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Joe Biden is in Asia this week on a trip designed to improve relations with China, an emerging superpower and rival of the United States, but also to reassure U. On this trip, however, the vice president will find that the wind is in face, rather than at his back. There is a growing perception in Asia that the Obama administration's much-ballyhooed "pivot to Asia" has run out of puff.
The "pivot" — or to use the administration's preferred term, the "rebalance" — was the most important foreign-policy initiative of President Obama's first term. It makes powerful strategic sense for the United States to rebalance its foreign policy toward Asia, where so many of its future opportunities and challenges lie.
Wealth and power are shifting eastward. China's economy is expected to be the world's biggest within the next five years; it is already the world's largest source of economic growth, the largest exporter of goods and the second-largest importer of goods. It holds more U. Treasury securities than any other country. The Asian region is also the home of established economic powers such as Japan, still the world's third largest economy, as well as emerging economic powerhouses such as India and Indonesia.
If the economic outlook in Asia is positive, the security outlook is increasingly unpredictable. In the past week, Beijing's unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone over disputed territory in the East China Sea has caused widespread disquiet and ratcheted up tensions between China, Japan and South Korea.
All these challenges make the pivot urgent. If Washington cannot reassure its Asian allies that sequestration and defense cuts will not reduce the U. Equally, China may conclude that America lacks resolve. Washington must walk a fine line, reassuring allies without emboldening them and projecting strength to China without belligerence.