Obama has job cut out to leave be­hind legacy

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is go­ing to leave the White House and quite a few le­ga­cies, such as the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment, nu­clear deal with Iran, and the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Cuba, in four months. But he will also leave as many con­tro­ver­sies be­hind.

In the United States, for in­stance, Obama’s un­prece­dented leg­is­la­tion on health­care has ad­vanced the agenda of pro­gres­sive­ness, but it has also di­vided the US on par­ti­san lines. Ex­ter­nally, his will­ing­ness to “re­set” US re­la­tions with Rus­sia has re­sulted in a treaty to fur­ther re­duce nu­clear weapons, but re­la­tions be­tweenWash­ing­ton andMoscow have wors­ened due to Crimea cri­sis.

The same ap­plies to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­la­tions with China. De­spite his ini­tial earnest­ness to usher in a strate­gic di­a­logue with China, he has ended up weav­ing a net­work to counter China. Obama’s re­bal­anc­ing strat­egy to de­ploy some 60 per­cent of theUS navy and air force over­seas in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion is aimed at check­ing China’s rise. And his Trans-Pacific Part­ner­ship agree­ment is de­signed to boostUS com­pet­i­tive­ness in exports and in­vest­ments, at China’s cost.

Nev­er­the­less, the legacy of Obama’s re­bal­anc­ing strat­egy will not last long. Whether Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump or Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton suc­ceeds him, Obama’s TPP is un­likely to be in­her­ited in its cur­rent form by the nex­tUS ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump, if elect­edUS pres­i­dent, is more likely to put aside TPP.

In this sense, Obama’s Asia tour, with vis­its toHangzhou for the G20 Sum­mit and Vi­en­tiane for the East Asia Sum­mit, could be the be­gin­ning of the end of his re­bal­anc­ing to Asia-Pacific strat­egy. Nei­ther Obama’s TPP and Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship plans are likely to yield re­sults— even if Clin­ton suc­ceeds him— nor is theUS mil­i­tary pres­sure ex­pected to pro­duce the re­sults Obama ex­pects.

Obama should have re­al­ized that as the sec­ond-largest econ­omy, China is not a coun­try that can be coerced into ac­cept­ing un­fair eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions.

Obama’s pol­icy to­ward China, like his other poli­cies, too, has yielded mixed re­sults. But de­spite mu­tual frus­tra­tion over hack­ing, and mar­itime se­cu­rity and

hu­man rights is­sues, the list of Sino-US co­op­er­a­tion is long.

China and theUS suc­ceeded in con­vert­ing their tense re­la­tions, as seen at the 2009 Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence, into a cor­dial part­ner­ship that led to the sign­ing of the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment. The meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Obama on the side­lines of the G20 Sum­mit was an­other ex­am­ple of the two coun­tries’ fruit­ful co­op­er­a­tion.

China-US co­op­er­a­tion to pro­mote nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion is an­other ma­jor suc­cess. Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton worked to­gether to ad­vance the P5+1 ne­go­ti­a­tion with Iran to re­duce nu­clear threat and con­clude the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion in July 2015.

But the Korean Penin­sula is­sue con­tin­ues to pose a chal­lenge to the re­gional peace, with the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea in­ten­si­fy­ing its nu­clear pro­gram and theUS’ de­ploy­ment of the Ter­mi­nalHigh Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem in the Repub­lic of Korea has made mat­ters worse. So, in con­junc­tion with China, Obama has to ad­e­quately ad­dress each of these is­sues as well as to de­cou­ple them. Oth­er­wise, grow­ing dis­trust will un­der­mine their con­certed ef­forts to bring sta­bil­ity to the penin­sula and con­sol­i­date the non-pro­lif­er­a­tion regime.

The SouthChina Sea is­sue is not a part of theG20Sum­mit, but still it’s im­por­tant forChi­naandtheUS to agree to re­spect each other’s sov­er­eign right­sand­mar­itime in­ter­ests. For ex­am­ple, theUS should stop tak­ing sides in the SouthChina Sea dis­putes, andChina should re­spect US in­ter­ests in in­ter­na­tional air space­and­sea. So it will be a wel­comechange to seeOba­maem­ployin­ganap­proach atwhat­could pos­si­bly be his last of­fi­cialmeet­ing with­China’s top lead­ers that shows­rec­on­cil­ing in­ter­ests isn’t

nec­es­sar­ily mis­sion im­pos­si­ble.

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