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Growing our footprint

Breaking the will of an enemy is the best strategy against a much stronger opponent.
Mar 15,2017
To better understand the unorthodox polices of U.S. President Donald Trump, pay special attention to his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Touting the nationalism inherent in Trump’s economic agenda, he said, “We’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open border — that we’re a nation with a culture and a reason for being.”

Bannon called the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” He said, “It got us out of a trade deal and let our sovereignty come to ourselves.” That marks the beginning of the “re-imagining” and “deconstruction” of U.S. trade policies positioning Washington to focus on bilateral trade agreements instead of multilateral ones to make any outside enterprises wishing to enter the U.S market invest capital, build factories, and create decent jobs for the American people.

Economists criticize the nationalist economic agenda of the Trump administration, but they overlook the fact that Bannon has plans to revitalize Silicon Valley as the hotbed for future innovations like robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, industrial computing and bioengineering to command leadership of the fourth industrial revolution.

The Trump administration will do all it can to block China from accessing its technologies. Having read the minds of their U.S. counterparts, Japanese bureaucrats concocted a business proposal to create 700,000 jobs through investments in infrastructure and joint research and development in robotics and artificial intelligence for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to present to Trump during his visit to Washington.

The U.S. has kept its borders wide open in order to exercise global predominance, but Trump is out to do the opposite. To enter the highly valuable U.S. market, outsiders must pay dues from now on. Trade nationalists claim that markets in the world are not equal and therefore it is unfair to place a dynamic and highly profitable market like the U.S. on the same level as the others. They want to shun globalism because it undermines U.S. sovereignty and interests.

Bannon not only designs economic policies but also attends National Security Council meetings. His role is tantamount to Wang Huning, who is in charge of crafting the policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The former executive chairman of a far-right media outlet believes in the theory of the “Fourth Turning,” which argues the history of mankind moves in 80 to 100 year cycles. The last Fourth Turnings the U.S. experienced were the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II, from which Americans were forced to build new orders.

Bannon wants to bring down the existing order of globalism and neoliberalism that fattened Wall Street’s bankers and the elite and weakened the middle and working class. He proclaimed that America is at war with those forces threatening the Judeo-Christian tradition and predicted a war with the Middle East and China in ten years.

Are we prepared for such changes in the world? South Korea ranked 42nd in the World Economic Forum’s scale of networked readiness for the global transition to the fourth industrial revolution. We are less ready than we were during the transitional stage from farming to light industry in the 1960s, from light to heavy industries in the 1970s, and from factories to high-technology industries in the 1980s and 1990s.

South Korea needs more than public policies on industries and the economy. We must have a strategy on North Korean nuclear issues and China in order to discuss regional and security policies with Uncle Sam. We should have worked to stimulate changes in North Korea through continuous inter-Korean dialogue, exchanges and economic cooperation based on the market economy. Merely waiting for an implosion cannot be a strategy to shape the future of the Korean Peninsula. We have to make some initiative on our own.

Võ Nguyên Giáp, the legendary Vietnamese general who led victories against the French and the U.S., said that breaking the will of an enemy is the best strategy to win a war especially up against a much stronger opponent. What is important is our determination. The thought of reducing exports and increasing imports to win favor of global powers can hardly help our interests in the longer run.

We must break out of our traditional thinking on foreign and security affairs just as the U.S. and China are doing to confront global challenges. In other words, we must enhance our diplomatic capabilities in the comprehensive context of the national economy and security. Australia and the Netherlands, with populations of about 23 million and 17 million respectively, run foreign ministry staffs of 5,000. South Korea, with a population of 50 million, has a foreign ministry staff of 2,230. That number speaks volumes about our footprint in the world.

The next government must increase recruits to the foreign ministry by 1,000 each year over the next three years to more than double its staff. Staff must be given choice over domestic and overseas jobs and diplomats must serve at least 10 years in key countries to build their expertise and connections. The secretariat of the foreign minister should have at least 50 staff to help design the long-term vision and timely responses to current issues.

A divided nation will only benefit global powers. The world will not wait for us to shape up and catch up. We must muster up the wisdom to address the challenges of the industrial transition and regional problems involving China and Japan.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 14, Page 31

*The author, a former minister of trade and the UN ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, is a member of the WTO Appellate Body and professor of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Kim Hyun-chong