Obama's legacy and its implications for China

Updated: 2016-01-30 08:17

By Zhang Zhixin(China Daily)

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In 2014, Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly laid out their national climate action plans for the coming years. Their announcement was widely seen as setting the stage for the new international climate agreement finalized in Paris and to be embodying their shared desire to constructing a new type of major-country relationship, which Obama and Xi agreed to promote when they met for an informal summit at Sunnylands, California, in 2013.

Obama has also made some notable foreign policy achievements. He brought to an end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the US' most-wanted man, Osama bin Laden, was tracked down and killed. Perhaps one of the most notable features of his administrations' foreign policy was that it adjusted and contracted the previous administration's expansive strategy, something he sought to encapsulate in his quip "don't do stupid stuff".

Other foreign policy achievements include the normalization of relations with Cuba and the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal.

With the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Obama's rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific strategy had a breakthrough in the economic area. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the US has expected to shift its strategic focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, as it presents both opportunities and challenges to the US. The TPP might not be ratified by Congress within this year, but it has set a high standard for international trade, and it will force China to accelerate its opening-up and reform, so as not to be marginalized in the new trade system.

At the same time, the US military deployment has increased across the Asia-Pacific, and miscalculation and misjudgment could occur between the US and Chinese navies that could lead to unexpected and undesirable consequences. That's why as he prepares to leave office, Obama should focus on avoiding misunderstandings and reconsider the rebalancing strategy he has implemented. Having agreed to build a new type of major-country relationship with China, establishing the foundations for this would be his most important foreign policy legacy.

The author is associate research professor at the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily 01/30/2016 page5)

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