President Barack Obama embarks on a nine-day tour of Asia, a region that has raised its world stature by weathering the global economic downturn better than any other. In the run up to the trip, pundits have begun debating the U.S.'s role in Asia. While some say the U.S.'s importance to the region has been severely diminished in the last year, others believe the U.S. still have a hand to play as Asian nations continue to develop and seek guidance. Here's a breakdown of opinion on the subject:

  • The Humbled Giant "Obama is going to Asia with very little to offer and everything to ask," says Michael Hirsh of Newsweek. According to Hirsh, China's bankrolling of the United States leaves Obama in a weakened position to push the People's Republic for changes on human rights or climate change. At the same time, Hirsh says Obama should be prepared to deal with "I told you so" sentiment from his Asian peers. "America is still half underwater from the untrammeled and unregulated flow of capital it once unleashed upon others. Obama will not be dispensing economic advice on this trip."
  • No Achievement Necessary In an appearance on CBS's "Washington Unplugged," The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman said he expects Obama to depend on his oratory and a townhall appearance with Shanghai youth to bolster his popularity in Asia. However, when it comes to the U.S. dealing with a new Japanese government attempting to re-assert its authority in the region, a free trade agreement with South Korea, and global warming issues with China, Weisman expects little to no progress. "[The Asia tour] will be great theater, not sure its going to be great accomplishments."
  • More Important Than Ever "Mr. Obama must assure Asia that the U.S. remains a stabilizing force," says the editorial board of The Christian Science Monitor. A weakened dollar and the U.S.'s anemic appetite for imports has left a vacuum of power in Asia that China, Japan and India are all trying to fill. However, the editorial board firmly believes that "the more [these countries] battle for influence among themselves, the more the U.S. is needed."