Once upon a time, an ambitious and capable nation began the journey to defend its interests in foreign territory. Driven by a desire to boost its economy and secure its assertive presence in all corners of the world, the nation worked hard to ‘pivot’ its energy towards new areas of interests.
This nation is, of course, the United States of America.
The ‘Asia-pivot,’ renamed by the current administration as the "Asia Rebalance," refers to the U.S. desire to address bad policies, which according to one political expert, work “against trade liberalization and an ill-conceived U.S.-China bipolar condominium.”
Beyond the economic capital at play, the cooperation between these two nations holds the potential to drastically cut global carbon emissions and shape the global economy.
As noted by the Vice President of the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, “most East Asian states welcome the Asia pivot as a stabilizing force in the face of China’s rising influence.” U.S. officials have successfully spent almost a decade in talks with Pacific Rim nations including Canada, Mexico, Malaysia and Australia to create the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This pact essentially redefines global trade to increase American exports eliminate tariffs on many goods, while excluding China in many provisions.
However, a similar narrative is not found uniformly across Asia.
Therefore, President Obama is navigating unprecedented terrain as the U.S. simultaneously pivots from the Middle East—a region in which the U.S. has invested more than a decade of fighting. To make matters worse, China is not impressed by the rebalance. Since 2011, Beijing has engaged in "saber-rattling" by establishing an extended air-defense identification zone around territories in the South China Sea. Their continued advancements, reminiscent of threatening imperialist conquests, may soon come to undermine all U.S. efforts for a stable relationship with the growing world power.
From 2015, the top four economies in Asia are China, Japan, India and South Korea. These nations will therefore have a great impact on the U.S. economy in the years to come. Hence, the maintenance of collaboration, respect and dialogue had with these nations must be as calculated as it is genuine.
Looking to the possibilities of future U.S. foreign policy this election year, some prospects are certainly grim. As a follower of the news alone, it is easy to note how the dangerous rhetoric of potential presidents coupled with global consciousness of U.S. domestic affairs can lead to trouble in future diplomatic talks.
Already, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and even Egypt’s official religious body, Dar al-Ifta have all condemned or expressed grave concern over statements made by the current GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination.
In 2013, India faced military coercion from China, which sought to “dismantle security structures in Ladakh, India,” according to the Times of India. Now, China is India’s largest trading partner in goods and the two nations are pursuing a both cooperation and competitive relationship; for India, a shared desire of open sea lanes trumps concern to be had over China’s presence in the Indian Ocean littoral.
Simultaneously and in the spirit of betrayal and vengeance (against who?), China has been rapidly intensifying its ties with European nations. A new Eastern European-Chinese New Silk Road is coming together already—a plan that will promote Chinese integration with global economies. This new relationship can, and has been, attributed to a strategic gap created by the U.S. Thus, there will inevitably be a point in time where U.S. partners must strategically choose between it and China. When the climactic point of this story is reached, the costs of siding with the U.S. will not grave.
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If American citizens are to stay true to American exceptionalism in all of its glory, we must assert ourselves as a rational nation with leadership that understands the fragile ground it navigates when engaging in groundbreaking partnerships. The pivot must be focused and concerted, but above all else, detached from our chaotic domestic political scene.
For those who see the holes in American exceptionalism, who recognize that America’s history and political system are not necessarily worthy of universal admiration, there is still a reason to express concern over weakening U.S. ties to Asia. The profound quavering interdependence of U.S. and Asian economies is reflected in a tremendous annual trade deficit, billions of dollars in contingent liabilities to the savings and loan industries and U.S. banks that “are too weak vis-à-vis their Japanese and European counterparts,” as explained by former Ambassador Felix G. Rohatyn.
Meanwhile in Asia, China has been engaged in global affairs without consulting the United States; its 50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is yet another step closer to a global partnership that excludes the United States. Sadly enough, many traditional U.S. allies, including other Asian nations, Brazil, France and Germany, have all supported the AIIB despite U.S. opposition to the Bank.
Regardless, the implications of de-stabilized U.S. relations with Asia do not only matter to world leaders at negotiating tables. With election season in full force, the views of potential U.S. presidents on these issues should not be silenced in favor of slander or senseless tactics against the Islamic State. After all, foreign policy is not a term for solely government strategy in the Middle East, a fact of which more voters need to be conscious. And to the typical college student, a firm grasp on the history, culture and future of U.S. interactions is a crucial tool in today’s most cosmopolitan world.
Once upon a time, the United States sought to establish a new world order with a pivot to Asia as the way forward. However today, there appears to be an impending aversion from the United States. Unlike tales of charming saviors and joyous endings, the end result of an Asian anti-pivot will be unfortunate for all parties involved.
Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity freshman. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.