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Challenge of a Changing Asia

Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum
September 6, 2010
Business Standard

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It's been a rough six months in East Asia, as tensions ratchet up in Korea, navies drill, and governments, from China to Vietnam, trade barbs, claims and counterclaims to the South China Sea.

But even as anxieties grow, it is economics, not security, that still defines the essential strategic reality of Asia today: China is fast becoming the central player in a new economic regionalism. And as economic integration tightens, the US and India risk being left out.

For its part, the US has endured decades of loose talk about American "decline" in Asia. But in the months since North Korea torpedoed a South Korean naval corvette in March, America's security role has been strongly reinforced.

Yet, ironically, that's part of the problem: Even as America's security role remains the backbone of strategic stability, the economic pillars of US credibility are eroding across Asia.

In the postwar period, US leadership in Asia depended not just on alliances, bases and carrier battle groups. It flowed, too, from a sustained commitment to three economic pillars: market openness, faith in America's own competitiveness and strong US leadership on international trade agreements and regimes.

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