With Obama’s re-election, Asian powers ponder future relations with US
For months, Asian powers have been closely following the US presidential election campaign. With President Barack Obama now re-elected, this post highlights views from Russia, India, South Korea, Japan and China on what this means for bilateral relations with the United States.
Obama’s victory generated sighs of relief among Russian leadership, despite dissenting opinions among some observers.
- Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, stated, “The Kremlin greets the information about Barack Obama’s election victory very positively. We hope to develop and improve the positive initiatives in bilateral relations between Russia and the US in the interests of internal security and stability on the world stage.”
- Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed open relief that Russia wouldn’t have to deal with Mitt Romney. “I am pleased that the president…will not be someone who considers Russia as enemy number one,” referencing statements made by Romney on the campaign trail.
Despite well-wishes from Russian officials, some analysts and opposition leaders remained skeptical about the level of progress that can be made. US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the future of the US-Russia “reset” figured prominently in their calculations for the future.
- Fyodor Lykyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, wrote that “The two countries must realize that they will never enjoy linear relations – they will neither be unequivocal foes or genuine allies…a desire to achieve full clarity, in whatever field, undermines all attempts to create a solid foundation for relations, whereas a willingness to be flexible on current issues makes it possible to achieve concrete results.”
- Russia Times observed that “There is growing evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is turning away from the US and looking eastwards as part of his new Asia-Pacific doctrine and Eurasian project…Moscow and Washington now seem like an old married couple: Weary, bored and disillusioned, too tired for either a stormy divorce or a for a new honeymoon.”
- Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and a staunch nationalist, wrote, “America is doomed to stagnation” for the coming four years. “What will Obama do now? Nothing. He has no third term…he will travel abroad and won’t solve domestic problems.”
- Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, encouraged Obama to upgrade the US-Russia relationship from its current tactical level to a more strategic one, craft a “very careful course on Iran”, and “be wise on China”.
The Indian press has been awash with commentary on the outcome of the US election. By and large, pundits across the political spectrum look forward to the continuity that Obama’s re-election bodes for the future of India-US relations.
- Even The Hindu, usually more skeptical of US ambitions in the region, published an op-ed arguing that “India and the US have a meeting of minds on most global trends.” The author expressed confidence that the bilateral relationship has matured enough to handle ongoing disagreements on civilian nuclear cooperation, work visas and Indian retail markets, issues that other commentators also cited in publications of a different political stripe, such as The Business Standard and The Pioneer.
- It is now up to Delhi to “get its act together and build irreversible momentum behind the India-US partnership in Obama’s second term,” urged C. Raja Mohan in The Indian Express. India could become a great power in realist terms because “Obama’s Af-Pak and East Asian policies have opened extraordinary geopolitical opportunities for India.”
This lament of the weakness of India’s foreign policy establishment was also expressed in broader terms on the state of India’s democracy. Many analyses of the election pointed to lessons that India should learn from US politics, particularly the importance of leaders with an “inclusive vision of society” and the need to overcome political gridlock.
There has also been extensive analysis on the demographic changes in America, not only for their impact on the election outcome but also for how they could affect America’s standing in the world.
- The Times of India expressed worry that the alienation of Republican voters could deepen partisanship and accelerate America’s relative decline. On the other hand, its sister paper, The Economic Times, strongly welcomed Obama’s re-election as an endorsement of inclusive values and respect for diversity, “soft power that…influences values and politics in other countries.”
- Unbounded optimism was voiced in the editorial pages of The Hindustan Times, which characterized Obama’s re-election as a renewal of audacity and hope. “No world leader probably has as much goodwill behind him across the world than Mr. Obama. He can fulfill these great expectations by completing the task of restoring theUS to its original greatness.”
Korean newspapers congratulated Obama on his re-election, predicting continuity in the US-ROK relationship while expressing hope for cooperation and peace in US-China relations and on the Korean peninsula.
- The Joongang Daily predicted “continuity” in the US-ROK alliance as a result of Obama’s reelection. It attributed deepened ties between Seoul and Washington since 2008 to the signing of the US-ROK free trade agreement, cooperation onNorth Korea, and the “unlikely” friendship between President Obama and Korean President Lee Myung-bak. As the ROK gears up for its presidential elections in December, Chun Chae-sung, professor of international relations at Seoul National University, noted, “Future relations between Korea and the US depend on who takes office in Korea rather than the foreign policy direction of Obama’s second administration.”
- The Hankyoreh Shinmun, despite expressing cautious optimism for Obama’s victory, tasked Korean leaders with the responsibility to “offer independent and constructive solutions” on issues such as North Korea, rather than “just following along with US policies.”
In Japan, editorials unanimously called on Obama to demonstrate strong leadership on domestic and foreign issues in his second term.
- Officials expressed interest in deepening the US-Japan alliance to deal with “China’s ambitions to increase its dominance.” Pointing to increased tensions between Japan and China, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimara told reporters: “The security environment in East Asia is severe, so the importance of the Japan-US alliance has increased.”
- The Asahi Shimbun expressed hope for Obama to deliver on his rhetoric during his second term, noting the chord that Obama’s speech on a “world without nuclear weapons” struck with Japanese people. Others shared this sentiment, pointing to an array of issues that Obama must demonstrate leadership on, including the “fiscal cliff”, US political divisions, the American presence on Okinawa, and the Middle East peace process.
Contrary to earlier warnings that campaign rhetoric aimed at China would damage Sino-US relations (see RPI Policy Alert #37 and #38), post-election analyses in the Chinese media are expressing cautious optimism about future bilateral ties.
- Notwithstanding economic competition and strategic mistrust between China and the US, “it is hoped that the new Obama administration would set a more constructive tone in crafting its China policy,” said a commentary in The People’s Daily. A similar view was expressed in the Global Times: although frictions between the two countries are likely to increase, “Obama is more open to diversity than his predecessors [and] he is not likely to take a tough attitude toward China,”
- Zhang Jiadong of Fudan University was even more optimistic: “Sino-US relations will get better in the next four years. This is not only because of the reelection of Obama, but also because some conflicts of interest…have already been resolved.”