| ||For Asia, So Far, Paul Ryan Remains Out of Focus|
International Herald Tribune
By Mark McDonald
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HONG KONG — The official Chinese news agency and state-run media outlets on the mainland offered little commentary on the selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the running mate of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Asian commentators seemed more stumped about Mr. Ryan than European editorialists did — as my Rendezvous colleague Harvey Morris explained from London.
Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, and state-controlled newspapers offered only straight news stories about Mr. Ryan on Sunday, as they presumably awaited editorial direction from government and Communist Party officials in Beijing.
Basic stories also predominated in other Asian capitals, from Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok to Tokyo, Seoul and New Delhi.
“For Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan ticks most boxes — he shores up the fiscally conservative base, excites the Tea Party movement and doubles-down on his claim to be the economic-fixer,” said John Barron said of ABC News in Australia.
Many of Mr. Ryan’s country-specific foreign policy views remain largely unknown, at least publicly, if only because his political career has been so heavily focused on domestic tax and budget issues. He is chairman of the House Budget Committee, and he sits on the Ways and Means Committee and the health subcommittee.
Mr. Ryan’s ideas on the new “pivot” of U.S. military assets toward the Asia-Pacific; regional disputes in the South China Sea; an unstable Pakistan; a nuclear North Korea under a new dictator; recent reforms in Myanmar; arms sales to Taiwan; newly adopted military relationships, and other issues in Asia have yet to be spelled out in detail.
But Mr. Ryan, 42, who has proposed new increases in U.S. defense spending, has spoken forcefully about his vision of American exceptionalism and a continued need for U.S. global leadership, which he connects directly to the country’s economic prosperity.
“Economic growth is the key to avoiding the kind of painful austerity that would limit our ability to generate both hard and soft power,” Mr. Ryan said in a speech to the Alexander Hamilton Society last summer.
“Take a moment to imagine,” he added, “a world led by China or Russia. So we must lead.”
Eli Lake, writing on The Daily Beast, said Mr. Romney’s selection of Mr. Paul “tilts the ticket closer to the neoconservatives on key questions about America’s role in the world and the size of the military.”
Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, has been briefing Mr. Ryan on the Middle East in recent months. He told Mr. Lake that Mr. Ryan was “relaxed, serious, funny, very smart, and knows more about foreign policy than people may think, in view of his concentration on the economy.”
Uri Friedman, in an April blog post for Foreign Policy magazine, hit several bullet points of Mr. Paul’s world view, including a brief take on China:
Ryan appears to be less hardline and hawkish about China than Romney, who has pledged to designate Beijing as a currency manipulator on his first day in office. True, Ryan has shuddered at the idea of a world led by China and Russia and criticized China’s restrictions on freedom of expression, “coercive population controls,” and “unsound economic policies.”
But he’s also argued that “we stand to benefit from a world in which China and other rising powers are integrated into the global order with increased incentives to further liberalize their political and economic institutions.”
John Tamny, writing in Forbes, seconds the notion that Mr. Ryan might well soften the anti-China rhetoric at the top of the Republican ticket and “walk Romney back from his economically illiterate and potentially disastrous China-bashing.”
Mr. Ryan has not sponsored any China-related legislation in the House, although he voted against a bill in September 2010 that took aim at countries that manipulate their currencies to gain trade advantages. The bill, which passed the House 348 to 79, did not reach a vote in the Senate.
The measure did not specifically mention China, but its intent was unmistakable. My colleagues David Sanger and Sewell Chan, reporting on the House vote, said it “sent an unusually confrontational signal to the Chinese leadership” by giving the Obama administration “expanded authority to impose tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports to the United States.”
David and Sewell said the bill’s passage was “a highly unusual bipartisan vote at a time when large numbers of House Republicans have rarely joined Democrats on an economic issue.” Ninety-nine Republicans voted for the measure.
“We should welcome the contributions and strengths that over one billion people can offer and push for the government of China to give those people space to express their personal, religious, economic and civil ambitions,” Mr. Ryan has said, quoted by Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist and blogger for The Washington Post. (Her column is posted on Mr. Ryan’s Web site.)
“A liberalizing China is not only in the interests of the world,” he said, “but also in China’s own best interest as it copes with the tremendous challenges it faces over the next couple of decades.”
Ms. Rubin added that Mr. Ryan has made it “clear that China has ‘very different values and interests from our own.’ ”
In another statement on his Web site, Mr. Ryan said “engagement in Afghanistan is necessary,” adding that Mr. Obama’s planned withdrawal “has the potential to pose security threats to soldiers continuing shorthanded counter-insurgency operations, as well as to compromise the larger mission in Afghanistan.
“Further, the Afghan citizens currently working with our troops to quell violence may view the withdrawal as a signal that our forces are no longer committed to the mission, which will serve to debilitate the long-term diplomatic, development and reconstruction efforts in the area.”
Joseph J. Collins, a professor of national security strategy at the National War College in Washington, met with Mr. Ryan and a congressional delegation before they went to Afghanistan.
“He was supremely well briefed and had thought through the issues,” Mr. Collins told Rendezvous. “His team or five or six congressmen deferred to him but had their own concerns.
“Of course, his moderate attitude on Afghanistan seemed to be ‘stay the course,’ “ Mr. Collins said. “Many concerns about costs, which post-2014 will come down tremendously. Both Romney and Obama have said little about Afghanistan. I suspect that politically, it is a no-win issue for either candidate.”