As Chinese President Xi Jin Ping makes his way back to Beijing after a historic state visit to Manila thoughts randomly wander to the emergence of his China as a new economic power and the kind of influence that wields over the rest of Asia.
Likewise worth thinking about is how this will now mix with the leaders of its neighbors, all of whom have raised their profile as consistent, strong leaders in the policies they espouse and the kind of diplomacy they will push.
Japan`s Shinzo Abe is now Japan`s longest serving Prime Minister with an unprecedented 7 years in continuous office. This is rare for a country known to replace its prime ministers almost every year. In addition, he is overseeing the development of a strong military which observers note may flirt with restrictions imposed by its postwar constitution.
In South Korea, President has achieved a historic first with his bilateral meeting with the North`s Kim Jong Un. This may open the door for northern labor to bring an economic renaissance to his country by filling its factories, allowing it to compete on many levels with China and Japan. This ability to achieve such a historic feat has strengthened his leadership position, and may see him sit as President for some time.
In Malaysia, PM Mahathir Mohammad and his outspoken views dominate local headlines and is expected to flex his influence on a southeast asia poised to be a global economic crossroad with the promulgation of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Singapore`s Lee Hsien Loong remains steadfast in transitioning the city state into an innovative, high knowledge economy and financial center. With the repositioning of the Chinese Yuan as a choice trading currency in the region, we expect Singapore to further spread it`s capacity to lead the subregional financial sector in southeast asia.
Indonesia`s Joko Widodo helms a surging economy that retains a high growth rate and a lowering of its poverty levels down to 11%. This bolsters the purchasing power of its 250 million strong population, further strengthening itself as a rising economic power in ASEAN.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has achieved siginifcant reforms in areas such as taxation, telecommunications and a renewed foreign policy towards Asia, which are all expected to undergird the country`s massive infrastructure program with a strong capacity to pay the loans it will need to build new bridges, railways and roads.
Already, slight improvements in infrastructure and promotions have boosted tourist arrivals and are expected to keep pushing foteign direct investments upward. From the 5Billion dolllars registered in 2015, the country has almost doubled its foreign investments.
Opinion polls show his popularity despite opposition from international human rights groups over his war on drugs.
it is clear that all these Asian leaders have achieved a position of strength based on consolidated political power drawn not just from their personal popularity but the agreement of their constituents with the policies they espouse. This sets a direction for their countries that may very well outlive them, making them even stronger in the process. This makes Asia an even more interesting region to watch.