TEKS UCAPAN DASAR KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN ABU BAKAR KETUA PERGERAKAN PEMUDA UMNO MALAYSIA SEMPENA PERHIMPUNAN AGUNG PERGERAKAN PEMUDA UMNO MALAYSIA 2017
Speech YBM in MPAT
Address by Minister of Youth and Sports at the
Diners’ Club of the Malaysian Armed Forces Defence College
Intercontinental Hotel, 25 April 2016
- Professor Graham Allison of Harvard University wrote a thought-provoking article in the Atlantic magazine seven months ago on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States. The article was titled The Thucydides Trap: Are the US and China Headed for War. In the article he presented an interesting case study on 16 situations throughout history, starting from the first half of the 16th century onwards, where an emerging power challenged an existing one for influence and recognition. Of these, 14 ended in war between the powers. This begs one key question in the minds of leaders, strategists, military planners and diplomats today – is the current global polity headed for open conflict between two global giants China and the United States? A war between the New and the Old, the incumbent and the challenger?
- The world’s geopolitics is at its crossroads. Are we, in our lifetime, going to witness the replacement of the American Dream, American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny with the Chinese Dream of Xi Jinping or will the two Superpowers able to find a new equilibrium for the sake of nations, the region and the world? It is worth noting that in the 20th century, it took two world wars and a failed League of Nations for equilibrium to be established out of the competing interests between the challengers and challenged. Out of the four incidences in Professor Graham’s study where no conflict occurred, three took place in the age of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and the only one predating the nuclear era was between the United Kingdom and the United States – two bastion of democracy whose relationships transformed from one of colonial master and colony to one of “Special Relationship” by the end of the Second World War.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- While this tension between the two world powers has gained prominence in recent times, it was built upon the unfinished business of previous bloodspills. The implosion of the USSR nearly a quarter of a century ago marked the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, rolling aside the world order concocted since the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War. It began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and was followed shortly after by the peaceful reunification of a divided Germany transforming Europe and the world, once again. However, when Western triumphalists declared the End of History, and the ascendancy of a sole hegemonic power built on capitalism – it was short lived and they were quickly proven wrong. These forces of geopolitics and opening up of borders through globalisation have seen tensions reappearing in different faces and forms.
- Conflicts along borders never truly ended. Regime change without willingness to help rebuild led to chaos in countries especially in the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Libya. Time and time again, we have seen Western Imperial powers go in with full commitment to destroy regimes and unseat tyrants, but without matching commitment to ensure that nations are restored. Intervention by President Bush in Afghanistan is a major example of how planned occupation without a proper exit plan resulted in a mutated form of Jihad.
- In Asia however, political change did not influence the shape of the future as much as economics did. Communist regimes mostly stood their ground in China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. Internally the Communist Party of Malaya and the Communist Party of North Kalimantan renounced their armed struggle but we also witnessed the pushback from the communist regimes towards political reforms; Tiananmen Square being an example of this. At the same time we saw the emergence of a more welcoming aspect where communist rulers are more receptive to market economy and free trade.
- It is therefore a sign of the times that recently, the Chinese and world press announced a new military title for President Xi besides the all-important Chairman of the Communist Party Central Military Commission. He is also now the Commander in Chief of the Joint Battle Command Center. Geremie Barme, an academic from Australia call him the Chairman of Everything or COE. This follows in the wake of his previous efforts to bring China’s military into the modern era. It is perhaps the clearest sign along with China’s first aircraft carrier and race to space that the era of Chinese assertiveness is now a fact that others have to contend with in their strategic planning. Western observers even went to the extent of liking his ruling style to Mao as he navigates the fine line between strong leadership and personality cult.
- China’s rising political-economic profile started when the Communist Party under Mao Tse Tung unified China and established the People’s Republic, but was truly etched in stone by Deng Xiaoping in his initiative to open up China in the late 80’s. It was all underlined in his famous adage “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice”. All these efforts today continue to be reflected in the various initiatives by the PRC chiefs among them the belt and road initiative, Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank and New Development bank BRICS and Renmenbi being part of the IMFs’ Special Drawing Rights Currency.
- $1.2billion in financing is expected to be approved by AIIB this year alone, mainly to co-finance transport arteries in Asia. Earlier this month, China launched Renminbi-denominated Shanghai Gold Benchmark price which will challenge the dominance of the London gold price, established almost a century ago. China is today committing both resources and political capital in recreating the new Silk Road on land and sea.
- The tension between these two superpowers does not just revolve around the battle of who has more battleships and fighter jets now, but about who has the capabilities to build better battleships and fighter jets of the future. Military battle has transformed into the battle for technological supremacy. We can see the spillovers even in the civilian field. Take the Genome experiment for example, outlined as one of the key industries of the future, arguably one of mankind’s biggest technological battles. In June 2000, President Bill Clinton announced the first rough draft of Human Genome consolidating United States technological superiority. Yet just within 15 years, China has emerged as the largest genomic research centre in the world through Beijing Genomic Institute, which has more sequence matching than the entire United States. This technological battle will translate into warfare and economic prowess – two key factors in their battle for global supremacy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- All this begs the fundamental question of what the future holds for us here in in Malaysia. Are going to be actively influencing our future posterity or are we content to be mere bystanders, receptive of whatever fate is in store for us? What can we do to better posture ourselves to gain much and lose little? How do we take advantage of this situation to ensure Malaysia remains well placed in these times?
- Domestically, it is important that we take both proactive and reactive measures to place Malaysia in a better position on the geopolitical negotiating table. Firstly, we must dig deep and find within our soul the Melaka spirit that made the Malay sultanate the envy of the world. Our DNA was forged in the middle of the 15th century, where our openness complemented the unique geopolitical location we were blessed with, welcoming traders from China, Indian Sub Continent and West Asia. We spole multiple languages, we ran the best of ports, and we provided effective security measures with reputable Shahbandars helping us become a truly global trading nation. Openness, tolerance and affability defined us.
- Today we must again have the Melaka spirit to forge a truly great nation. We have to be open to imminent globalisation without compromising our identity. We have to make it easier for businesses to set shops in Malaysia while assisting our own businesses to trade abroad. We have to preserve our social stability to ensure confidence and security for our trading partners.
- Talking about security, our extreme vigilance against terrorism is important now more than ever. Terrorism is the greatest threat to the nations of the world and to humanity at large. The attacks on January 14th this year, in the heart of Jakarta served as a reminder that terrorism is closer to home that we ever imagined.
- Yes we have learnt a hard lesson of realpolitik that regime change without the requisite commitment to nation building only breeds resentment and in turn becomes fertile grounds for terrorism. Yes, we are being reminded time and time again that terrorism is a worthy sacrifice to protect democracy, free speech, free press, free market economy and free trade and nations who claim exceptionalism have a special responsibility to bear this burden in concert with the civilized world. But as we examined the cause and the ultimate reason of why we should fight terrorism, it is imperative that we take necessary steps now to prevent terrorism claiming its casualities especially on our homeland.
- Beyond domestic policy, our international posturing must reflect the needs of our time. The most pressing geopolitical issue right now, as our path crossed with the race towards global dominance amongst world powers, is the overlapping claim of South China Sea – a long-term national security challenge to Malaysia as one of the claimant nations. We shall not compromise on our territorial sovereignty and allow any superpowers to divide and rule us.
- As a country, Malaysia has always remained neutral and extremely reluctant in taking sides by participating in any alliances. When the administration of President Eisenhower engineered the formation of SEATO or Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation to block further communist gains in the region, Malaysia decided against joining it. Our policy on global alliances, be it OIC, TPP and RCEP are guided purely by our domestic economic prosperity, not geopolitical leanings. We did so because we value our independence and sovereignty.
- Therefore, the world super powers should take time to understand our historical posturing. They should not disrespect our sovereignty and take our friendliness for granted. They should not push us into a corner and force us to change our geopolitical neutrality. We may not be nuclear powers or have aircraft carriers but we have the power of unity and resolve, anchored by our friendliness and neutrality, on our side.
- Finally, it is time that we look seriously at our cooperation with our neighbour, Indonesia. As the two guardians of the Straits of Melaka, Malaysia and Indonesia are at a critical choke point of the Maritime Silk Road. We are among Indonesia’s biggest investors and trading partners, with trade worth USD24billion in 2015 alone. We both play a major role in the regional ASEAN bloc and bigger cooperation in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. We share a commonality in language, culture, religion, and geography and by default strategic interests.
- Therefore, a closer bilateral relationship, from economic to military cooperation with Indonesia is the gamechanger for Malaysia as a country as well as ASEAN as a region. The key to the growing crisis of South China Sea and the potential of Straits of Melaka lies in our mutual ability to set our differences aside, bury our past conflicts and current competition and work as a closer unit to manage and control our own destiny. It is time that we stand up together to dictate against the great global powers. It is time that we march forward as serious players in this great power game. Both our countries have been mere observers in our own backyard for far too long yet the past is prologue, and the future beckons. Together, we have a stronger voice and greater power.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- There are times that we need to be realistic about our strengths and position as a country, and play to them. But this shall never mean that we can be dictated to by other countries, be it equals or a global hegemon. We were blessed with one of the most important geopolitical real estates in the world. We have the strongest asset which is our people, who albeit differences, have stood together as one nation when it mattered. Our country has gone full circle, from a great civilization to a colony of world metropoles and to full independence – from which point we strode forward on our own accord. We should again take control of our destiny and be an active participant in protecting our present and safeguarding our future. Because that is the true meaning of independence, which our forefathers worked hard for, almost 60 years ago. And one we should never relinquish.
- Thank you.