The New York Times‘s Roger Cohen, writing from Singapore, says Asia needs the United States to counter China. And it’s not getting that now.
Further, a new, regionally assertive India under Modi is a long way off:
Outside China, there is a consistent theme in Asia. It is concern that declining American power, credibility and commitment will leave the way open for Beijing to exercise dominance over the region. President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” has been dismissed as hot air. American objectives announced without consequence betray a weak presidency; Asians have drawn their conclusions.
Singapore’s success has depended on its ability to leapfrog geography, but it could only do that because the geography was not hostile. It could depend on the fact that the foreign territorial waters at its door remained open. Japan has been restrained from going nuclear by the assurance of America’s treaty commitment to its defense. From north to south Asia, such assumptions appear a little shakier.
It is all of these things, plus an uneasy general feeling. The “pivot to Asia,” like the Syrian “red line,” like “Assad must go,” betrayed a common theme: words without meaning from an American president, commitments without follow-up, phrases without plans. In Asia as in Europe, these things get noted.
The American idea is still strong in Asia. Look no further than the brave pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. But ideas require commitment to back them.
Read the whole thing.
Cohen’s column also mentions this May piece by Razeen Sally in the Straits Times. It’s about “global cities”:
Today, there appear to be only five global cities. London and New York are at the top, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore, Asia’s two services hubs. Dubai, the Middle East hub, is the newest and smallest kid on the block. Shanghai has global-city aspirations, but it is held back by China’s economic restrictions – the vestiges of an ex-command economy – and its Leninist political system. Tokyo remains too Japan-centric, a far cry from a global city.
The global city has a relentless market logic. It is where Adam Smith, David Hume, Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek would feel most at home. It has to be the most open to trade, foreign capital and migrant workers. It must have among the most business-friendly regulatory environments.