Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bloggingheads on Soft Power: China vs. Japan vs. US

Devin Stewart and Joshua Kurlantzick on bloggingheads.tvI discussed Josh Kurlantzick's book on China's soft power on We spend some time considering what soft power means in the context of China. I sympathize with Josh in his decision to broaden the definition of soft power for his book.

Joseph Nye, the inventor of the term and the head of the CSIS Smart Power Commission with Richard Armitage, defined soft power as the ability to attract rather than coerce (soft) to get what you want (power). As I put it, when someone attractive or cool walks into a restaurant, people want to order what that person is eating. One could apply this principle to a policy menu.

Josh instead includes what Nye categorizes as coercive power, which is the more traditional understanding of power in international relations. If you don't do something, I will use force against you or stop giving you economic goodies. Josh includes aid, trade, FDI, and other more coercive tools when he applies it to China.

But I understand why Josh would want to expand the definition of soft power. First, China itself is trying to expand the definition of power--what it calls comprehensive power includes the economy, its culture, its external economic relations, etc. Second, Asian relations are increasingly economically sticky. There is a greater amount of intra-regional trade in Asia, making economics more important.

Third, China's image is vulnerable and its brand is still pretty weak. As I ask Josh, when was the last time you sought out a Chinese-branded product or tried to emulate a Chinese factory? So the economic tools act as a potential delivery system for its culture--or for its traditional soft power in the future, when people say, we want to be like China.

Although Nye says Japan has the strongest soft power in Asia, Josh was skeptical about Japan's soft power because it has made little progress in getting a permanent UN Security Council seat and in other areas. But Nye and others rank Japan as strong in soft power--having a great number of patents, giving a lot of foreign aid, and generally being seen as a good actor.

I would also add that some of the lack of progress for Japan in influencing countries has ironically been from its reluctance to use coercive power--which is probably a good thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fair Trade Policies Should Help Not Punish

Matthew Slaughter of Tuck Business School wrote an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Let's Have a Real Debate on Globalization." His central point is that globalization has in balance helped the U.S. economy. And that instead of trying to punish countries that appear to be cheating, the U.S. should focus on making sure Americans are equipped to compete in and cope with a globalized economy.

Here is the key quote:

"The preferred course is to complement open borders with a mix of domestic policies to help those that are hurt. But is this what we hear being discussed on the campaign trail? No. It is about fair trade, not free trade. It is about pulling back on previous trade agreements. It is about new laws to hit 'currency manipulators' with new trade barriers."

I totally agree.

In an article I wrote a few months ago titled "The United States Must Redefine Fair Trade" I tried to make the same point. My point is that fair trade policies should start with the freedom to trade and add ethical principles, based on the fair trade movement.

It is fair to give the world the opportunity to benefit from the international trading system. It is also fair to try to protect labor and environmental standards--and it is fair to build human capacity and potential to innovate and prosper. Punishing regimes that we don't like or manipulate their currencies have very little efficacy.

This is how I put it:

"Notice that tariffs and competitive devaluations are not on the list [of desirable policy tools]. Although both of these approaches are advocated under the guise of protecting fairness and even human rights, history and economics tend to dispute those claims. Instead, openness—with the proper safety net—can help advance human rights."

Policy Innovations interviewed Matthew Slaughter recently. Read our interview, titled "Pushing against the Protectionist Drift."

Vaclav Havel: Moral order is most important issue of new millennium

"We live in a world ringed by a single global civilization comprising various areas of civilization," writes former Czechoslovakian president Vaclav Havel in the International Herald Tribune. He believes climate change has brought civilization to a crossroads, one for which materialist technocracy may not have answers:
Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics—a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.
He offers this further reflection:
Whenever I reflect on the problems of today's world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights—these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yes, China is Complex

I am often told by Chinese and China scholars that China is complex. Of course, this statement is a truism. Every big country is complex and full of paradoxes. The more you study something the less you are sure about it.

After four years of living in Japan, I was less able to say something certain about Japanese society than ever. When I met non-Japanese in Japan I could detect their newness to that country by how certain their statements were--it was a direct correlation. But there is also a sub-text to the comment about China being complex: I think it is to imply an exclusivity to the China Club.

In any case, it is the complexity and paradox that will cause problems for China. It is no surprise that China is more than just General Tso's chicken, kung fu, and win-win no strings attached business deals. Just like any big power enjoying the fruits of globalization, as an economy becomes more entangled in the global economy, the more the state will have an interest in the policies of other countries.

Josh Kurlantzick's excellent, nuanced book Charm Offensive calls China's current period a "honeymoon" with the world. It enjoys many of the benefits of its soft power without the paradoxes and complexities that come with it--the eventual resentment, blowback, and scrutiny that comes with greater power. Here is an excerpt from his book:

"As China becomes more powerful, the world media will focus more intensely on the People's Republic. Some of China's own dirty laundry, like rising socioeconomic inequality or Beijing's crackdown on Muslims in the western province of Xinjiang, will be beamed around the world."

How prescient.

Josh and I will be talking about his book on next week. I hope you will check it out.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is It 1975?

A number of big thinkers are talking about how human dignity should be central to the next administration's foreign policy approach.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing Harvard professor John Ruggie talk about his efforts to get the United Nations to codify corporate responsibility. During his speech to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Ruggie mentioned the central importance of human dignity in this age.

Former Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote about the same thing in his recent book Second Chance. David Ignatius puts it like this in his article "A Manifesto for the Next President" in the Washington Post:

Brzezinski argues that the world is undergoing a "global political awakening," which is apparent in radically different forms from Iraq to Indonesia, from Bolivia to Tibet. Though America has focused on its notion of what people want (democracy and the wealth created by free trade and open markets), Brzezinski points in a different direction: It's about dignity.

"The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening," he argues. His worry is that America -- enfeebled by "material self-indulgence, persistent social shortcomings, and public ignorance about the world" -- may not get it.

The United States is yearning to restore its moral place in the world. The reason people are so focused on defining a more ethical foreign policy is because that is precisely what is lacking right now.

White House scandals and a failed foreign policy agenda; a tired military; inflation and oil worries; consumer product concerns; environmental worries... the list could go on. It sounds like the 1970s. Let's hope it sounds like 1975 and we are headed for a different, more constructive tone in Washington.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ethics Playing Roll in B-school Rankings

The Wall Street Journal published its WSJ/Harris Interactive Business School Year 7 Survey yesterday. The survey was based on the opinions and behaviors of 4,430 MBA recruiters who hire full-time business school graduates. Based on the perception of the recruiters, it seems that ethics is playing a big role in determining the ranking of a business school.

Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business has risen to the top of the national ranking pushing University of Michigan's' Ross School from number one to number seven. Why? "When asked which schools' graduates demonstrate strong ethics standards, recruiters named Dartmouth most often, followed closely by Brigham Young," writes the Wall Street Journal. Dartmouth students embodied the values of teamwork, personal integrity, communication skills, and a good work ethic.

Meanwhile, Michigan has fallen several places because, "More Michigan students are demonstrating a, 'what's in it for me attitude' attitude than in the past." Fortunately for society, I guess Gordon Gekko is no longer the roll model. NYU Sloan School students were also praised for being team players and collaborators. Moreover, one of the factors putting the search for talent into overdrive is that younger people want to work for a company with a good image.

Two schools that did well are grappling with difficult issues like ethics in business in their curricula--Yale School of Management and the London Business School, which was profiled recently on its ethics coverage in the Wall Street Journal in an interview with a London Business School scholar. Yale moved from number nine to eight in the national rankings, while London moved from four to three in the international rankings. Yale's slogan is "educating leaders for business and society."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rich-country Energy Policies Unsustainable

My former boss at RIETI, Nobuo Tanaka, recently became the first non-European head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Sept. 1. Tanaka was always good at statistics, often carrying around dozens of pages of charts and graphs to illustrate his points on the Japanese economy.

So I wasn't surprised when he used his statistical capacity to illustrate that energy policies in most rich countries are unsustainable. Check out the coverage on a recent interview with Tanaka in the International Herald Tribune's article, "New energy agency chief sees household energy use rising in industrial countries."

The most important point is perhaps the ethical question of whether the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe have the credibility to wag their fingers at China and India about their energy consumption. Tanaka suggests that these countries don't have the moral credibility to do so:

"The leading industrial countries are not on a path to sustainable energy future," said Tanaka, a Japanese economist and diplomat who became the IEA's executive director Sept. 1. "There was a big effort to increase efficiency during the 1980s because of the oil price shocks," he said. "But these efforts subsided over the 1990s."

How can we ask China to be a responsible stakeholder when our responsibility is in question?

Another interesting point is that globalization--so often blamed for problems--was the factor that helped increase efficiency in the global manufacturing sector. Energy consumption and CO2 emissions have fallen in manufacturing:

"The reason is competition," Tanaka said. "With globalization, manufacturing companies have had to become more competitive if they want to survive. That means cutting back on energy costs."

What's needed? A major adjustment in the way we live.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sunstein: Corroboration Breeds Extremism

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein spoke at the Carnegie Council this morning about his new book 2.0. He referred to several studies that showed that when like-minded people talk to one another, they tend to become more confident in their views. Anyone who follows an online discussion, particularly about politics, will be familiar with this phenomenon. Sunstein calls it group polarization.

Moreover, people want to see themselves in a certain way: different but in the right direction. So if an animal rights group, for example, starts out with a reasonable discussion on Friday, by Sunday they may have lost their collective mind. Blogs and the Internet chat space in general amplify this peculiarity in human behavior. My News, my Google, my Space--all narrow the discussion, confirm what you believe, and can make you more extreme in your views.

Sunstein's suggestions:

1. Respectful linking - as a form of political charity, discussions should try to link to opposing views out of respect rather than out of disgust. Few bloggers link to people with opposing views unless they want to show how foolish the other side is. Perhaps bloggers should actually consider the other side and take it seriously.

2. Deliberative forums - create discussions between groups of opposing views without making it into a sporting event. A panel with people sitting next to people who disagree with them may be less vulnerable to group polarization. Studies seem to back up this notion as well.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Vatican plants trees in environmental penance

The Pope has been vocal lately on environmental issues, encouraging Catholics to get out of environmental limbo, and now an article in the IHT reports that an island will be reforested in Hungary to offset the Vatican's carbon emissions. This would probably make it the first carbon neutral country, albeit a small one. Policy Innovations recently covered the complexity of the new carbon offset industry. Forestry projects are especially difficult to calculate accurately. Perhaps Benedict was reflecting on the contrasting fates depicted in Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights (1504).