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Tête-à-tête: America’s role in a fast-changing Asia

Tête-à-tête: America’s role in a fast-changing Asia
 
Date/Time: May 18, 2010 / 5.45pmto7.30pm
Venue: SIIA HOME
 

As Asian economies emerge from the global economic crisis faster than the rest of the world, it is increasingly clear that the world's centre of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is equally clear that Asian states are not yet ready to assume the more meaningful leadership in global affairs that will be necessary to ensure that this tectonic shift in world affairs can make the world more stable and secure than it has been. Both America and Asian states have a tremendous opportunity to rise to this challenge.


The US and the international community must acknowledge that today's fast-rising Asia has earned
a greater voice in shaping the 21st century. But despite the growing promise of a multi-polar world
with Asian powers playing a greater role in addressing global challenges and sharing leadership
with a weary US, that world does not yet exist. America may be recognizing its limits, but no new
system has emerged to take up the slack. If Asian states are to play this role, they must do far more to address their own regional challenges and to promote a positive, universal set of norms.

All nations must work together to revise our models for international co-operation in a way that
incorporates the global shift in economic power. Until this structure emerges, all members of the
Asia-Pacific community must hope that America can lead wisely and that other countries,
particularly Asia's new powers, will assume more meaningful responsibilities in managing global
crises.

Programme Schedule: 

5.45pm     Arrival of Guests
6.00pm     Introductory Remarks by Assoc. Prof. Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs
6.15pm    Talk with Jamie Metzl, Executive Vice President, Asia Society
7.30pm     Talk ends

Speaker(s): 

JAMIE METZL

Jamie Metzl is Executive Vice President of Asia Society. He is responsible for overseeing the
institution’s strategic direction and overall program activities across its network of eleven centers in Asia and the United States. At the Asia Society, he created the Asia Society studies department, which has issued task force reports on issues including climate change, water security, and Afghanistan-Pakistan, as well as the Asia 21 Young Leaders initiative, which has become the leading network of next generation leaders under the age of 40 across the Asia-Pacific region.


Dr. Metzl has extensive U.S. government experience, including service in the White House, the
Department of State and the United States Senate. He has served as Deputy Staff Director and
Senior Counselor of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senior Coordinator for International Public Information at the Department of State, and Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs in the National Security Council. At the White House, he coordinated U.S. government international public information campaigns for Iraq, Kosovo, and other crises. A Khmer speaker, he was a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) from 1991 to 1993, where he helped establish a nation-wide human rights investigation and monitoring unit for Cambodia.


While working in government, Dr. Metzl was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown
University Law Center for five years, where he taught international law. In 2003, he directed a
national task force on emergency preparedness for the Council on Foreign Relations which became the most widely covered report in the organization’s history and directly influenced ensuing homeland security legislation.

Dr. Metzl ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri’s Fifth
Congressional District in Kansas City in 2004. Dr. Metzl appears widely on national media, including CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, and ABC and has been a guest on Meet the Press. The author of a book on human rights in Southeast Asia and the 2004 novel The Depths of the Sea, his syndicated columns and other writing on Asian affairs, genetics, virtual reality, and other topics has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs and many other publications around the world. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a founder and Co-Chair of the Board of the Partnership for a Secure America, a member of the board of the Jewish refugee agency HIAS, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former White House Fellow and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history from Oxford University, a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, and is a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University.


Dr. Metzl has completed seven ironman triathlons, 25 marathons, and one ultramarathon.

Event Report: 

Current trends suggest that the post-war era known as the Pax Americana may be changing as the United States becomes exhausted with two wars, a prolonged financial crisis, and as Asian countries continue to rise. But it is unclear whether everyone is indeed ready for a post-American world. Although the economies of developing countries are growing, ideological gaps remain. This gap must be closed if the world is to move towards a multipolar system that can benefit all parties.

At a recent talk in the SIIA, Dr. Jamie Metzl, Executive President of the Asia Society in New York City, expounded upon these ideas and outlined historical and recent trends pointing to seismic shifts in the global community. The US and China will be at the center of such a new order, he says, and must each find ways to accommodate the other in “win-win” solutions.

Two conflicting trends point to a widening gap in global affairs. First, there is the diminution of the US’s influence and reputation within the international system. One factor is that other countries (especially in Asia) are developing at increasing rates, which has resulted in greater clout at the world stage. He added that America has become ‘tired’- tired at home due to its taxpayers’ heavy debt burden and increasing unemployment, and abroad by obligations such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

The second trend is that, while the US has been distracted and less able to play the role in international affairs as it once did, other countries are so far failing to pick up the slack. On issues such as the potential collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation regime as well as international human rights, there has been a lack of leadership from up and coming countries such as China and India. Dr. Metzl refers to this as a ‘disconnect in Asia’.

One of the most pressing questions is what role China might play in a new global order: whether it will step up and accept more responsibility, or whether it will continue to advocate state sovereignty.

Dr. Metzl sees three options for China. First, it could participate in and support a multipolar order similar to what already exists, admitting its benefits but also accepting sacrifices. A second option would be for China to suggest a better international system and detail the necessary steps for this system to be realised. The third, more worrying option, yet closest to China’s present posture, would see China maintain the belief that state sovereignty should supersede international institutions. Dr. Metzl points out that, China has not yet outlined why championing the supremacy of state sovereignty will not lead to the same disaster as it did in the first half of the 20th century.

The US never set out to be hegemonic or colonial, argues Dr. Metzl, and the world has benefited from its strong presence abroad and the Pax Americana since World War II. But parameters are changing and the world is not ready for an isolationist America. To avoid a dangerous ‘crack,’ the US must continue to engage, both in meetings and collaboration in the Asia-Pacific. In response, other countries, especially those in Asia, must close the ideological gap while assuming more power and responsibility on tough issues. Solutions that benefit both those in Asia and in America can and should be found.

Event Photographs: 
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Photographs and images used are obtained from publicly-accessible resources. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

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