Barack Obama is famous for becoming the first African-American president of the United States. Obama is the 44th president of the United States, and his presidency is recognized for health care reform and economic stimulus legislation.
Barack Obama begins his 11th and final presidential trip to the Asia-Pacific in earnest on Friday, visiting China to nurture what has become arguably the world’s most important relationship and cementing an eight-year “pivot to Asia.”
After a series of US stops outside Washington, the outgoing US president jets in to the picturesque Chinese city of Hangzhou where he will take part in his final G20 meeting.
On the second leg of the trip he will become the first US president to visit Laos, site of a vast, secret US bombing campaign during the Vietnam War and, today, a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.
Amid the week-long glut of summits, the White House sees an opportunity to burnish Obama’s legacy as America’s self-proclaimed “Pacific president.”
Xi’s rise to power has been a defining element of US-China relations during Obama’s eight- year tenure.
In Xi, the White House sees a Chinese interlocutor as powerful as any since Deng Xiaoping, who ruled China from 1978 to 1989 — quick to quell dissent at home, assertive in the region and keen to project Chinese power around the world.
“Xi is a different kind of actor, he has more leeway than past Chinese leaders,” said Jeffrey Bader, who was Obama’s top Asia advisor during his first years in the White House.
That has provided opportunities as well as areas of conflict associated with China’s growing assertiveness, not least in the South China Sea where the country has claimed a swath of territory.
The White House has tried to harness Xi’s autonomy and decisiveness to avoid unproductive meetings filled with pleasantries, interminable translations and rote disputes over Tibet or Taiwan.
“Obama has understood that we can expand cooperation and manage differences,” said one Chinese official, adding, “We are neither friends nor enemies.”
“It acts as an important clearing house for the issues. That is particularly important in China, where any major decisions relating to the US-China relationship have to be made by President Xi.”