“Chinese President Xi Jinping has become the brightest political star on the Asian diplomatic platform. In contrast, America has lost an important chance to perform,” the Hong Kong-based Communist Party newspaper Ta Kung Pao said in an editorial. “The influence of the U.S. is questioned more and more.”
The government in Beijing has long been uneasy about Obama’s strategic goal of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, which many here saw as an attempt to contain China. Wen Wei Po, another Party newspaper paper based in Hong Kong, said the impasse in Washington proves that the United States no longer has the clout to back up its Asian strategy.
“Bipartisan games in the U.S. have let the world see the worst of U.S. democracy,” wrote senior commentator Huang Haizhen. “It is clear to other Asia-Pacific countries that America’s return [to Asia] strategy has become powerless.”
In an editorial, Wen Wei Po said the U.S. “pivot” to Asia had undermined peace and stability in the region by encouraging Asian countries to see China as a threat and as the instigator in regional territorial disputes.
Now, the editorial said, more and more countries are “no longer being used by the U.S. but are improving relations with China rationally.”
State-controlled media in Beijing also criticized U.S. attempts to negotiate a transpacific free trade deal without China’s participation. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, involves 12 countries: the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Beijing had expressed interest in joining the Pacific trade talks during recent high-level meetings in Washington. Jin Canrong, a professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, said Washington “shunned” the offer, adding, “So, of course, China is not so happy about it.”
On Monday, Xi said that APEC should play “a leading and coordinating role” in regional free-trade integration and warned that any arrangements should be cooperative and not confrontational, leading to “an open mind-set, not a closed one.”
“The intention of the Obama Administration [regarding the TPP] and Beijing’s coping tactics have become one of the biggest uncertainties in the regional trade system in the future,” warned the nationalist newspaper the Global Times.
Asia-watchers in Washington had predicted that Obama’s absence would undermine the trade talks, even though Secretary of State John F. Kerry stood in for the president. Some observers also noted that negotiations could be affected if Obama is perceived as unable to push any agreement through an uncooperative Congress.