America In the World
Asia Loses Confidence in American Leadership

It has been five years since President Obama announced the U.S. would rebalance its strategic priorities and focus on providing assurances to America’s Asian partners. Yet most people living in the Asia Pacific aren’t feeling particularly assured. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney released a survey this week on America’s role in the Asia-Pacific. The survey polled 750 people each from Australia, Japan and South Korea—all U.S. treaty allies—as well as China and Indonesia. The findings: The region is preparing for the end of America’s “unipolar moment” of post-Cold War global leadership.

Respondents in all five countries expect to see U.S. influence continue to diminish in Asia during the next decade. The majority—from 80% in Australia to 61% in both Japan and Indonesia—say America’s best days are behind it.

According to South Koreans (56%) and Australians (53%), China will or has already replaced the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower. Others—the Indonesians (39%), Japanese (21%) and even Chinese (42%)—are less sure.

This year, the U.S. has been confronting China more aggressively in the South and East China Seas, allowing U.S. Steel to pursue a ban on Chinese steel imports, and talking tougher to Beijing in general. But the escalation comes after years of dithering, and in a year in which both the current American president and one of his would-be successors talk about “free riders” and America’s resources being stretched “too thin.” Meanwhile, both major presidential candidates have turned on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that the Obama Administration negotiated last year.

But perhaps most importantly, Beijing is showing no signs of changing course. With the U.S. and China militaries going toe-to-toe, Xi seems confident Obama will blink before he does. The University of Sydney poll suggests that many people in Asia suspect the Chinese leader is right.

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