Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Former US Diplomat on US-Asia Relations

Nicholas Platt (harvard.edu)

Nicholas Platt (harvard.edu)


You have suggested elsewhere that Asia has become much more important to US strategic interests than Europe in the post-Cold War, post 9/11 context. Why is this the case? And to what extent do you think Europe or Asia might actually supercede America if the latter's popularity in the international arena continues to wane?


Power and popularity are two different things. Joe Nye will say that soft power is very important and we have dissipated a lot of our soft power. To some extent that is true although I think it is less true in Asia than it is in other parts of the world. Asia has a great deal more growth potential than Europe. It is bigger, it is going to be richer, it is never going to be as unified, but this century, the 21st century, will end up being essentially an Asian century.

The United States is going to have a role to play, both in Asia and in Europe, as it does now. The US will continue to be very, very important. I am not willing to say that we are going to be eclipsed by either one or the other; we are going to be growing, working with both as we go along. I think it is a mistake to be diverted by temporary image-issues. This should not take our attention away from the big indices of national and international strength. The globalization process is inexorable. It is tying us together all the time, more and more. People ask what will happen when China has grown its economy and is four times bigger than it is now, and how the US will deal with that, and the answer is that China with an economy four times the size as it is now will have an economy the size that Japan's is now, but it will have 1.5 billion people to divide up that wealth amongst and those people, 20 years from now, will be much older. They will have to be taken care of. Recently people have been writing that China is going to get old before it gets rich. Japan is now old but it is rich.

The issues that these phenomena pose are ones that are favorable to global financial inter-relationships. We are all going to end up being the biggest investors in each other's countries, which some people might criticize or worry about, but those who are concerned about possible big conflagrations or confrontations should take some comfort from these developments.

How, if at all, does Asia figure in this election year in the US? Are there any issues pertaining to Asia that may be of significance in domestic politics?


Not really. I have been asked this question a lot, and I have researched it quite thoroughly. If you have a crisis in Taiwan, if you have a crisis in North Korea, it could very well play into the election. It is true that there could be a crisis anywhere that could play into the election but those are the potential hotspots. If you talk to the people who are dealing with those problems in China, Russia, Japan, the United States, they all want to make sure that nothing untoward happens. We are very thinly stretched in the Middle East and this will make us more vigilant about preventing any other place from heating up.

The Asian issues are important strategically and economically but for the most part, they do not have domestic political resonance in the same sense that Middle East issues do, for instance. The Arab-Israeli dispute is one that affects the electability of many Congressmen and Senators. Our relations with Cuba and Latin America are central to Florida politics and the electoral college. But there is nothing like that in the Asian issues. Outsourcing jobs is something that has been talked about. It is an issue that appeared to be growing in momentum, as people were worried about the loss of more American jobs to Asian outsourcing. But as the economy has improved and the number of jobs has increased, we are hearing less about that. Of course a lot will depend on where we are in the fall.