Clyde Prestowitz is the author of Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions. He is also president of the Economic Strategy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C.
On November 12, 2011, I listened as President Barack Obama told business leaders attending the Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu that “we’ve turned our attention back to the Asia Pacific region” and announced two vehicles for that return. These were the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, now under negotiation and to be concluded by the end of this year, and the Pivot to Asia, meaning a redeployment of American priorities and military forces away from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.
In December 2004, IBM announced the sale of its personal computer division to China's Lenovo. The announcement came as a surprise in Washington but was old news in Beijing. As IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano later told The New York Times, the deal had originated during his July 2003 trip to Beijing to meet not with Lenovo but with top-level Chinese government officials from whom he sought permission to sell to a Chinese company. IBM wanted to support China's industrial strategy (including the upgrading of its technological capacities and know-how), Palmisano told the Times, partly because "if you become ingrained in their agenda and become truly local and help them advance, then your opportunities are enlarged. ...
In the 15th century, Venice was one of the world's richest cities and ranked among the great powers because its navy controlled the Mediterranean and its merchants controlled the trade in goods, especially spices. Then Portuguese Captain Vasco da Gama arrived in India in 1498. By 1515, the Portuguese controlled the Straits of Hormuz, the Indian Ocean, the Moluccas (or Spice Islands), and the trade with China. The spices, gems, and silks that for centuries had passed from Asia through the Middle East to Venice and then to the rest of Europe were now carried around Africa on Portuguese caravels. The Egyptian sultans had been able to keep the price of pepper for Europe very high by limiting shipments to 210 tons annually.
As the Labor Department reported employment falling last week -- in the midst of what the White House is calling a strong economic recovery -- Secretary of the Treasury John Snow traveled to Japan and China, where he and his request for more flexible exchange rates were buried beneath the treacly politeness Asia employs when handling irritating Western barbarians.