This edited volume explores the political, economic and security legacies former
US President Barack Obama leaves across Asia and the Pacific, following two
terms in office between 2009 and 2017. The aim is to advance our understanding
of Obama’s style, influence and impact by interrogating the nature and contours
of US engagement throughout the region, and the footprint he leaves behind.
Moreover, it is to inform upon the endurance of, and prospects for, the legacies
Obama leaves in a region increasingly reimaged in Washington as the
Indo-Pacific. Contributors to the volume examine these questions in early 2019,
at around the halfway point of the 2017–2021 Presidency of Donald Trump, as his
administration opens a new and potentially divergent chapter of American
internationalism. The volume uniquely explores the contours and dimensions of US
relations and interactions with key Indo-Pacific states including China, India,
Japan, North Korea and Australia; multilateral institutions and organisations
such the East Asia Summit and ASEAN; and salient issue areas such as regional
security, politics and diplomacy, and the economy. It does so with contributions
from high-profile scholars and policy practitioners, including Michael
Mastanduno, Bruce Cumings, Maryanne Kelton, Robert Sutter and Sumit Ganguly. The
volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the international
relations of Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined; US foreign policy and global
engagement; the record and legacies of former President Barack Obama; and the
foreign policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.
Obama, Trump and the Asia Pacific political economy
transitions are neither simple nor straightforward, and in its first two years the Trump administration struggled to articulate and carry out a coherent grand strategy. Whether it can develop and implement an alternative to hegemony remains to be seen. But it has taken the initial steps to reframe the US strategic debate from its post-Cold War emphasis on means – how best to pursue hegemony – to ends – whether to pursue hegemony at all.
This chapter focuses on the transition from Presidents Obama to Trump with emphasis on the political economy of the AsiaPacific
consistently pursued a position of imperial hegemony throughout the AsiaPacific (rather than the wider Indo-Pacific, about which this volume in toto is concerned). The next section argues that, in this pursuit, the United States has sought to construct an American Pacific framed by the perceived civilisational values and physical authority of the American self. The formations of this American Pacific are traced from the earliest periods of US expansionism, showing how it has always been seen as an extension of US territory and identity. The chapter then turns to the 2009
The return of the United States to the Indo-Pacific is one of the most significant elements of former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy. He ordered a bold alteration of course, in the midst of an economic storm, to save the crumbling maritime empire against continental China’s advancing influence. As will be shown, this occurred as part of Obama’s efforts to rejuvenate the United States’ AsiaPacific presence, a strategy his successor Donald Trump built on throughout the relabelled Indo-Pacific. Even so, the United States has long
Washington’s painful search for a credible China policy
what Obama tried to achieve, and their worldviews could hardly be more different. As president, Obama had to cope with the ongoing, seemingly inescapable US–Chinese power shift. Across the first two years of the Trump administration, to early 2019, the relationship developed more in the direction of a global rivalry, with the potential to define both his and future presidencies.
Obama’s AsiaPacific vision: Engagement and Pivot
Cooperation amidst global challenges: Obama’s early ambitions
Less than a year after assuming office in January 2009, Obama made a
matter how minimal, would be better than
vague rhetoric about an ‘amorphous thing’ called a Gender
and Development (GAD) budget devoid of clear and attainable targets.
The NCRFW and global feminism
The GO–NGO partnership proved a winning combination
in three major undertakings during Ramos’ term: the United
Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing,
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) and
the Social Reform Agenda.
The NCRFW was at the forefront of three years of preparations of Philippine GO and NGO women for the global
women’s conference and
Introduction: Strengthening the alliance
Obama’s politics of liberal internationalism promoted the rule of law, free trade and democratic values throughout the AsiaPacific. At the same time, his pragmatic realism was designed to secure the United States’ position in the region. This approach extended to deepening ties with regional allies and fostering the growth and corporatisation of US cyber capability. On both counts, he found a willing ally in Australia. Obama’s specific legacy, then, was to consolidate US–Australia political and economic relations
make up the vast AsiaPacific region, from the western coasts of the United States and South America to the territories of East and Southeast Asia and Oceania, and then further west to include the Indian Ocean and its main constituent state actors such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was the more narrowly defined AsiaPacific which quickly became a key foreign policy priority for Obama as he set about trying to escape the imperial quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan to which so many US resources had been devoted during the post-9/11 era. Obama’s “Pivot” (or
-based international order, the Obama administration made the region and the regional grouping a vital part of its so-called “Rebalance” to the AsiaPacific and took measures to concretise this across countries and realms.
Yet as this chapter will show, by the end of his second term, Obama’s legacy in US–ASEAN relations in fact remained quite mixed. On the one hand, the administration achieved some notable success in increasing and institutionalising a higher level of attention to Southeast Asia, committing Washington to Asia’s multilateral diplomatic framework, and improving
the journey, Obama was the first American president to visit India twice while in office. 22 Obama attached so much importance to the visit to India that he even had to reschedule the annual State of the Union address. 23 A joint statement issued by both Obama and Modi the day before the Republic Day event stated, ‘A closer partnership with the United States and India is indispensable to promoting peace, prosperity and stability.’ Importantly, this statement mentioned not just the Indian Ocean region, but also the AsiaPacific, thus clearly elevating India beyond