Thanks to some bold rhetoric and high-profile visits over the past years, Barack Obama’s Asia policy has by and large been seen as a bright spot in his foreign policy. Compared to the disastrous failure to anticipate or contain the Islamic State, the flatfooted response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his Hamlet-like indecision over whether or not to intervene in the Syrian civil war, and his Pollyanna-ish belief that negotiations will really prevent Iran’s mullahs from building nuclear weapons, Obama’s Asia policy has appeared both relatively constant, if not proactive. Obama initially got kudos from the Washington policy community for announcing his so-called “pivot” to Asia, and his Department of Defense has pushed ahead on plans to increase the number of ships and planes in the region. The president visited Asia on high-profile trips to major regional gatherings, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement finally looks like it may actually be completed. By contrast with the rest of his foreign policy, Asia didn’t look too bad.

There always was doubt among the more skeptical, even if many of us welcomed a deeper focus on Asia. But if some recent articles are anything to go by, the bloom is off the rose for Obama’s Asia policy, and its underlying weaknesses are now becoming painfully apparent. I’ll leave aside the question of whether the “pivot” (or “rebalance,” as the administration likes to call it) was ever much more than a large dollop of rhetoric, with little substance behind it. I’ll also pass on discussing whether Obama’s overall weak foreign policy has possibly contributed to the resurgence of Chinese assertiveness, if not coerciveness. Instead, there are two specific issues that point out the stumbling of Obama’s Asia policy.

Among the greater accomplishments claimed by Obama’s administration is the “Burmese Spring” that resulted in the loosening of authoritarian military rule by Burma’s junta and the 2010 release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The U.S. lifted long-standing sanctions against the Burmese regime in 2012, and eagerly trumpeted the country’s slow move towards democracy. On Sunday, The Washington Post put paid to the idea of Obama’s Burmese success. Criticizing the White House policy as “failed engagement,” the Post headlined what many Asia-watchers already knew: that the administration was ignoring continued and blatant human rights violations, the strengthening religious discrimination, the imprisonment of journalists, and the preventing of Suu Kyi from being able legally to run for president in this year’s elections. All this has been ignored while the administration has given the Burmese junta hundreds of million of dollars in aid. The point is that, like the Russian “reset” or negotiations with Iran, Obama appears satisfied with the public relations spin that ignores reality until stubborn facts intervene. In this case, it means that the message is sent that a fake liberalization can reap enormous benefits from the credulous Americans.

The second piece of evidence on the missteps of Obama’s Asia policy is the little-known issue of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This is arguably a far more serious failure to understand and react to a major foreign initiative than the Burmese example. In 2014, the Chinese government proposed a $50 billion lending institution for the region. The AIIB is inescapably an alternative to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, both of which are guided by Western financial principles and ensure the influence of Washington or allied nations, like Japan. As the biggest shareholder, founder, and guiding spirit, China most likely will dominate the AIIB, and thereby increase its economic and political influence even more in Asia.

The founding of the AIIB might not have been such a big deal, but for the Obama administration’s ham-fisted response. In trying to pressure nations not to sign on as shareholders, Obama has revealed just how little global influence he has. Not only have most Asian nations signed on, but America’s main allies, including Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy have joined, as well, ignoring U.S. pleas to stay out. The Financial Times charitably called Washington’s abandonment by its allies a “blow” to US foreign policy. But with the news that stalwart U.S. ally Australia has also joined, veteran and respected Australian commentator Greg Sheridan scathingly destroys the fiction of American standing in Asia, writing that Canberra’s decision represents a “colossal defeat” for Obama (the article is behind a pay wall, but excerpts are here).

Why has Washington fallen on hard times in Asia? In Sheridan’s view, Obama is reaping the results of years of “incompetent, distracted” diplomacy that has left his administration with “neither the continuous presence, nor the tactical wherewithal, nor the store of goodwill or personal relationships” to carry anyone along with it. As if to underscore Sheridan’s analysis of Obama’s diplomatic crudeness, which includes a reminder that Obama personally insulted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with a “rogue” climate change speech at the G-20 in Brisbane last year, Washington accused London, its closest global ally, of “constant accommodation” of China, after its decision to join the AIIB. Such is the petulant, panicked response of an administration that has failed to understand, anticipate, analyze, and respond to changes that will reshape Asia’s financial landscape.

Now with South Korea considering joining the AIIB, Washington will be left isolated only with its ally Japan as new regional financial relationships are created. Ultimately, either Obama or his successor will likely bow to reality, and find a face-saving way to join the AIIB. Yet it will be clear to everyone in Asia, as well as Europe, that the United States was outplayed by China and forced into an impotent, reactive role.

The changes roiling through Asia may seem less dramatic than those occurring in Europe or the Middle East. Yet they are just as transformative, and their effects will unfold for years. Whether Washington wakes up to its diminishing role in Asia, and acts materially to reverse the decline, will be but one test of its ability to maintain its global role in the coming decades.

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