News Analysis: As Rice visits Asia, a China subtext looms – Jane Perlez

From the International Herald Tribune (link):

But alongside what often seems like a one-note U.S. agenda of fighting terrorism, and Australia, the next stop on Rice’s journey, have another overriding interest. It can be summed up in one word: China.

For Indonesia and Australia, proximity to China is all. For them, China is not just a rising power as it is often described in Washington, but it has already arrived as the regional power in Southeast that can spread economic benefit.

Analysts say China is driving Asian economic integration through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which excludes Washington, and by 2010 the region’s trade with China is likely to outstrip trade with the United States.

To sweeten the economic bonds, China has not been too pushy in other areas, so far stepping politely in its strategic and diplomatic goals as it seeks the affections of surrounding countries, many of which have had longstanding relations with the United States.

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