Despite Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” Myanmar Seeks Real Industrial Development

While Hillary Clinton's State Department has taken credit (with justification) for opening up relations with Myanmar and dropping the useless sanctions policies imposed for years by the U.S., it is often played as an effort to drag Myanmar away from China. This is also how many viewed Obama’s recent “historic” trip to that nation.

While Myanmar is indeed open to U.S. investment, they have turned to Korea and the "Korea Model" of self-directed industrial and rural development as their model. Such development, also clearly present in the policy of China itself, is not what Obama has in mind with his “Asia Pivot,” which is rather a military build-up in the Pacific aimed at putting pressure on China.

The Korean Herald reported that the new Myanamar Prime Minister Thein Sein "regards South Korea as its development model. During his three-day visit, the Myanmar leader showed his eagerness to learn from Seoul's development experience. He said his role model was former President Park Chung-hee." Park Chung-hee, usually denounced as the "dictator" of South Korea from 1962-79, transformed the nation from one of the poorest in the world to a modern industrial power, through a centrally directed industrial development plan, coupled with a "model village" plan (Saemaul Undong) which modernized the rural areas of the country relatively overnight, through organized self-help projects under centrally-directed provisions of infrastructure inputs.

The Herald noted: "No wonder that the first place [Thein Sein] visited in Korea was the Central Training Institute of Saemaul Undong. He wanted to assimilate Park's signature movement aimed at modernizing rural villages. Thein Sein also wanted to emulate the systematic approach Seoul used in pushing for industrialization. He asked Seoul officials to help him set up a think tank modeled after the Korea Development Institute. The KDI is credited with drafting the five-year economic development plans that guided Seoul's development efforts until the 1980s. Another Korean institution he wanted to replicate was the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, a state-run organization that specializes in helping small and medium-sized companies explore overseas markets. Thein Sein was well aware of the role exports play in driving economic growth."

President Park's "Korea Model" would properly be seen as an example of the "American System" approach, before U.S. policy was taken over by British free trade and deregulation lunacy. It is of note that the current Korean government has promoted this "Korean Model" for the developing world generally, and especially Africa. It is also of note that Park's daughter Park Geun-hye is the current presidential candidate for the government party.

Unselfishly helping to foster this kind of development in this poor, underdeveloped region of the world should be the real meaning of an “Asia Pivot,” as great President’s like FDR or JFK intended, and would have meant in using such a policy term, unlike President Obama, whose “Asia pivot” is just part of a broader war policy.

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