Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Trump flunks his first foreign policy test

By David Ignatius Opinion writer December 6 at 7:30 PM, WashPost

Whatever else future historians say about Donald Trump’s early foreign policy moves, they’re likely to note the erratic and, in many ways, self-defeating nature of the president-elect’s initial dealings with China, the country many analysts view as the United States’ most important long-term rival.

Devising a wise strategy for challenging China’s ascendancy in Asia is arguably the top foreign policy task for a new president. But if Trump planned to take a tougher stance, this was a haphazard way to do it. The president-elect instead stumbled into a pre-inaugural foreign flap, insulting Beijing and causing it to lose face, without having a clear, well-articulated plan for what he seeks to accomplish.

Worse, Trump’s fulminations about China come just as his plan to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is undermining the United States’ standing with allies in Asia. Trump, in effect, is ceding economic ground to China at the very moment he claims to be taking a harder line. Is this a cool, calculating strategy from the dealmaker? It looks to me more like a hot mess.

Trump’s phone call Friday with Taiwan’s president needn’t have created this crisis. The Chinese at first seemed willing to give the inexperienced Trump a pass — blaming the precedent-altering call on “petty” maneuvering by Taipei. Beijing presumably recognized that this wasn’t the time to pick a fight, and Trump should have adopted the same stance.

(More here.)

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