(CNN)In just one year, US President Donald Trump has changed the way Asia looks at the United States.
The cornerstones of American power in Asia, Japan, Australia and South Korea, all lost a little faith in their longtime close ally and protector in 2017, according to Gallup polling.
No military assets have been withdrawn, no embassies closed, but the lack of interest expressed by a US administration focused on “America First” has deeply shaken its status in the region.
“Nowadays when we attend international conferences (around Asia), nobody really talks about the United States anymore … it’s a little bit strange,” Chisuke Masuo, associate professor at Kyushu University’s Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, told CNN.
Uncertainty about America’s commitment to the region has prompted local leaders to strengthen ties with each other, to prepare for the day when the US no longer has their backs.
Meanwhile, a number of simmering flashpoints across the region could test the US’ commitment to its allies, and Masuo said China is likely to use those points of tension to prove its regional supremacy.
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in July 2021, and I think (Chinese President) Xi Jinping will love to demonstrate his people that China has become a dominant power in Asia by then,” she said.
“The US may want to change its Asia policy after three years, but I’m very worried if that will be possible,” Masuo added. “China is restructuring the entire international order in the Asia Pacific.”