Archive for June, 2011

Asian Views on the Next IMF Chief

Following the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF’s June 30 deadline for choosing a new managing director is rapidly approaching. The only two candidates are France’s Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, and Mexico’s Central Bank governor, Agustín Carsten. In this post, we examine the domestic viewpoints of China, India, Japan and Russia on the upcoming selection.

CHINA

In China, commentators vigorously called for an open and competitive process for the new IMF head’s selection, with greater representation amongst emerging markets and developing members.

• Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stated that the chief of the IMF should be chosen through “democratic consultation with a merit-based and transparent selection process.” Jiang said China has noticed that some countries have named their candidates, but she did not talk about China’s preference toward the candidates.

• Editorials discredited the age-old convention of a European IMF managing director and an American World Bank president:

  •  The notion that a European IMF chief would be best suited to deal with the European crisis because he/she would understand the region better is a double-standard, argues Xinhua. “When East Asian countries suffered a debt crisis from 1997 to 1999 and the IMF’s main clients became Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, no one argued that the IMF should be led by an Asian because he/she could understand the region’s problems more deeply.”
  • Europe should pass the IMF baton to Asia,” runs a China Daily headline. The IMF “should no longer function in a way that gives one continent such potent power over its functioning,” since such tactics are “zero-sum” and harmful to the entire world. “The rest of the world needs to tell the EU that its members will have to swallow the same bitter pills that people in Asia, Africa and South America have been subjected to for so long, rather than be accommodated and mollycoddled while the rest of the world is denied of its rights.”

• The China Daily noted that the recent joint statement made by the BRICS countries’ IMF executive directors is a much-needed example of coordination among emerging markets. “To properly reflect the growing role of developing countries, which are still under-represented in this [the IMF] and many other major international institutions, the BRICS countries should be more confident in asserting their common position, even if that may annoy others.”

• The Global Times argued that an increased Chinese presence at the senior management level will “reinforce the attention of the IMF to the emerging economies as well as improve the economic and trading relationship between developing and developed countries.”

INDIA

India appears resigned to the idea of Europe continuing its hold on the managing-director position, but has joined other emerging countries in criticizing the selection process.

• The Economic Times noted that as a rising superpower, “India is in a far better position to understand the compulsions of borrowers and ground realities of countries under fiscal stress.”

The Hindu reports that French candidate Christine Lagarde received no assurance from the Indian leadership during a June 7 visit seeking support for her candidacy. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee confirmed this, adding that “the selection of the managing director…should be on the basis of merit, competence, and (be made) in a transparent manner.” Following Mexican candidate Agustín Carsten’s visit a few days later, Mukherjee stated that he is in touch with his counterparts and that they will announce their decision at “an appropriate time.” (more…)

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After the 3/11 Catastrophe: Whither the Japanese Peace State?

For the past several years, foreign policy circles both inside and outside Japan have been anxious to determine whether Japan should or would develop new strategies to deal with a changing security environment in Asia. The catastrophic impact of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has only heightened the sense of anxiety over Japan’s future direction. At a time of great uncertainty about Japan’s future and the implications for its foreign policy, one might instead look to Japan’s national identity for signs of continuity and consistency.

For decades, Japan’s outlook and external behavior have been shaped by its identity as a “peace state” – a pacifist state associated with the so-called Yoshida Doctrine of cheap riding on U.S.-provided security while concentrating on economic development. That identity runs deep in the Japanese outlook, acting as both a guiding compass and an ideological constraint on state behavior. As the scholar Richard Samuels describes it, an identity is “a platform of ideas about a nation’s place in history and its people’s aspirations for the future.”[1] For Japan, its identity as a peace state means that it is “essentially a reactive or adaptive state” which is not interested in becoming a great military power.[2]

This peace state identity has been consistently evoked in Japanese discourse and followed in practice, even as Japanese defense policy has seen increased debate and contestation in recent years, argued Mike M. Mochizuki at an April 14 Policy Briefing on “Identity and Rising Asian Powers: Implications for Regional Cooperation,” organized by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. (more…)

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