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Foreign Policy

The U.S. Electorate and China

May 24 , 2016

Though Donald Trump could hardly be accepted by the mainstream Republicans, he has defeated all his opponents within his party. Despite his unconventional style, he has attained this by winning the majority of votes during the primary.

The Trump phenomenon looks weird from outside. How could an arrogant and vulgar person be respected by his constituents? He must have some competence in understanding and communicating with the grassroots.

This seems to be the case when it comes to the issue of immigrants. Given the decline in jobs and the threat of outsourcing, Americans are complaining about globalization and illegal immigrants. Trump as a champion against globalization has resonated with the public. His seemingly radical idea to build a Great Wall along the US-Mexico border so as to stop the illegal immigrants gave his campaign a big lift. Is he really serious? Unnecessarily, Trump has indicated that he would ask the Mexican government to pay for the bill, as he understands that the US congress would not embrace his idea. Nevertheless, he knows that talk is cheap.

This is even more the case as far as Muslim immigrants are concerned. Given the exodus of Muslims from West Asia and North Africa, the world has been tormented by the influx of Muslim refugees. Though Germany has led the EU effort to let the refugees in, the US is not ready to follow suit. President Obama has not been straightforward in welcoming the Syrian refugees and many states in America have acted to deny them entry. With the background that Americans have been terrified by the 9/11 attack, accepting lots of Muslim refugees without screening them adequately is not a popular suggestion. Though Trump has pushed the envelope too far by refusing any Muslims, he could again employ the public’s terror panic for the benefit of his campaign.

These stories have shown that Trump could shape public opinion for his benefit. However, such a strategy may have lifted him to his present success, but not enough to convince the public of his leadership capacity as a president. During the final contest with the Democratic primary winner, it is the public trust rather than hyper-nationalism that will elevate a proper candidate to the White House.

In this regard, Hillary Clinton might still have a better chance to win. Given her extraordinary record of public service and competence to represent America in a more solid way, Trump may have to face the exodus of Republicans voting cross-party. Interestingly enough, Clinton may have to expect a similar situation within her own party, as her manner in reflecting upon her role in the Iraqi war and Libyan operation, as well as in Email-gate, has offended many who should be her natural constituents.

Many in the world are thinking about the impact each candidate would have if he or she will become the president. Surely Trump is much different from Clinton, so President Trump or President Clinton would bring his/her different style of governance into the government. At this time, it is premature to suggest who is better or worse for this country.

Since China is fast developing, Beijing is increasingly becoming more important in stabilizing Sino-US relations. Unlike what it did in the past three decades to integrate into the world, China is now proposing ways to improve international institutions. With this in mind, it is not that important who is elected as the President of the US.

The opposite could be true – whoever is elected will have to follow the fundamentals in conducting US-China relations, by expanding mutual and global goods including a more fair and convenient trading system, and a safer and more secure international environment. China and the US have much at stake if they would sustain a cooperative partnership.

It is reasonable to expect that the two countries would continue to have differences. The key is how to manage and narrow them. At a time of China’s continuing ascendance and the US’ narrowing edge, it would help a lot if both would adopt a moderate and non-arrogant stance when they compete.

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