China took center stage at the APEC summit in Indonesia yesterday, adopting a leadership role on the strength of its new-found economic might as the US struggles to overcome its budget paralysis.
The US federal shutdown stopped US President Barack Obama from attending the two-day summit on Bali and an East Asian leaders meeting this week in Brunei.
US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed Obama’s determination to remain engaged with the Pacific Rim region, but his absence left the arena clear for the leader of China to trumpet its mounting heft as the world’s second-largest economy.
“China will firmly uphold regional peace and stability and help cement a foundation for a win-win situation in the Asia-Pacific,” Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) told an APEC business forum, as he emphasized that China was the biggest trading partner and export market for many nations in the region.
Prior to a gala dinner, Xi also sought in his speech to adopt a healing and united tone.
“China cannot develop in isolation of the Asia-Pacific and the Asia-Pacific cannot prosper without China,” he said, saying that his country’s recent economic slowdown was the intended result of policies designed to put growth on a more sustainable path.
While sympathetic to Obama’s plight, the leaders of US allies in APEC expressed disappointment that he did not throw his weight personally behind the US’ “pivot” to Asia or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.