Following important endorsements and key wins on “Super Tuesday” March 1, Donald Trump is by far the most likely person to be nominated at the July 18-21 Republican convention, and to face off against Hillary Clinton on November 8.
What should people concerned with U.S.-China relations, especially those hoping U.S.-China relations can be improved, be thinking about this eventuality? What should they know and consider about the man who is probably the only viable remaining challenger to Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio?
I will state my view up front: Between Trump, Clinton, and Rubio, it is Donald Trump who offers the greatest promise for improving U.S.-China relations, both in the short- and long-terms. Hillary Clinton would surely continue the same confrontational and biased anti-China policies stances (e.g., on South China Sea sovereignty questions) that characterized her tenure as Secretary of State. Marco Rubio, a representative and surrogate of the vested bureaucratic, political, and industrial interests of the America’s national security state, would, like Clinton, continue the anti-China policy bias and, if anything, accelerate the potentially catastrophic and totally unjustifiable drift toward U.S.-China military confrontation in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
Most readers will find my opinion on Trump incomprehensible. Has not Trump asserted that China has achieved unfair advantage in trade and economic relations with the United States? Has not Trump threatened to impose tariffs or other barriers to Chinese goods? Has not Trump declared that he would bring back thousands of American jobs lost to China?
Readers will be raising these questions because they (like most commentators within the political establishment in the United States, who failed utterly to understand Trump’s appeal and predicted that his campaign would quickly collapse) are missing the essence and implications of Donald Trump’s positions on America’s foreign policies and relations, in trade and, more importantly, national security.
One analyst who, on the contrary, understands Trump’s appeal, and has thought deeply about why Trump is so fiercely opposed by both the Republican and Democrat political establishments, is David Stockman, former Republican Congressman, Reagan-era director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and now, at age 69, Wall Street financier who produces the very engaging and provocative “David Stockman’s Contra Corner” blog.
Stockman believes Trump’s comments about disadvantageous trade deals and economic policies are stylistic simplifications, unlikely to be translated into policies, meant mainly to adumbrate his underlying, fundamental position and belief that the United States government, led by a self-interested elite of both parties, has since the end of WWII sacrificed the interests of the vast majority of American citizens, in order to maintain what can only be described as a global “empire.”
Trump is signaling that he believes maintaining this global American empire has weakened and corrupted the United States, without substantially improving conditions in much of the world. On the contrary, America’s interventions and determination to wield hegemonic power have created chaos in and visited devastation on other countries, while engendering unnecessary and unjustifiable confrontations, for example with Russia.
Trump’s way of thinking suggests that he would see no reason to continue the provocative Obama policy of challenging China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea. Indeed, there is a good chance that a Trump presidency would see reversal of the Obama/Hillary Clinton “pivot to Asia” strategy, the aim of which is to maintain unchallengeable military hegemony in the region, effectively threatening China’s legitimate security interests.
For Stockman, the root of the problem in American national politics and foreign relations is that the Republican Party (the GOP) has over the past thirty years mutated into what he calls “the Warfare State Party.” Trump is challenging this status quo. On February 27, Stockman wrote:
“Nestled comfortably in the Imperial City, [i.e., Washington, D.C., the Republican Party] operates a plethora of special interest rackets which underwrite its incumbents’ bi-annual electoral campaigns out in the provinces.
“…GOP politicians idle their time in the capital and on foreign junkets conjuring and embellishing scary stories about terrorist threats and hostile regimes. So doing, they perceive enemies of the American Imperium to be stalking the planet everywhere and even creeping onto these exceptional shores.
“In a word, as the party of the Warfare State, the GOP’s main business has become promoting the agenda, campaigns, machinations and glory of the Imperial City.”
Stockman perceives that Donald Trump will break away from GOP underwritten “agenda, campaigns, [and] machinations” of the Warfare State. “…at the heart of [Trump’s] appeal are two propositions which strike terror in the hearts of the Imperial City’s GOP operatives.
“[First], he is loudly self-funding his own campaign and bombastically insisting that America is getting a bad deal everywhere in the world.
The first of these propositions explicitly tells the legions of K-Street lobbies to take a hike, thereby posing a mortal threat to the fund raising rackets, which are the GOP’s lifeblood. And while the “bad deal” abroad is superficially about NAFTA and our $500 billion [sic] trade deficit with China, it is really an attack on the American Imperium.
Why is Trump winning? Writes Stockman:
“The American people are sick and tired of the … wars of intervention and occupation; and they resent the massive fiscal burdens of our outmoded but still far-flung alliances, forward bases and apparatus of security assistance and economic aid. They especially have no patience for the continued huge cost of our commitments to cold war relics like NATO, the stationing of troops in South Korea and the defense treaty with the incorrigible Japanese, who still blatantly rig their trade rules against American exports.”
About Marco Rubio, Stockman says:
“What Marco Rubio is all about is Warfare State republicanism. When he talks about restoring American Greatness it is through the agency of Imperial Washington.”
His conclusion: “So the good in The Donald at this juncture is that only he can stop Senator Marco Rubio. Only Trump’s brash bombast can finally displace the toxic neocon ideology that has mutated the GOP into the handmaiden of the Warfare State.”
A Trump presidency could usher in a great more harmonious, non-confrontational, “win-win” relationship with China; indeed, a “new model of great power relations.”