Moreover, other factors could interfere. They include the Syrian civil war, in which Iran is supporting the Assad regime and the Obama administration is providing cautious backing to the rebels.
Despite the sharp words for China and its economic policies during the campaign, the Obama administration’s approach toward Beijing likely will continue the same delicate back and forth as in years prior. The official tapped to take over as both China’s president and general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, is not expected to radically alter Beijing’s position.
The two nations share both a significant trade relationship – $539 billion in goods and services last year alone – and a wide range of geopolitical disagreements. Close to home, Beijing has accused Washington of interfering in the region during simmering territorial disputes with its neighbors over the South China Sea. The United States is pushing for multilateral negotiations between China and those with rival claims, while Chinese officials would rather deal on a bilateral basis with its weaker neighbors.
China has sharp disagreement, too, with Japan about a group of islands in the East China Sea, another situation that Beijing has told Washington to stay out of.
With greater Chinese clout in the region, U.S. ties with allies in the area like Japan, South Korea and the Philippines have grown closer – sparking accusations from China that America is pursuing a policy of containment. The Obama administration’s much discussed policy of a “pivot” toward Asia has only enhanced those concerns.
Compared with the dimensions of potential problems in the Middle East, Europe’s continuing economic crisis, the result of structural flaws in setting up the euro currency zone coupled with the world banking and credit crises, seems like an issue that’s within the realm of resolution.
Almost in spite of themselves, and certainly in spite of domestic public opinion, German and other West European leaders now have a clear sense of what’s working and what’s not in resolving the still growing economic crises in Mediterranean euro countries, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, and what institutional reforms are needed to restore the continent to economic growth.
But the crisis will continue for at least the next several years.
Contributing to this report were Roy Gutman in Doha, Qatar, Tom Lasseter in Beijing, and special correspondents Alan Boswell in Nairobi, Kenya, and Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem.