President Obama's Asia Failure

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 22, 2009

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.

Reader Comments

Ben Gee

November 22, 2009 1:53 PM

To the Chinese, the West is selfish, very selfish. The West do not care about the poor countries.The West impose sanctions on the poorest of the poor countries because they do not do as they were told. The West even invaded countries that did not fall in line.
China will not and can not cooperate with the West in imposing their will on others. China believe that poverty is the greatest problem with many countries. Poverty is making these countries very difficult to govern. Sanctions make these countries poorer and harder to govern. A change of government does not make them any easier to govern. If the West care about this countries, the West could help them improve their economy not trying to distroy them.
If China increase the value of its currency, it will help the West and China itself, but it will be detrimental to the very poor countries.
1. Inexpensive Chinese goods will be more expensive and may not be affordable to the very poor. That will reduce their already low standard of living.
2. Chinese help in development will be more expensive. If the RMB goes up, Chinese capital goods will be more expensive. Chinese help in building infrastructures will be more expensive.
3. If the RMB appreciates, the currencies of the poor countries will go down and resourses and other products sold to China will bring in less money.
The West will never understand this, but Chinese through out its history have the following saying: There will be peace if our neighbors are well fed.

terry maloney

November 22, 2009 3:43 PM

Evidently the Far East does not believe in socialism.

Ben Gee

November 22, 2009 8:06 PM

It is unfortunate some in the US think because Mr. Obama did not get China to change its currency policy,the trip was a failure. Mr. Obama now has a better understanding of China and what China want to accomplish will be a gain for humanity if not a gain for the US economy in the short run. If this understanding will make the world a better and safer place, everybody including the US will benefit in the long run. The greatest problem in the world is poverty and no peace. If we can eliminate poverty, we can attend peace. That will be the ultimate goal.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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