Predictably, the candidates in last week’s final presidential debate found a way to discuss the shortcomings of American domestic policy in a discourse that should have been dedicated American foreign policy. In fact, according a Daily Beast report, topics seemingly irrelevant to US foreign policy, such as the auto bailout and Romney’s budget plan, drew the most attention on the internet. Though many Americans don’t seem to be interested in how other countries view us, we cannot afford leadership in Washington that does not understand the America’s role on the global stage. While the United States has focused it attention and resources on the Middle East over the past few decades, formerly third-world countries such as India and China have exploded to prominence. As a country, we cannot afford to continue impose our wills on countries that don’t want our assistance. Instead, we must adapt to a changing world with a more even distribution of power. For this reason, the short-sightedness that both candidates displayed in the discussion of China was particularly shocking. As Zhiqun Zhu, professor of East Asian Politics wrote in an opinion piece for CNN:
“U.S. politicians are used to speaking from a position of dominance. Both Obama and Romney claimed they would push China to ‘play by the rules.’ Such a condescending approach will not work with today’s more assertive and nationalistic China”.
Nor did it work with less assertive and nationalistic countries in the Middle East. If the U.S. is going to continue to play a central role in global politics, we will need to significantly reform our foreign policy strategies to be less imperialistic and dominating and more open and accepting.