Jennifer Kohnke

Obama’s Pacific Pivot

The US has declared that its foreign policy will "pivot" towards the Asia-Pacific region. But, while China is anxious about a supposed US effort to "contain" it strategically, the last thing America wants is a Cold War II in Asia.

CAMBRIDGE – Asia’s return to the center of world affairs is the great power shift of the twenty-first century. In 1750, Asia had roughly three-fifths of the world’s population and accounted for three-fifths of global output. By 1900, after the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America, Asia’s share of global output had shrunk to one-fifth. By 2050, Asia will be well on its way back to where it was 300 years earlier.

But, rather than keeping an eye on that ball, the United States wasted the first decade of this century mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in a recent speech, American foreign policy will “pivot” toward East Asia.

President Barack Obama’s decision to rotate 2,500 US Marines through a base in northern Australia is an early sign of that pivot. In addition, the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, held in Obama’s home state of Hawaii, promoted a new set of trade talks called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Both events reinforce Obama’s message to the Asia-Pacific region that the US intends to remain an engaged power.

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