The Big Roundup: Obama's Asia Scorecard

This article is from the archive of our partner .

President Obama's Asia trip is over. The Wire already covered the highlights: Obama's controversial bow in Japan, division over the Shanghai town hall, and topics pundits wish had been on the table. Experts have also weighed in on the U.S.-Chinese economic relationship, and the shifting power dynamic seen in Obama's visit. But now it's time to get back to basics: how did Obama do on hitting the many goals outlined before his tour? Preliminary results are in, and a consensus is emerging. Broadly speaking, domestic sources aren't grading him too highly. Here's the breakdown:


  • Points for Listening While "Obama's domestic critics and some commentators" have already declared the trip a failure, Chris Buckley cautions that " U.S. summits with China and the rest of Asia have rarely brought instant rewards." He quotes an East Asian security affairs expert as saying that "Just by showing that he'll listen, Obama has won credit that will give the U.S. a boost (in the region)."
  • Chinese Admiration In a roundup of local opinion by the BBC, Shanghai reporter Judith Wang gives a largely positive review: "Obama's visit to China has been very prominent in foreign media because this is the important dialogue between the world's largest developed country and the world's largest developing country." Beijing doctor Fei Gao was also impressed: "Obama's speech was as passionate, intriguing and convincing as always. As a Chinese, I confess this is hard to find among Chinese politicians." She thinks "he has shown a good will and the visit is a good beginning for a better Sino-US relationship."
  • Some Love from the Locals  Obama got a glowing review from two Tokyo students interviewed by the BBC. "I believe that he is a man who translates his words into action," says Yoshihiro Kanemitsu of Obama. That said, he'd like to see more open debate between the U.S. and Japan. "I wanted to hear him speak more on the conflicts and the seeds of distrust between our countries," he says. "I believe the US and Japan should feel more free to openly criticise each other." Masahiro Mochii adds that Obama's popularity in Japan "certainly increased during his visit," and notes his own envy of Americans "for having him as a leader."
  • I Think He Might Possibly Avoid a Trade War?  Nouriel Roubini hedges his bets with noncommittal analysis, but seems cautiously optimistic. "By spending nine days abroad," he says, even with important domestic debates back ho me, "the president acknowledges the growing importance of the U.S. relationship with a rising Asia." What's important is to avoid a trade war.

Recommended Reading


  • Your Story Only Gets You So Far The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut suggets that Obama's "biography as diplomacy approach" may be "beginning to show its limits"; the president, she writes, is not returning with "any big breakthroughs" or even "any evidence that he has forged stronger personal ties with regional leaders," despite having put his "personal narrative on full display."
  • No Job Creation The editors of the Christian Science Monitor aren't impressed. "Creating jobs for Americans is President Obama's top priority," they declare, and this trip accomplished precious little on that front. Why didn't the president push harder for Chinese welcoming of "more American imports," they ask?
  • Progress, But I Still Dislike Obama Chinese student Liu Zhi tells the BBC that the visit was "constructive," and heralds a "change in the US policy towards China," which he thinks is "great." But his score for Obama wasn't so good: "what he said is just nice words, without much meaning. I don't think he is that popular in China, he is just another US leader. I think he is artificial, even worse than Bush."
  • Absolutely Dreadful Conservative Fred Barnes for the Weekly Standard is blunt: " Has a president ever been less successful on a trip overseas than President Obama has on his eight-day excursion to Asia?" One surprising takeaway from the Asia trip: Obama's media honeymoon, Barnes thinks, may be over.
  • Let's Face It: Not His Happiest Hours Analysis from the New York Times' Helene Cooper and Martin Fackler contains little praise, although the pair acknowledge that "Asia was always going to be a tough not for [Obama] to crack."
  • Nobel Hoopla: Korea Edition The Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcolm just has one question: How on earth did Obama manage to get a black belt in tae kwan do after "0 long years of study?" The belt was a present from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak "out of the Seoul sky," Malcolm grumbles. He's not impressed.


  • The Best Is Yet to Come Analysis from Time's Michael Scherer includes the criticism that, "throughout his trip, in fact, Obama was so focused on trumpeting shared interests that he often glossed over the more central disagreements." But Scherer also acknowledges aides' declarations that this trip was about "long-term potential for renewed dialogue ... In other words, this trip was merely Obama's opening bow. Now the real show must begin."
  • Fifty Percent, Tops Steve Clemons lists the trip's goals: (1) "convince Asians that the region is a U.S. priority at the presidential level," (2) "get into the race of multilateral trade that Australia, China and Japan are each spearheading in their own way," (3) "secure support for serious, binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, particularly for China," and (4) "strike a deal with China and other key Asian nations to structurally re-engineer their economies ... on the way to rebalancing the global economy." Goals 1 and 2 were met, but 3 and 4? "Big fizzle," writes Clemons. Reviewing the past year, he thinks the White House's "attentions," with regard to foreign policy, "are spread too thin."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.