Indonesia’s “John Adams Moment”

 July 30, 2014

(Originally published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and can also be found also at: )

          There was a moment of time in our own history, when our new democracy peaceably and orderly passed the reins of power from George Washington, at the end of his second term, to John Adams. It had never happened before in history. The “John Adams Moment” firmly established the precedent  in the new, American democracy, of a Presidency limited to only 2 terms. That tradition lasted up until the time Franklin Roosevelt and was resumed thereafter by Constitutional Amendment. It was a transition moment when the country broke away peacefully from a military/civilian leader, Washington, to a purely civilian leader, John Adams. Our own “John Adams Moment” set the tone and the tradition for generations that followed.

Indonesia, following its recent divisive election, is at a similar, “John Adams Moment” in the strengthening of its own new democracy. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono  (SBY),  a military/civilian leader, will step down after his own 2nd term this coming October, and relinquish power to a new, duly-elected civilian President, Joko Widodo (Jokowi).  This is a historic, critical step in the development of Indonesia’s own, young democratic traditions.

The Indonesian democracy has developed out of the dark, bloody days of rioting and violence in the wake of the collapse of the Thai baht and the Asian Financial crisis in 1997-98. The financial implosion of Indonesia’s rupiah occurred along with the dismantling of the autocratic and highly corrupt Suharto regime. Since that time, Indonesia has re-invented herself in a little over a decade and a half, repaired her devastated economy, and has now emerged as a robust democracy in Southeast Asia, with a plethora of newspapers, talk shows, media sources, and strong voter participation.  It is impressive progress in less than two decades.

The recent Presidential election campaign was a hard-fought battle, but free of violence. And, although religion is never entirely absent from Islam’s foremost democracy, this was a contest fought overwhelmingly over secular issues.

Jokowi, represents a marked departure from Indonesia’s past. He started out as a small business owner, a humble furniture seller, and became a pragmatic, uncorrupt mayor. He is not from the usual clutch of political and business dynasties and their sleazy cronies. He represents something new for Indonesia. The 53-year-old is the first of a political generation reaching the national stage since popular protests in the late 1990s that toppled Suharto. Jokowi’s rise would have been inconceivable without the radical political decentralisation which is perhaps the outstanding success of Indonesia’s democratic journey. He began his political career as mayor of Solo, a medium-sized city in Java, the most populous island, before becoming an immensely popular Governor of Jakarta, the capital, in 2012. It is there that he forged a reputation for can-do competence and clean government that won the admiration of many and propelled him into the Presidential race.

Jokowi has a good record of dealing with the concerns of ordinary Indonesians: clogged traffic, poor sanitation and petty, bribe-taking bureaucrats. He is also more comfortable working with Christians or ethnic Chinese than most Indonesian politicians have been and are. Indeed, his opponents tried to turn his hostility to religious intolerance against him by claiming that he was in fact a Christian. Certainly, Jokowi is a new kind of Indonesian leader, but he is still a devout Muslim. In the three days before actual election in which Indonesian law forbids campaigning, Jokowi made a lightening pilgrimage to Mecca. But he also embraces religious pluralism. And, though no room exists on the Indonesian political spectrum for anything like economic liberalism, he is less of an economic nationalist than his opponent in the election, former Special Forces General, Prabowo Subianto, once Suharto’s son-in-law with a tainted human rights record, a throwback to Indonesia’s darker past.

Foreign investors are now pleased with the Jokowi victory. He understands the need to cut ruinous fuel subsidies and to boost education.

The big worry about Jokowi is that he might be out of his depth in high politics. That is partly because he lacks experience: his views on foreign policy are still barely known. His campaign was amateurish, relying mainly on the perhaps, naive assumption, that honesty and an impressive record would be good enough. It turns out that Jokowi was right; Indonesians did not buy the slick, orchestrated campaign of General Prabowo. Jokowi is a man of the streets and neighborhoods, whereas past Indonesian leaders have ruled from on high. He has no ties to the Suharto regime, unlike most of his predecessors, and that represents a clean break.

Jokowi has been underestimated before. Indonesia faces a geopolitical challenges with China over its Natuna islands in the South China Sea along with its ASEAN leadership demands and international economic challenges. Standing still will not be the easiest option. Indeed, his capacity to attract powerful technocratic advice could see Jokowi pursue a more proactive and internationalist agenda than his predecessors.

Jokowi’s endearing trait—his humility—turned into a liability during the campaign as his image as an outsider was compromised by his reliance on his party’s grande dame, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of modern Indonesia’s founder and a former President herself. She has appeared on occasion to be grudging in her support for Jokowi. This reliance is likely to fade in time as Jokowi makes his own mark.

There is a leadership trait which Jokowi possesses which is both visionary and courageous. As the world’s 4th largest country, and a Muslim-majority one at that, the ethnic Chinese have been the political scapegoats forever. During the Suharto years, a drive through Jakarta’s Chinatown, Kota, was remarkable for its lack of Chinese characters, symbols, architecture and even names in English—the ethnic Chinese were literally hidden from view. The bloody anti-Chinese riots (which General Prabowo is said to have encouraged) in Kota and elsewhere left deep cultural wounds.  Jokowi is the first Indonesian politician to actively begin the healing process. When he ran for the Governorship of Jakarta, Jokowi had the courage to have an ethnic Chinese, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) as his successful running mate.  That was a historic first for Indonesia and it bodes well for Jokowi’s reputation as a cultural healer, a nation-builder, and a diplomat. Interestingly, Ahok now succeeds Jokowi as the Governor of Jakarta.

In the end, Indonesians, made the right choice. Jokowi will be a disruptive figure in in that he will have to learn to work with, and begin to breakup, the old political oligarchy, upgrade the bureaucracy, work the corruption problem, develop civilian control of the military, and continue to strengthen this fledgling democracy.

This is Indonesia’s “John Adams Moment.”


(David Day is the Chairman of the Board of the Hawaii Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and an international business lawyer).

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North Korea’s Crumbling Facade & Imploding China Relations

Jang Song Taek formerly, Kim Jong Un's Uncle

Jang Song Taek
formerly, Kim Jong Un’s Uncle

 The execution of the No. 2 leader in North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s Uncle Jang Song Taek, was beyond brutal–savage by any account. At the time that this broadcast was made, it was believed that Jang’s execution was by machine gunning him down while tied to a stake (this was the fate of Kim Jong Un’s former girlfriend). Some hours after the show was taped, we learned of an even more savage execution from the Singapore Straits Times ( )

“According to the report, unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called “quan jue”, or execution by dogs.


The report said the entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it along with 300 senior officials.

The horrifying report vividly depicted the brutality of the young North Korean leader. The fact that it appeared in a Beijing- controlled newspaper showed that China no longer cares about its relations with the Kim regime.”

It is hard to imagine such savagery which puts it on a scale rivaled perhaps only by Pol Pot’s genocide, the Holocaust, and others of similar ilk. Whether or not the report is true, we shall have to wait and see but whether Jang was e executed by machine gun or by dogs, the result is the same–the former is less sensational.*

Jang’s execution means what for North Korea? Was there, in reality, a coup d’état or an attemped one?  Was the Jang execution a good or bad? Was it necessary?  

Patrick Border Citizen Diplomat Veteran North Korea Visitor

Patrick Border
Citizen Diplomat
Veteran North Korea Visitor

The North Korea policy wonks and observers are all over the map as to why this has happened and what it means for the future of the Hermit Kingdom. We turned to the fascinating perspective of an American who has recently returned from yet another trip to North Korea to understand what is actually going on on the ground. Patrick Border is an American citizen diplomat and veteran Hawaii North Korea traveler. We had an unusual conversation with Mr. Border as to the real “why” behind recent events in North Korea (Kenneth Bae, Merrill Newman and Dennis Rodman’s NBA exhibition game tryouts) and, in particular, Uncle Jang’s execution and its future implications.  


During this interview, Mr. Border discusses the armed conflict within North Korea between the respective factions of economic reformer Jang and the North Korean military, with officers of military being killed. He talks about the instability of the Regime, the “overreaching” that Jang’s execution signals as well as the potential for steps towards a “People’s Power” tipping point in North Korea. Mr. Border emphasizes that Jang was North Korea’s point man for its relations with China and that relationship is now bitterly shattered and he reveals just what he has seen in Pyongyang that proves this. He left us with the ominous perspective that North Korean Regime is now isolated–even more than ever with its old mentor and protector, China, shut out–and that the shabby facade that the Regime holds up to the global community is crumbling, its dirty linen has been aired like never before, and there are now clear factions in North Korea with people forced to choose sides.


* On this particular point, you might be interested in a related piece on this website called, “Execution by dogs or machine guns: ‘What difference does it make?'” here. 



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A Gift For You

This is our gift to you: “Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt                  Hazlitt book jacket

You will find the downloadable pdf  version below.

Our gift is the effort to get a copy into your possession in the hopes that you will read it. We also encourage you to forward copies to everyone that you know, including family, friends, business associates, and in particular give copies to every young person that you can. The book is an easy read, but contains wisdom that is often hard to come by these days.

Here is why we feel that this book is so important:

Most of the critical problems that we are facing in this country today stem from a rampant ignorance of basic economics. A Congress and an electorate that understood simple economics would never have allowed us to get into the budgetary wastefulness and debt crisis that the country now faces. Many people fail to understand that the laws of economics are like the laws of gravity–you ignore them at your peril.

Unfortunately most of our schools don’t teach this, and our children graduate without the necessary knowledge needed to make sound financial and life altering decisions in later life. This book is only a start, but it can be the seed that germinates into the fruit that drives the quest for knowledge and truth. This is true regardless of your political leanings or religious beliefs, and we truly hope that you will benefit from it.

Here is the book description as listed at the Mises Institute, where this and many other related books can be found:

Henry Hazlitt wrote this book following his stint at the New York Times as an editorialist. His hope was to reduce the whole teaching of economics to a few principles and explain them in ways that people would never forget. It worked. He relied on some stories by Bastiat and his own impeccable capacity for logical thinking and crystal-clear prose.

He was writing under the influence of Mises himself, of course, but he brought his own special gifts to the project. As just one example, this is the book that made the idea of the “broken window fallacy” so famous. Concise and instructive, it is also deceptively prescient and far-reaching in its efforts to dissemble economic fallacies that are so prevalent they have almost become a new orthodoxy.

This is the book to send to reporters, politicians, pastors, political activists, teachers, or anyone else who needs to know. It is probably the most important economics book ever written in the sense that it offers the greatest hope to educating everyone about the meaning of the science.

Many writers have attempted to beat this book as an introduction, but have never succeeded. Hazlitt’s book remains the best. It’s still the quickest way to learn how to think like an economist. And this is why it has been used in the best classrooms for more than sixty years.”


Economics in One Lesson



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China’s Next Moves Following its East China Sea ADIZ

So what are China’s next strategy moves in the Asia-Pacific Region? What does the PLA really think about the U.S. military and its capabilities? –a bizarre perception that encourages them to push harder now.

China has now been successful at establishing its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. In the process, we have seen a bizarre, almost schizophrenic, series of contradictory communications on the subject coming out of Washington that have enhanced China’s successful roll-out.

Following the roll-out,  China’s lone aircraft carrier (sans aircraft) departed for the South China Sea for a “show the flag” cruise. Next, we witnessed a near collision by U.S. and Chinese naval ships in the South China Sea.







This program is Part 2 of the conversation between  David Day and China-Hand Michael Sacharski. Mr. Sacharski has spent some 3+ decades in China, met and worked with various members of its leadership and has fascinating perspectives to share about China’s ADIZ planning & gameplan, its unexpected success in the imposition of its new ADIZ in the East China Sea, and what strategic moves we can now expect China to make in the Asia-Pacific Region in the near term. Mr. Sacharski is the CEO of Pacific Enterprise Capital.

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China’s New ADIZ

Are there unusual crossovers of the new China ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) with both Taiwan and South Korea? There are and the Taiwan piece is perhaps something that most people do not know.   Is China’s new ADIZ over the Senkaku islands a precursor to further ADIZs China may have in mind? What is this new Air Defense Zone that China has imposed in the East China Sea all about? How did we get here? What about the schizophrenic, wires-crossed responses coming out of the Pentagon and the State Department? 









Asia in Review” host David Day engages in a fascinating conversation with special guest Michael Sacharski. Mr. Sacharski has lived and worked in China as an American executive and entrepreneur for some 3+ decades and shares some interesting insights into the Chinese thinking behind this new strategy. Mr. Sacharski is the CEO of Pacific Enterprise Capital.

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Philippine Nightmare: Typhoon Haiyan


Haiyan has devastated parts of the Philippines beyond recognition. Where are we? What is happening on the ground? What kind of recovery period are we looking at?

“Asia in Review” host David Day engages in an important and fascinating conversation about this terrible disaster with special guests Vice Consul Joy Santos of the Philippine Consulate, Ray Shirkhodai, the Executive Director of the Pacific Disaster Center on Maui,  along with Dr Heather Bell, also of the Pacific Disaster Center.

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What Could Have Been

In the wake of the state funeral for Vietnam’s legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, we thought it appropriate to share with you some heartbreaker photos taken in August of 1945 in the mountains outside of Hanoi. They are heartbreakers only if you recognize what could have been, instead of the carnage that followed.

We do not ascribe blame for the failure to build on this relationship but only want to point out that it did not happen and perhaps, could have.

American OSS Deer Team with Ho Chi Minh & Vo Minh Giap August, 1945 Pac Bo, Vietnam

American OSS Deer Team with Ho Chi Minh & Vo Nguyen Giap
August, 1945
Pac Bo, Vietnam

In the  photo above, American OSS (Predecessor to the CIA) “Deer Team” members pose with (then) Viet Minh leaders Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap during a military training at Tan Trao, in the mountains north of Hanoi in August, 1945. Deer Team members standing, l to r, are Rene Defourneaux, (Ho Chi Minh), Allison Thomas, (Vo Nguyen Giap), Henry Prunier and Paul Hoagland, far right. Kneeling, left, are Lawrence Vogt and Aaron Squires. (Rene Defourneaux).

Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giam, and the Deer Team 1945

Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap (in the white suit), and the Deer Team

Toward the end of World War II, the U.S. Office of Special Operations (the OSS), the precursor to the CIA, started doing business with the communist-dominated Viet Minh, led by the ascetic and mysterious globe trotter Ho Chi Minh. The aim was to use the Viet Minh to drive the Japanese out of what had been French Indochina. But events were moving way too fast for coherent American policy to be made.

In return for the Viet Minh’s help against the Japanese, the OSS provided the Communist-dominated group with weapons, radio sets, medicines and training. The two groups quickly became very friendly and fought as comrades-in-arms in capturing the Japanese garrison at Tan Trao. They celebrated by getting drunk together. Along the way there would be such incongruous (in retrospect) actions as an OSS medic saving the life of the very sick Ho Chi Minh.

The Japanese, traumatized by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surrendered much earlier than expected.  Ho’s forces declared independence the very same day that General MacArthur accepted the formal Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, September 2, 1945.  In so doing, Ho’s Viet Minh looked to America for friendship and even included some phrasing from the American Declaration of Independence in their own, with Ho carefully checking the words of Thomas Jefferson with his OSS colleagues by radiophone from a shophouse in Hanoi’s Old Quarter as it was being drafted.

The Vietnamese Declaration of Independence that Ho Chi Minh drafted begins:

“To the compatriots of the entire country,

All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free…”


Ho Chi Minh delivering the Declaration of Independence for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, September 2, 1945 Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh delivering the Declaration of Independence for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, September 2, 1945
Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi

Ho was clearly influenced by the political writings and values of the American Founders. Up on the stage at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, clear for all to see, OSS Major Archimedes Patti stood behind Ho. There are photos of Patti saluting the Vietnamese flag as the band played the Vietnamese and the US national anthems. Then, coincidentally, a clearly-marked U.S. plane flew over  Ba Dinh Square during the ceremony. Was it by accident or design? It remains a mystery. Either way, it was apparent to everyone in the square that day that Ho Chi Minh (and Vo Nguyen Giap) had powerful backers and that the forces of Ho Chi Minh were clearly the political and spiritual leader of the Vietnamese revolution against the country’s French overlords.

Meanwhile, Chiang Kai-Shek’s undisciplined and rapacious troops, defeated Japanese forces, some French military people and colons and a few bemused Americans all milled around in Hanoi waiting for resolution of the dangerous and confused situation in which Indochina found itself at the end of World War II.

The U.S. adventure in Hanoi ended quickly, and it swiftly became clear that the French would fight to regain their lucrative colonies in Indochina. After all,  because the mother country was, at the time, reduced to rubble–it was critical for France that she quickly re-open her colonial cash pipeline from Vietnam in the rubber, tin and other profitable Vietnamese exports of that era.

Following the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, the French began to return to Hanoi and Saigon and made it clear that they had no intention of abandoning the colony.  In an effort to block the French return, Ho Chi Minh sent several telegrams to Washington seeking assistance against the French. These telegrams were written by Ho personally, and typed on his own typewriter. The telegrams were addressed to President Truman, sent via the State Department, but, oddly, never delivered to Truman. Here is one of several Ho sent in 1946:

Ho Chi Minh Telegram to President Truman February 1946

Ho Chi Minh Telegram to President Truman
February 1946


 At the same time, bewildered U.S. policy makers in the inexperienced Truman administration were dealing with domestic pressures to send U.S. forces home and anxiety about upsetting the French. While the precise point at which the Truman Administration turned its back on Vietnam is unclear, we do know that France was desperate to re-start its colonial cash flow and de Gaulle, always playing hard to get, was dragging his feet during the negotiations on French participation in the precursor to NATO, the Western Union, initiated formally in 1948.

President Truman did not share Roosevelt’s strong democratic principles. He was more concerned with keeping the French happy as a major business and security partner, as well as helping stand that country back upon its feet again. Plus, there was already on the horizon the “Great Imagined Fear” of the Russians, and de Gaulle knew how to play his cards just right. De Gaulle, in mid-march 1945, had already said in discussion with the (then) Roosevelt administration:

“What are you driving at? Do you want us to become, for example, one of the federated states under the Russian aegis? The Russians are advancing apace as you well know. When Germany falls they will be upon us. If the public here comes to realize that you are against us in Indochina there will be terrific disappointment and nobody knows to what that will lead. We do not want to become Communist; we do not want to fall into the Russian orbit, but I hope that you will not push us into it.”

[by, say, letting the Vietnamese have democratic control over their own country].


Truman and the U.S. State Department made no response to Ho Chi Minh’s numerous telegrams seeking assistance against the French. Washington feared that in the chaos and economic distress of immediate post-war France that the communists would take power there. So it pulled back from what had seemed to have been its support for Vietnamese nationalism under the Viet Minh and began to support the French.

The die was cast for a future conflict and, as Minister of Defense during the Vietnam War, Vo Nguyen Giap, would play a crucial role against his old comrades from the United States.


To learn a little more about this history, check out the following articles:

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The China-U.S. News Media Imbalance

“The first social responsibility and professional ethic of media staff should be understanding their role clearly and being a good mouthpiece.

Journalists who think of themselves as professionals, instead of as propaganda workers, are making a fundamental mistake about identity.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         –Hu Zhanfan, President of CCTV

     All news media in the People’s Republic of China is state-controlled, with the larger ones (Xinhua, People’s Daily, CCTV) reporting directly to the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department (CPD). The watchdog group, “Reporters without Borders,” ranked China 174 out of 179 countries in its 2012 worldwide index of press freedom.  Journalists face harassment and prison terms for violating government censorship rules. Chinese media disseminators usually employ their own monitors to ensure political acceptability of their content.  

Hong Jiang Deputy Director New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) Assoc Prof, UH Manoa

Hong Jiang
Deputy Director (Hawaii)
New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV)
Assoc Prof, UH Manoa

    The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has roughly 700 credentialed news media representatives United States. The number of U.S. reporters in China is generally less than 20.  The Chinese reporters are, for the most part, government agents who are allowed free rein in the U.S. to fulfill their mission. Their U.S. counterparts in China work for independent news organizations and are routinely harassed, including having their visas denied or delayed, sources beaten and arrested, travel restricted, and their physical safety threatened. 

Kerry Gershaneck fmr US Govt Public Affairs Official fmr U.S. Marine Officer Senior Associate at Pacific Forum CSIS Adj. Prof. Hawaii Pacific University in Strategic Communications

Kerry Gershaneck
fmr US Govt Public Affairs Official
fmr U.S. Marine Officer
Senior Assoc, Pacific Forum CSIS
Adj. Prof. Hawaii Pacific University in Communications
Strategic Communications Expert

      In this program, “Asia in Review” host David Day engages in a fascinating conversation on this sensitive topic with special guest Ms. Hong Jiang, the Deputy Regional Director (for Hawaii) from the independent US-based TV network, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) and an Associate Professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa; Also joining Ms. Jiang is Mr. Kerry Gershaneck, a former senior US government Public Affairs official who teaches Strategic Communication at Hawaii Pacific University.

     The show focuses on the implications of this news media coverage imbalance and how it plays into the larger “information war” between the US and the PRC that former Secretary of State Clinton alluded to in testimony before Congress.  Ms. Jiang and Mr. Gershaneck address the question of whether this imbalance now gives the PRC a significant advantage in its “Soft Power” and other “influence operations” directed at the U.S. and what the U.S. can begin to do to level the Information playing field with the PRC.


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