Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Listen to what Asia might have to say

By Tom Plate (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-12 09:14

If our future is not to be dulled by the dead weight of the past, then a clearheaded prioritization of the issues of the 21st century needs to be undertaken. This means keeping Asia - and thus China - at the top of the list in the global conversation. So US President Barack Obama's diplomatic trip to Asia this week is welcome indeed.

Listen to what Asia might have to say

President Obama has only two years of his eight-year presidency left but that's enough time for a more original, deeper contribution to the China-US history book than he has made so far. An eventual hot war between the two would not only be unaffordable but would be injurious to everyone. A better China policy by the US would be a kind of global affordable care act.

Up to now the much-hyped US "pivot" to Asia has been almost a self-deception, with Washington's mental energies glued to Syria far more than, for example, strategically situated Singapore. Thanks to the all-consuming domestic political pressures, rather than any lack of common sense, Washington is still ensnared in the miseries and poisons of the past. This has led to missed opportunities for carefully thought out China initiatives to be drawn up and implemented. Instead of continuing to be absorbed by the Middle East, Obama and his team over the next two years should spend more of their foreign-policy energy on Asia. There should be no reverse pivot back.

It is utterly foolish to assume that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang don't have much to offer; in fact they impress almost everyone as being very capable indeed. And it is absolutely stupid to believe that simply because they are of the Communist persuasion they shouldn't be consulted and listened to by the US president and his team as often as their attention can be engaged. Only the moral infant - or the intellectually insecure - is attentive only to those with whom basic agreement is foretold, or easy to achieve.

Our diplomacy needs to get out from underneath the intellectual sloth of its bureaucracies and mix it up more with people who can bring something new to the table. In fact, there are a number of Asian leaders, especially Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, Indonesia's Joko Widowo and the Philippines' Benigno Aquino, who can offer America different and invaluable perspectives. The world, as we all know, is now all but a universal global entity. We really all are in this together.

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