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Obama leaves Asia reflecting on power shift

world Updated: Nov 14, 2010 22:04 IST

President Barack Obama leaves Asia Sunday digesting complex new realities in a region where rising powers like China wield new influence and challenge American global dominance.

Obama won hearts in India and made a poignant return to his boyhood home in Indonesia, but a G20 summit in Seoul exposed fierce criticism of US economic policies and power challenges by Beijing and some US allies.

US officials however trumpeted Obama's voyage as a roaring success, delighted by iconic footage of First Lady Michelle Obama dancing with children in India and Obama's deep bond with Indonesians.

"When historians look back on the trip to India and Indonesia... it will be one of those seminal moments, one of those iconic moments in the relationship between countries," said Tom Donilon, Obama's national security advisor.

But Obama also had an audience back home after his "shellacking" in mid-term elections, and his entourage bristled at US reporters who perceived a weakened president failing to conquer.

"In Asia, Obama's glow dims," reported the New York Times; Obama "limped" through the G20 summit in Seoul, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Seeing Obama's trip through a prism of Washington politics may obscure a deeper truth -- that after a decade of sapping wars abroad, crippling debt and an anaemic recovery, US power is not what it was.

US officials made great play of setting the agenda at the G20 summit -- but critics say the administration has recently struggled to drive sweeping aims towards adoption in international summits.

The failure to get the G20 to agree to binding restrictions on currency manipulation and trade surpluses was a case in point -- though Obama aides feel the group did shift in that direction.