Shadow Government

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Get China right by getting Asia right

In 2010, President Obama would be well-advised to shift from an "inside-out" to an "outside-in" Asia policy. Rather than taking an approach to this dynamic region that starts with Beijing, raising fears of a Sino-American condominium, he could follow former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s maxim that "getting China right means getting Asia right."  ...

Feng Li/Getty Images
Feng Li/Getty Images
Feng Li/Getty Images

In 2010, President Obama would be well-advised to shift from an "inside-out" to an "outside-in" Asia policy. Rather than taking an approach to this dynamic region that starts with Beijing, raising fears of a Sino-American condominium, he could follow former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's maxim that "getting China right means getting Asia right." 

The spectacle of a junior Chinese official scolding the president in Copenhagen symbolizes a troubling turn in relations with a country rendered overconfident by excessive U.S. deference. At the same time, Washington's ties to Asia's other principal powers -- Japan and India -- have deteriorated, further encouraging China's new assertiveness toward both America and its neighbors.   

An "outside-in" Asia strategy would accept that China will determine its own course, but that the United States continues to possess the power and influence to shape China's peaceful rise. Washington could usefully stop framing the U.S.-Japan alliance around a narrow dispute over the relocation of American forces on Okinawa, giving Tokyo the space to pursue vigorous domestic reform that will ultimately strengthen the vitality of Japan and, by extension, the alliance. President Obama could begin to take India as seriously as did Presidents Clinton and Bush, acting on the premise that a U.S.-India partnership in Asian and world affairs holds far greater potential, by virtue of common values and shared strategic perspectives, than does any Sino-American G2. Obama could oversee the kind of historic breakthrough in U.S.-Indonesia relations that characterized U.S.-India relations under Bush.  

In 2010, President Obama would be well-advised to shift from an "inside-out" to an "outside-in" Asia policy. Rather than taking an approach to this dynamic region that starts with Beijing, raising fears of a Sino-American condominium, he could follow former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s maxim that "getting China right means getting Asia right." 

The spectacle of a junior Chinese official scolding the president in Copenhagen symbolizes a troubling turn in relations with a country rendered overconfident by excessive U.S. deference. At the same time, Washington’s ties to Asia’s other principal powers — Japan and India — have deteriorated, further encouraging China’s new assertiveness toward both America and its neighbors.   

An "outside-in" Asia strategy would accept that China will determine its own course, but that the United States continues to possess the power and influence to shape China’s peaceful rise. Washington could usefully stop framing the U.S.-Japan alliance around a narrow dispute over the relocation of American forces on Okinawa, giving Tokyo the space to pursue vigorous domestic reform that will ultimately strengthen the vitality of Japan and, by extension, the alliance. President Obama could begin to take India as seriously as did Presidents Clinton and Bush, acting on the premise that a U.S.-India partnership in Asian and world affairs holds far greater potential, by virtue of common values and shared strategic perspectives, than does any Sino-American G2. Obama could oversee the kind of historic breakthrough in U.S.-Indonesia relations that characterized U.S.-India relations under Bush.  

Building on Secretary Clinton’s welcome recent endorsement of U.S.-Japan-India trilateral cooperation, the Obama administration could invest in deepening regional concerts among Asia-Pacific powers grounded in common values and shared security perspectives. Finally, Obama could pursue an Asian trade policy rooted not in bilateral protectionism against Chinese products but in pan-regional trade liberalization, starting with the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama must ensure that America remains at the core of the Pacific century, not relegated to its fringes.

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