Friday, April 1, 2016

IPS-Nathan Lecture Bilahari Kausikan 2016 Lectures 1 to 3

IPS YouTube channel provides videos of the lectures, which have been embedded here for ease of reference.

Bilahari Kausikan is the IPS-Nathan Fellow for 2016 and will give a series of 5 lectures. Here are the first 3.

The excerpt of the 3rd lecture is here (link).

The videos below are accompanied by a summary/write-up by the ST.]

Lecture 1

Singapore's sovereignty 'never a given': Bilahari Kausikan

In his 31 years in public service, Mr Kausikan worked with all of Singapore's three prime ministers and most of its foreign ministers. He spoke yesterday at the first of his five lectures, which will run throughout the year.

JAN 30, 2016

Veteran diplomat, in first of five talks, also dissects dangers of global political order

Cheong Suk-Wai
Senior Writer

Singaporeans have enjoyed half a century of independence, but that happy state is never a given, Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan said yesterday.

Mr Kausikan, 60, the Institute of Policy Studies' second S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, was responding to a question at a public lecture on whether Singapore's sovereign status was guaranteed.

Calling it "a very good question", the veteran diplomat, who was ambassador to Russia and Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) from 1995 to 1998, said: "You can remain formally sovereign, but your sovereignty could be severely compromised... we must be conscious that that is not to be taken for granted."

For example, he said, the 193 countries that make up the UN were sovereign, but beyond their "one seat, one vote and one flag" there, some were either being yanked every which way by major global powers or rent asunder by internal conflicts.

He made the comments at his first of five lectures that will run throughout the year and focus on, among other things, United States-China ties, threats to comity in South-east Asia and how ready Singaporeans were for the future.

The year-long fellowship, which kicked off in 2012 and now has a fund of almost $6 million, is for deeper research into what IPS director Janadas Devan called "Singapore-centric" areas of policy.

At the start of his talk at the NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House, Mr Kausikan noted that "the level of public interest in and understanding of foreign policy is not high" in Singapore.

That, he added, was undesirable because first, Singaporeans lived in a "complicated and dangerous region" and second, with everyone hyper-connected to everyone else today, what happened abroad would affect what happened at home to some degree.

Being more plugged into what was happening elsewhere in the world would give them "a sense of proportion" when they discussed domestic policies.

He added: "Too many of our compatriots, especially... the intelligentsia, sometimes seem almost ashamed of being Singaporean, whereas we are quite often the object of admiration and emulation by foreigners."

Mr Kausikan, who, in his 31 years in public service, worked with all of Singapore's three prime ministers and most of its foreign ministers, went on to dissect the dangers of the rickety global political order today, one in which countries were never sure where they stood. In contrast, during the Cold War, they were clearly either for the US or the Soviet Union, or sat on the fence.

Post-Cold War, countries still did not know what the pecking order was. And too often, he said, they dealt with one another unrealistically. For example, when his European friend said young Europeans had "embraced the idea of Europe", Mr Kausikan demanded: What about jobless, non-white Muslim Europeans? Or profligate Greeks versus austere Germans?

He said: "There is no satisfied country powerful enough to maintain the existing global order by itself, nor is there any satisfied country that can offer consistent help to maintain the existing global order. There is no country that is simultaneously dissatisfied enough and powerful enough to change the existing global order."

As for President Xi Jinping's China dream, he said: "It's so broad that there's room for sweet dreams - or nightmares."

When another audience member asked if Singaporeans should be allowed dual citizenship, he said: "Make some commitment one way or the other. I don't think very much of people who want to hedge like that."

Lecture 2

War between China, US highly improbable: Bilahari Kausikan

Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan, a veteran diplomat, says the US not only depended deeply on China economically, but also had in China a competitor and rival who was not out to unseat it, and that it would be equally futile for China to keep the US out of East Asia.

FEB 26, 2016,

There is deep strategic mistrust but friction is sabre-rattling at most, says veteran diplomat
Cheong Suk-WaiSenior Writer
China's military build-up in the South China Sea continues to rile the United States, the world's current sole superpower, and its allies, but the friction between these two powers is sabre-rattling at most, said veteran Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan yesterday.

War between the two "is highly improbable", he said in the second of five lectures as the Institute of Policy Studies' second S R Nathan fellow. If they did go to war, it would be by accident, not by design.

US-China ties, he said, have long been marred by a "deep strategic mistrust" such that the US has drifted towards viewing China as a threat. And it did not help that China was culturally "exclusive" as the US was "inclusive", which has led Beijing to view countries such as Japan - a staunch US ally - as being subordinate to it.

That mistrust was rooted in a clutch of misunderstandings between the two, which was unfortunate, because in reality, the US not only depended deeply on China economically, but also had in China a competitor and rival who was not out to unseat it, Mr Kausikan said.

It followed, he added, that it would be equally futile for China to keep the US out of East Asia.

On the North Korea threat
North Korea may be testing the world's patience with its threatening missile launches, but Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan is not paying its antics much heed.
In a lively question-and-answer session with the audience after his lecture, moderated by fellow Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, he said Pyongyang actually wanted "the love and affection" of the United States by, among other things, having Washington negotiate a peace agreement with it directly.
That many in the West, including the US, perceive China as North Korea's ally, if not friend, is also a big bugbear in US-China ties.
But Mr Kausikan said: "There is no love lost between China and North Korea. If you hear in North Korea how they talk about China, your hair will stand on end. And China does not like North Korea's nuclear programme. So China and the US have a common concern."The snag, he pointed out, was that four of the world's five communist states were in Asia, namely China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. Cuba is the fifth. "No matter how much China dislikes North Korea's nuclear programme, to expect China to take out sanctions on North Korea is a pipe dream because... if China is seen as complicit in undermining the rule of one communist party, that has immediate complications for it."When Prof Chan suggested that China might also be concerned about refugees from North Korea spilling into China, he said:
"Refugees you can deal with, but if you undermine another communist regime, it will give evil thoughts to your own people."
Cheong Suk Wai

What, then, is it about China's rise that has unsettled the US?

Mr Kausikan suggested it was its "capitalism without democracy", which was a credible alternative to US power that had been cloaked in notions that US values, such as its democracy, worked for everyone.

He said that, unlike the US, China was not revisionist or bent on creating a new world order. It merely wanted to "reclaim something of its central historical role in East Asia". In doing so, it had neither the intent nor capability to "push" the US out of East Asia entirely.

The rub, he added, was how China could reassert itself without provoking Japan or South Korea, which might result in their pursuing nuclear power to bolster their might.

All told, the US and China agree at least on two out of three things to help their ties: First, they would minimise disagreements; second, they would try to cooperate whenever and wherever they could.

The sticking point was the third element, and one most dear to China: mutual respect for each other's core interests.

For China, that meant preserving Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule. But the US could not be seen to legitimise communist rule.

"I think the US knows that preservation of CCP rule is the most vital of Chinese core interests and is reluctant to endorse this explicitly... (as it) requires a redefinition of American values," he said.

The upside to China's top priority - preserving CCP rule - was that it would not to go to war with the US as it would likely lose and that would weaken the CCP, perhaps mortally. Mr Kausikan also stressed that the most persistent misunderstanding was that economic reform in China would lead to political reform. He cautioned, however, against thinking that a rising China necessarily meant a declining US.

"Changes in power are relative, not absolute," he noted.

So, he said, the US will still be the "pre-eminent" global power for the foreseeable future. But it could smoothen ties with China further by grasping the notion that "common concerns are not the same as common interests".

Till then, he said, the rest of the world will have to live with the uncertainty from the two powers "groping" towards some semblance of balance in ties.

Looking back on centuries of mistrust, he said: "What is surprising is that despite persistent misunderstanding... there has been so little trouble, although when trouble ensues, it has been spectacular, as during the Korean War."

He noted that US President Barack Obama was perceived as less engaged in global affairs and, so, weaker in his second term.

Mr Kausikan said this probably meant that Mr Obama's imminent successor would "talk tougher" with China.

Lecture 3

China 'trying to become the central Asian power'

Mr Kausikan said in yesterday's lecture that the US and China had common interests and could very well become allies one day.

MAR 31, 2016

Top diplomat warns Asean against thinking that it has US and China's favour

Cheong Suk-WaiSenior Writer

China's continued ratcheting up of its presence in the South China Sea is a bid to reassert itself as the central power in Asia, ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan said yesterday.

The crux of the matter was that "China must give the appearance of recovering lost territory" because "for the past century, the legitimacy of any Chinese government has depended on its ability to defend China's sovereignty and preserve its borders", he said in his third lecture as the Institute of Policy Studies' S R Nathan Fellow.

China's territories had included Mongolia and Siberia in the past.

But as history has marched on, China can now lay claim only to outlying islands and outcrops such as the Paracels, the Spratlys and Macclesfield Bank, he said, stressing at the outset that the views at the lecture were entirely his own.

With the United States emphasising that it intends to remain an East Asian power, Mr Kausikan said China was merely trying to nudge the US a little more off-centre in the region. The challenge for China was how to do so without "provoking responses from the US and Japan that could jeopardise Chinese Communist Party rule".
'Asean faces possible storms'Many observers tend to deride Asean as a talk shop, but in the regional grouping's 49 years, it has had some significant achievements, said veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan yesterday at the National University of Singapore.
And while Asean was "still not sufficiently understood" by many, he noted that its members had not gone to war or been embroiled in the conflicts of great powers, despite the "visceral" differences among them.
But he said there might be storm clouds looming over Asean.
Thailand and Malaysia, to his mind, might even see "systemic change". Indonesia had yet to "reach a stable post-Suharto equilibrium" and was still "an incoherent system seized with a somewhat petulant economic nationalism". Myanmar had just voted for leaders with "no experience with governance", and the Philippines, heading for a presidential election soon, was "not renowned for policy continuity".
But he felt Asean should work together on infrastructure projects, perhaps via public-private partnerships with, among others, the US, Japan, South Korea and India. This would "serve as a crucial complement to the maritime capability-building programmes some of these countries have started for Asean".
To a question later by DBS chief Piyush Gupta on how far Asean would progress as an economic community, Mr Kausikan said: "Nobody knows until you try." He said earlier the "easy things" for economic integration had already been done but establishing a common market and production platform would be harder.
Cheong Suk-Wai

The US, on the other hand, had always to find ways to "accommodate" China while assuaging its allies' concerns about its overtures to China without, as he put it, "stumbling into conflict".

And the view that the US was trying to contain China by forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with allies in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan and South Korea, was "arrant rubbish". This was especially so as most TPP signatories were also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a Chinese initiative.

Taking questions from the audience later, he noted the long continuity in US foreign policy of having a regional presence and suggested that if US establishment stalwart Hillary Clinton won the upcoming presidential polls, that policy would likely not change. He could not say the same for Republican candidate Donald Trump, though.

Still, the South China Sea was "the issue where the parameters of US-China competition and their interests are most clearly defined", and so the world would have to watch developments closely.

With both powers declaring Asean "strategic" in its regional manoeuvres, the grouping was squarely between the two competing powers, especially since the US prized freedom of navigation through the area. Last month's Sunnylands summit between US and five Asean leaders was yet another instance of the US "courting" Asean.

But he cautioned Asean from being "mesmerised" into thinking it was now the darling of great powers. "We used to speak of Asean in the driver's seat. The person in the driver's seat is sometimes only the chauffeur," he said, noting that the US and China treated Asean forums as "secondary" and a means to conduct talks between themselves.

But it did not help that China's diplomats had a "passive-aggressive style" towards their Asean counterparts. There were examples aplenty of such shabby treatment of Asean, including working "glacially" with the latter on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

All that resulted in a "trust deficit" between China and Asean, which China's President Xi Jinping acknowledged in his Singapore Lecture here last year.

Mr Kausikan said the US and China had more interests in common than is popularly supposed, and so it would not be inconceivable if they became allies in future.

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