The regional political and economic order in East Asia1 has undergone a significant transformation since the end of the Cold War. One of the most important changes is China's growing clout and influence in this region. Several important factors contribute to this development: China's rapid and sustained economic growth (on average 9 percent per year over the past two decades), Japan's relative decline as a result of its decade-long recession, the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis that decimated several high-flying Asian economies, and the stretching-thin of the United States' military resources and political capital due to the war on terror, the daunting task of rebuilding Iraq, and the challenge posed by a nuclear North Korea.
Southeast Asia and China: Global Changes and Regional Challenges
Wang, Vincent Wei-Cheng, "The Logic of China-ASEAN FTA: Economic Statecraft of "Peaceful Ascendancy"" (2005). Politics Faculty Publications and Presentations. 49.