It’s only been one day and we are already starting to see the damage. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The disappearance of the Climate Change page on whitehouse.org. Re-negotiations of NAFTA. It’s all really happening.
Yesterday, in a truly humbling event, scores of Women’s Marches were held around the world. Women (and those who support women and diversity) stood in solidarity for equality, love, and women’s rights. I was rooting for all of you.
Although these marches spanned the globe, they mostly represented a fight for U.S. domestic policies. Planned Parenthood, immigration, education, healthcare–Americans turned out in record numbers to fight for these rights.
But I’m Here to Talk Foreign Policy
I’m currently taking a Failed States & Insurgencies class (I know, sounds uplifting right?). The professor is young, but captivating and ridiculously intelligent. He lived in Central Asia for years and actually worked with warlords in failed states formed from the ruins of the USSR.
“Climate change isn’t that big of a deal,” he announces to the class. “Now wait, before you start throwing tomatoes at me I want to tell you the most pressing threat to humanity, something that is far more deadly than climate change–and that’s nuclear warfare. One wrong move, one wrong word, one miscommunication and all of mankind is wiped out, save a few unlucky souls. All your friends. All your family. Wiped from the face of this Earth.”
“So yes, international relations is important. Sure, climate change is a big deal and I know we can deal with it when mankind is pressed with the urgency–but nuclear warfare? That is a much more pressing and delicate subject.”
So while domestic policies worry me a lot, it’s the danger the Trump administration could inflict in the realm of foreign policy that keeps me awake at night. Most voters go to the ballot with daily grievances in mind–I went in knowing that Trump could change the entire world order.
Security in Japan
During his campaign, Trump said the U.S. shouldn’t be the world’s police and we should withdraw and/or reduce U.S. military presence in Japan (even though Japan pays a hefty sum of money for our military to be there in the first place).
Can you imagine what would happen to Japan if the U.S. left, especially with a rising (and aggressive) China next door under the rule of President Xi Jin Ping?
That’s why Prime Minister Abe basically ran to Trump tower mere days after the election results. Although Japan has recently built up its domestic military (aka self-defense force) under PM Abe, the country would be almost defenseless without U.S. assistance (and that’s because after WWII we did not allow them to have any form of military of self-defense).
After the Abe-Trump meeting, it seems that Trump will likely not go through with his campaign rhetoric in terms of military presence in Japan–much to Abe’s relief.
Security in China
I have one word to sum up all current security tensions with Trump & China:
China has one, and only one issue it is absolutely non-negotiable with, and that is territorial sovereignty–especially over Taiwan.
I read a 100 page security briefing on tensions between US-China from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and most conflicts arose from Taiwan.
Trump taking the phone call from pro-independence Taiwan President Tsai Ing Wen is a big deal. It has elicited confrontational and disturbing comments from China. If Trump changes his policy towards Taiwan, if he recognizes it as a sovereign nation, China is not afraid to strike.
China attacks Taiwan. The U.S. comes to defend Taiwan. Russia supports China in its claim for Taiwan. Japan also comes into the fight. Starts looking like a world war.
Even if it doesn’t begin with a full-frontal fight over Taiwan in the straits, one wrong move from increased naval ships from the U.S. or China in waters near Taiwan could easily escalate into unnecessary warfare.
The day after the election results I asked my professor what he thinks will happen between U.S.-China, especially with TPP gone and possible military pull out from the Asia Pacific, as stated in Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
“I don’t think the U.S. will pull out,” he cried. “Trump said he will double spending on the military budget. One day after the election and defense contractors had a spike in their stock. He’s obviously going to beef up the military–but why? Perhaps an attack against China?”
I’m extremely skeptical that the U.S. will attack China and I would rather bet my money on a conflict arising from Taiwan than all-out military warfare between US-China. However, one does have to wonder why the U.S. is upping its military strength.
Trump and the China-Japan Economy
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a multilateral trade agreement initiated by the US and included 12 countries in the Asia Pacific and the US. It was in negotiations for years and, as it neared completion, politicians and world leaders began to view it more as a multilateral organization–a coalition of Asia Pacific allies–rather than mere trade policy. Unfortunately, however, TPP died in the 2016 election with both Trump and Bernie Sanders, as they cried that it would kill American jobs and be a world travesty (I lean more toward supporting TPP, mostly because it is an economic fact that trade benefits all consumers and hurts only a handful of manufacturers–and let’s be real, technology is going to kill jobs faster than trade. Sorry folks, free trade and globalization isn’t going away).
The death of TPP hurts Japan because PM Abe basically worked his ass off to get it passed through the Japanese Diet and bam, Trump (and Bernie) shit all over it. Trump wins, TPP dies, and Abe loses a ton of face.
It’s also a win for China, because TPP was made to essentially bully the Middle Kingdom (China was not included in TPP). With TPP dead, China can better promote its own multilateral trade agreement, R-CEP, to Asian neighbors. If you can’t make money with the US, you might as well make money with China– am I right?
Trump also wants to start a trade war with China since they’re “takin’ all our jobs.”
Well, I won’t go into details, but isolationism is the worst thing a country can do to itself. Look at China during the cultural revolution. Vietnam right after the Vietnam War. Cuba. Trade stimulates an industrial economy. China has investments everywhere right now, including a host of countries in Africa, a swath of countries in the Middle East, Latin America–places the U.S. has been starting problems, but not starting new trade agreements.
While China and the U.S. will feel the pain if a trade war starts, at least China has a backup plan. Meanwhile, Trump killed TPP, pissed off Japan in doing so and is now trying to undo NAFTA. Who do you think is going to hurt more after this, China or the U.S.? And don’t get me started on what large corporations such as Apple will do if Trump curbs trade–they will move their headquarters to other countries so they can continue getting cheap chips made in China to make the latest iPhone.
Should We Be Worried?
Why does the US have to be so involved everywhere? Can’t we just worry about ourselves?
Well, the U.S. was the big man in a unipolar world in the 90s. After the Cold War, the US emerged victorious. We have the world’s largest military and we use it to keep world order (as well as leverage its power for our own personal interests, such as Iraq). Whether you like it or not, if you study security in IR you’re going to study about what America does and why.
“I wouldn’t worry so much,” my boyfriend said to me when I freaked out about the above topics after the election. “Republicans in Congress also live in this country, and I imagine they want to keep themselves and their families alive and safe from the threat of nuclear war and thus are smart enough to make the right decisions and stop the President.”
I can only hope so.