Weekly Insights and Analysis

America’s Evolving Role in a Changing Asia

January 28, 2009

By Harry Harding

Earlier this month, I visited three capitals in Southeast Asia – Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Hanoi – to present the latest in a series of reports on America’s Role in Asia, produced each U.S. presidential election year by The Asia Foundation.

The report was not easy to summarize. It contains chapters on no fewer than eight countries and sub-regions (Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan), plus seven additional chapters on key functional issues (trade, security, alliances, the environment, energy, terrorism, and regional architecture). All the chapters incorporate individual insights on trends in the region, as well as numerous detailed recommendations on policy. The report also reflects a few differences of opinion, both among the Asian participants and between the American and Asian contributors, especially with regard to questions involving regional architecture.

But the main purposes of the project – to identify the key trends in the region, and to make policy recommendations to the incoming U.S. administration – provided a structure for my summary. Within that broad framework, I found that there was a remarkable degree of consensus on six major trends, and on ten broad policy recommendations. That consensus is presented below, although I have also indicated a few places where the contributors had different views, and where I have somewhat contrasting opinions of my own.

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Above is an excerpt from Professor Harry Harding’s blog, Thinking About Asia. Harry Harding is University Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and Vice Chairman of the Board of The Asia Foundation. He is currently teaching in Hong Kong and Sydney.


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In Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia\’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

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