US to balance China’s heft in Southeast Asia

Updated On: Mar 02, 2009

Hillary Clinton made a generally positive, heartwarming and well-received trip to East Asia. This is a welcomed turnabout from the negatives images of the US under the Bush administration.

She is only the second American secretary of state to make her/his first foreign trip to Asia. Dean Rusk was the first in 1961.

According to a recent survey of Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, China and Vietnam by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, America’s “soft” power (ability to influence others through attraction rather than coercion) has ranked America ahead of China.

Symbolically for Southeast Asia, Clinton visited Indonesia as a commitment to once again re-engaged Southeast Asia, particularly its organization of ASEAN.

Some saw this as an opportune time for the US to once again re-emerge as a welcomed counterbalance to China’s growing military might.

China does not necessarily have a problem with this and in fact hinted at the possibility of restarting military exchanges suspended in 2008 over American arms sales to Taiwan.

A pressing issue now binds China, the United States and Indonesia together – deforestation, all three are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Clinton is expected to discuss with her Chinese counterparts pressing issues such as climate change, currency policy and human rights. These discussions will demonstrate whether the Obama administration will introduce a new approach to the People’s Republic of China or simply follow the policy of making Beijing as a “responsible stakeholder,” as implemented by the previous administration of George W. Bush.

Liu, Shih-chung, "Secretary Clinton: Seeking Balance between Taipei and Beijing China, Taiwan, Asia, Diplomacy, Secretary of State Clinton's Trip to Asia" dated 17 Feb 2009 in the Brookings Institution website [downloaded on 1 March 2009], available at http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0217_clinton_liu.aspx

The Economist, "Hillary says hello to Asia" dated 19 Feb 2009 in the Economist website [downloaded on 1 March 2009], available athttp://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13145069

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