America's 2016 Election Debate on Asia Policy and Asian Reactions


Robert Sutter and Satu P. Limaye


Washington, DC: East-West Center

Publication Date: 2016
Binding: paper
Pages: iv, 42
Free Download: PDF


The 2015-2016 presidential election campaign has had major effects on recent debates regarding U.S. Asia policy. Going into the campaign, the debates focused heavily on the efficacy of the Obama Administration's signature "Asia Rebalance" and as a corollary the perceived U.S. weaknesses in the face of growing challenges from China. As the campaign has progressed, the broad concern with the rebalance and China remains active but secondary. Two sets of issues now overshadow the earlier focus: international trade and the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) accord, and candidate Donald Trump's controversial proposals on allied burden-sharing, nuclear weapons proliferation and North Korea.

Bipartisan criticism of the TPP poses serious obstacles to U.S. government approval of the pact. Candidate Trump's controversial proposals on alliances, nuclear proliferation and North Korea were singular, provoking widespread opposition including from senior Republicans in Congress and other candidates and therefore unlikely to be easily implemented even if he were elected.

Uncertainty over U.S. approval of the TPP and surprise over Donald Trump's controversial proposals upset, to varying degrees, U.S. allies Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia, as well as Taiwan, India and other Asian partners. Commentators in Beijing welcomed circumstances that lowered China's profile in the U.S. election rhetoric; they saw clear advantages along with some possible disadvantages in recent uncertainty over the TPP and U.S. relations with Asian allies.


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