, and the "wall street journal". bob's work is always very well written, insightful, and provocative. it is extremely well known and
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respected inside national-security in policy circles. he has been a consultant for the u.s. army special operations forces, the united states marine corps, u.s. air force, briefed providence, lectured at military war colleges, the fbi, the national security agency, the pentagon's joint staff, and the cia. he has also lectured at universities, business forms and appeared on pbs and npr, c-span, and fox. 2006-2008 bond was a visiting professor at the united states naval academy where he taught a course entitled future global security challenges. in 2009 secretary of defense robert gates pointed into the defense policy board which is a federal advisory committee to the united states to bar and of defense, and he served on a body for two years. historical writings have garnered him an awful lot of praise. he was recipient of a greenway when should award. in 2002 he was awarded the
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united states state department distinguished public service award. new york times columnist, -- thomas friedman one of the most widely read authors define the post cold war era along with harvard professor samuel d. huntington and deal professor paul keating. our rear company in the. perhaps this explains why in 2011 foreign policy magazine named kaplan as one of the world's top global 100. i think we could pull a room like this in the night just by asking to make a mountain you want to tell us what you think? but tonight we are especially privileged to year him talk and to give his thoughts on the newest book ages caldron, the south china sea in the end of the stable pacific. this book is extremely timely turning its case to the development of the far western pacific. as one review put it, with oil reserves of several billion
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barrels estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and several centuries worth of competing territorial claims, the south china sea in particular is a simmering pot of potential to. al -- part travelogue, part geopolitical perimeter ages cauldron offers up a vivid snapshots of the nations around in the south china sea at the dawn of the 21st century and the implications for global peace and security. now, to help these out some of bob's got this evening we are especially lucky to have steve who is here with us tonight, one of the current host of a morning edition of national public radio he along with his co-host rene took over morning edition in december 2004, and he has been on match other reasons. prior to being a host of the morning edition steve was npr transportation correspondent and a host of weekend all things
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considered. since joining the morning edition in 2004 he has hosted the program from new orleans, detroit, cairo, and toronto. establishing himself as a thoughtful commentator on a wide variety of issues. he investigated iraqi police in baghdad and is the author of the instant city, life and death of reggie which was published in 2011 by penguin press. he has also written for many publications including the new york times and "washington post," the "wall street journal" steve's work has also garnered praise. in 2006 to receive the robert f. kennedy journalism award for the price of african oil, a series on conflicts and nigeria. ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please join me in welcoming bob and steve to our event tonight. [applause]
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>> let's find out what this man is thinking. the want to come talk? sure. i am happy to do that. it is great to be here. congratulations on the book. i found compelling. and i want to begin because we are talking about a geographic space, and it is hard for us to keep that in our heads. give us some mental map, if you will. when you talk about the cauldron, the south china sea, will you define the edges of that culver for us? >> think of it as the middle europa of the 21st century. just like central and eastern europe where the center of geopolitical conflict in the 20th-century can't think of the south china sea as that for the 21st injury. it is surrounded by the countries of southeast asia, the philippines, vietnam, the strait of:00 in the southwest, taiwan
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is in the north. the court in the ball, so the speak. it is about the size of the greater caribbean. in fact it might just as the caribbean is called the american mediterranean, call the south china sea the asian mediterranean in terms of its centrality to asia. the south china sea is the antechamber to the indian-. the world's global energy interstate. all of the oil and natural-gas from the middle east comes by supertanker across the indian ocean, comes through the strait the burgeoning middle-class fleshpots of japan, south korea, and the emerging middle class's of coastal china. and it is not just oil tankers.
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the south china sea handles much of the commercial traffic in the world because if though world has an economic geographical organizing principle it is asia, the asia-pacific. two of the world's three largest economies, china and japan. china and japan and south korea get all of their good energy, a cargo of raw from the south china sea so the south china sea is really the heart of things. think of it as asia's persian gulf. the persian gulf is only important for welcome energy, the south china sea is important for energy transport, oil and natural gas under the seabed and also for all of the commercial cargo traffic that travels. >> you already said a couple of things. you compare the south china sea
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to central europe. dispute over borders and nationalism. are you worried about what happens? >> i think the south china sea along with the east tennessee, where china and japan have several complex will not lead to a world war one style cataclysm. world war one was about modernism, the best tanks, trenches, things like that, and it went on for years and killed 17 million soldiers and civilians. east asia and the south china sea, the demonic demons of postmodernism. warships, nuclear submarines, fighter jets, cyber warfare, ballistic missiles.
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>> why am i not reassured? >> i am going to reassure you. sven essentially europe was the landslide. and i claustrophobic when a client. their armies came into contact with tooling and throwing. but the south china sea conflict will show us anxious, nervous, complicated world. it is there and see. very few civilians and long -- involved. geographical features that are bare rocks in many cases. >> how did you explore these geographical features? how did you go about it? >> what i find increasingly as i get older, you cannot go to a country once. the first time you get a lot of
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very vivid impressions, but the longer they are there more you realize that the or partially deceived. impressions underneath that are more long-lasting that even the foreigners who were there for two years of no. the went to vietnam several times. taiwan, malaysia, and i traveled differently in each case. one of the things i do when i travel is i am always taking notes. i never stopped writing because your most vivid impressions are those that will escape your mind in 30 seconds if you don't read them down. >> twitter is a good thing after all. >> yeah. you know, it is a matter of going back and back and back and always taking notes and always
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sort of asking yourself, what is the question here that would bring a very uncomfortable silence at the dinner table that no one would want to discuss? the future lies inside the silences, you know, inside the things that people don't want to discuss. >> take me inside a country and an uncomfortable question occurred to you during your many questions. >> i will pick a country. people know very little about malaysia. when we think of malaysia we think of the airplane that went down that no one can locate. >> and country. >> and we know that malaysian air plans to not and live well and therefore it must be a badly run country and all that. in fact, malaysia is one of the most impressive countries in the world. it has gone from backbreaking poverty and violent ethnic strife between ethnic chinese,
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at the indians, muslims. and over the past century has become prosperous information economy with great infrastructure. you know. beautiful highways to my great bus systems, airports, but there is -- rather than bias there is in negotiated tension. and this negotiated tension, malaysia is really, i call it like the heart of the world. it really is. it is the funnel of civilization because you have got -- where else can you find large ethnic chinese population's gonna large indian population, large muslim population. india, china, and the muslim world ball in one country. you know, you are probably aware
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of the great port of melaka. early modern late medieval. that is malaysia. the portuguese settled at. the questions about malaysia that are very uncomfortable, is made all of these strides because it had some very nasty edge is to it. basically he insured six or 7% economic growth rate for about 20 years. he was very detailed and build the information economy, but he instituted a form of what we would call affirmative-action. he saw that there were not as well educated as the chinese and indians, and he was an ethnic malay. he said, you know, we need to up, you know, promote the local
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population. malaysia, 80 percent or 90% where you can say it is a muslim country, it is 60 percent muslim, which makes it, you know, which makes it very different. and unique in the world so that tensions there if have to do with race. yet at the same time there has been no violence there. make the transition from a democracy. and that is an and that show the malaysian story. malaysia also has less anti chinese nationalism then the vietnamese because they are so immersed in their own communal tensions that they don't have
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the psychological space, the focus like the vietnamese do against the chinese and the south china sea or like the filipinos to against the chinese. >> the fact that you mention these different races and ethnicities our minds is that there are people who are not really that familiar to people in the west but that happened and that you feel are significant which raises another point for me when i think about how you travel. why is it that when you think about strategic issues you end up destroying historic sites, tourist locations. >> history doesn't begin the day you will arrive. history does not begin in a place the day you arrive there. the 23rd chapter of history.
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the heat off -- reading and writing and reading, visiting historical sites with and interviewing historians, not just going to the policy people on the politicians in the country because they will just tell you about now. and you have to have a perspective on everything but for now in order to know what might happen after. >> do you ever find yourself as an outsider feeling like the insiders of a country not fully understand the situation and take too much for granted? >> the insider knows all the details. they can trip you up on this the mistake or that will mistake. that is why you have fact checkers and expert readers.
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sometimes the outsider can see things that the, you know, that the insider is not able to see some much. >> let's talk strategy. he used the phrase china's caribbean. comparing the south china sea to the caribbean sea and its relationship to the united states. >> well, when i spoke to the chinese, several of them, in fact, and i was talking about china's aggressive stance on the south china sea, they said to me, we are doing nothing different in the south china sea that you americans did not two and a greater caribbean of in the 19th and early if 20th-century. >> what to the u.s. to. upon settling the continental to a price of land mass of north america the united states tried
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to extend its control to the blue water adjacent to that land mass, the greater caribbean, the gulf of mexico, the caribbean. it is not true that the americas, the western hemisphere is divided between north and south america. it is actually divided between north of the amazonian jungle and south of the amazonian jungle because venezuela, colombia, and terms of where people live in those countries, they all live around the caribbean. once the united states got dominance in the caribbean it is essentially got strategic control of the hemisphere. and that allowed it to affect the balance of power and the other hemisphere, and that was the story of the 20th century. the monroe doctrine was not about kicking out the europeans. the europeans have already left. it was about keeping them out what the same time cooperate with britain over the slave trade, combat in the slave
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trade, and at the same time moving closer to europe in every other sphere once the caribbean is settled. >> that was what it was about. americans come from half a world away to our adjacencies which makes you hegemon. when we are in our adjacencies where printing and benevolence and extending a continent of control into what they call their bills have nationals will. the blue waters in the south and east tennessee. what the chinese will one is the kind of dominance that we had in the caribbean, and they have instituted what they call the cows tong. they claim control of most of the south china sea.
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the problem is, the vietnamese to agree with that line. filipinos don't agree with that line. malaysia has some problems with. brunei has settled its issue. taiwan basically agrees with china, but does not china. it's us. so @booktv is the united states air force hit with the united states air and sea power caucasus would provide security for the region could be essential in not allowing china to undermine the sovereignty of all these countries. at the same time fact that led the nationalism of the philippines and vietnam of the united states into a military conflict of.
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>> is nothing particularly wrong regressive about what we're doing film era of abcaeleven responded -- why should they have the states be concerned about a larger and larger chinese role in the south china sea? >> the chinese see the south china sea as unlocking the door, breaking out of the first island chain of the pacific into the water pacific and also allowing them to envelop, to make an end run around taiwanese sovereignty without actually having to caulker taiwan. >> meaning that they would surround to one. >> in other words, surrounded by more and more trade, air connections, ballistic missiles focused. and most importantly the south china sea is the antechamber to the indian ocean.
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where china is building or helping to finance modern deep water ports along as part of their emerging commercial umpire , and the indian ocean covers the entire arc of as long from the sahara desert to the malay archipelago. so if the chinese sustained dominance of the south china sea it on mocks the world to them. it allots most of the maritime eastern hemisphere to them in a way that the caribbean on locked the world for the united states. >> if you are president, president of the united states to you might have to ask the basic question, if that is what china wants to what does that bother us, those that the and the united states? >> here is i put it in the book. the united states always needs and advantages ally with power in the asia-pacific, but it cannot have, going into the future decades, the kind of dominance that it exercised in the post world war ii decade
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because for decades there was no chinese navy to speak out. japan was. >> i pacifistic. the vietnam and malaysia were tied up in internal war. the philippines were internally focused. that has all changed. vietnam and malaysia are building significant navy's. much more so than they and the past. japan is moving out of its cause i passivism surf. china says the mid-1990s has been emerging as one of those worlds great air and sea powers. so we are going to have more of a complex multi pull a military arrangement as opposed to the very simplistic unipolar american military dominance that we have had in previous decades. there will be a shift. again, it is a matter of a favorable balance of power. we can match these -- tis the
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chinese out. >> some of the countries,. >> yes. east asia, not just the south china sea, but all of east asia is a part of the world where american hard military power, where the u.s. does not have to apologize. it does not have bad connotations the way it might have in the middle east or the way that it might even have, at least until recently post's national europeans. the japanese want us there. they want our ships there. the vietnamese, a former enemy of the united states, are refurbishing the naval station in order to lure and more u.s. warships. the vietnamese told loveless, but they see us as very useful, as a counterbalance to chinese power. >> let me zoom in on one level
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spec. there are hundreds if not thousands of line islands in the south china sea, some of them barely above water. most of them uninhabited, of them or nearly all of them disputed. there is a philippine ship that has been grounded on one of the islands in the and the handful of troops there. china has been making it difficult to resupply that ship. it is a sign of philippine sovereignty over are worthless piece of rock. perhaps not so worthless. what are the kinds of things that could become a flashpoint? >> i have explained how the chinese see it. here is out of filipinos see it. a very poor -- it's not like -- its economy is growing now, but this is only recently.
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they're is a lot of oil and natural gas. and it feels that china is trying to seize filipino wells, the kind of natural resource wealth that will help with the philippines out of poverty. so the philippines of very strongly nationalistic. the philippines remember in 1992 the united states out of naval station clark air field. ..
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>> the bilateral relationship between the u.s. and china is just so massively important that we cannot get into a kind of, into a incident, into a military incident with china because of something like this. at the same time, the philippines is a treaty ally of the united states. that means it's a very formal, allied relationship like we have with south korea, like with japan. we have relatively few of those in the world, and some of our most important are in the asia-pacific -- >> meaning if someone shoots the philippines, they're effectively at war with the united states. >> um, let me put it this way: when china pushes around the philippines, the chinese regime can essentially say to its own nationalists at home, see?
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we can poke a finger into the eye of uncle sam, because the philippines is a treaty ally. so it's sort of a cheap way of poking a finger at the united states, by trying to push around the philippines. >> let me ask about another part of the world by way of analogy, and by the way, in a moment we're going to get to your questions, so be thinking about those. a colleague of mine was pointing out that until very recently it would have been hard to imagine russia dismembering a neighbor country even e though russia was seen as aggressive. rush. >> clearly felt that it had a neighborhood of countries that it was entitled to dominate, but actually dismembering a neighboring country would have been seen as impossible, and very abruptly it's happened, and it appears that the united states as a distant nation dealing with a very complicated relationship with a nuclear power country really can't do anything about it. is it possible we could wake up one day and find out that china
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has seized some chunk of territory that it sees as vital to itself interests, and the united states again -- because of that important relationship you mentioned -- can't do anything about it? >> it's possible, but here's what could likely happen. you could have -- the chinese would probably never send uniformed troops on these disputed islands. what it would likely do is land fishermen, civilians and claim that they're exercising tear fishing rights -- their fishing rights, but claiming sovereignty at the same time. >> fishing with missiles, perhaps. >> yes. because the chinese have an interesting naval strategy. when we think of navies, we just think of gray-hulled warships. but the chinese use their coast guard and their fishing vessels as part of an orr talibanic continuum -- organic continuum in naval power all the way from a small fishing boat all the way up to a nuclear-powered submarine. and so they've tended to push the philippines around with their coast guard. which, essentially, makes it
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harder for the u.s. to respond because you're supposed to respond in kind, but we don't have coast guard there. so it's essentially a nonmilitary -- and it also serves to humiliate the fill pee knowns -- filipinos because the chinese are saying we don't even need our warships to get away with you. a danger is the u.s. is not likely to get into a conflict with china over the philippines, but japan is another matter. here we go the east china sea. japan is a serious treaty ally. japan hosts u.s. warships, even, you know, it's going to be hosting a u.s., i think, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. you know, japan has four times as many major warships on the high seas than the british royal navy at the moment. so japan is a serious military power. and were japan so get into some sort of shooting incident with
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china, that would raise the danger of dragging the in. because, you know, we're bound by treaty to help defend japan. >> i want to ask one more quick question before i go the audience, and this is this: you have compared the south china sea to the caribbean, you've given us a historical analysis that when the united states came to dominate the caribbean, it was a springboard for a leading role in the world. if china were to succeed in dominating the south china sea, would china then go on to dominate the world? >> no, i don't think so. if it could dominate the south china sea, a number of other things would be happening as well. they would essentially neutralize taiwan. taiwan is a de facto independent country. those words with, "de facto," could change. china would also become a two-ocean navy over the western pacific and the indian ocean.
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that would give china tremendous influence in what i call the navigable southern rimland of eurasia, stretching from the horn of africa to the sea of japan. but it would not allow china to dominate the eastern hemisphere to the extent that the u.s. has traditionally dominated the western hemisphere. because remember, you also have russia, and we could go on for an hour about the strategic competition between russia or china. between russia and china. and you also have, you know, powers in the middle east like iran, saudi arabia and others. the eastern hemisphere is a much more complex issue that we're dealing with compared to the western hemisphere. >> and i appreciate the complexity. let me turn to your questions now and invite them. let me just -- i guess i'll be calling on people. is there a mona will come? there is a mona will come to you. -- a microphone that will come to you.
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i'll go to this gentleman -- yeah, yous -- and just -- yous, and just wait for the microphone. >> i'm michael tint, and the question i'm asking is the last time the had a big rebalancing strategy in the late '40s and early '50s, it involved a lot of institutional changes for federal government and defense establishment in general. are there institutional changes you think are necessary to facilitate the rebalance to asia, and if so, what are they? >> here's the difficulty. we want to pivot to asia if the middle east allows, but the middle east doesn't often allow. the same might be said about, the same might be said about europe. the u.s. is a global power. you know, it just is. it's such a global power that it can only be compared not to other nation-states throughout history, but to other empires throughout history. you know? it's just, it's the only useful means of historical comparison
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that we have. but it's not, it's not a question of reorganizing bureaucracies, though the procurement process needs a lot of help, you know? changes because just at as the expense of warships. i think the new gerald r. ford class of aircraft carriers, 12 billion without anything on it, or a zumwalt class destroyer is four billion without anything on it. so there's a lot of work to be done there. but i think what we're going to need going forward, we tend to have this illusion that we're in this globalized, universal world. but that may be true at a top cream of the crop, global elite level. but never have we needed more area expertise inside the bureaucracy as we need now. people who are expert in local/national cultures.
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>> wow, that leads to a great follow up. anybody who's read the book, "the best and the brightest," there's a narrative about the united states kind of destroying its area knowledge. a lot of time has passed since then. how well do you think the united states, inside the government, understands the region you're talking about? >> well, after, after 9/11, of course, this was a lot of emphasis on -- there was a lot of emphasis on building up arab speakers, persian speakers and others. the united states has an advantage in the asia-pacific. we fought half of world war ii there, one theater of world war ii. we fought two great wars there, korea and vietnam. we have been, essentially, a colonial power in the philippines from 1899 right up through the early decades of the 20th century with a strong relationship with the philippines ever since. so there's a, there's a tremendous institutional basis for area expertise and
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friendships with the asia-pacific. that, you know, we don't, we don't have quite with other parts of the world. >> okay. more questions. yes, ma'am, right here in front in the second row. and, again, please say your name and where you're from. go ahead and stand up. >> thank you for the opportunity. my name is -- [inaudible] vietnamese-american. i'd like to, first, make a few clarifications, and then i ask a question. >> all right, if we can just be as brief as possible. go ahead. >> yes. >> [inaudible] >> it's okay, it's okay. >> i'm a vietnamese-american. i came here in '75. before then the vietnamese in the south fought with the u.s. and the whole world to fight against the communists. so the vietnamese then and the vietnamese now, we value the values of the u.s. and the universal values which is human rights, dignity and justice for
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all. that's one. you is said that vietnam doesn't -- you said that vietnam doesn't -- [inaudible] that's not true. the vietnamese communists maybe. but the vietnamese in the south who fought against the communists, we like the values. secondly, in 1974 china did invade seat fam. you said that would -- vietnam. you said that would not happen. and china has repeatedly -- >> and now your question? >> and recently in 2009, even now, with the fishing vessels. so that's a clarification. my question to you is your title, "the end of a stable pacific." i would like to ask you -- [inaudible] and all the policymakers here -- [inaudible] and i believe that the u.s. has a role in it, the u.s. is the leader of the world. how do we avoid the end of a
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stable pacific so then come back to the institutional? how do we -- >> okay. >> -- form a new -- [inaudible] where china can sit down and sign this code of -- [inaudible] and where would u.s. come in as a leader? >> yeah, i think i have, i understand your question. yes, it's true that the chinese did take the -- [inaudible] and this is part, the dispute between china and vietnam in the south china sea is probably the strongest of the disputes in the south china sea. vietnam is, i think, one of the 12th or 13th largest countries in the world in population. it has -- the whole western coastline of the south china sea, it's a potential maritime turkey; that is, a potential middle-level power. and it is true that the chinese -- the vietnamese government wants to use the
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united states, you know, to balance it against china whereas whenever i've traveled through vietnam, i've never met such pro-american, friendly people really. that's true. the united states in terms of keeping the pacific stable, what it's all about is we have to be very clear. we have to keep up a very strong air/naval presence. it's fine to encourage our allies to do more, but when our allies do more and they themselves have conflicts with other countries in the region, it could lead to instability. so, yes, we want the japanese to do more. but if the japanese bulled up their military -- build up their military and keep building and building, it becomes a problem because, you know, because the japanese are, they're, you know, for historical reasons they're not well trusted in south korea and elsewhere.
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and yet the japanese have an existential threat with china, with growing chinese power. so the u.s. has to maintain a strong air/naval presence to keep the peace as it were. people say, oh, we can just drastically reduce our ships and planes. um, if we cothat do that -- if we do that, the pacific is not going to be very stable, and the chance of war breaking out or a conflict breaking out in the south china sea and in the east china sea goes up immeasurably. >> let me go way to the back. is there anybody toward the back? are you all just that quiet in the back? that's really remarkable. okay. how about this gentleman over here? and just go ahead -- the microphone's coming. there it is. >> thank you. ken meyers, world -- [inaudible] there's a possibility, remote at present, maybe not so remote, that a canal will be built across the usth miss in -- isthmus in southern thailand.
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how likely do you think that is, and if it happened, how would it change the geopolitical situation in the south chi a that sea -- china sea with a lot of shipping to east asia, especially china, being able to bypass singapore and malaysia? >> yes, it would be a great -- it would be a more difficult engineering product than the panama canal because of the terrain, the mountainous terrain there. there have been many feasibility studies done, there's also feasibility studies being done to create, like, deepwater ports on both sides of the malay peninsula where it be connected by pipeline and rail. thereby -- in other words, what this is all about is bringing the indian ocean and the south china sea together. the bay of bengal together with the south china sea, the indian ocean with the pacific, that is. and that's to take advantage of
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growing numbering transfers -- energy transfers where so much is now dependent on the strait of malacca. people say geography isn't important anymore, well, the strait of malacca is no wider than it was 500 yearsihpty and that creates a real dilemma for china which is too -- and for japan and south korea as well because they're all just too dependent on this narrow strait which is even narrower in terms of what's actually navigable inside that waterway. so they need alternative pathways. and the isthmus of craw could be one. >> okay, let's -- this woman right here in the third row in the blue. go ahead and stand up. >> thank you very much. my name is -- [inaudible] i'm journalist from china -- [inaudible] media. you just alluded to taiwan. you said that it's just now a de facto, independent country, and it could change. the chinese government is very determined to take back taiwan,
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according to beijing's thinking. so do you think -- and we are seeing now the increasing economic integration between taiwan and the mainland, and there are very real possibilities that taiwan could, in fact, de facto become part of the great china -- [inaudible] and lose its independency. if that happened, what do you think will change as the power in south china sea? >> yes. a number of things could happen. china is -- i think there are 270 commercial flights a week between the chinese mainland and taiwan. there's also 1500 or so ballistic missiles focused from china on taiwan. and this is to say, this is to say nothing about, you know, the chinese warships in the south china sea which, essentially, abuts taiwan.
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but at the same time, the longer taiwan can hold out -- and this is what taiwanese tell me, what i report in the book -- the longer they hold out, the more china itself can change. because remember, we've been used to a static china with just 8, 9% economic growth rates every year for the last 25 or 30 years where, you know, this economic boom engine with a predictable authoritarian leadership of collegial, faceless, noncharismatic men who retire at 65, and that leads to policy that's been very predictable, even if china's a rival. but now that economic engine is, you know, is running into the ground a bit. you know, you can't just go on growing like that forever. china needs a host of reforms, economic rebalancing. that's going to lead to social stresses, economic stresses, political stresses.
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the new chinese president seems to be carving out more of his own personality which is different from the previous faceless leaders that we've had in the past. so that the future chinese leadership may be less predictable than that in the past, and if china goes through social and economic and political upheaval of some sort, it may have problems with its minority border lands of the turk muslim uighurs and tibetans in the south, etc. so that china itself may decentralize. which would mean that the china which eventually is drawing closer and closer to taiwan may not be as dangerous for taiwan as the country in the past. one of the things -- i throw out an idea in the book that, you know, i think will generate a lot of discussion, i hope. everyone thinks the most important person in, you know, the most important chinese
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person in the, you know, in the last 110 years has been mao tse-tung. and i'm arguing that it may, ultimately at the end of the day in a few more decades, be chiang kai-shek. because chiang kai-shek embodied confucianism, enlightened authoritarianism at least in his later years in taiwan. and, you know, and turned taiwan into the model democracy that it is today. even as china itself is, you know, mao is still revered as a nationalist figure now. but if china goes through a political upheaval, that may change as well. we just -- the historical reckoning for mao is still in the future. and at the end of the day from a philosophical point of view, chiang kai-shek may win the argument. >> okay. we've got time for a couple of more questions. how about this gentleman right here in the sweater?
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>> hi -- [inaudible] john hopkins. in your travels, discussion with chinese leaders, what is your sense of who has control of china's southeast asia sea policy? is it the chinese government or is it the pla and the vast chinese energy consortiums? is it possible the tail is wagging the dog in southeast asia? >> all right. first of all, even within the chinese people's liberation army/navy there are differences of opinion. there are some naval voices in china that argue for a more conciliatory policy in the south china sea. remember, china is not as totalitarian as it was under mao. when it was totalitarian, only a few men controlled everything, including the military. but as that system goes from totalitarianism to a more traditional authoritarianism, different power centers emerge including the military.
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so the military is very, is more and more politically powerful, and the military has interest in promoting, you know, a very nationalist policy in the southh china sea. one thing to keep if mind is that -- in mind is that if it were only up to elites, it might be easier for the chinese regime to have a more conciliatory policy in the south china sea to compromise on the nine dash line as it were. but it's not only up to the elites. china may not be a democracy, but public opinion matters a lot to the leadership. and the public opinion is very nationalist. and so as one official told me in beijing, he said, you know, we can see a compromise in the future in the south china sea, e9ñ heçó political strategy for selling that
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domestically. >> did they create that in their own problem because of the state media created that feeling that that was a nationalistic line that had been drawn in the sea? >> partly. that was partly the case, you know? they created this, you know, they created this whole issue. but the issue also rose organically because of just the growth of the navy and air force there. and their ballistic, you know, they've just become -- they're so much more powerful now than they were in, say, 1993. it's a different world. >> okay. is there really nobody in the back that is not too shy to pose a question? okay. there's not. so we will continue right here in the front. there's a gentleman here raising his hand. go ahead. the microphone will reach you. >> i'm ali -- [inaudible] i'm an associate with the balfort center. is there a way or do you have litmus tests in the book or just
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now to distinguish between policies that any other great rising power in china's position would take versus policies that china would be pursuing if it really wanted to exercise dominance in the aiz that-pacific? -- asia-pacific? china likes to say we have a growing economy, we have a growing conception of our national interests, so we're just doing what any other great power in our situation would do. is there a way to distinguish between policies anyone else would take in its position versus those if it really wants to dominate in the south pacific? >> well, look at the united states between the end of the civil war and the outbreak of world war sr.. the united states -- world war i. the united states had economic growth rates for most of that period extremely, near double digits almost every year. there was some hiccups here and there. the united states settled the continent, brutally perhaps, but it did so. and what did the united states do? it built a great navy, and it dug the pan pa canal -- panama
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canal. and it became a great power. and why did that happen? because the united states, you know, after the civil war and the north and south united, the united states developed a great economy and, therefore, it developed trading interests around the world that it didn't have before. and so it needed a great military in order to defend those trading interests. you could say more or less china's been following a similar path. the yale professor, paul bracken, likes to say that capitalist prosperity, if it goes on and on, leads to military acquisitions. that, you know, you have a capitalist economy that's a success for 30 years on and on, it's going to start building a big military. that's what history shows us. so there's nothing rogue about what china's been doing in the larger historical sense. it's not threaten ping to destroy any -- threatening to destroy any nation or wipe any
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nation off the face of the earth or anything. it's emerging as a national, new great power. the problem that history shows us is one of the reasons people love the status quo even if the status quo is unfair is that it's stable. and so if the status quo goes on, you're less likely to have military conflict. but what china's natural revolution after two centuries of decline and division is it's changing the status quo. and it's leading to a change in the status quo in japan from a quasipacifist nation to more of a normal, nationalist nation. so here, there and everywhere in asia the status quo is changing. now, the status quo may be unfair, maybe it needs to change in some higher moral sense, but it also makes it much more unstable.
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>> we've got time for one more question. finally, somebody in the back. way to go. you get our last question. >> hi, tom callahan. tell us about your prologue. why do we need to pay attention to asian empires when we think about these issues in the asia's cauldron? >> we shall end at the beginning. go ahead. >> the book begins with a travel description of the rooms in central vietnam of an indian, somewhat kaymer but mainly indian civilization in the middle ages of champa which was a great sea-faring civilization. and it starts that way because i want to remind the reader that all i can -- everything i write is mere period piece. china is on the move. and in the time that i write, and, therefore, it has to be the center of the book that i write. however, in the past india or
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indian civilization exercised tremendous influence if southeast asia -- in southeast asia which is why the french called it indochina. you know, that's really the proper term. and so what i'm saying to the reader is the past was very different which means the future could be very different too. the future could see a weakened china, a china in tremendous economic disarray with a strengthening japan, a strengthening india, a much more complex power relationship. so that i'm reminding the reader that i'm very cautious about everything i'm going to write henceforth to keep in mind this history of southeast asia. >> please join me in thanking robert kaplan. [applause] >> thank you. >> congratulations on the book. [applause]
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mr. kaplan's going to be here for a while signing books. you can throw another question at him, denounce him in any way that you want, just buy the book. >> and i'd also like to thank steve for being a wonderful, wonderful moderator. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you all for coming tonight, and as steve said, bob has agreed to stay here for about 30 minutes in the back, so if anybody would like to ask him to sign your book, i'm sure he will be happy to do so. thank you again. [inaudible conversations] rush clearly felt that it had a
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