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  1. #1
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    Dec 2009

    Default President Obama and Indonesia

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    Finally, US President Barack Obama will visit Indonesia — after twice cancelling his plans due to domestic political issues.

    As Endy Bayuni wrote earlier in The Jakarta Post, previous cancellations have dampened euphoria for the visit. However, this visit is even more important now for two reasons.

    The strategic dynamics of East Asia have changed with the rise of China, especially after the Chinese successfully weathered the 2008 financial crisis. The West, including the US, have not fared as well.

    The US will need a long time to overcome the depth of the crisis and its impact.

    The current rhetoric from the Chinese, which sounds more assertive and sometimes even aggressive, has puzzled the region.

    The Chinese might have a point to resist US pressures, such as to revaluate the yuan to reduce imbalances. They could do it with finesse and nuance.

    This is at least expected from a big power that is self-confident and knows what it wants. One can always cooperate to find solutions, especially if one is in a better and more powerful position.

    In the end, while China has elevated its stature globally, it is still limited in the economic realm. I assume Deng Xiaoping’s advice from some decades ago is still valid: Don’t have hubris, don’t be over-confident — and play your strengths with care.

    China is trying to do better in its rhetoric. We have to understand the domestic pressures its government must respond to and the emotions (on both sides) engendered by its problems with Japan on disputed islands.

    US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said in Hanoi that “the US is a resident power”. It was an important statement to re-convince the world that the US has always been an East-Asian power as well as an Asia-Pacific one. President Obama understands it. He also understands that given new global and regional strategic developments, the US can no longer go it alone to solve critical problems. It must depend on allies and friends.

    For Indonesia, a US presence in East Asia is important so Indonesia has the option to implementing a free and independent foreign policy. It is also important for other small and middle-sized countries to pursue their national interests in East Asia.

    The mid-term elections in the US show how difficult it is for the US to change, especially now that the country is really facing difficulties and limitations.
    ...being a human...



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