International Affairs

International Affairs

Hollywood's Love Affair with China

Three decades ago, China was a mystery to Americans. Its society and economy were closed, and we viewed it as an appendage of the biggest and baddest of them all, the Soviet Union.

Today, the situation couldn't be more different. I, for one, find China's cultural history fascinating, and I'm crazy about the Chinese people I know in Washington and China. That's not to say that the United States and China are chummy, but China's on the front pages of our newspapers every single day. In Washington, it's at the heart of just about any debate on outsourcing, competitiveness and power.

Vietnam Is Hot

There's a buzz about Vietnam, and I'm not talking about the 24 million moped engines. Vietnam is hot, and the word is spreading fast. Continuing my tour of Southeast Asia en route to the Olympics, I see a country that's vibrant and pushing itself to become an open-market economy. Ho Chi Minh wouldn't recognize it.

Three decades ago, devastated by war, it was one of the world's poorest countries. Today, it's one of the biggest exporters of farm produce and the site of a flood of foreign investment — Intel will soon be opening a $1 billion microchip factory here.

America Can't Get Complacent in Asia

Thailand and Cambodia are once again disputing 1.8 square miles of land that surround the Preah Vihear temple, a spectacular Hindu shrine that was built in the 11th century. The conflict has been all over the news, and it got so serious at one point that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stepped in to try to cool things down.

It's a good thing that Condoleezza Rice was on hand to inject some sense into the discussions. Cambodia wanted to get the U.N. involved, but she insisted that there was no need to bring in a third party. The leaders at the ASEAN summit listened to her. They respect her and trust her judgment. The U.N. issues a lot of nice rhetoric but rarely gets the job done when it comes to defending peace and security. Cambodia's no longer appealing to the U.N., and it looks like the border dispute may begin to cool down a little bit.

Thoughts from the Golden Triangle, Thailand, Laos and Burma ...

The more time I spend in Asia, the more I come to respect its people. They get what America's about — we're not perfect, but we're the best hope for the world. They want us to lead.

The United States doesn't have too many friends these days, in large part because the burdens that it shoulders aren't appreciated. This is particularly true of the Europeans — they bash us when we take steps that they don't like, and then they beg us to assume leadership roles when they can't. When I talked with Condoleezza Rice a few weeks ago, she told me, "Not a day goes by that I'm not asked to take a leadership role in everything from development aid to microfinance to education for women." If we're so bad, and Bush has done so much damage, why is she constantly being asked to have us lead?

Crisis in the Middle East

Armstrong Williams turns his attention to the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian border and projects what will happen if Ahmadinejad is reelected.


South Africa: A paradigm shift in elections

With the presidential election looming in the United States, and the resulting media circus that follows — and, to a certain degree, prompts the campaigns — much attention is diverted from pivotal elections in other parts of the world.

Take, for instance, the forthcoming presidential elections in South Africa. In recent weeks, the ANC, which is currently the country’s majority party, held its national party elections. For the first time in its 58-year history, the party leadership was contested from within, and President Thabo Mbeki, with less than 40 percent of the vote, was effectively given a vote of no confidence by party delegates. Jacob Zuma, with 60 percent of the vote, won the party leadership and is well situated to become the next president of South Africa.

This exercise of majority decision-making is significant in that it marks a continued evolution in the democratic processes of one of Africa’s most vital nations.  As the country moved from a system of apartheid into a new era of equal representation and rights to participation, it is becoming a model to be watched, as a new paradigm for African nations and the world at large. No party or government is truly tested until the time comes to evaluate its own effectiveness or change its leadership.