Donald Trump has announced his foreign policy plans. It boils down to seven points; let us look at them before going any further:
- withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- appoint the toughest and smartest trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers.
- direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm our worker then direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses.
- try and renegotiate the terms of NAFTA to get a better deal for US workers. If the countries involved do not agree to a renegotiation, then submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw.
- instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator.
- instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in the US and at the WTO.
- If China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets, use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
So what does the seven point plan tell us? It is a strange mixture of the isolationism that has carried Trump through everything to this point with a notable aggression towards China (the final three points are completely directed at China and no one else). This has some pundits asking (or as Trump himself might put it, “Some people have been talking about this – I don’t know, you tell me”) whether Trump, should he become president of the United States, will be isolationist in terms of foreign policy or start a war with China? The answer is both.
In terms of isolationism, Trump clearly intends to cut off America from its North American neighbours. NAFTA is already massively slanted in America’s favour, so there is no room to roam there for Canada or Mexico. This will mean the US withdrawing from NAFTA, which will have a negative effect on American jobs. But that’s Trump’s problem to deal with.
What is relevant to everyone in the UK that emerges when you think about the seven point plan in detail is that another facet of Trump’s isolationism will be to withdraw military support from Europe as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. From there, let Putin do whatever he likes on the continent. Trump has already said as much by essentially rubbishing NATO.
There seems to be a sort of 1984 thing going on here, with America under Trump abandoning any worries about Europe to form what would amount to a pact with Russia against China. So America is Oceania, allied with Eurasia (Russia under Putin) which takes on Eastasia (China). If this sounds like exaggerated scaremongering, you haven’t been listening to Trump and Putin enough.
Trump and Putin both see China as an emerging empire which threatens both America and Russia’s sphere’s of influence. Russia has always considered this battle in straightforward geographical terms, America in philosophical terms (China’s one party state’s ascendance threatening the liberal democratic model espoused by the US). But with Trump at the helm, the latter concern simply melts into Russia’s main worry and thus tears down the wall separating Russian and American interests. In other words, if America’s war, either physical, proxy or trade related, with China is simply about economics and geography and no longer worried about spreading liberal democracy, then Russia makes a sudden, easy ally.
As for what happens to the UK if all this unfolds, it could be okay – or it could be really, really bad. Caught between the three superpowers, the UK isn’t a large concern for any of them. It could mean the UK is left pretty much alone and prospers as one of the few oases of peace and rule of law in the world. On the other hand, as such we could get caught in the middle of it all at some point. Either way, it won’t be up to us or our government, but the whims of the three superpowers in question.
Of course, Hillary will probably win in November and then we’ll all be relatively okay. This is why the upcoming US presidential election is possibly the highest stakes election ever held anywhere in the world, ever, for the entire globe.
A troubling thing about this is you use Nineteen Eighty-Four in a way which actually works. These days it seems cited mainly for surveillance issues, with little regard for the actual novel or its message. And usually with the phrase ‘it was meant as warning not a manual’ tacked on at the end.
But this is real, or it could be. We can only hope for a Clinton win.
Richard Gadsden says
If there is a pissing match between China and Russia, it will probably be in central Asia – ie Kazakhstan.
China and Turkey/Azerbaijan have been trying to build various transport and pipeline connections through central Asia – the “Iron Silk Road” and the “Southern Gas Corridor” are the names of the current schemes.
If a significant fraction of Europe’s imports from China are going on trains through Kazakhstan, then Europe is going to have a real strategic interest in keeping that open. Which might be about China looking to have an ally in that region in the 2040s and 2050s.
Add to that the natural geostrategic response for Europe to a Russia confronting it is to look beyond Russia for a counterbalance. That’s China, clearly. Similarly for China to look to Europe.
If America has, as it will under anyone but Trump, the sense to try to de-escalate a China-Russia confrontation, then we should all be OK. If not, then you’re headed towards a pre-WWI-type alliance system of USA+Russia v China+Europe. Which will not end well.