Asian dominoes in the Age of Obama

Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. “pivoted” to Asia. Unfortunately, Asia seems now to be pivoting away from the U.S.

As noted here, the Philippines, under its president Rodrigo Duterte, has turned away from America and towards to China. Duterte explained:

America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow. And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.

Malaysia seems to agree. Calling himself “a true friend of China, its prime minister Najib Razak arrived in China yesterday promising significantly closer defense ties with the Asian giant. Indeed, he is set to sign a major naval with China, said to be the first significant military agreement between the two countries.

Duterte may be overstating things when he says “American has lost,” but there’s no doubt that, under Obama, America is losing. From the Middle East to the South China Sea, the Malaysian leader sees the same weakness Duterte perceives.

Other Asian nations perceive it too. Vietnam, unwilling until recently to tilt towards China, is seeking new ties with its old enemy. The Vietnamese prime minister visited China in September. And Thailand’s military government is buying submarines from China.

Invoking a phrase of the Vietnam War era, one analyst says, “it’s almost back to dominoes” in Asia.

Bummer. It turns out that the world still respects strength and despises weakness. How 19th century of the world!

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