SIMON TISDALL: Barack Obama’s ‘Asian pivot’ failed. China is in the ascendancy.

The China dilemma extends far beyond the South China Sea. Having made nuclear disarmament a top priority in 2009, Obama has failed dismally to halt North Korea’s accelerating pursuit of nuclear weapons. The threat was underscored by Pyongyang’s biggest ever test explosion earlier this month. China, the only country with real leverage, has helped impose additional UN sanctions on North Korea. But it has consistently balked at taking game-changing measures, such as cutting off fuel oil supplies, which could force Kim Jong-un to think again. Beijing also says it will block “unilateral” measures by other countries.

Obama’s impotence has intensified questions in Japan and elsewhere about the credibility of the American security umbrella, encouraging nationalists who argue that Tokyo should re-arm in earnest – or even deploy its own nuclear weapons. But their main concern is not North Korea – it is China.

Xi is not looking for a fight. His first-choice agent of change is money, not munitions. According to Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” plan, his preferred path to 21st-century Chinese hegemony is through expanded trade, business and economic partnerships extending from Asia to the Middle East and Africa. China’s massive Silk Road investments in central and west Asian oil and gas pipelines, high-speed rail and ports, backed by new institutions such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, are part of this strategy, which simultaneously encourages political and economic dependencies. Deng Xiaoping once said to get rich is glorious. Xi might add it is also empowering.

Read the whole thing — and, mind you, this is coming from The Guardian.