The U.S. and eight other countries also negotiated the outline of a new trade alliance called the Trans-Pacific Partnership for nations that observe strict labor and environmental standards. Japan, Canada and other nations ultimately may join, creating a hefty counterweight to China's economic clout.
It also serves as an inducement for China to improve its trade practices if it wants to join the group.
"The Chinese are very unhappy at the prospect of a regional free-trade agreement that so clearly excludes them," said Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the nonprofit Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Thus, it serves as both a challenge and an incentive to China to do more."
Early in the week, Obama sat down with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, at an economic summit in Honolulu. As in earlier meetings, Obama argued that Beijing is stifling global growth by failing to revalue its currency, clamp down on intellectual property crime and import more products.
Neither side budged, but they kept talking. In Bali, Obama spoke to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a dinner Friday night. Wen asked to continue the discussion, so they met again privately Saturday.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as President Carter's national security advisor from 1977 to 1981, says Obama must be careful not to craft a security policy that "can be misinterpreted as pointing toward containment of China."
"Stimulating a hostile Chinese reaction could prove counterproductive," he wrote in an email. The latest alarms about China, he warned, could spark "the beginnings of a self-fulfilling prophecy."