[OUTLOOK]'Shrimpmanship' and Economic Survival

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[OUTLOOK]'Shrimpmanship' and Economic Survival

Reinhold Niebuhr, an American neo-orthodox theologian, said there are two ways to keep peace in the world. One is a so-called "Pax-Romana order" in which a strong superpower maintains peace by suppressing other countries. The other is a "checks-and-balances order" in which countries check each other's ambitions and agree to keep the peace. I will give readers a chance to judge whether all whales and all shrimp enjoy impartial authority under the current world order or whether some shrimp are hurt in the midst of whales' fights over vested interests.

President Kim Dae-jung proposed a plan to establish an economic cooperation apparatus for East Asia at the ASEAN+3 Summit in Singapore last November. He gave to an "East Asia Vision Group," 26 scholars from 13 member nations, the task to study the issue and report. At that time, I wrote that forming an economic bloc in East Asia is needed to protect East Asia's interests.

Discussions on cooperation and unity in East Asia are nothing new. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir advocated the formation of an East Asian Economic Council. Japan also proposed to launch an Asian Monetary Fund. Though acknowledging the necessity, Asian nations hesitated to go ahead because of sour looks from the direction of Washington. The East Asian Economic Council was stillborn because it excluded the United States. The Asian Monetary Fund was suspected of being a revolt against the International Monetary Fund.

It is a pity that modern science cannot come up with a way to move countries from place to place on the earth. It would be good, for example, to move Israel far away from Arab nations so they would not shoot at each other all the time. A country that likes the United States very much could be moved to the sea off California; New York would not be a popular destination these days.

Since it could not move itself closer to East Asia - or vice versa - the United States thrust itself into Asia by traveling across the sea - for instance, to form the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group. The United States can legitimately claim to be a Pacific nation. But when the nameplate on an organization's door says only "Asia" or "East Asia," the United States will have more trouble injecting itself into regional affairs until its technology is further advanced.

President Kim will submit to the ASEAN+3 Summit Sunday through Tuesday in Brunei a package of recommendations from the East Asia Vision Group. The recommendations reportedly include plans for an East Asian Free Trade Area, an East Asian Investment Area and an East Asian Monetary Fund. So Malaysia's East Asian Economic Council was modified into the East Asian Free Trade Area, and the East Asian Investment Area and the Asian Monetary Fund were remodeled as the East Asian Monetary Fund, and the United States is still an uninvited guest.

But unlike Mr. Mahathir, President Kim has never assumed a haughty attitude toward the United States, and South Korea has no reason to form a conspiracy against the United States. So diplomatic experts expect that the report will face little objection from the United States. It will forestall U.S. objections by defining the East Asian Monetary Fund as a supplementary body, not a rival, of the U.S.-led International Monetary Fund. Some diplomatic experts also predict that the United States cannot say "no" unconditionally as it did earlier because it has other things to worry about after Sept. 11.

There are historical episodes that support Mr. Niebuhr's theory. In 400 A.D., when seven strong nations were fighting for control of China, a tactician named Su Qin proposed that six weak nations should ally and stand up to the one strong nation. Another tactician called Zhang Yi maintained that a weak nation should serve a strong nation and attack neighboring nations with the help of the strong nation. Both are stratagems for an underdog to survive a turbulent age. The former proposal's weak point is that internal conflicts among shrimp will lead to a breakup of their alliance. The latter strategy has a weak point as well: Once a shrimp bows to a whale in return for help, the shrimp is forever subject to the whale. I prefer the former stratagem.

East Asian countries absolutely have to cooperate and unite. There is no reason for this cooperation to be hostile to the United States. To the question of how East Asia's economy will revive, Jeffrey Sachs at Harvard University said that will happen when Asian countries have an integrated economic bloc. He said he hoped Asia could set up a bloc that would be insulated from the U.S. economy. He advised Korea, Japan and China to form such a bloc.


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Joseph W. Chung

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