American President Donald Trump recently returned to the White House after an extensive overseas tour of Asian nations. The major issue of the trip was the continuing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme. President Trump made stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. The international tour went off without major incident or hiccup. This in itself was noteworthy from one of the most unpredictable and erratic American Presidents in decades.
Unlike the British [who rushed in where angels fear to tread with a State Visit invitation, which was then subtly mothballed] the Asian nations have had no such hesitation in properly and professionally rolling out the red carpet for the President of the United States. What was striking about this first major foreign policy exercise abroad for Donald Trump was the weakness with which the President of the United States met foreign Heads of State and Government. The domestic political position of the American leader compared to his Asian counterparts is very shaky. The American President touched down in Japan with record low approval ratings for a President of the United States this early into his term of office. Trump’s grip on power is tenuous at best with his administration and closest allies beset by a Federal Special Prosecutor and Congressional probe into alleged collusion between his Presidential campaign and the Russian Government.
Asian leaders are facing one of the weakest American Presidents in decades. While Trump is at war with his own party, fending off intense Establishment opposition and a deeply polarising controversial figure in America at large with roughly just over half of the country deeply opposed to him, President Xi Jinping of China has just achieved the most remarkable and extraordinary political achievement by being embraced and confirmed by his party and country as their greatest most popular and important leader since the founding of the People’s Republic. While President Xi is enjoying record popularity and support from his fellow citizens and the Prime Minister of Japan has just secured a solid re-election, the United States is being led by a deeply unpopular divisive figure who does not command the confidence and loyalty of his own party let alone a plurality of his country.
In many ways, this symbolizes the tremendous geopolitical power shift that is underway this century from West to East. No longer can American Presidents expect to travel to Asia in an out sized manner supremely dominate on the global stage. The era of unilateral and unipolar American global leadership is coming to an end, if not already at an end. In this post-2012 New World Order it is a pity that the United States is hobbled with such a weak leader for President Trump with his evident personal chemistry and good relations with the Presidents of Russia and China could help create a new architecture for international relations. There is so much tension in the international system most of it generated by the wrongheaded and unwise, arrogant foreign policies of the United States and its Western allies over the course of many decades.
The way to decrease this tension is very simple. Western policy and rhetoric on Russia must change from one of extreme, stupid and outdated anti-Russian propaganda to one of mutual respect and mutual admiration based on strategic cooperation and greater cultural understanding and exchange. President Trump has attempted to try and do this but it has become clear he is not in a political position to deliver on such a development. With regards to China the way forward for strong and solid US-Sino partnership is a very simple proposition again based on a simple but sacred principle of respect. The planet this century is big enough for two Superpowers in all spheres of human life. The rise of China and its return this century to its historically rightful position as preeminent among the nations of the world need not be in any way a negative for the United States. Indeed, it can be a great positive for the world to have a strong and dynamic America, China and yes – Russia – sitting atop the world in partnership of mutually admiring harmony.
As long as future American Governments and American Presidents acknowledge, recognise and respect the new [and yet not so new in the grand sweep of human history] status of China as a pre-eminent nation equal to the United States and deserving of increasingly equal treatment in relation to the United States. Constantly lecturing, questioning, de-legitimizing and outright attacking and condemning the brilliant Chinese system and Chinese way of life as somehow inferior to the Western system or a threat to the West is not the correct and productive course to travel down. Indeed, it is complete folly.
It is a great shame for when you strip away all the hyperbole, vulgarity and showmanship of Donald Trump, in his recent engagements with Asian leaders, he is actually probably the closest leader America has had in a while to being able to bridge the policy differences and build strong partnerships between the President of the United States, President of China and President of Russia based on good personal relations and personal chemistry. It is very rare when you get three leaders of such powerful, important countries getting along well. This should be capitalised on for the benefit of peace, prosperity and stability globally. Yet with the anti-Russian hysteria gripping America and Britain and some last gasps of the old 20th century Anglo-American order the window of opportunity is narrowing.
By Matthew Jamison
Source: Strategic Culture