U.S. Policy toward Asia Headed in New, Uncertain Direction

MARCH 23, 2017
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The Trump administration is taking U.S. policy on Asia in a new and uncertain direction, Mr. Eric Altbach and Dr. Daniel Lynch told Pacific Council members during a Situation Briefing teleconference.

Altbach is senior vice president of the Albright Stonebridge Group. Lynch is an associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Sandy Pho, senior program associate at the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China.

The Obama administration’s signature policy in the Asia-Pacific was a “rebalance” to reflect the growing importance of the region to U.S. national interests.

"In the Clinton, Bush II, and Obama administrations, there was a remarkable bipartisan consensus on our broad strategic stake in Asia," said Altbach.

He added that "the main elements of Asian policy were fairly consistent in terms of the acknowledgement of the huge economic stake in the region, the shift of the global center of gravity for dynamism in the global economy towards the Asia-Pacific, the need to have a very robust economic strategy with U.S. partners, the need to shore up alliances and make them relevant to this new strategic environment in the region, and the desire to have a China policy that both created a more effective set of institutional relationships with key Chinese decision makers and expanded cooperation in areas of mutual interest."

"In the Clinton, Bush II, and Obama administrations, there was a remarkable bipartisan consensus on our broad strategic stake in Asia. Now, things are different."

Eric Altbach

Now, Altbach said, things are different. Indeed, President Trump’s more aggressive stance towards China has alarmed Beijing, he told members, especially as it relates to diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and the looming prospect of a trade war with the United States. 

"We’re in early days in the Trump administration, so there’s still a lot of uncertainty about how things will proceed," said Altbach. "That said, the track record so far gives rise to some confusion. On the one hand, we have some real turbulence in Asia policy with President Trump taking the congratulatory phone call from the president of Taiwan and making comments about potentially not being bound by the ‘One China’ policy unless China makes some concessions to the United States on economic issues or cooperation on North Korea. That created very serious concerns in Beijing and really threatened to embark on a new era of U.S.-China confrontation. The Chinese, quite cleverly, decided not to overreact."

Lynch said that the Trump administration’s approach to China will depend on how the Chinese Communist Party decides to manage Trump.

"The first thing it could try to do is bait or provoke the president and then exploit the reaction for soft power gains," said Lynch. "We can see opportunities for China to take advantage of the chaos in the Trump administration. So far Beijing does not seem to be doing that as much as they could. The second thing China can do is realize that it needs and actually benefits enormously from a strong United States."

"We can see opportunities for China to take advantage of the chaos in the Trump administration. So far Beijing does not seem to be doing that as much as they could."

Daniel Lynch

Lynch agreed that China’s response to the Taiwan call and Trump’s reversal on the "One China" policy was mild considering the other possibilities.

"What could China be doing that it’s not?" he said. "Here we can draw strong, important contrasts to what Russia has apparently been doing in the United States: trying and possibly succeeding in manipulating and employing massive hacking in the U.S. presidential election, and using bots to flood social media with comments on news articles. The Obama administration and the Xi administration actually agreed on measures that resulted by late 2016 in a significant wind-down of Chinese hacking of the United States. We don’t see anything like that with the case of Russia. It looks like the approaches China takes will have a really important impact on the policies the Trump administration adopts toward China."

Regarding Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Lynch and Altbach pointed out that members of the Trump administration have not said much about the region.

"There are real question marks about how much investment they’re willing to make in ASEAN," said Altbach. "We haven’t heard any particular interest from either Trump himself or most of his team. They will likely strengthen security relationships among the ASEAN countries regarding the South China Sea, but we’ve undermined those relationships by pulling the plug out of Trans-Pacific Partnership. That is tremendously damaging to our credibility with all of our partners among TPP members, and leaves us on the outside looking in for regional trade negotiations, setting the rules for trade in the region, and leaving us at a disadvantage in terms of market access. The bilateral approach is not only more onerous, it cannot replicate the value of having common rules across the entire region as the TPP would have done."

"If President Xi visits Mar-a-Lago, I think he will be in a position to educate, guide, and instruct President Trump."

Daniel Lynch

On environmental cooperation, Altbach said it has been a "bright spot" in U.S.-China relations during previous administrations, but that it does not have the same political support from the Trump administration.

"Here is one area in which Xi Jinping could educate, guide, and instruct President Trump," said Lynch. "We know that he is susceptible to this type of guidance on the part of foreign leaders, for example when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited Mar-a-Lago. If President Xi visits Mar-a-Lago, I think he will be in a position to do precisely the same thing."

Lynch and Altbach both offered advice to the Trump administration.

"Study more, read more," said Lynch. "Listen to people from the previous administration. Listen to people in the permanent bureaucracy. Don’t view it as the ‘deep state.’ Don’t view those people as your enemies, but as people you can learn from. Spend the first six months to a year learning, and then we’ll talk about making fundamental changes after that."

Altbach added that there are very sound reasons for the decisions made in recent years that have shaped the U.S. approach towards China.

"Some of the easy fixes, the dramatic, new, aggressive actions that are easy to talk about on the campaign trail, in many cases they have a very substantial downside that is worse than whatever potential benefit that they might reap," he said. "The reason a lot of these policy alternatives haven’t been implemented is because if you look into them more closely, they’re terrible ideas. I hope that a very comprehensive and thorough vetting of new initiatives takes place before they roll out new strategies."

Listen to the full conversation below:


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

World Water Day Events Raise Awareness about Wastewater

MARCH 22, 2017
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

Today, March 22, is World Water Day, designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. This year’s theme is wastewater, accompanied by a campaign called “Why waste water?” The goal is to educate the public about reducing and reusing wastewater.

Wastewater refers to “all water that has been compromised as a result of human influence.” According to UN-Water, the vast majority of wastewater from residential homes, urban cities, industry, and agriculture “flows back to nature without being treated or reused, [thereby] polluting the environment and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.”

Instead, wastewater can be reduced and reused, such as in gardens, green spaces, irrigation, and more. In 2015, the UN adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The SDGs include a target to ensure everyone has access to safe water by 2030, making water a key issue in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. SDG 6 calls for halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing water recycling and safe reuse.

Hundreds of events around the world are being held today to raise awareness, educate the public, and inspire people to take action to help solve the global water crisis.

Hundreds of events around the world are being held today to raise awareness, educate the public, and inspire people to take action to help solve the global water crisis. In a report last year, the World Bank said countries faced with limited access to fresh water resources could see their growth rates decline by as much as six percent by the year 2050. And as severe droughts and other water-related crises increase around the world, no group has been affected quite as much as women and girls in developing countries.

Pope Francis, Matt Damon, NASA astronaut Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and George W. Bush will participate in a livestream address on World Water Day. After the event, 400 thought leaders from around the world will convene at WATERSHED, the first in a series of programs and activities slated for the next five years. These policy makers, academics, students, artists, business leaders, and people from the most at-risk populations will begin an unprecedented dialogue around the value and values of water. The objective is to “align global perception with the immediate reality that water is the trigger for unrest and instability, as well as an opportunity for resolution and collaboration.”


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and other partners. Learn more about World Water Day and how you can take action at www.worldwaterday.org.

Read about what the Pacific Council is doing to address the issue of global water scarcity.

Brie Loskota named a 2017 WEF Young Global Leader

MARCH 17, 2017
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

Pacific Council member Brie Loskota was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders (YGL) of 2017. Each year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) selects the most innovative, enterprising, and socially minded women and men under the age of 40 who are making outstanding contributions to their field and society.

YGLs are "rethinking the world around them and operating as a force for good to overcome barriers that elsewhere stand in the way of progress." Notable YGL alumni include Ashton Kutcher, Ivanka Trump, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Cotton, Nate Silver, and Chelsea Clinton.

The YGL community’s mission is built on three objectives: action and impact, collaboration and community, and leadership and learning. Throughout the five year program, YGLs are fully involved in the WEF’s meetings, initiatives, and research and interact with the WEF’s wider multi-stakeholder community.

"I’m excited to be in the company of a group of people committed to using their skills and talents to help improve our shared world," said Loskota. "I hope to be able to put my work and experience in a broader context, and to foster cross-sectoral collaboration so we can see impact on a greater scale."

Loskota is the executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. She is also co-founder and senior advisor to the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute and a trainer-facilitator with the United States​ Institute of Peace’s Generation Change program, where she has trained young leaders from across the Middle East and Africa. She works with government agencies to ensure more effective partnership with faith communities on public health.

 "I hope to be able to put my work and experience in a broader context, and to foster cross-sectoral collaboration so we can see impact on a greater scale."

Brie Loskota

WEF is a not-for-profit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The forum engages political, business, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.

The Pacific Council congratulates Brie Loskota on her selection to this important group!


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

John Van de Kamp 1936-2017

Posted by Pasadena Weekly Staff | Mar 16, 2017

Pasadenan served as Attorney General

John Van de Kamp, one of California’s most revered public servants, has died. He was 81.

Van de Kamp, a former state attorney general and Los Angeles County district attorney, was pronounced dead soon after paramedics arrived at his San Rafael Avenue home in Pasadena at around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, said Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

Born in Huntington Hospital, raised in Altadena and Pasadena, educated at John Muir High School, then Dartmouth and later Stanford Law School, Van de Kamp was a mainstay in local and state politics.

“John was a statesman in the old fashioned sense. He was committed to the well-being of Pasadena, California and the nation,” said former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. “It will not be easy for those who have worked with John to deal with the many problems in our society without our good counsel.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was leaving his first term as governor in 1982 and Van de Kamp was starting out as attorney general,  said Van de Kamp was “a wonderful public servant and had a real sense of justice.”

“John Van de Kamp was one of the most ethical and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “He was an admired public servant who dedicated his life to seeking justice,”

In 1966, Van de Kamp was appointed US Attorney in Los Angeles by President Lyndon Johnson, and later served as LA County District Attorney. 

In 1982, he was elected California Attorney General, a position in which he served for eight years.

In 1990, he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor against now-US Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein ultimately won that race but lost to Republican Pete Wilson.

In the early 2000s, Van de Kamp led the city-appointed Task Force for Good Government, which spent four months revising Measure B. Passed by voters in 2001, Measure B prohibits city officials from taking campaign contributions from those that were awarded public money and other benefits.

Van de Kamp recently served on the board of the West Pasadena Residents Association (WPRA). Association Board President Geoff Baum called Van de Kamp, “a proud Pasadenan and pillar of our community who served our county and state along with decades on the board.”

A staunch opponent of capital punishment, from 2006 to 2008 Van de Kamp headed the state California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which consisted of former law enforcement officials and those opposed to capital punishment. The commission found that the death penalty is a hugely wasteful process, one in which the condemned often died while waiting to be executed.

Van de Kamp fought to end the death penalty, writing the ballot argument in favor of last November’s Proposition 62, which would have replaced capital punishment with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He also helped file a lawsuit to block a counter proposal, Proposition 66, which ultimately prevailed in the balloting. That proposition intends to speed up the death penalty process. In the lawsuit, Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs, whose father wrote the ballot measure that expanded California’s death penalty in 1978, warned that the so-called reform measure would disrupt the courts, cost more money and limit the ability of death penalty inmates to mount proper appeals.

In 2015 Van de Kamp told Pasadena Weekly reporter Justin Chapman that he felt his biggest impact was in establishing the Federal Public Defender’s Office while with the US Attorney’s Office.

“We were able to help real people. People are in trouble, and we helped them to get through this or find a new way of getting on with their lives,” Van de Kamp said.

“As AG, I was probably able to do more good in the long run because you’re operating on a much bigger stage and there is a much bigger variety of things that you can do. I was able to strengthen our law enforcement capacity in terms of forensic improvements. We established a computerized fingerprint system, we developed our crime labs. We got DNA started in California. We were active in the anti-trust world and stopped mergers,” he said.

Chapman and Van de Kamp were members of the WPRA. On Wednesday morning, Chapman called Van de Kamp a “good man who fought the good fight.”

“He and I saw eye to eye on just about every political issue, especially opposition to the death penalty,” Chapman said. “I’m honored to have interviewed him and served with him.”

Van de Kamp’s impact was felt not only in politics. Nearly 50 years ago he purchased properties in East Pasadena and Hawthorne, opening Tionio’s Restaurants at each location. The restaurants did not catch on. However, his neighbor Robin Salzer ended up buying one of those the buildings, which now houses Robin’s Woodfire BBQ on Rosemead Boulevard.

“Without John Van de Kamp there would be no Robin’s on Rosemead,” Salzer told the Weekly.

Van de Kamp is survived by his wife, Andrea, and a daughter, Diana. Friends of the family are invited to an open house from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Van de Kamp’s Pasadena home. Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. on March 30 at St Andrew’s Church, 311 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena.