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President Obama Goes to Asia
A paper cutout of U.S. President Barack Obama is displayed at a shop Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 in Shanghai, China. China signaled Thursday that it's ready to allow its currency to rise just days ahead of a visit by President Obama. (AP)

A paper cutout of U.S. President Barack Obama is displayed at a shop Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 in Shanghai, China. China signaled Thursday that it's ready to allow its currency to rise just days ahead of a visit by President Obama. (AP)

President Obama, on his way to a week in Asia today. A quick stop in Alaska, then Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, and Seoul, South Korea.

Every stop has its agenda. Bucking up old allies. Talking trade, military bases, America’s commitment in the Pacific.

And at the heart of it all, Washington’s dance with China. Our “vital partner and competitor,” as the president calls it.

Obama will be face to face with China’s top leaders. They build, we buy. They lend, we borrow. It’s a giant relationship at the heart of the world economy.

This hour, On Point: The president goes to Asia.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Washington, D.C., is James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic. He’s covered East Asia for more than two decades, and he just finished a three-year stint living in China. His latest book is “Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China.”

From Lincoln, Neb., we’re joined by Susan Shirk, professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She oversaw U.S.-China policy at the State Department from 1997 to 2000, and she founded the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, a forum that right now is sponsoring high-level talks between North Korea, the United States and others over Korean peninsula nuclear issues. Her latest book is “China: Fragile Superpower.”

And from Shanghai, China, we’re joined by Shen Dingli, professor and executive dean of Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies, in Shanghai. He’s director of Fudan University’s American Studies program. He’s also a fellow at the Asia Society. For a sense of how he sees China-U.S. competition in the coming decades, see his recent paper for the Centre for European Policy Studies.

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  • Nigel

    Maybe using the word “chink”, as in “chink in th armor” should be avoided when discussing topics in Asia?

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    The Chinese Government was never a threat to the world.
    Probably a threat Economically but militarily they have no ambition in making the world a bitter place to live.

    Chinese people are Business people if the Chinese invest more in Southeast Asia I think the Asian economy will be stronger.

    China should invest in Afgahanistan to built roads or infrastructures.

    Capitalist Communist is not bad at all.

  • CJ

    I am the only one that heard Susan Shirk say that “we have in chinc in our armor” in her opening remarks?

  • http://none Rebecca Ramirez

    Oh no she did’nt!!!

    Ashbrook introduces Professor Shirk– “She oversaw U.S.-China policy at the State Department from 1997 to 2000, and she founded the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, a forum that right now is sponsoring high-level talks between North Korea, the United States and others over Korean peninsula nuclear issues”– by asking her if China still sees US as the #1 world power. Shirk: “Well there are chinks in our armor…”

    Diplomatic sensitivity “R” US.

  • Todd

    Oh yes she did! Sadly, Ms. Shirk’s faux pas has been the highlight of the program thus far.

  • jonas

    Typical narrow discussion by this show; for instance a caller suggests that the discussion should include that China is undemocratic, uses slave labor and competes unfairly as a result.

    The only response is by neo-lib Fallows who says, somewhat off point, that the US has other “friends” in Asia. Shouldn’t a real conversation about whether the US should consider China to be a “vital partner and competitor” consider the US’s reationship with a country that uses slave and prison labor?

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    “we have in chinc in our armor”

    She should apologize….

    America should invest more in the Philippines.
    Their former Colony. Their Friend and Ally.

  • joe

    Re: Lola’s comment. We also need some blame to cheap products imported bec it takes 2 to get the products in: every exporter needs an importer. Our companies like to feed us cheap goods that are disguised as quality.

  • Dennis Kerr

    I remember as a child that all my toys and many other things were made in Japan. As a teenager, they had a pop song, “I think I’m turning Japanese” because everything around us seemed made in Japan.

    Japan and Korea are friends that has adopted our values of representative democracy regulating a free economy. But an extremely large portion of our trade has moved to China where people who work there are regulated by a single political power.

    On this show, Mr. Fallows says that our approach is “balanced”. What kind of balance is that? It is the largest trade imbalance… ever. Or ever will be possibly. That is not balance.

    Everyone in Asia can see that we are not following any ideals, much less their own Confucious ideal. They know we consumers are not loyal to our own workers, and not even loyal to our friends in Asia who share our values. That makes us lose respect.

    Mr. Dingli also responds with an idea of post-Confucius way of spending money. Not at all, reciprocating with spending in America is in harmony with the culture of Confucious correct teaching.

    Our military culture is trusted on the Confucius scale in East Asia because in our post-Vietnam era, we have worked well for the stability in the region. By protecting the greater good, as Confucious also teached, our military has gained respect for us and has been a trusted power broker.

    Our corporations have decimated that respect. Every American product name made in China is an example of American investors betraying their friends at home. While the powerful companies in China enjoy this, Chinese and American workers suffer from their betrayal. Nobody respects that.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    If one would look at trade with the world as a whole and the effects our trade has on the overall world economy, we not only might want to invest more in the Phillipines where poverty is desperate and where terrorist organizations thrive on that poverty, but we might also want to take perhaps one-tenth of what we invest in China and instead put it into Mexico where drug trafficking thrives on the lack of economic opportunity in our southern neighbor.

  • Constantine Quail

    Are you people insane? “Chink in our armor” has absolutely, positively, nothing to do with the slur “Chink.” The “Chink” referenced is in regards to a dent. You guys must do nothing but think about racism all do to think otherwise, which intern makes you racists! I’ll bet you idiots think “Jap” is anything other than a truncation of “Japanese” too. “Look at that Brit!” “Oh, you racist!” LOL, you guys are redonculious!

  • Cory

    I’ll agree with Constantine Quail. What is worse, the professor who uses an age old expression or the folks who divine some sort of racist intent where there is obviously none?

    As far as China goes, we should be careful not to blame them for our corporations selling out the American worker. I’m sure we’d take all their jobs if we could. We need to direct our rage at ourselves and our corporations.

  • Twitter this

    My job went to China decades ago. Only those with self esteem issues direct anger at themselves or their former employers. Life goes on. Give it a try.

  • Amber Kain

    Dear Tom,

    Please be sure to make Susan aware that her choice of the words “chink in (America’s) armor” did not go unnoticed by your listeners. Surely such a bright person as she did not use the word absent-mindedly.

    Good show. And my thanks to my fellow listeners.

  • Ben Vonk

    I was listening to the show on my way home from work tonight, and I nearly drove off the road when I heard her say that. It was hilarious!

    To those who argue that there’s no connection between her use of of the phrase “chinks in our armor” and the derogatory term for those of Chinese ancestry: of *course* she didn’t mean it that way! But the phrasing was too perfect not to lead us listeners to the bridge, even if it was completely accidental. If I remember correctly, she actually paired it with another phrase, something like this: “Most Asians still have a great deal of respect for the US, but there are some chinks in our armor… .”

  • Nicholas

    I could have sworn she said, “chinks in our armoire.” Let ‘em out, I say.

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