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CIO/CTO Update: Article

Uncle Sam Still Matters in Asia and the World

The G20 and ASEAN Summits Illustrate the Continuing Role of the US

I've been promising myself to write about the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, for which I had a press credential, but which has now been in the rear-view mirror for a month.

My idea had been to talk about Indonesia and its plans to press the case for Southeast Asia, now that this country of more than 200 million people had a seat at the adult's table.

But then the real adults took over, as the US and China became the centerpiece of the event. President Obama attended, and met with Hu Jintao. Mega-concerns over North Korea, the strength of the dollar, and the overall relationship between the two countries.

But, in the end, the G20 emerged as a replacement for the G8 as the primary forum for economic talks among nations. So the Indonesians were able to get what they wanted.

Now, as we near the end of October, Southeast Asia is again pushing its agenda, at an ASEAN meeting in Thailand. This meeting had been postponed a couple of times because of political unrest there--in essence, there are two points of view among the populace that appear irreconcilable at the moment--but is now going on at a beach resort.

ASEAN is a venerable institution, but one that does not have the truly big players as members. So, these players were invited--China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

Clearly, the leaders of the 600 million people of Southeast Asia are anxious to flex their economic muscles on the world stage. There is talk of an "EU-like" partnership here. To that end, Japan and Australia made competing presentations about how to accomplish this.

To me, the fascinating aspect is that both of these plans include the US as either a "key" or a "cornerstone." On a sidenote, ASEAN is working to create a workable human rights commission, but its members are being criticized for its weak stand against fellow member Myanmar (Burma). The excuse being thrown about is that because the US has recently re-engaged the Burmese government, after many years of hostility, "the pressure is off" of ASEAN to take a strong stand.

So, let's review:
* the most important member of an expanded global economic initiative remains the United States. No real surprise there, given that the US still has, by far, the world's largest national economy.

* Southeast Asia, with input from the major Asian powers, sees a key role for the US in any future plans.

* Southeast Asia is taken a hands-off approach to a sticky human-rights issue, leaving the real work to the US.

So, after decades of economic decline, withering criticism from all corners of the world, initial weakness in assuming the role of "the world's only superpower," and a recently completed eight years of unilateral policy that alienated much of the world, the United States remains the country in which much of the world continues to place its hope. Not the UK, not France, not Japan, not China, and certainly not Russia.

Also, recent weakness in the dollar is causing enormous problems in many Asian countries, because the influx of those dollars into so many economies here is what keeps them alive and well.

Isn't it nice to feel wanted?

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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