The Uzbek lobby vs. Herman Cain

The title of this Ben Smith post is slightly misleading. It's not Uzbeks who are angry about Herman Cain's argument that he doesn't need to know the names of silly little countries like Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan, it's Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan's people in Washi-washi-washington:

And Carolyn Lamm, head of the American Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, blasted Cain's comments.

“Anyone who's going to lead our country needs to know about our important foreign relationships,” she said.

“U.S. business in Uzbekistan is very important, some of our top companies are doing excellent business there, including Boeing and Case New Holland,” Lamm said. "It does enhance jobs in the United States. So it's incorrect to think that it doesn’t, and really a conversation with any of our members would probably tell you in great detail why that is and how that is.”

I was interested to see Lamm quoted, and to note that she's now leading the American Uzbek Chamber of Commerce. Back in 2009, FP ran a story after she was named president of the American Bar Association, noting her past work as a lobbyist for Uzbekistan and as a lawyer for company owned by Gulnara Karimova, the globetrotting daughter of the country's president. At the time she was a vice president at the chamber of commerce. The connection was particularly unfortunate given that the ABA's own office promoting rule of law in Uzbekistan had been forced to shut down shortly after the 2005 Andijan massacre. Lamm's response to the article is here.

All the same, there is a very good case to be made, and Joshua Foust makes it here, that Uzbekistan is a country that a wannabe U.S. president ought to have some familiarity with... or at least pretend to. 


People's Daily responds to Clinton on 'Pacific century'

China's state-run People's Daily has an interesting editorial today responding to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's piece in the new issue of FP, which argues that the United States needs to make a strategic pivot toward East Asia in its foreign-policy priorities. The  People's Daily editors seem a bit confused by the notion that the United States ever shifted its attention away from Asia to begin with: 

Clinton's remarks appear to lack something new. She once proclaimed in Thailand last summer, "The United States is back." The United States has paid more attention to the Asian-Pacific region than ever, particularly military spending. The "return" of the United States will deeply involve the country in the issues concerning Asia's politics, economy and security.

"The United States is back" is a famous phrase of Douglas Macarthur. The U.S. general, who once lost to the Japanese army during the Pacific War, said the words to announce the success of the U.S. counterattack when landing the territory of the Philippines again. Today's Asia is totally different from what it was six decades ago because the United States has neither been defeated by any Asian country nor suffered a loss in Asia. The United States has achieved enormous returns from Asia's development over the past two to three decades. Certainly, Asian countries have also benefited greatly from their cooperation with the United States.

Since the United States has never left Asia, why will it need to "return" to Asia? Given rapid economic development of Asian countries over recent years and the gradual formation of a new type of cooperation pattern, the United States is afraid to miss the express train of Asia's development and accordingly lose its dominance of regional affairs. The U.S. move to "return to Asia" aims to gain more interests from Asia's regional development and cement its dominant position in Asia. Clinton has got it straight that the United States is willing to continue to get involved and play leading roles. 

The editorial goes on to recommend that if the U.S. is going to play a greater role in Asia, it make an effort to get along better with China and "play a more constructive role in promoting the regional economic development and cooperation in multiple fields, instead of expanding its military presence to show off its irreplaceability."

The editorial seems reflective of a trend noted in a piece by John Lee from last May: Chinese policymakers, academic strategists, and journalists are stil a lot more obsessed with the United States than the other way around. Yes, there's been some perfunctory rhetoric about "getting tough with China" on the campaign trail, but there's still far more ink spilled over the Middle East in the U.S. national political conversation. Given that, according to Lee, four out of five articles published by China's state-sponsored think tanks concern the United States, it's not all that surprising that the Chese media reaction to Clinton saying that East Asia should be America's top priority in the future is, "Wait, what are we now?"