Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Asian Tsunami

Here is a good summary of the technical aspects of the American tsunami warning system, or rather, non-warning system. On a completely unrelated note, here is a quote from an article by Andre Gunder Frank on the state of the American economy:

"So, far beyond Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and all the terrorists put together, the greatest real-world threat to Uncle Sam is that the inflow of dollars dries up. For instance, foreign central banks and private investors (it is said that 'overseas Chinese' have a tidy trillion dollars) could any day decide to place more of their money elsewhere than in the declining dollar and abandon poor ol' Uncle Sam to his destiny. China could double its per capita income very quickly if it made real investments at home instead of financial ones with Uncle Sam. Central banks, European and others, can now put their reserves in (rising!) euros or even soon-to-be-revalued Chinese yuan. Not so far down the road, there may be an East Asian currency, eg a basket first of ASEAN + 3 (China, Japan, South Korea) - and then + 4 (India). While India's total exports in the past five years rose by 73%, those to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) rose at double that rate and sixfold to China. India has become an ASEAN summit partner, and its ambitions stretch still further to an economic zone stretching from India to Japan. Not for nothing, in the 1997 East Asian currency and then full economic crisis, Uncle Sam strong-armed Japan not to start a proposed East Asian currency fund that would have prevented at least the worst of the crisis. Uncle Sam then benefited from it by buying devalued East Asian currencies and using them to buy up East Asian real resources, and in South Korea also banks, at bargain-basement reduced-price fire sales. But now, China is already taking steps toward such an arrangement, only on a much grander financial and now also economic scale.

A day after writing the above, I read in The Economist (December 11-17, 2004) a report on the previous week's summit meeting of ASEAN + 3 in Malaysia. That country's prime minister announced that this summit should lay the groundwork for an East Asian Community (EAC) that 'should build a free-trade area, cooperate on finance, and sign a security pact ... that would transform East Asia into a cohesive economic block ... In fact, some of these schemes are already in motion ... China, as the region's pre-eminent economic and military power, will doubtless dominate ... and host the second East Asia Summit.' The report went on to recall that in 1990, Uncle Sam shot down a similar initiative for fear of losing influence in the region. Now it is a case of 'Yankee Stay Home'."

If China and Japan can get over their long-standing fight over who runs Asia, and can add Korea and India to the mix, the United States can kiss its sorry ass goodbye.