Obama's legacy abroad looms over Biden

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden embraced his former boss’s legacy. But the Obama years loom particularly large across the Pacific region—and the retrospection is not all rosy. While many foreign partners will welcome a return to a semblance of normalcy after four years of Trump’s chaotic “America First” doctrine, there is also a wariness in parts of Asia over a possible reversion to Obama-era policies and players under Biden, particularly when it comes to confronting China’s growing power.

Obama, Kausikan told me, excelled at diplomacy, but was “uncomfortable with exercising power,” and, as a result, Biden “will be deeply scrutinized for any sign of weakness, and he will be scrutinized by friends and foes.” That, he continued, “is a reality he cannot escape.”…

Officials in Taiwan and prodemocracy activists in Hong Kong, for example, have expressed their doubts about Trump leaving office and worry that Biden marks a return to a more conciliatory stance toward China. Some in Vietnam have also been left deflated by Trump’s loss. Detractors in Hong Kong often point to Obama’s muted response to 2014’s Umbrella protests as evidence that his administration ignored warnings about Beijing’s encroachment on the city, and note that the Trump administration has moved the consensus opinion on China in a more hawkish direction, stepping up weapons sales and sending high-ranking officials to Taiwan. (Trump himself has at times been friendly toward Xi, and has frequently refused to support Hong Kong’s protest movement.)