Why Asia is giving up on the United States

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America is unwilling to play global cop — and Beijing is filling the vacuum

There is little expectation in Asia that whoever emerges victorious in next week’s United States presidential election will be willing, or able, to play the world’s policeman as in the past.

The conviction that Washington cannot be counted on to mediate or resolve Asian disputes has grown during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom were fixated on the Middle East. The performances of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during this farcical election campaign have reinforced the view that Washington is of diminishing importance to Asia.

China has already established that its modernized military, especially its navy and missile arsenal, can deter U.S. moves on behalf of its allies in Asian waters. Beijing has also shown it can outfox Washington in regional relationships.

China’s President Xi Jinping took a significant further step last week to cap his country’s emergence as a regional superpower with global ambitions. He has prepared the way for his assumption of supreme leadership as a Vladimir Putin with Chinese characteristics.

China’s neighbours, who traditionally have counted on Washington for support, are reacting either by kow-towing to Beijing or looking to their own defence.

Beijing is usually more welcoming than Washington for those with murky records, seeing mere peccadilloes where the U.S. sees human rights abuses. So Najib this week declared himself a “true friend” of China and said he is determined to take their relationship to “new heights.” He is buying coastal warships from China, and said he backs Beijing’s drive to establish new global institutions to replace those founded by the West, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

In Beijing at the end of last month, Duterte announced: “In this venue, your honours, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States. Both in military, maybe not in social, but economics also, America has lost.”

Japan, in contrast, is drawing on its ancient store of mutual cultural and political animosity with China and is bolstering the defences of its far-flung islands. Tokyo’s move this week is to budget $US95 million to subsidize the settlement of uninhabited islands on its vulnerable maritime frontier.

Tokyo has been beefing up the defences of 39 uninhabited islands in its archipelago since Beijing started aggressively asserting its claim to the five Senkaku Islands after Xi came to power. Another 23 islands have been registered as “state property” and rapid reaction forces have been formed to deploy to trouble spots. Anti-aircraft and radar units have been stationed on several of the frontier islands.

At the end of next year the party is due to give Xi another five years at the helm. Under the conventions that have built up over the last 15 years, that would be it. Xi is 63 years old now and there is an unwritten rule that 67 is retirement age. Moreover, there is a two-term limit on holding the presidency.

Last week, however, Xi broke the 67-and-out rule, and in a very pointed way. Wang Qishan, Xi’s key ally and mastermind of the anti-corruption purge, will be re-appointed to the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee – the pinnacle of power – despite being over-age.

The reappointment of Xi’s pitbull is a signal to everyone that the old collegial rules and customs don’t apply under his dynasty.

Full article: Why Asia is giving up on the United States (iPolitics)

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