Trump’s Asia Policy and the Concept of the “Indo-Pacific”
It is frequently said that the fate of the twenty-first century will be determined in Asia. As President Obama declared in a 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, “With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.” With the world’s two most populous countries and currently three of the world’s ten largest economies, sitting at the intersection of global trade and commerce, events in the Asia-Pacific are unlikely to impact only the countries in the region. When combined with increasing military expenditures by regional powers, multiple nuclear-armed states, and historical disputes over territory, the region’s trajectory could result in a potentially lethal combination for global stability. These fundamental dynamics are why successive U.S. presidential administrations have made the Asia-Pacific a priority even as the United States has been engaged in seventeen years of counter-terror operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
While the administration of George W. Bush increased U.S. attention toward the region, a notable shift in U.S. strategy began under the stewardship of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Writing in Foreign Policy in 2011, Secretary Clinton noted that the United States needed to be “smart and systematic” about where to invest U.S. time and resources. She argued that “One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.”
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