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Foreign Policy

Trump’s Lessons for Joe Biden

Nov 23, 2020
  • Ma Shikun

    Senior Journalist, the People’s Daily

As an old Chinese saying goes, “With history as a mirror, one can understand the rise and fall of a state; with men as a mirror, one can distinguish right from wrong.”

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may draw some lessons from this as he assesses the performance of Donald Trump over the past four years and makes plans for rebuilding the nation.

Obviously, Trump’s biggest blunder was his inaction as the novel coronavirus wrought havoc in the United States. There are now more than 10 million confirmed cases and a death toll approaching 250,000. It is unimaginable and shameful that the United States is the world leader in the pandemic. After all, it is the world’s most powerful country, and the American public has understandably expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Trump administration.

All these results could have been avoided, given the advanced science and technology and medical technology available in the country. Unfortunately, Trump was obsessed with partisan competition. He looks upon science with contempt and focuses on votes at the cost of public health. Hence the worsening domestic situation. I think this is best captured by a succinct observation: Trump lost to the coronavirus.

Now Biden has established a pandemic task force, indicating that pandemic control will be at the top the agenda when he enters the White House.

“America first,” Trump’s defining slogan, was designed to please his base of voters, but it grates on the ears of other countries. After all, why does the United States come first when all countries, big or small, are equal?

The rollout of this mantra has had a destructive impact on global fairness and the international order. In Trump’s eyes, any international rules or organizations that fail to deliver immediate benefits to the United States run counter to his objective of dominance, making it necessary to withdraw from these organizations or adjust the rules on terms suitable to the U.S. Over the past four years, the United States has quit at least 10 international organizations and annulled a number of international agreements, many of which relate to global and regional security.

Guided by Trump’s battle cry, the United States pressures other countries to stand at its side, which is simply repugnant. Meanwhile, it urges its global allies to spend more on defense and compels them to make trade concessions in its favor. In fact, it’s common knowledge that Trump doesn’t get along well with the heads of state of U.S. allies, which may explain why leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Canada sent congratulatory messages to Biden, following long-standing convention, even though the results of the election had not been officially stamped by the government. The gesture reflects their attitude toward Trump. “America first” had become “America alone” — a high price to pay.

In Trump’s foreign policy, a primary feature has been to handle state-to-state relations and international disputes with punishing sanctions. Nations, businesses and individuals who Trump thinks goes against U.S. interests — or his personal desires — will be targeted with sanctions. In addition, through long-arm jurisdiction, Trump has forced some countries and businesses to follow the U.S. lead. There are no compiled statistics showing how many sanctions have been imposed on foreign entities and individuals under Trump’s direction, but according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States has imposed or expanded sanctions against Russia 46 times since Trump took office. Obviously, what Trump has done undermines norms governing international relations. He threatens to reverse the gains of human civilization, and enables the ascendance of the law of the jungle, under which the weak are bullied by the strong.

Trump has adopted an irrational policy toward China, insisting that a trade war is essential because the U.S. policy of engagement with China has failed and his country has suffered a significant losses as a result. He has also drummed up support for China-U.S. decoupling across the board as part of his effort to contain and suppress China’s development.

In addition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials have resorted to negative rhetoric about China during their travels, accusing China of posing a “security threat” in every field. In doing so, they seek to launch a new cold war, which they believe can bring down China as it did the Soviet Union.

This Cold War mentality prevents the United States from seeing a true picture of China. a policy based on this mentality is divorced from reality and not endorsed by most countries in the world, including U.S. allies. For example, a July 27 article on titled “Crunch time for U.S. allies and partners in navigating a new cold war” asserts that a new cold war against China will leave U.S. allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region deeply conflicted. In The Daily Telegraph, a July 30 commentary, “We must be careful Sinoscepticism does not boil over into senseless China-bashing,” says the world should not be misled by Trump’s vilification.

Obviously, it is the responsibility of a Biden administration to create a new China policy for the U.S. It is hoped that he can move beyond the unfortunate legacy of Trump and endorse China’s position on bilateral relations — “no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

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