Shutdown Forces Obama To Cancel Asia Trip – To China’s Delight

Whether it is access to Federal parks and museums or having a federal loan addressed on time, there are numerous cases of how people have been impacted by the shutdown. But most are merely inconveniences. There are, however, real consequences to the shutdown and one of them are the ramifications of President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel this week’s visit to Asia.

Although the administration pledged to “pivot” toward Asia in its second term, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have found themselves focused on other matters from Syria and Iran to domestic issues. And China appears to reaping the benefits as it seeks to improve ties with its Asian neighbors.

Obama had been scheduled to visit Malaysia and Taiwan.

“Malaysia’s kind of ‘whatever,’ but missing the Philippines hurts, as Manila’s been such a key cog in America’s Asia pivot wheel. It’s a lost opportunity for sure,” Sean King, senior vice president with the political consulting firm Park Strategies tells The Christian Science Monitor.

Aleksius Jemadu, a professor of international relations at Pelita Harapan University tells Voice of America that Obama’s decision raises questions about his commitment to the region.

“I think Obama’s administration has to convince again partners in Asia that the United States is really serious about the plan to focus on Asia,” says Jemadu.

More importantly, the absence of the US serves the benefits of China. Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced today a new trade deal with Malaysia that will build on its existing relationship, one that totaled $57 billion in the last two years. The Washington Post reports that the deal would increase two-way trade to $160 billion by 2017.

Are Reforms In China Real?
Ryan Rommann of The Diplomat agrees that in terms of reforming its economic and political system, China is behind the curve. However, he says, an honest analysis of progress coming from Beijing needs to be examined in the proper context.

“Political reforms are much slower than the Arab Spring. They are slower than Glasnost or Perestroika, and they are a crawl compared to the Cultural Revolution. This is a good thing. Another Great Leap Forward would be devastating to China and the world.

We must view reform through a broader lens that considers time and context. In fact, few countries have reformed at breakneck speed. The Chinese reform process is as prudent as that of its Asian neighbors and on a par with similar developing countries. Even in relation to the United States, China suffers from similar oligarchy and corporate interests. Pace is best measured in relative terms,” he advises.

The economics adviser notes that it has been 35 years since Deng Xiaoping opened China to the outside world and in that time, China has changed immensely. Reform will be slow, but “in the meantime, some perspective is needed.”

Et Cetera
Robert Colvile of London’s Daily Telegraph offers a short glimpse at some of the world’s “craziest” rulers.

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