Courtesy Reuters

Keeping Up With Asia

America and the New Balance of Power

When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, many Asians favor Republicans over Democrats. This preference is not without grounds. Some Asian countries, Japan not least among them, cannot help but feel uneasy, threatened even, by the largely inscrutable and defiantly communist regimes that govern China, North Korea, and Vietnam. For them, the U.S.-based post-World War II alliance system, which still dominates East Asia, has been a vital stabilizing force, and they find comfort in a U.S. government that stands tough on security and firm in its anticommunist credentials -- qualities often associated with the Republican Party. The Chinese leadership leans in the same direction, although for different reasons: it sees the Republican Party as the party of free trade and the Democratic Party as protectionist; it also believes that a Republican administration in Washington would be less likely to dwell on human rights issues or meddle in sensitive areas such as Tibet. For many of the governments in Asia, a Republican United States is simply more predictable and thus easier to deal with.

Despite misgivings about the Bush administration, Asia's leaders generally regard its record more positively than do their counterparts in other regions. The next U.S. president stands to inherit the goodwill created by some of George W. Bush's accomplishments in Asia, not least the stabilization of the region through the strengthening of U.S.-Japanese security cooperation, which has hinged partly on Bush's remarkably chummy relationship with former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and in the course of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the alliance has been raised to an almost unprecedented level, due in no small part to Japan's show of support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

U.S. relations with China, too, have improved considerably under Bush. Things did not start out well: during the presidential campaign of 2000, Bush called China a "strategic competitor" in the Asia-Pacific region. But partly

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