I didn't get to enjoy a full-fledged media fast during the three weeks I was away, as I managed to do last summer. But I did limit myself to urgent e-mails, the occasional online news item, and some print magazine reading. And I consider that kind of break from the information onslaught a vital exercise for the way it allows you to focus back in on the big stories that are sometimes obscured by the radio static of day-to-day international news and debate. Not that the latter is unimportant, just that the former is essential.
The first thing that struck me as I waded back in was this East Asia Forum piece on the great rebalancing in Southeast Asia. And the upshot echoes with yesterday's WPR briefing by Fabio Scarpello about the U.S.-China-Indonesia "three-way dance": After a decade of China making enormous advances in terms of its regional influence, the U.S. is regaining some of the ground it lost, and even once again taking a bit of a lead. The explanation is obvious enough, and has to do with lingering regional anxieties about China's sheer size, as well as recent Chinese overreach. Thomas P.M. Barnett hit upon it before I left, too, with his WPR column titled, "Putting the Brakes on China until Beijing Can."
The U.S.-China rebalancing in Asia is clearly the most significant ongoing development in global geopolitics. And it looks as if structurally, we happen to be in pretty good shape moving forward. Credit the Bush administration with establishing a sound policy framework to work from, and the Obama administration for both approaching China pragmatically and paying closer attention to the concerns of our regional friends and allies. Credit also goes to Beijing, for its hamhanded approach to the South China Sea, the Cheonan sinking and a variety of other global issues.