US should adapt to changed geopolitics in Asia
PresidentXi Jinping on Wednesday held phone talks with hisUS counterpart Barack Obama and accepted the latter’s invitation to pay a state visit to the United States in September. Last weekUSNational Security Adviser Susan Rice announced that theUS invited PresidentXi Jinping to visit theUnited States this year. She also said that Japanese PrimeMinister Shinzo Abe, SouthKorean President ParkGeun-hye, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, too, would visit theUS this year.
Byinviting the leaders of four Asian countries to theUS in the sameyear, President BarackObama seems to bemakinga last ditch effort toward theendof his eight years in office tomake his hopeless “pivot to Asia” strategy a lasting legacy of his presidency.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end ofWorldWar II and the founding of theUnited Nations. At the end ofWorldWar II, Japan was devastated but only after wreaking havoc across many countries in Asia and theUS emerged as the dominant power in the region as well as the rest of the world by using theUN, the InternationalMonetary Fund and theWorld Bank as instruments to promote its national interests. That became possible partly because theUS accounted for 50 percent of the global GDP and controlled 75 percent of the world’s gold at the same time. Also, given its financial power, the US could afford to build bases across Asia and the world.
Recovering from the ruins of WorldWar II, Japan rose to become the second-largest economy in the world, a position it had to yield to China because of China’smeteoric economic rise since the early 1980s. The rise of China, formerly known as the “sick man of Asia”, and its more than $3 trillion of foreign exchange reserves have changed many economic and political equations in the world.
World Bank calculations even show that the Chinese economy has surpassed that of theUS in terms of purchase power parity. Although the calculations are not accepted by China, it indicates China’s growing economic might.
In the political arena, China is playing an increasingly greater role in maintaining world peace. It is in this geopolitical context that Obama launched his “pivot to Asia” (or rebalancing to Asia) strategy. But so far, the strategy has been beneficial to neither the US nor the Asian countries it was meant to help.
TheUS’ tacit support to Japan for “nationalizing” the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea raised tensions between China and Japan. TheUS support to the Philippines and Vietnam to dispute China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea too has created tensions.
Amid these scenarios, Xi’s visit to theUS will be a great opportunity for the leaders of the two countries to candidly discuss the future course of Asia and the world. But more importantly, it’s time theUS adapted to the changed geopolitics in Asia and realized that unlike 70 years ago, it no longer holds the key to the global economy. It should also realize that all the rebalancing to Asia has to be led by the region’s countries and their peoples in order to secure their future and ensure their security. The author is a professor atWarrenWilson College and guest professor atHebei University.