Great Power Rivalry Threatens Smaller States in Western Pacific

Jun 25

This content was originally published by teleSUR Tensions in the Asia Pacific are escalating. The latest chapter in the superpower collision is Washington’s strategy of holding low altitude aircraft passes on spots in the South China Sea where China is building military structures over reclaimed land. With the central element of its Grand Strategy being the prevention of the rise of a regional power in the Eurasian landmass that would threaten its global superiority, the US under the Obama administration has put into motion the containment of China via military and economic means. The so-called “Pivot to Asia” has involved the refocusing of Washington’s strategic assets, especially its naval power, on the region, while the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” aims to constrain the rise of China’s economic might. Meanwhile, although China does not aim for global hegemony, it does aim for primacy at a regional level, and the US military assets and its allies on the East Asian littoral and island-chain pose a major obstacle to this ambition. Beijing’s clumsy moves to assert its regional primacy have given the United States the opportunity to reassert itself aggressively in the region, painting itself as an “indispensable” actor to “balance” China’s ambitions. Some smaller states in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, caught in the middle of this great power rivalry, seek to maximize their political and economic independence by playing off one against the other, though with a weak hand that, as in the case of the Philippines, leads to subordination to the goals of the power it chooses to ally with. Another middling state, North Korea, has chosen to ensure national survival not so much by taking sides but by developing its own nuclear arsenal and adopting a posture of deliberate unpredictability. Vietnam, in line with its traditional posture of self-reliance, has single-handedly challenged Beijing’s incursions into what it considers its maritime territory or exclusive economic zone, engaging in 2014 in a much publicized water cannon battle with Chinese vessels guarding an oil rig that the Chinese had installed in disputed waters. Then there is Japan, an economic power but military protectorate viewed with great suspicion by its neighbors owing to its bloody imperial past that is using the Chinese threat as...

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Valedictory Speech

Mar 16

Valedictory Speech

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues: I stand before you today to give some parting words on the occasion of my resigning from this august body, which will be effective on As you all probably know by now, I am resigning from the House because I can no longer support my party’s stand of supporting the president.  According to our party’s code of conduct, the representative in the House of Akbayan is tasked with promoting the official views of the party on fundamental policy issues.  When he or she can no longer support the party’s position on these issues, there remains only one way to resolve the impasse, and that is for him to resign.  I deeply respect my party’s leadership, and it is with the utmost regret that I have decided to make this move. Since the reasons for my withdrawal of support from the president are now very well known, largely because the speech I intended to deliver last Wednesday has been widely circulated on the internet, I would like to spend the next few minutes on other, though related, matters. Let me say first of all that I tried my best to remain an administration ally.  I fought side by the side with the president for the reproductive health bill, the signature legislation of the 15th Congress.  I supported increased funding for the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, which was also a presidential priority.  More recently, I have been vocal in my support for the Bangsa Moro Basic Law, and argued against those, like Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who would bring us back to the battlefield.  I have also spoken against efforts to destabilize the administration in the last few weeks, emphasizing that whatever its faults, the democratic legitimacy of the Aquino administration is unquestioned. It is unfortunate that on such vital issues as the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the retention of inept, reckless, or corrupt officials, and, of course, presidential behavior on the Mamasapano tragedy, my stands have come into conflict with Malacanang’s.  It is also unfortunate that Malacanang’s expectations of its allies are different from mine.  I feel that the best ally is one who tells the president not what he wants to hear but what he should...

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Capitalism’s Last Stand?: Deglobalization in the Age of Austerity

Jul 08

Capitalism’s Last Stand?: Deglobalization in the Age of Austerity

In this eye-opening and often scathing book, Walden Bello provides a forensic dissection of contemporary capitalism’s multiple crises. Trenchant but constructive, Bello’s analysis of the collapse of the global real economy – covering such issues as the Wall Street meltdown, the disintegration of the Greek economy and the rise of China – emphasizes the ever more pressing need to engage in a radical process of ‘deglobalization’ towards a decentralized, pluralistic world system. Only then will we be able to construct a fairer and more equitable society. A stirring call to arms for all those interested in global economic justice. Order the book...

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Global poverty down, Philippine poverty remains high

Jun 11

That the poverty situation in the Philippines has not improved has been the cause of much concern lately.  According to the National Statistics Coordination Board, 27.9 percent of the population currently lives below the poverty line, a figure that was practically unchanged from the figure of 28.6 per cent and 28.8 respectively in the first half of 2009 and first semester of 2006, respectively. The figures are all the more disturbing because globally, the poverty situation has actually improved since 2005.   According to the World Bank, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day — fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008.   Moreover, the biggest recession since the Great Depression seems not to have thrown that trend off course.  According to the Bank, “The progress is so drastic that the world has met the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline.” Debating the causes of global poverty reduction What accounted for this positive global trend since 2005?  One school of thought is represented by Brookings Institution researchers Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz, who claim that the “stunning progress” is due to “the rise of globalization, the spread of capitalism and the improving quality of economic governance – which together have enabled the developing world to begin converging on advanced economy incomes after centuries of divergence.  The poor countries that display the greatest success today are those that are engaging with the global economy, allowing market prices to balance supply and demand and to allocate scarce resources, and pursuing sensible and strategic economic policies to spur investment, trade and job creation. It’s this potent combination that sets the current period apart from a history of insipid growth and intractable poverty.”  In short, the key for Getz and Chandy was market-oriented or neoliberal reforms, also known as “structural adjustment,” that radically reduced government intervention, eliminated barriers to trade and capital flows, and promoted privatization. Seemingly convincing, this explanation, when subjected to close analysis, falls apart.  There is another, and indeed, more credible way, of interpreting the results.  The dismal period of little progress from the 1990s to 2005, occurred during the high noon...

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The Hashimoto Controversy and Japan’s Failure to Come to Terms with its Past

May 17

The words were so brazen that they have created a firestorm globally.  This was the comment of Mayor Toru Hashimoto of Osaka, described as “outspoken” and “brash” in the international media, that “comfort women”– the thousands of Asian women who were forced to serve as prostitutes during the Second World War–were “necessary” for the morale of the Japanese troops. “Anyone can understand that the system of comfort women was necessary to provide respite for a group of high-strung, rough and tumble crowd of men braving their lives under a storm of bullets,” Hashimoto said, according to the Wall Street Journal. While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and other political figures were quick to distance themselves from Hashimoto’s remarks, their stance was hypocritical since he was simply mouthing what many in these circles and in the broader population believe to be true.   Moreover, the Osaka mayor’s remarks, moreover, came in the wake of a mass visit in April by some 170 sitting legislators to the Yasukuni Shrine, the home of Japan’s war dead, including 14 convicted war criminals, a ritual that many of its neighbors have blasted as a sign of the country’s unrepentant attitude for its conduct during World War II. Failure to Confront Past Hashimoto and Abe’s behavior ultimately stem from the fact that the country has not really come to terms with its role and behavior during that war.  Japan’s experience is in contrast to that of Germany, where society was subjected to a more or less thorough process of “denazification,” the centerpiece of which was the embedding in the national consciousness of Nazi Germany’s responsibility for the war and for unspeakable atrocities, including the genocide inflicted on the Jewish people. Washington played a role in fostering historical amnesia.  Instead of dethroning the emperor after the Japanese defeat, the US kept Hirohito in power for purposes of political stability, thus exempting the main symbol of Japan’s war aims from retribution, a gesture whose meaning was not lost on the Japanese.  Moreover, the window of opportunity that saw a flurry of US-imposed reforms that destroyed the old imperial army and reduced the power of the bureaucratic and economic elites disappeared with the onset of the Cold War and the...

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Wrong Choice, Again?

Mar 13

The conclave to elect the new Pope was an opportunity for the Catholic Church’s all-male college of cardinals to choose someone who would lead the Church into the 21st century.  Again, they flubbed the opportunity, as they did when they elevated Joseph Ratzinger to his role as Pope Benedict XVI eight years ago. The new Pope, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is, many say, an unreconstructed bigot when it comes to homosexuality.  Gay marriage is, he thinks, a work of the devil, and he even opposes adoption of children by gays as against God’s law.  Equally medieval is his opposition to contraception, a position highlighted by his celebrated clash with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner when she distributed free contraceptives to poor communities.  Tough luck for poor Catholic families who want to practice family planning and for the campaign against HIV-AIDS. What about his stand on predatory priests who abuse children?  According to a Washington Post report, the U.S.-based Bishop Accountability group revealed that a convicted pedophile Fr. Julio Cesar Grassi remains free, “thanks partly to a court filing on his behalf by the Argentine church, which was headed by Bergoglio as archbishop of Buenos Aires.” While he was not involved in a cover-up of sex offenders in the clergy, neither did he take the initiative in fighting clerical pedophilia.  Again the Post: “During most of the 14 years that Bergoglio served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, rights advocates say, he did not take decisive action to protect children or act swiftly when molestation charges surfaced; nor did he extend apologies to the victims of abusive priests after their misconduct came to light…’ He has been totally silent,’ said Ernesto Moreau, a member of Argentina’s UN-affiliated Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and a lawyer who has represented victims in a clergy sexual-abuse case. Victims asked to meet with Bergoglio but were turned down, Moreau said. ‘In that regard, Bergoglio was no different from most of the other bishops in Argentina, or the Vatican itself.’” But perhaps the most glaring evidence that calls into question Bergoglio’s qualifications to be Pope is his record on human rights during the notorious “Dirty War” that the Argentine military junta waged against the political...

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I’ll miss Hugo

Mar 07

I’ll miss Hugo. When I first was introduced to him in Porto Alegre in 2003, he greeted me, “Mi padre,” and said he learned a lot from me. I was dubious about this and thought he was simply buttering me up, like any two-bit politician. Then he started telling me what he learned from Development Debacle, Deglobalization, and Dark Victory.  I was stupefied; the guy actually read my stuff! About two years later, we met again, this time in Caracas.  He told me he was seriously concerned about my safety since he had heard that the Darth Vader Battalion had marked me as a “counterrevolutionary” and targeted me for elimination.  He invited me to cool off in Venezuela, telling me he would take me on a tour of the whole country.  Thank you, I said, but he shouldn’t worry since I was dealing with a bunch of space cadets, though crazy ones.  He asked me through the translator what a “space cadet” was.  I tried my best to explain, then he said, “Ahh, un pendejo,” and roared in laughter. In January 2006, during the World Social Forum in Caracas, he had several of us sit with him on stage and introduced us one by one.  When it came to me, he declared grandiloquently that “in his veins runs the blood of Asian martyrs.”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or crawl under my chair, while he went on to construct an image of me that, wow, I wish were true! The next day, at a forum of representatives of social movements, he asked me what I thought about what was happening in Venezuela. I don’t know what came over me, but I made use of the occasion to criticize his government for going back on its promise not to sign the Declaration of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005, which would have led to the third collapse of a WTO ministerial, one that would have been the last nail in the coffin of that anti-development mafia dominated by the North.   “As a revolutionary, you can’t go back on your word,” I said.  He was silent, but that was the last time I got invited to Caracas. The...

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