New York Republicans aren’t the only ones convinced by Donald Trump’s “America first” foreign policy — they’re just the only ones who can vote on it. Chinese state media has continued to support the racist businessman’s ascent to his party’s nomination.
Rather than seeing a threat in Trump’s promises to wage a trade war against China, state media have viewed such commitments as both negotiable and indicative of imperial decline.
“The United States has no obligation to allies or the international community to provide more public services in the area of trade,” said the nationalist Global Times, laying out the characteristics of what it called the Trump Doctrine. “He must keenly smell the isolationist sentiment in American society, and has dared to put forward such a bold foreign policy.”
Returning to an isolationist conception of foreign policy, to which Americans stayed roughly committed until the start of World War II, would ease China’s attempts to project its own power further beyond its shores. The power disparity in the South China Sea between China and its neighbors would be far more acute today if President Barack Obama had not carried out his pivot to Asia, essentially a containment policy aimed at maintaining the postwar status quo in the Pacific.
“Why isn’t China worried about Mr. Trump’s threat of high tariffs on their exports to the US? Because he’s also said he’s a deal-maker. They think they can make a deal to preserve what they have in the US-China relationship while a Trump administration retreats from world economic leadership,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the libertarian American Enterprise Institute, to The Daily Beast.
A Trump presidency would most likely relinquish the Pacific region from American military and economic dominance, given Trump’s demands that Japan and South Korea cover the cost of housing American troops in their countries, an unprecedented break in the postwar world order. And Trump would be seen as more pliable than previous American presidents, due to his obsession with approaching international problems as opportunities to peacock his negotiating prowess.
“Between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump may be the better choice,” said Caixin, another Chinese media organization. “Trump is an advocate of negotiating.” Hillary Clinton, who represented the country most recently as Secretary of State under Obama, would take a much harder line against any attempts at Chinese expansionism.
In a 2011 piece published in Foreign Policy, Clinton laid out her vision of American involvement in the Pacific, and calling out China’s behavior in the region in all but name. “Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players,” she wrote.
Key to maintaining balance, Clinton said, was the projection of American power across the region, which may grow deeper as China continues to increase its economic and military strength. Trump has made no similar commitment, despite his obsession with strength and power.
By openly suggesting that he would make American allies in the Pacific pay the cost of American protection, despite free trade benefitting the U.S. far more than cash payments, Trump has revealed an opening the Chinese government hopes to exploit.