Term Paper: Cultural Geography of the Pacific

Pages: 11 (2837 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Taiwan and Japan have also been brought closer due to both nations' rapid economic advancement. At the same time, despite political stalemate between Beijing and Taipei, trade and investment activities across the Taiwan Strait have grown rapidly, bringing the two economies ever closer.

Beijing believes that closer economic ties with Taiwan are not only beneficial to the mainland economy but also the best way to prevent Taiwan from resuming calls for its independence from the mainland. China also badly needs foreign investment to generate jobs for its mammoth population, and Taiwan is a good prospective source for such finance. Taiwan's policy toward the development of cross-Strait economic relations, however, has always been more ambivalent and rather cautious. Central to Taipei's concern is how to seek a balance between maximizing economic benefits while at the same time maintaining national security.

It is one of the great ironies of our time that so many of the people who fled the mainland in 1949, or their descendants, have been returning to their ancestral home in their droves. They have brought with them much of the money and managerial skills that have been so essential to the economic success of China, especially in moving toward a modern capitalistic economy in recent years. Other indicators of the special nature of the cross-straits interrelationships are also impressive, such as the large numbers of tourists from Taiwan who visit the mainland, the rising number of telephone calls across the straits, as well as the numerous cultural and intellectual exchanges between the two (Weidenbaum, 2000).

As the largest economy in the world and its only remaining superpower, America's relationship with the nations in the Pacific Rim has changed dramatically over the past few years. This change was precipitated in the first instance by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting absence in America of a traditional enemy. Recently, there has been a further reconfiguration of the relationships, especially with China and Korea.

Economically, China is a major trading partner of the United States, with over $70 billion of commerce flows each year between the two nations (Weidenbaum, 2000), with most of the trade flowing from China to the United States. This imbalance, however, is not the reason why the United States' continued soft stance in China comes under criticism by elements in the country. Rather, it emanates from groups concerned primarily with non-economic factors, notably the harsh treatment of religious minorities, political dissidents, and Tibetans.

In contrast to the open U.S. market, numerous obstacles face American exporters to China, such as onerous licensing procedures. For example, compulsory registration applies to hundreds of products, especially electrical equipment and machinery. Moreover, U.S. producers of computer software, music, books, and motion pictures suffer because their products are frequently copied illegally in China. This intellectual piracy reduces potential U.S. exports to China and to the rest of the world by an estimated $2 billion a year (Weidenbaum, 2000).

The political relationships between China and the United States are even more difficult to fathom than the economic. Although there is little in common politically between the two nations, there is also little which would result in a direct confrontation between them. The main source for friction has been the limited amount of individual liberty available in China to its citizens, particularly the persecution of religious groups and the jailing of political dissidents.

On the positive side, in recent years China has relaxed the rules governing everyday life for the typical citizen. A substantial decentralization of power has taken place and greater latitude has been provided to private enterprise. The impacts of Western culture and commerce have been pervasive, especially in the larger cities. These actions have been taken to some extent to facilitate China's membership of the WTO. At the same time, American companies coming to China bring their culture and values with them, and these are slowly affecting the society around them. Also, American culture is penetrating Chinese society, leading to a more charitable attitude to America and its culture among Chinese citizens (Weidenbaum, 2000).

The role of Taiwan adds significant complication to the Sino-U.S. political relationship. Officially, the United States recognizes the People's Republic and only maintains informal relations with Taipei. America's policy favors the voluntary unification of Taiwan into China, but also provides military support to the island in the event of force or the threat of force on the part of the PRC. This places America in a precarious position, having to balance these apparently conflicting aims.

The relationship between Japan and America is, on the face of it, less complicated, but this too does not stand close scrutiny. Both the U.S. And Japan have consistently stated that they regard their bilateral alliance as one of the major pillars of their national security strategies. Recently, however, American policy changes in light of the terrorist attacks on it have put further pressure on this relationship, as America appears to be committed to preemptive attacks on nations it perceives to be threats to America's sovereignty.

Particularly in the case of North Korea, if America was to decide to take an aggressive stance against them, Japan would be under a lot of pressure to provide active support in the conflict. With so many U.S. troops stationed on Japanese soil, any action against North Korea could undermine Japan's long standing 'no war' policy. This unease in the area of military cooperation between the two is set off with greater cultural ties between the two nations. America perceives Japan as a lucrative target market for its products, as it seeks to address the trade imbalance between the two nations.

As far as Korea is concerned, the security architecture in place today is remarkably similar to that put in place almost fifty years ago. Enormous and heavily equipped Korean armies still confront each other across an ironically named "demilitarized zone" (DMZ), and the United States still provides the essential element of deterrence in the Korean equation through its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of Korea (ROK), that is, democratic South Korea. However, with both Koreas moving towards peaceful relations, this alliance will come under mounting pressure for revision, and even termination, if the electorate in South Korea no longer finds the North Korean threat to be credible.

At the same time, America must recognize the need to maintain close relations with Korea in light of possible action against North Korea, given that nation's hostile stance against the United States. Korea is also one of the largest economies in the world, and an important trading partner for the United States. As a result, America needs to ensure continued close economic relations with Korea.

The recent years have seen some major changes in the Pacific Rim. The region has seen a lot of adversity, with long recessions and political upheavals. It has also been the seat of some rapid economic development, and for many years was the poster child for economic advancement for the world. At the same time, America has also been through a lot of domestic trauma, which has led to a reassessment of its relationships with the nations of the world.

As a result of this reassessment, there have been many changes to the way America perceives nations in the Pacific Rim. Some of these changes have been more obvious and far-reaching than others, but all of them will contribute to a radical realignment of the relationships within nations in the area. Over the next few years, the relationships of nations in this area with each other, and with America, will be tested and put under considerable pressure. It is only when these relationships are put under this pressure that the new face of the region will truly come to light.

Sources

1) Shuja, Sharif M., "Tokyo-Beijing Relations In The New Millennium," Contemporary Review, Nov, 2000.

2) Shuja, Sharif M., "Japan's Asia Policy," Contemporary Review, May, 1999.

3) Yu, Peter Kien-hong, "Taiwan And Mainland China," Contemporary Review, June, 2001.

4)… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cultural Geography of the Pacific.  (2003, November 25).  Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cultural-geography-pacific/1879824

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"Cultural Geography of the Pacific."  Essaytown.com.  November 25, 2003.  Accessed April 24, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cultural-geography-pacific/1879824.