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Sitting here in Singapore as President Obama went through China and flew home from his 8-day trip to Asia, it is perhaps easier to see the true truth of his trip—it’s deep failure. The entire neo-liberal economic model promoted by the US over the past decades is now held in such disregard in Asia that a President representing the US system must suffer from the model’s decline. Soft power, such as culture and economic models, is always a major component of projecting a nation’s power around the world. Right now Wall Street, Alan Greenspan and the Chicago-school of market mania has so undercut America’s standing in Asia by the horrible recession they caused, that even President Obama’s popularity couldn’t overcome it’s negative impact.
Obama came home empty-handed. He made little headway in his single most important mission—China’s revaluation of its currency, the yuan. A higher value for the yuan makes sense for the global economy, for the US economy and for the Chinese economy. But Obama couldn’t persuade Beijing of that because you can’t muscle your banker and China is America’s banker. And everyone in Asia knows this. You can feel the shift in the way people talk and in the way nation’s are beginning to accomodate China. Expect more visits from China’s growing blue-water fleet. Expect more Asian students studying in Chinese universities. Asian children are already beginning to learn Mandarin in a big way.
I visited an old British airforce base in Singapore today while I was out birding. It was a strange, nostalgic scene. Unless the US gets its act together and reverses it’s global decline, it may one day soon also be remember with nostalgia.
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