Paul Lachine

Obama and Asia’s Two Futures

Despite the relentless shift of global economic might to Asia, and China’s rise as a great power, America’s focus over the past decade has been elsewhere. In November, Barack Obama can begin to correct that when he hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in his native state of Hawaii.

TOKYO – Despite the relentless shift of global economic might to Asia, and China’s rise as a great power – the central historical events of our time, which will drive world affairs for the foreseeable future – America’s focus has been elsewhere. The terrorist attacks of 2001, followed by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Great Contraction of 2008, the Arab Spring, and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, all diverted the United States from helping to create a lasting structure of peace to accommodate today’s resurgent Asia.

In November, US President Barack Obama can begin to redress this imbalance when he hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in his native state of Hawaii. The meeting’s timing is fortunate, because a number of critical Asian issues are coming to a boil.

The South China Sea, for example, is now churning with competing claims to its islands, atolls, and sea bed, including China’s bold assertion that all of it is Chinese sovereign territory. At this year’s ASEAN summit in Bali, it was agreed that these territorial disputes be settled through bilateral negotiations. But the scope of Chinese claims doomed that agreement from the start; indeed, China now insists that the sea constitutes a core national interest, on a level with Taiwan and Tibet, for which it is prepared to fight.

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