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Could 2011 be the Year of Asia?

With a changed landscape on Capitol Hill, and the opening of Part Two of President Obama's first term, changes are underway in Washington foreign policy circles. As he looks to engage Africa, his outreach to Asia during his first two years is beginning to pay off, especially with India. As always, China has its own designs on the region.



Partly due to unfolding situations in countries like Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire, and partly due to some built-up political momentum, President Obama will be devoting more energy this year to global and African issues. One deliverable is to show regional leaders that their future lies with Washington rather than an increasingly assertive Beijing. He will likely make a major visit to the continent in 2011.


Possibly reflecting Washington's new stance toward China and the rest of Asia, the Obama administration will be changing over key staff dealing with Asia policy. These developments were in the works before last month's sudden death of Afghanistan envoy Richard Holbrooke. The timing turns out to be good for retooling U.S. policy.


Since President Obama's 2010 visit to India, New Delhi seems more interested in cooperating with the United States, which includes shoring up financial pressure against Iran. India may be realizing it needs to choose between strategic and economic partnership with Iran and the chance of capitalizing on its new global stature (including the distant dream of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council).


Maybe for the first time in the 21st century, India is feeling the heat of China's regional ambitions. China has been siding with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, and is also exacting some costs against India's growing ties to the United States. With the other four Permanent UN Security Council members ("P-5") all encouraging India's interest in being part of the hypothetical Council enlargement, China's attitude is raining on this parade.


The good news is, China's presumptive next leader is boring. The bad news...? According to a document released through Wikileaks, Xi Jinping, slated to take over next year from Hu Jintao as President of China, is (shockingly) a staunch Communist Party loyalist with no tolerance for corruption. He also has family living in the West. Maybe it's just not news, after all.


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