Chinas Stern strahlt über ganz Asien, titelt die New York Times heute etwas poetisch und berichtet über Pekings wachsenden politischen Einfluss in Fernost: Not long ago Australia and China regarded each other with suspicion. But through newfound diplomatic finesse and the seemingly irresistible lure of its long economic expansion, Beijing has skillfully turned around relations with Australia, America's staunchest ally in the region. The turnabout is just one sign of the broad new influence Beijing has accumulated across the Asian Pacific with American friends and foes alike. From the mines of Newman - an outpost of 3,000 in a corner of the outback - to theforests of Myanmar, the former Burma, China's rapid growth is sucking up resources and pulling the region's varied economies in its wake. The effect is unlike anything since the rise of Japanese economic power after World War II. For now, China's presence mostly translates into money, and the doors it opens. But more and more, China is leveraging its economic clout to support its political preferences. Beijing is pushing for regional political and economic groupings it can dominate, like a proposed East Asia Community that would cut out the United States and create a global bloc to rival the European Union. It is dispersing aid and, in ways not seen before, pressing countries to fall in line on its top foreign policy priority: its claim over Taiwan. China's higher profile is all the more striking, analysts, executives and diplomats say, as Washington's preoccupation with Iraq and terrorism has left it seemingly disengaged from the region, which in turn has found the United States more off-putting and harder to penetrate after Sept. 11. American military supremacy remains unquestioned, regional officials say. But the United States appears to be on the losing side of trade patterns.


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