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Point of View: Asia is new economic frontier for the West

During his October trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Shanghai, President Bush accomplished two things. He won support from most of the 21 leaders attending the three-day meeting for the U.S.-led fight against terrorism around the world in general and in Afghanistan in particular. He also strengthened the weakened ties with China.

Anti-terrorism dominated the APEC talks. Terrorism has emerged as a worldwide problem. It now poses threats to some Asian countries, especially the Philippines, and to Russia and China. Terrorists in these parts of the world are mostly separatists seeking independence through brutal attacks.

Politically, the world has become smaller and smaller because of 24-hour TV news, the Internet, and other aspects of the information explosion. A not-in-my-backyard mentality will only be counterproductive. We must help and trust each other in our relentless pursuit of a terrorism-free world. Terrorism has a domino effect — if unchecked, it can spread to engulf the whole world, because this time our giant former enemies, China and Russia, are on our side.

Diplomatically and economically, the United State has switched its focus from Europe — where the market has become saturated — to Asia and the Pacific. Asia, especially Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, has a huge market for America’s high-tech products. Currently, the anti-American sentiments are high in Indonesia and Malaysia because their Islamic fanatics are angry over U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

Our relations with China had been strained earlier this year when a Chinese jetfighter collided with an American spy plane off the Chinese coast, then crashed into the sea. The crew from the damaged reconnaissance plane were taken by Chinese authorities. China vehemently protested the surveillance and asked the U.S. to “apologize” for the incident, causing quite a diplomatic stir between the two countries. the Chinese eventually released the crewmen — who said they were treated well — but returned the plane in pieces.

Taiwan is at the root of the deteriorating relations between China and the United States. China vows to retake the “renegade” province that was recovered from Japan by the late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the nationalist government right after World War II. The U.S., a loyal ally of Chiang, pledged to help the nationalist government defend that island of 22 million people from takeover by China.

The nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after the loss of the mainland to the Communists headed by Mao Tze-tung, who died more than two decades ago.

Taiwan is a democratic society and an economic power in Asia, but in recent years it has lost some of its steam. Many of its entrepreneurs have moved their headquarters to Shanghai and other parts of China, a land of 3,707,000 square miles where the investment environment is far better than that on the island of 13,885 square miles with few raw materials. A strong country needs a thriving economy. Taiwan is losing it. I venture to predict that it’s likely the two sides will be reunified peacefully in 10 years or so — a nation with two political systems.

China and the United States can help each other economically. In Asia, China is the second largest trade partner of the United States after Japan. More than 4,000 out of about 10,000 foreign corporations investing in China are from the United States.

In the not too distant future, China, with a population of 1.3 billion, could replace Japan as our largest trade partner in Asia. In China today, Communism is beginning to be only in name. The younger generation in China craves an American way of life. A recent survey shows most young intellectuals, government officials and wealthy people place the United States at the top of their travel list. And they like to watch Hollywood movies and listen to western music.

China will soon become a member of the World Trade Organization. It also will host the Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing. English-speaking workers are in great demand — learning English has become a fad in China these days. It is reported that nearly 70 percent of the salespeople in Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities in China can speak simple English. Even President Jiang Zemin addressed the conclusion of the APEC summit in English.

I don’t think China will ever revert to the anti-west Mao era, which apparently has died along with him.

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