Looking Ahead: The Asia-Pacific Region in 2012

To start of the new year, I’ll be highlighting several countries whose actions will likely play a key role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. This first post examines the future of the Asia-Pacific region and the challenges 2012 may pose.

As newly emerging powers such as China and India gain prominence, events in the Asia-Pacific region will play an increasingly pivotal role in determining the global balance of power in the decades to come. The Obama administration has grasped this new reality and refocused U.S. policy on the Asia-Pacific region. As the year progresses, several major powers in the region will face crucial choices.

a. China-The preeminent emerging power in the region will need to effectively manage ongoing trade disputes with the United States. While currency disagreements remain a source of contention, the two nations’ economies remain closely tied together and any deterioration in relations could spell disaster for both parties involved. In addition, China must exercise its increasing regional hegemony without antagonizing neighbors or the United States. 

b. India-The world’s largest democracy has long been heralded as a potential democratic counterweight to China and a stable U.S. ally.  In years to come, India, should it tame public-sector corruption, may seek an enhanced global role through military cooperation with the U.S. and enhanced economic links with China and Russia.

c. Japan, South Korea, and Australia-These traditional allies of the United States will likely resort to multilateral security arrangements in addition to their traditional bilateral alliances with the United States to prevent North Korean proliferation and enhance regional trade. Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and Myanmar to join in such alliances.

While 2012 will certainly have its fair share of surprises in store, events in the Asia-Pacific region will nevertheless help shape the course of world affairs.

-Rahul Subramanian

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