East Asia always has an important strategical position in the American foreign policy. The New President, Donald Trump definitely, also has a particular fond on China. He had been saying that word over and over again during the election season with his weird pronunciation. Before moving into the office, his caused his first trouble in diplomacy by phoning with the “President” of the Republic of China, Tsai Ing-wen. This historic phone call prompted a strong protest from Beijing. After the incident, Trump further displeased Beijing by claiming he is not committed and bonded by the One China Policy. Taiwan problem is the biggest problem between Washington and Beijing. The United States accepted the One China Policy and acknowledged Taiwan as part of China since the Shanghai Communique in 1972. In 1979, when the United States officially recognized the People’s Republic of China and established formal relations, it instantly broke up ties with Taiwan. This unprecedented telephone conversation between Tsai and Trump clearly impaired the already shaking US-China relations. For Beijing, Taiwan is the baseline that no one should touch. Recently, as the rumor of possible American troops stationing in Taiwan, Chinese military officers openly claimed that “the date American troops step on the soil of Taiwan is the time of unification with military force.” Besides the issue with China, American’s long-time alliance, Japan, also worries about the new President. The Sino-Japanese relationship and the US-Japanese relationship serves under the broad framework of the Sino-US relationship. The crisis between China and the United States negatively impacted the Sino-Japanese relationship and the US-Japanese relationship, and further increases the uncertainty of the East Asia.
President Trump lacks knowledge and experience in foreign policy. Now, here are some plans and advice I will take if I am Donald Trump.
1. Delete the Twitter Account
Apparently, the Trump’s Twitter account causes significant and severe problems. He has a long history of insulting others on Twitters. His Twitter enemy includes celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Anderson Cooper, and the Hamilton casts. Now, he seems to add China into this list of enemies. As the leader of the most powerful nation, he must be responsible for his words. Any rude and controversial comment on foreign leaders will cause a huge problem between the US and another country and inevitably damages the image of the United States in the international community. The new President should end his Twitter career before he causes more troubles.
No, Mr. Trump, calling President Xi Jinping of China a “big loser” is NOT APPROPERATE!!! Don’t’ even think about it!!!
2. Watch your mouth
Although Trump claimed during the election season that he has a “winning temperament,” but, well, he doesn’t have it. He just cannot control his mouth. As the leader of the only super power, people around the world will take your words seriously. There are always things you should not say. Remember, don’t be like Nikita Khrushchev; don’t say things like “we will bury you.”
3. Manage your temperament
Again, based on performances during the election season and first several weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has a lot works to do to achieve the “winning temperament” he claimed he has. As the President, Mr. Trump will attend numerous international conferences and negotiate with world leaders. It is his responsibility to be patient and cool all the time, every time.
Hanging up on the Australian Prime Minister during a telephone conversation is really not cool. I can see Trump banging his shoe on the table during a United Nations General Security Conference, but I really don’t want to see that.
What Should Trump do in East Asia
The relation with China will be Trump’s biggest challenge in the next four years. China is an emerging superpower and demands an active role in international affairs. However, Trump already intimidated Beijing by questioning One China Policy. Trump wants to play the Taiwan Card while bargaining with China, but he doesn’t know One China Policy was the taboo topic between Sino-US negotiations. The United States committed to the One China Policy in the 1972 Shanghai Communique and has always been the foundation of the Sino-American relationship. The Taiwan situation got intense since the victory of Tsai Ing-wen, the chief of Democratic Progressive Party and an enthusiast of Taiwan Independence Movement. Trump’s phone call and his lack of commitment on One China Policy were same to adding fuel to the flame.
Clearly, the situation now is different from 1996 and 1958, unless Trump has further actions, such as sending troops to Taiwan, the 4th Taiwan Strait Crisis is unlikely to break out. Both sides could not afford the enormous political and economic consequences of conflict. Although there are still numerous problems exist between Beijing and Washington, cooperation among the two most influential and powerful states in the world serves the interest of both. Only the cooperation between Beijing and Washington able to solve problems, such as the North Korea nuclear issue, and meet other challenges around the world. The United States should avoid confrontation with China, especially over the trivial issue of Taiwan.
China is facing economic difficulties in past several years. Although China still maintains a 6% annual GDP growth rate, however, the growing housing bubble contributes for more than 3%. Besides housing, the price of food, clothes and other essential products also rises. In contract with the growing CPI, the real wages for Chinese workers are declining. The RMB has been devaluing, and the buying power of Chinese families is decreasing in the past several years. The weak economy reflects on the poor financial performance. Because of the lack of buying power, businesses are experiencing hardships. The stock market, after the triple drops last year, is still far from recovery. RMB was devalued significantly in the past two years to boost the competitiveness to Chinese manufactural products in the world market. However, the devaluation causes severe inflation problem. The high living cost, especially housing price, is murdering innovation and creative destruction. The pillar of the Chinese economy, manufacture, experiences bleakness because of the rising labor cost and the gradual cease of the late-mover advantage. Without significant changes, the Chinese economy will experience a downturn in a longer period.
While the economic goes down, the politics turns left. Since President Xi came to power in 2012, he has been gradually introducing back Maoism elements into China’s political life. His political agenda parallels to Brezhnev’s in the Soviet Union. He starts the anti-corruption movement to restore the public faith in the party and purge his political opponents. He re-introduces command economy into the Chinese capitalism. He brings back the “ideology war” and imposes harsh restrictions among liberal intellectuals. The Party tightens up the control of the media, and his personality cult reaches to a new peak. These political movements initiate by Xi are efforts to defeat political opponents, restore faith among the people and oppress “anti-party ideas” to continue the current one party rule. Communist Party is a master of finding scapegoats, either inside or outside party, within China or abroad, throughout the history of the People’s Republic of China. Alongside with the domestic political movements, international challenges also help the Communist Party to redirect internal dissatisfactions into extreme nationalism. The Party masters the art of mobilization using foreign threats. The Korea War went along with the “oppression of anti-revolutionaries” movement and consolidated people’s support to the new People’s Republic. The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis mobilized the masses for the Great Leap Forward. International crisis helped the Party to redirect domestic dissatisfaction into extreme nationalism and consolidate support. In recent years, the island disputes with Japan and the South China Sea disputes with Southeast Asian states and the United States enable the Chinese government to mobilize extreme nationalism and redirect public attention from domestic problems to international conflicts.
Trump’s provocative policy toward China over meaningless issues is adding fuel to the flame of Anti-Americanism that could be employed by the Chinese government to consolidate their support. The current Chinese government is not afraid of confronting the United States. Conflicts only deepen the cleavage and mistrust between Washington and Beijing and further reduce possibilities for corporations. It is unwise to provoke China and deploy most of the military force against China with the potential to fight a war that turns the human civilization backward. U.S-China competition is not a zero-sum game, the goal of this contest is to integrate China into the established world system and make Beijing acts as a responsible great power.
The distorted relationship between Beijing and Washington DC also caused concerns from our most loyal friend, Japan. For a long time, the United States was the military protector of Japan based on the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan signed in 1960. Under the American military protection, Japanese economy grew rapidly from the 1960s to 1980s. Tokyo enjoys the current situation in Northeast Asia. At one hand, Japan benefits from the increasing economic relation with China. In past several years, the number of Chinese visitors to Japan steadily increased. The Chinese tourists bring in money and buy Japanese products. The storm of Chinese visitors is crucial for the Japanese economy. On the other hand, Japan also uses the conflict with China to force the United States to commit to Japan’s national security.
However, if Mr. Trump fails to take the responsibility of defending Japan, and pushes China into the corner, Japan could be stuck in the middle of between these two powerful states and must find another way for preservation. It is certainly not Japan’s interest to involved in Sino-US confrontation for issues like as Taiwan that Japan doesn’t have a significant interest. The mutual cooperation treaty also became meaningless for Tokyo if the United States decided not to protect Japan. The Japan would certainly re-consider the current Tokyo-Washington alliance.
On another side, if the United States failed to take the responsibility of defending Japan, Japan must protect herself. It could easily stimulate the support for the Constitution Revision movement, even re-militarization of Japan. Some politicians, such as Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, could take this advantage to mobilize for the support for changing the Article Nine. During the post-war period, the elements of National Shinto and extreme nationalism didn’t cease away; it transformed to survive in the post-war society. With the global tide of populism, extremism, and nationalism, the significant changes in Japan politics caused by the new Asian policies from Trump will certainly cause the rise of ultra-rightism in Japan.
Japanese politicians and diplomats also don’t trust Trump because of his criticism on TPP and his personality. Trump victimized Japan when the United States left the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr. Fujisaki Ichiro, the former Japanese ambassador to the United States, told me that he “doesn’t want to sit in the same car with President Trump and listen to him bragging about his wealth and power.” He also believes that “Trump doesn’t understand the importance of world trade and globalization,” and “he is going to make the US-Japan relations worse than better.” Overall, he believes that “Japan will still cooperate with the United States and work with the new President; but, Japan will not trust the new President and always remains an arm-length with the United States. ”
The East Asia entered an age of uncertainty. China starts to face severe economic problems and political uncertainties. Japan faces the challenge of revising the Constitution. The Sino-US and Japanese-American relationships suffer doubts because of the lack of confidence on Donald Trump. The new President has the power to change the situation better or worse. However, only cooperation serves the interests of the United States. Brinksmanship and confrontation only bring disasters to our position in Asia and our reputation in the world. President Trump storms into Washington DC and destroys the established precedent of the US politics. However, in the stage of foreign affairs, he must respect the established orders and patterns made by generations of American diplomats. Ignoring these precedents will only put the United States in a dangerous position.