Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#481】Trump Lacked Leadership during Asian Tour

Tadae Takubo / 2017.11.22 (Wed)

November 20, 2017

     Harsh criticisms against U.S. President Donald Trump by liberal media keen to find his faults must be discounted. Still, I cannot but to admit that his latest Asian grand tour lacked leadership the U.S. is supposed to exert.
     There were two prime objectives for his stop in China: to address a U.S.-China trade imbalance and to have China play a greater role in preventing North Korea from conducting further nuclear and missile tests. The former proved disastrous. In a story headlined “China was winner in U.S.-China business talks” on November 19, The Sankei Shimbun newspaper revealed the much-touted business deals worth $253.5 billion as a heavy makeup. As for the latter, Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, visited Pyongyang on November 17 to meet senior North Korean officials after President Trump returned home. At present, I would refrain from assessing whether the Pyongyang visit had any positive implications.

China gaining momentum
     Checking Western newspapers, I noticed that many articles analyzed the latest U.S.-China summit against the background of leaders’ characters, their sense of presence and their countries’ power of momentum rather than simply discussing gains and losses. While the United States far outdoes China in economic, military, political, information and technological power, we must consider whether China or the United States is gaining momentum.
     Given the fact that China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)-led New Development Bank were established as if to compete with the U.S.-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund and Japan-led Asian Development Bank in order to back up China’s Belt and Road initiative, China is clearly gaining momentum. We should also pay attention to “efficiency” at the time when President Xi Jinping of China will wield his power under the single-party dictatorship after securing his second five-year term as General Secretary of the Communist Party at the latest party congress.

National crisis approaching Japan
     Which is more strategic, the United States or China? During his five-nation Asian tour, President Trump reiterated his commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” This looks superficially a welcome proposition for countries sandwiched between the United States and China. However, The Washington Post in its editorial on November 10 mocked the commitment as vague. “Played correctly, his […] trip could have steadied his administration’s rocky start,” said Susan Rice, a national security adviser under President Barak Obama, in her contribution to The New York Times on November 13. “Instead, it left the United States more isolated and in retreat, handing leadership of the newly christened ‘Indo-Pacific’ to China on a silver platter.”
     Can we brush aside these comments as sleep talking by a liberal newspaper or a former senior official of the Democratic administration? Unless Japan and the United States jointly build a substantial Indo-Pacific strategy, national crisis will approach Japan sandwiched between the United States and China.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals