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Commercial Times: Trump's Asia trip showcases Xi's leadership status

2017/11/14 18:03:04

CNA file photo

U.S. President Donald Trump has concluded his 12-day trip to Asia which included visits to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. During the trip, he held talks with heads of state in the five countries where he received extensive red-carpet treatment and military salutes.

Despite such extravagant welcome ceremonies, Trump's tour through Asia did not lift the United States' leadership status in the region, but rather made it clear to the country's Asian allies that the "America First" slogan has substantially weakened U.S. leadership.

For Asian countries, Trump's trip focused more on taking than giving, with the U.S. president failing to help resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, unite Asian countries to settle their differences or offer new promises.

The U.S. Department of State's newly proposed Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy is intended to replace its traditional Asia Pacific policy, which sought to reduce China's influence on Asia.

However, this has been reduced to little more than a slogan after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of deals worth US$253.5 billion by U.S. companies during Trump's visit to Beijing.

At the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting held from Nov. 10-11 in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang, there was a clear sense of apprehension among Asian countries about U.S. leadership.

Despite differing views on trade and protectionism, trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries announced at a press conference on Saturday in Vietnam that they have reached an agreement to push ahead with a free-trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, without the United States.

The 11 countries have renamed the deal as "Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership."

During the press conference, most of the ministers expressed concerns over the impact of of America's withdrawal from the TPP, with some expecting the move to exacerbate doubts about U.S. international leadership and America's role in Asia.

Meanwhile, although the quarter of a trillion dollars in business deals in China was presented as a win for Trump, it actually boosted China's clout in the Asia Pacific region.

Trump's Asian trip made the U.S. a follower of China instead of a leader in Asia.

The U.S.'s traditional diplomatic and military policies toward Asia and its new Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy played only a secondary role during Trump's tour of Asia.

In contrast, since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping has displayed an ambition to develop a new model of great power relations between China and the U.S. with the aim of reestablishing China on the world stage as a great power and the equal of the U.S.

With Xi the unchallenged ruler of China and Trump considered by many to be a lame duck U.S. president, it is clear who has emerged as Asia's preeminent power broker after Trump's 12-day trip to the region. (Editorial abstract - Nov. 13, 2017)

(By Evelyn Kao)