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Obama, Xi face significant challenges in their Asia policies: CFR

Obama, Xi face significant challenges in their Asia policies: CFR

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Published : 2013-12-24 09:28
Updated : 2013-12-24 09:28

Vying for enhanced influence in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States and China have struggled to move forward their own Asia strategies throughout 2013, experts here said Monday.

In a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, the pundits said the Obama administration's slow-moving "pivot" toward Asia has been confronted with the rapid rise of Xi Jinping's "assertive authoritarianism."

"Some of the pivot's main proponents -- including Hillary Clinton, Kurt Campbell and Tom Donilon -- have left," said Michael Fullilove, executive director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy. "And some U.S. policymakers are still drawn to the Middle East like iron filings to a magnet."

He pointed out Secretary of State John Kerry has been an "infrequent visitor" to Asia, with a focus on an Iran nuclear deal and Middle East peace.

Fullilove emphasized the importance of a strong U.S. presence in the region, which is ridden with strategic uncertainties, power imbalances and the risk of destabilizing rivalry.

Obama, who once declared an ambition to be "the Pacific president," should show the world that Washington's Asia pivot has not run out of puff, he said.

The challenges to Beijing's strategy on Asia are as significant as those to Washington's rebalancing toward the region, according to Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the CFR.

Over the past few months, Beijing appears to have found its answer to Washington's pivot toward Asia in the form of "assertive authoritarianism," apparently aimed at bringing the region more in line with Xi's vision of a China-centered Asia-Pacific, she said.

"As long as Xi adopts diplomatic, economic, and security policies that divide rather than unify the region, few of China's neighbors will be willing to trust his leadership and the sincerity of his efforts to enhance ties," she said.

Moreover, even as Xi attempts to find new supporters, China's most reliable clients states are becoming unreliable, she added.

She cited North Korea, which has become "frightening and unpredictable" even to Beijing, along with Myanmar's transition to a full-fledged democracy and political changes in Cambodia. (Yonhap News)

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