The Wheatley Institution

The Rise of Asia and America's Role in the Emerging Power Balance

Fidel Ramos
October 13, 2010

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I thank you, General Amos Jordan, for such a flattering introduction. You know, General Jordan was an outstanding graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He was number one in military aptitude and leadership throughout his four years, and also number one in academics. He was the top of the class in those two important categories. Receiving such an accolade from him is a great honor indeed. I also would like to thank President Samuelson of this great institution, BYU, and the organizing staff for making our stay here so hospitable and enjoyable. And equally important I would like to thank my classmate, Chairman Jack Wheatley of the Wheatley Institution, and his dear wife Mary Lois whom we know very well.

Likewise and equally important to Dr. Richard Williams, who was responsible for putting us all together through email, internet, and many frantic phone calls between my office and here about how sure we were about coming. So thank you also, Dr. Williams. And we thank all of you nice people here in BYU in Utah for showing to us what the future world should be, where regardless of socioeconomic condition, religious faith, or ethnic origin you put people together so that they can learn about a better future through friendship, through cooperation, volunteerism, and, what I say plainly, for caring, sharing, and daring for each other. By the way, caring, sharing, and daring for each other and for our beloved countries is the motto of our Ramos Peace and Development Foundation--just three simple words.

But before I proceed to this very serious message (which is all of 85 pages, typewritten, single-spaced, back to back) let me greet you with a grand and rousing Mabuhay from the Philippines, which means “may you have life,” meaning may you have good health, a long life, continued success, and enduring happiness. But we in the Philippines do not just verbalize mabuhay and make a lot of noise. We reach out to our right and to our left and across the row and just shake the hand of the person that we find there. Go ahead, mabuhay! And in the Philippines--and I hope you don’t mind here in BYU, because we all know you are a little different in a very positive way—in the Philippines, having been under Spain for 330 years, after shaking hands we embrace and kiss each other. Okay, your last chance, one more time mabuhay, shake hands, embrace and kiss each other.

Now dear friends, the subject assigned to me is the Rise of Asia and America’s role in the emerging power balance. That’s quite a big subject, and it may take us a few hours here even if Dr. Ralph Cossa before me last night already covered the subject quite well; in fact, he covered my five trends. But seriously speaking, this is an important subject wherever we are, or whatever nationality around the globe, because we’re seeing the creation of new power centers in the world and the emergence of a likely rival to the United States in the superpower status, meaning China.


Part I. Geopolitical Shift in Global Power

The distribution of power, dear friends, in the world is changing in a very basic way. The center of global gravity is moving away from the Atlantic, where it has been for about 150 years -- not so much because the West is weakening, either economically or militarily, but because other power centers are rising in relative strength in Asia, in Latin America, and elsewhere.

For the first time in modern history, we have a multi-power, or multi-polar -- even multi-civilizational -- global balance of power. This is an epochal change, because power balances since the Napoleonic Wars of 1800-1815 up to the two World Wars have always been made up entirely of "Western" powers, which share a common culture.

Today, the most densely populated and most economically weighty of these new stakeholders in the international system are Asians -- China, Japan, India, South Korea, and ASEAN as a whole, ten nations with a combined population of 580 million, which consists of all kinds of cultures and faiths who have managed to stay together because they are caring, sharing, and daring.

The New Hierarchy of Global Power

We also have a rearranged hierarchy of global power. The new "Big Three" are the U. S., the E. U., and China.

History has consigned the Communist Soviet Union to the dustbin. The largest of the successor-states, the Russian Federation, continues to plod along ; however, its post-Communist leadership has done a great deal to stabilize it.

Similarly, the Muslims continue to be inward-looking, ultra-conservative, and largely unable to cope with the modern secular world. And though India has in recent years grown substantially, it still has many years to go to reach to the status of China in state efficiency and economic performance.

And so it is still the United States that wields the strongest influence on global affairs -- whether politically, militarily, economically, or culturally. But even America now cannot act unilaterally .

Meanwhile, China has been growing much faster than the world has thought possible. After surpassing Germany as the largest exporter in October 2009, China overtook Japan to become the second-largest economy in the world in mid-


Deng Xiaoping's decision to open up post-Maoist China to the global economy -- by creating "special export-processing zones'' on its southern coast beginning in 1979 -- has mobilized a formidable country on the side of globalization.

From G-7 to G-20

The E. U. sees itself as the global balancer between the U. S. and China. But already—and I hope I am forgiven for making these comments —the E.U.’s  supra-national kind of governance has proven very vulnerable to recession problems.

Reflecting the rise of the new stakeholders in the global economy, the G­-20 process has become the leading institution for global economic governance -- superseding the Western-dominated International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Born at the beginning of the 2008 economic recession, the G-20 nations are made up of the old G-7 (later G-8) elite states, plus a dozen of the top emerging economies. And already the G-20 has decided to reform the IMF's voting rights to reflect the authority of its new stakeholders. In fact, next month, in Seoul, South Korea, the G-20 leaders will meet, and that is really going up in the world for South Korea.

A Future World Without Great-Power Wars?

For other countries, like us in the Philippines, the imperative is to keep the strategic balance and not fall into any of the great powers’ sphere of dominance.

Meanwhile, the revolution in computer, information, communications, and transportation technologies is integrating economies—and cultures—through the increased flow across national boundaries of goods and services, capital, labor, and especially ideas.

And this unprecedented connectivity favors those economies that are agile enough to seize on the opportunities offered by heightened cross-border trade; the manufacture, assembly and marketing of goods and services across geographic regions; and the increased global demand for oil, minerals, and other resources.

Idea s and Knowledge Flowing Across Frontiers

Th is international flow of ideas, knowledge, and opportunities; the intermingling of cultures; the rise of global society; and of the force of environmental and human rights movements are all part of th is dynamism called globalization.

And, already, this new openness to cross-border influences has helped ease global poverty. While the world's population has doubled since 1960, the percentage living in poverty has been cut in half. In China alone, 400 million people have been emancipated from poverty during these past 30 years.

Not just the U. S., the European Union, and Japan but also China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, and Russia -- no less than Argentina, Mexico, and South Africa -- are being embedded in dense economic, political, and security networks that serve their mutual interests and are raising them to power status.

More and more the so-called "East-West divide" has become obsolete, because the knowledge revolution is configuring the world in a new way.

More and more, the world is dividing in terms of those states that have adopted globalization and those that have not.

A New World Being Born Before Our Eyes

The "functioning core" of this new world order is deemed to be made up of all those nations that are actively integrating their individual economies into the emerging global order, and subscribing to the rules of the new game, and enhancing their cultural connectivity.

My home-region of East Asia has been the prime beneficiary of globalization so far. East Asia is the world's fastest-growing region. Between 1965 and the 1990s, the East Asian countries from South Korea to Indonesia -- all following the example of Japan -- grew at a rate so unprecedented that the World Bank called that the "East Asian miracle." And, since the 19 90s, these so-called "tiger economies" have been joined by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and others.

Meanwhile, more than nine million Filipinos -- the forerunners of tomorrow's "mobile global workforce" -- are scattered in 135 countries as migrants and contract workers who send home their money, their earnings, and their savings, which have a total equivalent every year of more than 10% of Philippine gross domestic product.

Part II. The Rival Poles of the New Power Balance

Tensions and rivalries between China and the U.S. were dissipated during that brief period of good will following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That good will may be declining. Their erstwhile rapport has been replaced by a so-called "climate of strategic mistrust," although not yet of outright "strategic antagonism."

The Pentagon has been shifting the weight of overseas deployments from Eastern Europe to the Pacific, and from Northeast Asia broadly southward -- through Guam, through the Philippines , through Vietnam, and to Singapore, where U.S. aircraft carriers now have a deep water anchorage .

China itself has been redeploying its forces away from the Russian border. Even more significantly, China, which is a land power since the fifteenth century, makes no secret of its ambition to build a "blue-water" navy -- to protect its coastal logistics hubs and its seaborne trade, which both generate some 60-70% of China's GDP.

Already China's Navy is beginning to challenge American predominance in the South China Sea. This was covered last night, and I hope you took notes as I did. Fortunately, one potential flashpoint -- the Taiwan independence movement -- seems to be declining because of the Mainland's closer brotherly embrace through economic cooperation across the Taiwan straits since 2008. The warming up of relations between China and Taiwan is a welcome development to those of us in the neighborhood who would also be among the first victims in case of a shooting war.

China's Strategic Reach Is Growing

Meanwhile, China's strategic reach is growing. Beijing is cutting deals worldwide to tie down foreign raw materials and investment opportunities and even coddling "dictatorial" states like Iran, Venezuela, and Sudan, which are resource-rich.

In Asia, China is already at the center of an emerging growth triangle: Japan-India­-Australia . In East Asia, China is the driving force of the ASEAN plus China, ASEAN plus Japan, and ASEAN plus South Korea free trade area, otherwise known as the APT combine.

Tokyo's ruling politicians may regard China as a strategic rival, but Japanese business people regard it as a valued economic partner. It is mainly by trading with China -- and by investing there -- that the Japanese have revived their stagnant economy.

(I promised Dr. Williams to shorten my speech, so I throw away some of it, which you can download from our website,, you got it?)

Thus, China has become a growth engine for the ASEAN states, and can be credited also with Australia's continued boom due to the export of mineral and energy resources to China.

Bilateral Skirmishes on All Fronts

Between the United States and China, bilateral skirmishes are being fought on virtually all fronts. Financially, the Americans are pressing the Chinese to revalue their currency, which U.S. experts claim Beijing has artificially weakened by as much as 20 to 25% of its real value in order to subsidize China's exports.

Militarily, the two are in an undeclared arms build-up -- a race focused for the moment on Taiwan and the China Sea, and in the longer run likely to center on China's objective to break out from the global dominance of the United States and enable it to project power with less deterrence.

How will China use this fast-rising comprehensive power in global economic competition, in military muscle, in day-to-day diplomacy?

After what it terms "150 years of humiliation at the hands of the great Western powers," a resurgent China is aggressive, self-confident, and full of pride in its new wealth, show case achievements (like the Shanghai Export in 2010 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008), as well as global influence.

America's Role in the Emerging Power Balance

Let me now turn to America's role in the emerging power balance.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been the fulcrum of the East Asian power balance. Over these last 40 years, the so-called Pax Americana (or America's peace) has given the East Asian states the breathing spell to put their houses in order, in the same way that the American market has enabled them to expand their economies at the world's fastest rate.

This is a role similar to what the U.S. did in Europe immediately after World War II. Hence, we, the East Asians, expect the U. S.— which has regarded itself as an Asia-Pacific power since the 1890s — to continue asserting its security interests in our home-region, in the Asia-Pacific. And Washington's foremost strategic goal in the Asia-Pacific, in my belief, has always been to prevent the rise of another power that could undermine America's regional role and subsequently pose a global challenge to U.S. predominance.

So, we ask, howwill the U.S. and China relationship resolve itself?

The answer could never be as plain, or as easy to foretell, as older historical rivalries -- for instance, that between France and Germany in the middle 1800s; between Britain and Germany, beginning in the late 1880s; or between Japan and the so-called "ABCD powers" (the Americans, the British, the Chinese, and the Dutch) in the late 1930s and also during World War II.

In all of these historical rivalries, armed conflict was the seemingly unavoidable outcome. But in our time, in the 21st century, given the awesome power of nuclear weapons and the "connectivity" of globalization, the natural rivalry between the U. S. and rising China need no longer resolve itself in shooting conflict.

Consider how the American-Soviet Union ideological confrontation lasted 50 years but died away without breaking out into outright war.

China's Growing Stake in Rules-Based Global Market System

And so we ask, when and where will it all end? The truth is, China is not just reshaping the global economy. The global economy is also reshaping China.

Already China is moving —even if by fits and starts — toward an economic structure based on the rule of law and universal standards. Also, they pursue a more efficient allocation of capital and improved corporate governance.

In short, China's stake is growing in the rules-based global market system that the U. S. has done the most to promote over these last 50 years. Hence, the two powers, U.S. and China, have a stake in each other's prosperity and stability.

In recent months, sparring between Beijing and Washington has taken a serious turn. The sinking of a South Korean frigate, reportedly by North Koreans; the showing of the flag by China’s new missile frigate task force in the Philippines last April; and then, soon after that, the visit of the supercarrier George Washington, the biggest aircraft carrier in the world--nuclear powered, also in Manila, one after another--and things of that nature. There also has been an outburst of China’s extravagant claims to large tracts of the South China Sea, particularly in that group of Islands near the Philippines called the Spratlys and the group of islands near Vietnam called the Paracels, and that area has historically been Southeast Asia's maritime heartland.

Fortunately, I saw in the papers this morning that the defense ministers of ASEAN plus the U.S. meeting as dialogue partners, agreed, together with China, to let cooler solutions predominate in the islands of the South China Sea. And I hope it will continue that way because the countries of ASEAN, starting with the Philippines back in 1993, signed a code of conduct with China to ensure that only peaceful diplomatic means would be used in the resolution of conflicts, and also that the exploration of the resources of the islands in the South China sea would be done jointly with benefits for all. And so I hope that this covenant will be implemented once and for all.

Now, for the states of the East Asian hemisphere --for us-- the imperative is to avoid having to choose between Beijing and Washington. Even U.S. allies in Asia increasingly see their problem as balancing in between the two great powers, neither of whom they would want to antagonize.

If U.S.-China rivalries intensify, the Southeast Asian states would probably have to get together, tighten their still fragile sense of unity even more, and rally around the leadership of their largest member state, which is Indonesia .

Japan, on the other hand, would likely huddle under the American nuclear umbrella.  The two Koreas would probably navigate between the two great powers, the U.S. and China, favoring first one and then, next, the other, as the circumstances may dictate.

Part III. The Foreseeable Future

And so, we ask ourselves, over the foreseeable future, what happens? In my view, I would venture to say that we in East Asia must live with a China driving for great-power status , a Japan nurturing a resurgent nationalism , and an America asserting its Asia-Pacific role.

Of all these facts of Asia-Pacific life, the future of the U.S.-China relationship is the most crucial. The real race may really no longer be military and coercive but economic and intellectual. And the ultimate winner would be the life-system, the government system, that ordinary people would judge to be the best for them.

Cultural globalization has become even more widespread than economic connectedness. Even in poor countries that have experienced only limited growth in foreign trade, Western "pop" culture -- borne by mass media, promoted by television and Hollywood -- is fast spreading among the young and replacing moral values and ways of life to which traditionalists are accustomed.

And t his is why "cultural nationalism" is a rising clamor among poor-country leaders. A wariness of so-called "corrupting foreign" (read "American" or "Western") influence is widespread. This kind of cultural nationalism is most pronounced in the Arab World.

Democracy and Authoritarianism

In global politics, the tensions in the new countries are likely to continue between democracy and authoritarianism and their roles in our future world.

From a democratic political center, we cannot expect the kind of focus, the teamwork, and the energy that an authoritarian system could sometimes raise in a developing country.

However, democracy has a key advantage in that it can easily grow political stability of the kind the authoritarian regime can never approximate. Free elections and the rule of law make possible tremendous safety valves against political discontent.

In my view, my friends, the real threat to democracy in this new time is not so much the restoration of blatant authoritarian repression in many places as it is the loss of purpose and meaning of democracy. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism, as in the Philippines in the period 1972 to 1986.

Let me also say a few words about the persistence of global inequality. Despite all the eloquence that launched the World Trade Organization in 2005, the calls by poor countries for fair trade, equal market access, and the dismantling of subsidies and protectionist tariffs by richer countries remain unheeded.

East Asia's Prospects

It is true that, for East Asia -- even more than for Western Europe -- deep integration that submerges the nation-state is still remote. Over the foreseeable future, an East Asian Economic Grouping (EAEG) -- even if it takes off -- is unlikely to develop beyond a free-trade area to match similar arrangements in Europe and in the two Americas.

If they are to deal equally with China in the already-set "ASEAN plus" configuration, the ASEAN states must also become more coherent economically and politically.

Right now, Southeast Asian states are still a long way even from reducing the trade barriers between themselves and creating a home- market that can compete with China's attractiveness to foreign investors.

For the ASEAN states, the immediate usefulness of an East Asian Economic Grouping would lie in the framework of rules and procedures that it lays down -- and within which not just China, but also Japan, must work -- in all their regional dealings.

From the American to the Asia-Pacific Peace

Among these regional groupings—and we have all kinds of alphabet soups in that regard-- the East Asian Economic Grouping or EAEG could become the greatest, since it would have vigorous growth engines, China and Japan, plus upcoming South Korea and Indonesia.

Over the foreseeable future, the task for our statesmen would be to replace the American peace or Pax Americana that has enforced stability in our mega-region with a Pax Asia-Pacifica or Asia-Pacific peace .

An Asia-Pacific peace will enable East Asia's combination of progressive nations and visionary leaders to plan collectively and strategically for a better future for all.

Unlike the Pax Americana -- which, at bottom, is based on U.S. military might -- an Asia-Pacifica peace would be the peace of virtual

equals, because Pax Asia-Pacifica will involve security cooperation for regional peace based not on the balance of power but on the balance of mutual benefit.

Certainly, this concept is founded on the understanding that it will entail burden-sharing by all nations in the Asia-Pacific in contributing assets, call them forces, to insure the region's peace, prosperity, and security, and must be built on cooperative undertakings among the most affluent and most powerful countries and regional blocs in our part of the world: the U. S., China, Japan, India, South Korea, Russia, Australia-New Zealand, and ASEAN-10 itself.

The Challenge for All

Indeed, a constructive Chinese role in organizing the Asia-Pacific peace would demonstrate China's commitment to becoming the so-called "responsible stakeholder" that Washington has challenged Beijing to become.

China seems to see its own safety in promoting regional integration -- in developing a so-called "East Asian identity" -- as economic cooperation that must be fostered among the states of the region, and then which extends gradually to cultural, political, and security cooperation.

Tokyo, too, must take up a more responsible role in the region. In fact, one of the essentials for ensuring Asia-Pacific peace is a stable, enduring relationship between Beijing and Tokyo. In the interest of regional peace, both these powers should stop allowing the historical past to get in the way of a more harmonious and prosperous Asia-Pacific future.

In the past, stability -- even a flowering of civilization -- has resulted from great-power hegemony. But the age of hegemony has passed. Today, no single state, no matter how powerful, can act unilaterally. In a world more interconnected than it has ever been, nations large and small are virtually equal in the restraints that the world community places on their behavior.

And, ultimately, relations among the great Asia-Pacific powers will always be an interplay of competition on one hand and cooperation on the other. The strategic challenge will be for all our countries to ensure that the spirit of cooperation to prosper is always stronger than the competitive impulse to dominate.

And, so, in meeting this challenge, leaders of the East and of the West cannot fail-- I say again, the leaders of the East and the West cannot fail--for the sake of our peoples and for those who will come after us.

So I say to you, dear friends, thank you, good day; m abuhay ! Nice people, in the spirit of mabuhay, shake hands and embrace each other, because that’s how we can attain world peace. Will you embrace and kiss each other? Thank you very much.

By the way, before I let go of the mic (this is the tendency of politicians, never to let go of the mic) I’d like to announce that we are donating a set of books to the Wheatley Institution, care of Brigham Young University. It’s a set of some 30 or 35 books and collections of essays, articles, and magazines. This is a book published by our Ramos Peace and Development Foundation. This one is called U.S.A. (Unsolicited Advice). Take it or leave it. And this latest one, published in July, is entitled Another Ending, Another Beginning, because this has to do with two presidents: one retiring, the other one just coming in. We hope the best for both of them, but that’s really for the good of our Mother Philippines and the Asia Pacific. And others of this nature are entitled We Are All on the Same Ship, So If You See a Hole, Plug It. Don’t Add Another Hole. If You See An Oar, Pull it, so that you can move faster.

One more announcement before I give it to Dr. Williams. We have about 10 loose copies of these kind of books already made available to Dr. Williams for him to decide to give away, maybe a surprise to those student groups that perform the best during this conference. Or maybe to the elders that had the most trouble going through the traffic jam, or those people who came the farthest away to come to BYU to get an education. It’s up to you, doctor. Thank you very much.

Question: As a native Korean, I would like to express my gratitude and respect for your service in the Korean War to defend my country. Thank you so much. My question is, as you have discussed that the world economy is reshaping China, China’s economic system has been going through major transformation from its communist origin. However, giving up its communist identity is a big risk for China because communism is one of its crucial foundations on which its political and social structure is built. From your perspective, what is China’s ultimate response to such national level identity crisis likely to be?

President Ramos: That’s a very good question; it is very difficult to answer. But if you’re talking to China’s leaders today--and I watched this question of a vice president of China and several ministers of their cabinet--the answer would be “Oh, China is now a democracy with Chinese characteristics.” If you ask them, “Do you have a free market economy in China?” The answer is “Oh, yeah, we have a free market economy in China with Chinese characteristics.” And it goes on and on like that.

But as I said in my speech, China is now becoming more and more respectful of the universal norms of corporation and competition. And this is important for them to respect because they must continue going up in the world. They cannot afford to isolate themselves. So maybe that is one positive trend that we must try to push.

The other trend, and this is really part of the big trend Dr. Ralph Cossa mentioned last night, is that China’s young people are becoming more and more encultured in things other than what they normally get at home in what used to be conservative China. The internet is there, but beyond that, there’s travel and tourism, there’s cross education, and there’s just plain people-to-people contact and linkage. So looking at the next 10 or 15 years, or even one generation, I’m seeing a meeting of the powers at a certain point of balance, where as I said in the end, it is the spirit of cooperation in order to prosper that will overcome the spirit of competition to dominate that will overcome the spirit of cooperation .

Question: I’m in the ROTC program, and I’m working on deciding whether or not I want to serve in the United States military. I need to make that decision. And I was wondering what compelled you to join your nation’s military, how that has changed your life, if you feel like that decision is something that really made you the man you are today, and if you’d recommend that to someone in my generation.

President Ramos: First of all, answering the basic question, you should go for it, meaning continuing your training in the military and maybe serve in active service in the future, because serving in the military provides a certain set of values that will stay with you throughout life, especially hard work and caring, sharing and daring. The daring is obvious, but it is the caring and sharing that sometimes is overlooked by the military.

But to us, meaning General Amos Jordan--and he was really our senior mentor, our mentor minister (if you’re in Singapore he’s not just the senior mentor; he’s the mentor minister) and my classmate Jack Wheatley—we did learn those values at an early age, which we applied in our professional military careers, of being more people-oriented, of being a little more far-looking in our visions of not just winning the battle but winning the peace. What factors did I consider when I adopted the military career that changed my life? Well, you know, it’s not the military career or USMA that changed my life, just Mrs. Ramos. And that’s another story.

I was headed for a low career because my father was a lawyer, and so was his father before him. But just coming out of World War II in Manila, we all saw the great devastation done by both friends and enemies in the Asian invasion and the battle for liberation. I decided that I would try to help in the reconstruction of the Philippines by becoming an engineer. So there was one slot put up in a competitive examination for an appointment to the USMA. I grabbed it by taking the exams and was lucky to tap it, and so I went. I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this story because I was one of the earliest overseas Filipino workers from the Philippines to America, the great land of promise.

In July 1946 I went across the Pacific on the U.S. Armed Forces orders on a space available from Manila to West Point. That meant hitchhiking from Manila to Guam on a DC-3 or a C-47 cargo plane, which flew at the fast clip of 350 miles an hour but could not rise to more than 8,000 feet because it was not pressurized. Anyway, I didn’t mind that at all because there were 18 pretty nurses on board who were rotating out because they’d served their 36 points and were going home also. It was pretty cold up there; I was an innocent 18 year old, and there were only nine blankets between all of us. Anyway, I made it step by step to Guam, to Midway, to Johnston, to Kwajalein, to Honolulu eventually, and then to California.  But the main thing there was that maybe I could help better by becoming an engineer. In your case, I suggest you go for it.

Do you want to do 30 pushups?

Question: I’m a student in the U.S. policy in Asia class, and I’m in the ASEAN group here with the Philippines. One of the things that we’ve been talking about today in our group is the corruption that is taking place in many of the countries part of ASEAN as well as the wealth discrepancy, and I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about what we could do about that.

President Ramos: Well, what would be ASEAN’s main connection or interest, as you may have discussed? Will you just tell me about that?  

Question: Well, something we’ve been discussing is the institutional stability within these countries, and the concern that the U.S. cannot rely on some of these institutions to carry out effective programs with the money that we give them or the money they receive from NGOs. Cambodia’s been an excellent example of that, and then wealth discrepancies throughout the region.

President Ramos: Okay, I will address that question because it brings me back to what was emphasized yesterday: that ASEAN has been able to remain stable, united. It’s now governed by charter, adopted two years ago, and I was the so-called “imminent person” to represent the Philippines in the drafting of the ASEAN charter. Also mentioned beyond ASEAN itself was the ASEAN regional forum in which 27 countries participate as dialogue partners, and this is probably the most effective existing mechanism for resolving conflicts in our region through dialogue, diplomacy, and other peaceful means short of a shooting war.

Now, I think it’s important to remember how ASEAN itself evolved, and this took a lot of courage, and daring even, on the part of its leaders and foreign ministers. You may recall that ASEAN, which has been there since 1967, at that time was at war within itself. Yet here was a massive, inevitable threat called communism within the region, within the former French colonies, and poised against Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.

In fact, in 1967, Indonesia was at war with Singapore and Malaysia in the conflict called Konfrontasi. And the Philippines was claiming a huge chunk of the new federation of Malaysia called the state of Sabah. Thailand was not involved in these conflicts, but it was also being caught into the vortex of these differences. So our leaders decided that we better get together, forget all of that, and fortify ourselves economically so that we can better resist the wave of communism that we’re seeing just north of us. And it happened.

And so I am saying to those in other parts of Asia, like what you mentioned, but also especially Northeast Asia. Southeast Asia was able to formally organize starting with five countries (there are now ten) and become an effective and influential bloc that is peaceful and relatively united, and in the year 2015 we shall have, hopefully, an economic community that will lead to eventual social, economic, and cultural community. And then eventually this should lead to, although it’s not yet in the charter, a union or a federation or a confederation of some kind that would also unite the political and the military components of our association.

So if you are able to do this, why not, in your own region out there, why not in northeast Asia? Why not an ANEAN, an Association of Northeast Asians? We already have an association among those in the central part called the S.C.O., Shanghai Corporation Organization, and they’re all pledging to each other not to fight each other, should there be some differences, but to resolve those differences in a peaceful, diplomatic way. What I’m saying is that the power of ASEAN right now may be just of being an example for others to learn by, and therefore ASEAN itself is compelled, it is forced even, to be united also so that it will not become a bad example, but would help promote a better world in the forseeable future.

Question: What lessons has the Philippines learned that the U.S. can borrow from concerning dealing with radical militant Islam?

President Ramos: First of all, we may have to reread or relearn the Philippine-American war of 1899 to 1912, because the Philippines in that sense was the first era. The U.S. military at that time, which was being governed from Washington, was guided by a policy of scorched earth, and there was very little of the so-called “civic action,” or the civilian side of the soft power of development that happened. And so, in a negative way, that’s a lesson to learn from.

We had the experience of a famous general in Philippine history called Jacob Smith. Anybody here named Jacob Smith, or relatives of howling mad Jacob Smith? Well, anyway, he implemented the so-called “all-out force” and the scorchers policy in the island of Samar in the Visayas in 1902, and aside from just burning everything, destroying everything, and killing people that he saw, they took away two bells from the church in the town of Balangiga in Samar that have never been returned. And that’s still a big issue between the Philippines and the Government. The Philippines says, “Mr. Washington, kindly return the bells, because these are religious icons,” but Mr. Washington D.C. says, “No, no, we cannot, because there’s a federal law that does not allow us to return war booties where this came from.” So we are still at an impasse over those two bells.

So what is the solution? I suggested it to my counterpart at the time, President Bill Clinton, which is still very, very guapo, by the way. (Will you kindly translate that, those who know Tagalog?) I said “Hey Bill, why don’t we take those two bells from your main museum where they are exhibited and cut the two bells in half identically. You take two halves, and I take two halves, and then we will rebuild the bells, and we will have two bells that are partly American and partly Filipino. And he agreed, but as he was about to put out the order, and this was towards the end of my term in April and May 1998 (I was retiring in June 1998), a federal law was passed which prohibited the taking away from the U.S. of any war booties or treasures, because that would be a federal offense.

So it’s still there, but if you cut it in half and rebuild the two bells, you see, you’re not out anything. You’re adding two more. So this is the new arithmetic up to work in the world today. One plus one is not equal to two anymore, at least the way we should show it, that we should see everything in terms of any conflict, that one that was mentioned a while ago. One plus one is equal to three or five or ten or even eleven, depending on the synergy that is applied by the two sides.

Why is it eleven? One plus one is equal to eleven because that’s digital more than exponential, but one plus one could equal to zero or minus five or minus eleven. If we see these things in these simple ways maybe we can make solutions. But going back to your question—yeah, that’s a good question.

Question: In your speech, you mentioned the three reigning global powers as being the U.S.A., the European Union, and China. In a scale of one to ten how would you rate the Philippines in coping up with the trend in the rise of Asia as a whole, or the Philippines as being a contributor in the rise of Asia?

President Ramos: It’s difficult to regard the Philippines by itself in trying to assess or calculate or even make material the influence that we may have. I say that the Philippines must always be seen as part of ASEAN, which has become a power in itself economically as well as in this new era of interfaith or multi-faith relations, because within ASEAN you have the biggest Muslim democracy in the world, that is Indonesia, and you also have the first Christian democracy in Asia, which is the Philippines. We’d rather be seen as one united regional bloc at the moment, but not yet maybe a community. But economic sways will soon be coming--and then, socio-culturally wise, also, it’s happening--and then ultimately maybe we can bring in a political and security union.

May I just expand this idea. I mentioned it in the speech. What I said, instead of having just the U.S. underpin Asia-Pacific Security, and thus a major burden on you taxpayers here (How much is it for the pentagon?), maybe one super carrier could finance ten universities, not quite as good as BYU, but maybe good enough to become your subsidiaries. So why not invest the money in education? Can you imagine also what China is spending to build up a blue water navy? And so with Japan, very quietly, because they’ve deployed themselves there to the Indian ocean to help support their forces in the Middle East, so how much would Australia and new Zealand save in terms of transferring their military budget, partly anyway, to the development of the aborigines in Australia? How much would Singapore save in terms of outreaching to other poorer countries instead of investing so much in F-16s and F-22s?

I’m saying all of this with all due respect to their leaders and their governments, because I’m seeing it also in the Philippines. We don’t have a big military. We may have a bigger national police because that’s the nature of the problem. But we defend ourselves through our security alliances with the U.S. under the Philippines-U.S. mutual defense treaty of 1953, which is still in effect.

Now, I said, why don’t we in the Asia-Pacific agree as virtual equals--if you’re looking at ASEAN as ten countries with 580 million people, and that’s twice the number in the United States and more than twice the number in Indonesia itself--so that we are acting as partners rather than as potential enemies. There are those guys down in the pentagon planning for war with China, you know, on a war-game basis. That’s the way they play the games--I know; I’ve been part of that. And they assume that there’s a strike here, and then you respond, and there’s a counter-response, and a counter-response, and a counter-counter-response, and a counter-counter-counter-counter-response, and it just builds up. It becomes so expensive. So why don’t we agree, hey, the common enemy is global change. The common enemy is endemic disease, and just between the two of those they kill millions of people more than any shooting war that might happen. So let’s defend against these natural enemies.

Well anyway, I threw that idea into the pot in Washington, in Gael, in Bangkok, in Manila, in Sydney, in Boao, Hainan, in China, in Tokyo. No response. So I’m going to try again. Maybe you’ll help me. Thank you.

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