To Democrats, Donald Trump is reckless. He’s a moron. He’s threatening to blow up the U.S. economy through trade wars and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s says other nations have stripped us of our wealth. He’s goes off half-cocked on Twitter. In short, the man is unstable and will lead us into nuclear World War III. Sadly, that’s not how the East views the president. In fact, they’re view him as a “master tactician” that’s trying to buck the old order and reassert American primacy in the process. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization get in the way of that. By casting them aside, with the U.S. still the top dog in the world, Trump can reassert American power on the international scene, according to Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Leonard spoke with numerous officials and members of the Chinese elite, some of them high-level, who are more wary of what they see as Trump’s “creative destruction.” He also said the people he spoke noted that Trump is the first president to attack China economically, military, and on the basis of ideology. They also viewed his Helsinki presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which many viewed as a low point in the administration, with the hysterical view being that it was treasonous, as Kissinger-esque in the sense that Trump is using Russia to isolate China. In 1972, Nixon opening the door was a brilliant geopolitical move that boxed in the Soviet Union. One billion people then viewed the USSR as an enemy. Yet, China is also making moves to counter this trend (via Financial Times):
In Chinese eyes, Mr Trump’s response is a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions — from the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement to Nato and the Iran nuclear deal — as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favourable to Washington.
My interlocutors say that Mr Trump is the US first president for more than 40 years to bash China on three fronts simultaneously: trade, military and ideology. They describe him as a master tactician, focusing on one issue at a time, and extracting as many concessions as he can. They speak of the skilful way Mr Trump has treated President Xi Jinping. “Look at how he handled North Korea,” one says. “He got Xi Jinping to agree to UN sanctions [half a dozen] times, creating an economic stranglehold on the country. China almost turned North Korea into a sworn enemy of the country.” But they also see him as a strategist, willing to declare a truce in each area when there are no more concessions to be had, and then start again with a new front.
For the Chinese, even Mr Trump’s sycophantic press conference with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in Helsinki had a strategic purpose. They see it as Henry Kissinger in reverse. In 1972, the US nudged China off the Soviet axis in order to put pressure on its real rival, the Soviet Union. Today Mr Trump is reaching out to Russia in order to isolate China.
In the short term, China is talking tough in response to Mr Trump’s trade assault. At the same time they are trying to develop a multiplayer front against him by reaching out to the EU, Japan and South Korea. But many Chinese experts are quietly calling for a rethink of the longer-term strategy. They want to prepare the ground for a new grand bargain with the US based on Chinese retrenchment. Many feel that Mr Xi has over-reached and worry that it was a mistake simultaneously to antagonise the US economically and militarily in the South China Sea.
China is one of our biggest geopolitical rivals. Is this a bad course of action? No, but Trump will never be given the credit. Instead, we’ll focus on how he hurt some European leader’s feelings and go into hysterics over that, among 10,000 other tiny, irrelevant things he does because that’s how our anti-Trump news media is as of late. But across the vast gulf of the Pacific, our enemies, rivals, competitors, or whatever you want to call them, have a much higher opinion of Trump’s intelligence and capability as a leader. They view him as an effective tactician. They view him as a threat, not based on his tweets, but in what he’s reportedly trying to do. How Trump can accomplish this long-term goal would require swamp draining for sure, but it also shows that Democrats, so blinded by hate, are missing one helluva show that could be in production in East Asia.