Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 00:22 | SYDNEY
Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 00:22 | SYDNEY

Clinton in Asia: Building on Bush strong foundation


Andrew Shearer

17 February 2009 13:25

Recently released results of polling by the authoritative Chicago Council on Global Affairs underline a couple of points I have made elsewhere: 1. despite the indiscriminate barrage of negative commentary that accompanied almost every aspect of his presidency, George Bush ran a very good Asia policy and left the US in a strong position in the region; and 2. China’s soft power is often wildly exaggerated.

Here are some of the Chicago poll’s key findings:

  • The US ranks first in terms of overall soft power in China, Japan and South Korea, and second (next to Japan) in Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • All countries rank the US above China in soft power.
  • The US leads China in the political, diplomatic, human capital and economic categories of soft power; China led the US only in cultural soft power.
  • Majorities or pluralities in all Asian countries surveyed believe US influence in Asia has increased over the past 10 years.
  • Overall, China fairs much worse than expected in soft power, with strong majorities in Japan (74%), South Korea (74%) and the US (70%) and a plurality in Indonesia (47%) believing China could become a military threat to their country (echoing concerns the 2008 Lowy Institute poll detected in Australia about the potential downsides of China’s rise).

Hillary Clinton can thank her predecessors for leaving her a strong foundation on which to build during her first visit to Asia as Secretary of State this week. The fact she is going to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China so early in the piece is a good start (and doubtless reflects Kurt Campbell’s positive influence). Of course it’s what she does and says while she is there that will really count.