President Donald Trump signs Executive Orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 in Arlington, Va. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Protesters and immigrants rights advocates gathered at Castle Clinton National Monument, the physical departure and arrival point for tours of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. (AP)
as condemning previous administrations for their readiness to aid others at the expense of the United States. “We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually,” he said on Thursday at a prayer breakfast. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”Trump has been
But this nationalist political approach seems so out of sorts with previous U.S. Presidents and their key advisors. American exceptionalism has always been an element of U.S. foreign policy thinking, but the architects of the liberal order saw that narrow nationalism and building walls led to rivalry, competition, and war. Cordell Hull, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s long-serving secretary of state and a key architect of postwar foreign strategy, once wrote and was quoted recently by Eduardo Porter in the saying, “if we could increase commercial exchanges among nations over lowered trade and tariff barriers and remove unnatural obstructions to trade, we would go a long way toward eliminating war itself.” This is not a call for growing nationalisms.
So if Trump truly believes that the well-worn path trodden by previous Presidents since the end of World War II are misguided, where do we go from here? Stewart Patrick, from the Council of Foreign Relations has suggested a series of . As I pointed out in a recent post at , there are, in his mind, five alternatives. Patrick has suggested that elements from all five are likely to be built into whatever alternative order emerges. Though greater U.S. isolation is possible, it is more likely that aggressive U.S. actions will dominate during a Trump Administration and so a nationalist great power architecture of some form is likely with or without alliances and international institutions.
What does this suggest for key bilateral relations say with Europe, Russia, or, most importantly, China? It was evident even before Trump that China occupied growing U.S. attention whether from the Clinton, Bush, or Obama administrations. All recognized the growing power of China internationally, and especially regionally. Notwithstanding tensions over the East and South China Seas and difficult and incomplete efforts to forge US-China cooperation in Korea, US-China agreements over Iran and climate change particularly have been foundational in moving these issues forward. Can this be continued in Trump’s far more competitive stance over trade and the One-China policy?
Jeffrey Bader, a former Obama official and currently a senior fellow at Brookings has identified options in a report that have the potential to reverse rising tensions US-China relations. Acknowledging the difficulty for President Xi Jinping and the other leadership figures facing the 19th Party Congress in initiating temperature-lowering bilateral policies, there is an immediate area of cooperation in trade and investment. There is no question that there are far too many barriers to foreigners in select, but key sectors, and too many barriers to imports. A willingness on the part of Chinese leadership to negotiate or renegotiate investment and trade provisions could ‘just be what the doctor ordered’ for the US-China relationship. Ultimately, proposals in trade and investment have the added benefit of advancing market reforms, which Xi has repeatedly supported and will likely continue to do so in the future.
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Sun Chenghao Assistant Research Fellow, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations
Brahma Chellaney Professor, Center for Policy Research