Curtis S. Chin‘s latest blog in which he argues that “the American pivot to Asia must encompass a business, educational and cultural pivot as well” is a great read.
Curtis opens by discussing the meeting of “two leaders whose political careers stemmed from tragedy” in Seoul earlier this year – the then President elect Park Guen-hye and Burmese opposition leader and Nobel peace prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
According to Burma’s constitution, which bans those married to a foreigner or with children who are foreign citizens to become President, Suu Kyi (with her British husband) cannot take on the role. In contrast, Park is now Korea’s first female President and subsequent approval polls had revealed that 65% believe she is doing a “relatively good job.”
Curtis compares Asia to the US where the majority of polls showed that approval of Obama dropped since his “post-election and pre-inauguration honeymoon period late last year” with a 6% point decline in approval since January.
Political leaders worldwide are keen to prove their interest in the political charge and reforms which are part of the “pivot on Burma” by being seen with Suu Kyi. Curtis predicts that Obama will also be eager to make a return visit to Burma and he warns that it would be a mistake to drop attention on the already successful pivot towards the country.
It is interesting to hear Curtis’ own experiences of Burma, a country he has only been able to visit since he is no longer U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, a role which made it tricky before as a result of “U.S. sanctions and hundreds of millions of dollars in unrepaid loans from the ADB and World Bank to Burma.” He notes the signs of this US pivot: “Coca-Cola billboards, American teachers and volunteers, and numerous U.S. and European business leaders and delegations, hungry for the opportunity that beckons in the nation of some 60 million people.”
Curtis argues that this pivot to Asia must now be more than just defence and diplomacy and should address business, education and culture too. He talks about the future – for the US who need to work on substantive policy effort and investment which support involvement and ties in these other sectors, and for Burma who need to address religious and ethical unrest and the issues with human rights.
He concludes saying, “South Korea has benefited from a freer, more democratic society since the days of Park’s father. And so too can Burma.”
Click here to read the blog in full
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