Barack Obama’s Pacific: Good or Bad?
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.