Barack Obama’s Pacific: Good or Bad?

What will the election of Barack Obama mean for the Pacific?

That was the question I was asking myself as I watched him eloquently deliver his victory speech. It’s worthy to remember that the United States has voted for change – but not necessarily the rest of the world.

Now I don’t mean that in an abominable way. Personally, I prefer having Barack Obama as President of the US rather than John McCain and I think his election is wonderful – both for the US and for the world.

But what does Barack Obama really mean for the Pacific? The US has no legal obligation to “look” after the Pacific and for that matter the rest of the world. In fact some states even detest the US for interfering with their sovereignty – whether that interference is morally right or not.

However, the US does have an interest in “looking” after the rest of the world and particularly the Pacific – the least humanly populated ocean in the world but also the largest. The most important reason being for strategic purposes.

The old powers of the Pacific are slowly losing their post-Cold War influence. Australia under Howard took ten steps backward, New Zealand under Clark and her stance on the Fiji situation took 5 steps backward, and France? They haven’t really moved anywhere in a region they don’t belong to in the first place.

And what of Asia? Japan has continued it’s support in the most diplomatic of Japanese ways – being silent and respectful, yet somehow magically giving its invisible support a physical presence. I still don’t know how the Japanese do it.

Taiwan, in my opinion, has reached its threshold. It won’t progress further in the Pacific than with what support it currently enjoys – and even that is uncertain in the Pacific, which must make it not fun at all. Taiwan must feel rather like a boy anticipating to be caught stealing from the cookie jar, or a girl with a crush on a boy who deep down has no real commitment.

And China? Yes, China, China, China. Just say the name again: China.

China has quadrupled its aid to the Pacific. It throws aid away with no absolute connections. You can build an impressive stadium or a grand sports complex. You can spend it on lavish headquarters or beautiful secretariats. You can use it to increase your salary or use it to fly to China for all China cares. They seem to run on a simple foreign Pacific policy: How do you make the people happy? You give them what they want.

Barack Obama has told Americans that China should not be viewed as an enemy nor a friend – but as a competitor in the world today.

So China is a competitor, and as a competitor, China is winning the war in the Pacific.

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~ by Tavurvur on November 11, 2008.

4 Responses to “Barack Obama’s Pacific: Good or Bad?”

  1. I get the feeling that their financial woes will force then to look more in house so I don’t see them becoming too involved with the South Pacific for that matter. I think Australia has that mandate.

    On the other hand US Ambassador to PNG, Leslie Rowe did mention that the involvement may begin to take the form of more humanitarian aid like their recent Medical Navy trip.

    Ultimately we don’t really need to see them here just as long as our policies in regards to fair trade and emissions reduction are acknowledged by them.

  2. Great commentary…

    I think Barack Obama understands the Pacific and the Third World better than the other US presidents in history. Mostly bcos of his diverse background as being born in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia.

    Barack Obama has pledged to look into the climate change issues as one of his top priorities and that is an issue that significantly affects the Pacific Island countries particularly the small island states…

    Although Obama’s focus would undoubtedly be on the world’s hot spots such as Pakistan and Iran, his government’s change in foreign policy in addressing issues that really matter will be a sigh of relief to all countries particularly at a juncture where the world needs the leadership of the US on issues such as climate change…

  3. Ah, you just about hit the spot Solo. This is where I envisage China stepping into the front ranks of the Pacific – in the role of leadership (in some areas).

    Obama has pledged to seriously look into climate change at a global level. If China was really smart, they would start stacking their chips on issues in the Pacific that are of serious concern to the global village.

    Why doesn’t China take a lead in climate change in the Pacific? Yes, they are one of the worst CO2 producers but that shouldn’t stop them offering significant solutions to small island states.

    The Pacific is nobody’s “backyard” although Australia would have you think otherwise. Nobody gave them the mandate and honestly, what has Australia done with that self-appointed mandate in regard to climate change in the Pacific?

    Note to China: the ball’s in your court.

  4. China is awake. I don’t it’s even worth debating China’s growing influence in the Pacific, it’s more of a question of how much influence…and who is China stealing allegiance from?

    Rephrase: What countries are leaving the traditional Pacific powers for China?

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