Why China Holds Upper Hand Over US in Asia for 2014

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/18/2014 03:13:00 PM
Or so the Nikkei Asian Review believes. And the reasons for China reasserting its sphere of influence in the region are straightforward. On China's part, it has the bully pulpit in 2014 as the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). So, member economies' ministers--maybe even the Philippine president the PRC has put in its doghouse--will be trooping to the Middle Kingdom over the course of the year:
Holding the rotating chair of the APEC forum this year, China will host a series of APEC meetings, including those of ministers in charge of trade, energy and finance, in various parts of the country starting in May. The series of APEC events will culminate in a summit of leaders in a Beijing suburb in early autumn, which will be chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The APEC meetings will cover issues in a wide range of areas, including trade and investment rules and environmental and energy cooperation. By presiding over them, China will try to demonstrate its growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region. "The Xi administration sees the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, which the Obama administration is actively promoting, as part of Washington's efforts to leave China out and cement the U.S-led international order in Asia," said one source close to U.S.-China relations.

This fear will probably prompt China to try to take advantage of its role as APEC chair this year to regain some of the lost ground in the competition with the U.S. for influence in the region.
OTOH, the United States foreign diplomatic machinery will be stuck in its usual holding pattern due to the midterm elections, set to be held just as APEC gatherings reach their summit:
The odds seem to be against the Obama administration, at least this year. The energy the Obama administration can devote to promoting its Asia policy will be fairly limited as it will have to concentrate on campaigning for the Nov. 4 midterm Congressional elections in early autumn, when the APEC summit will be held.

The quadrennial Congressional elections will be very important for Obama's Democratic Party, which has a majority of seats in the Senate, but not in the House of Representatives. If the Democrats fail to end the divided Congress by wresting control of the House from the Republican Party in November, the Obama administration could lose some steam, with two years left before his term expires.
If Obama becomes an even lamer duck due to electoral setbacks for his party, then he will have even less leeway on the foreign policy front to make a major push towards Asia.