The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden; the upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s visit to Myanmar; and Liberation Day in Vietnam.
- Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. He is not missed, though the terrorist movement he led lives on in diminished form in places such as Yemen and the Sahel.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are heading the U.S. delegation that will be visiting Beijing for the fourth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. China announced ahead of the talks that it has taken steps to expand the trading band for its currency, variously known as the yuan and renminbi (RMB). Washington has long pressured China to let the RMB appreciate, an act that would make U.S. products cheaper (hence more competitive) in China and Chinese products more expensive (hence less competitive) in the United States and elsewhere. Chinese officials have long realized that letting the RMB appreciate is critical to shifting away from export-led growth to (domestic) consumption-led growth. The problem, of course, is getting from here to there—China’s export sector opposes letting the RMB appreciate. China may be a one-party country, but it still has interest groups politics.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon travels to Myanmar (Burma) for the third time since 2008. His first two visits didn’t go well. Myanmar’s ruling junta barred him from meeting with Myanmar’s Nobel-prize winning opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, although in the wake of his visit it did allow some humanitarian relief workers to enter the country. His 2009 visit didn’t yield even that. He left the country saying that he expected the government “to demonstrate real progress in the near future.” Three years later, change has begun to come to Myanmar, though not because of Ban’s efforts. New Myanmar leader Thein Sein says that government reform in Burma is like traversing a road “so narrow that you cannot turn back.” Ban will meet with Thein Sein and Aung Sang Suu Kyi. He will likely applaud Myanmar’s reforms and bang the drum of optimism for the country’s future. One of Ban’s advisers recently said that Myanmar could soon become another “Asian Tiger.”
- April 30, 1975 is a dark day in U.S. history, marking as it does the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). But in Vietnam it is celebrated as Liberation Day. As with most independence days it will be celebrated with “solemn flag-raising ceremonies,” festivals, salutes to heroic statues, and, of course, fireworks! When Saigon fell, American experts were ringing their hands over the decline of American power in the Pacific as well as the damage done to American foreign policy credibility. Thirty-seven years later, the United States and Vietnam have full diplomatic relations, a bilateral trade agreement, reasonably cordial bilateral summits, and even growing military cooperation. The passage of time and shifts in the geopolitical dynamics can heal old wounds.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is Charles Taylor. My Figure of the Week is 8 percent. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.
For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:
The Anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s Death. CNN’s Paul Cruickshank examines White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s views on the bin Laden raid. Jordy Yager of the Hill notices that bin Laden is still part of the “political scene” in the United States. Nicholas Schmidle in the New Yorker recounts “what happened that night in Abbottabad.” David Ignatius says bin Laden was a “lion in winter” and explains his plot to kill President Obama. The New York Daily News says that relations between the United States and Pakistan have never been worse. Time‘s cover story by Peter Bergen is on “The Last Days of Osama Bin Laden.”
The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. Reuters reports on China’s view that it didn’t start the conflict in the South China Sea. The Washington Post says the dialogue will avoid the “unfolding murder case” involving Bo Xilai, and reports Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner’s comment that China’s recent financial moves were “significant.” The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website has information on this year’s meeting and the one last year. China’s embassy to the United States says who will be a part of the Chinese delegation. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland answered questions about the dialogue.
Ban Ki Moon’s Visit to Myanmar. CFR’s Josh Kurlantzick explains “what [Ban] should be looking for,” and thinks that the this month’s by-elections were not “all it’s cracked up to be.” The BBC profiles Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung Zaw calls Myanmar’s President Thein Sein “Burma’s Gorbachev” on NPR. The UN has a homepage for all of Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s speeches, events, and programs.
Liberation Day in Vietnam. PBS has a timeline of the Vietnam War. YouTube has a video of last year’s Liberation Day fireworks. Lookatvietnam.com has historical pictures of “Saigon’s liberation day.” The BBC describes what the thirty-year anniversary of Liberation Day was like. The U.S. Department of State has an extensive profile on Vietnam.