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Strategic Asia 2014-15 Trends and Indicators

The past year witnessed significant evolution in Asia’s geopolitical environment. The region has become ever more central to the long-term strength and prosperity of the United States. This reality is reflected in the continued progress of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia, where greater focus in 2014 was devoted to the diplomatic and economic elements of the initiative.

While the most significant development in the Asia-Pacific continues to be the economic and geopolitical rise of China, other trends are of potentially great strategic importance. Crises in Central Europe and the Middle East, combined with continued restrictions to the U.S. defense budget, have raised questions in some quarters about the long-term capabilities and commitment of the United States in the Asia-Pacific. These concerns have led some regional powers—many of them U.S. allies and partners—to enhance their relationships with the United States and to adopt more active defense policies in the face of an increasingly complex regional security environment.

At the same time, Asia is becoming ever more economically integrated. This past year saw substantial progress on a number of major intra- and inter-regional trade deals that will further cement the region’s status as the engine of global economic growth in the 21st century.

This section contains short essays, authored by NBR staff, on these and other major events and strategic trends that are likely to have lasting implications for the Asia-Pacific. Collectively, the essays explore some of the more prominent regional developments over the past year. The Strategic Asia editors would like to thank Clara Gillispie, R. Lincoln Hines, Ildiko Hrubos, Tiffany Ma, Matthew Portwood, Clare Richardson-Barlow, Laura Schwartz, Kunihiro Shimoji, Ved Singh, Alison Szalwinski, and Jonathan Walton for their excellent contributions.