State of the Union -- and the World

“President Obama is absolutely right to make American competitiveness the primary focus of his State of the Union address. It is about time. Until America begins to get its act together and address its growing debt burden, failing schools, out-of-control health care and entitlement expenditures, self-destructive policies on skilled immigration, and regressive energy policies, the country’s global leadership will continue to decline in relative terms. This is not just an American problem, but a challenge for the world,” says Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl. “With a rising China questioning America’s global leadership and undermining -- sometimes by design and other times by default -- the U.S.-led global system that has guaranteed peace, security, and stability across the globe for more than half a century, the world needs a strong America, at least until a viable alternative to American leadership can be found. At present, none has even remotely presented itself.”

Jamie, who previously worked at the U.S. State Department and National Security Council, is based in New York. He was coordinator of Asia Society’s recent task force report on global rebalancing.

What China will be listening for in the address:

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech following his party’s setbacks in the midterm elections, “he has to adjust his policy by moderating his reform agenda and tackling the employment issue seriously -- which could consequently impact China,” says Asia Society Associate Fellow Shen Dingli. “Decision makers in Beijing might be interested in seeing how President Obama would propose policies to rebalance the U.S. financial system and world economy, as these would affect China’s own employment. In particular, a potential U.S. move for further ‘quantitative easing’ could stir up inflation in China. However, China might be more or less assured already through President Hu’s state visit last week to America, and will try its best to reinforce its economic partnership with Washington based on mutual respect and benefit.”

Shen Dingli is based in Shanghai, where he is Director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University.

To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or