Reflecting on Pres. Obama’s Maiden Voyage to the East – November 23, 2009

Reflecting on Pres. Obama’s maiden voyage to the East Obama t-shirt at Shanghai bazaar. Photo: Flickr user Shazari Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University and is a contributing Worldfocus blogger. Obama’s first visit as president to China elicited considerable curiosity among the Chinese, but Obama could not expect the generally rapturous welcome he has received in Europe. The Chinese government saw to it that his visit was strictly controlled and choreographed. The student audience at the “town hall” meeting was made up of communist party members, who lobbed soft balls toward Obama. There was none of the raucousness or spontaneity one has come to expect in U.S. town hall meetings. Similarly, the official talks with a confident and assertive President Hu Jintao appeared to avoid contentious issues. Human rights, Taiwan and Tibet were soft-pedaled by Obama. To his questions on the adverse effects on US-China trade of the artificially pegged reminbi, the Chinese currency, Hu Jintao was evasive. Similarly, Obama got scant purchase out of him on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. China is a major importer of Iranian oil and a major trading partner. China is an emerging super power poised to surpass the United States in the next few decades. Current estimates suggest that China’s will equal the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2027 and in 2050 China’s GDP will be double that of the U.S. These astonishing figures — plus China’s foreign exchange reserves which stand at a staggering $2.27 trillion — indicate why China is enjoying the sunshine of success. The wind is certainly at its back. Meanwhile, the U.S. is indebted to China to the tune of almost $1 trillion, and rising. Worse still, the U.S. is borrowing largely from China and Japan at the rate of $2 billion per day. Perhaps our Wall Street trained economic managers think there will never be a reckoning for this dizzying profligacy initiated in the last 8 years. Granted, Obama is trying hard to stanch the hemorrhaging which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing to America’s resources, and the financial crisis of last year. Obama is trying to put the economy on an even keel. A key ingredient will be to head for the exits in these two countries sooner rather than prolonging the agony. Let’s hope and pray he succeeds. Meanwhile, a confident and assertive China has no need genuflect to the United States. If its march continues as predicted, the roles may be reversed. Let’s get our children motivated to learn Mandarin. That language is on track to replace English as the common language of diplomacy and commerce. We have to adjust to new realities. Reform or perish!


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