By Shi Yinhong Source: Global Times Published: 2016-12-7
US President-elect Donald Trump`s remarks over his antipathy toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and US global responsibilities triggered heated discussion among media worldwide over whether China will fill the trade leadership vacuum or even world leadership void as the Trump era dawns. However, those who tossed out such questions failed to notice that Trump has never said he would give up US global leadership.
Trump`s future policies are very obvious, which can be summarized as America first, unilateralism, conservatism and nationalism. This means no matter to what extent he fulfills his campaign promises, Trump will without question make the US great again through measures that only benefit the US and could possibly indirectly do harm to other countries at the same time.
Trump might massively cut taxes, deeply reduce business regulations, boost US infrastructure construction the nation`s own enterprises and labor, and make it harder for capital to flow toward other countries. All that, combined with the fact that Federal Reserve will be bound to raise interest rates within a few months, means Trump is highly likely to deliver on his words to make the US great again economically over time.
Years later, if the US grows stronger economically through unilateral policies, yet Beijing fails to reverse its downward economy and rising financial risks, China`s international influence will be relatively weakened, since the latter`s economic might has long been the major cause of its emerging global prestige and influence.
When it comes to security, Trump may alienate the US from some of its allies. This can bring China certain advantages, yet the endurance of the trend and how much favor it will create for Beijing is exaggerated by most Chinese media. The strategic and diplomatic opportunities the phenomenon can offer China are temporary.
Trump cried out that if Japan and South Korea want to maintain a US military presence on their soil, they will have to pay more money. Otherwise, Washington will withdraw its troops or cut its military bases in these countries. However, do Tokyo and Seoul have other options?
Japan believes it is under huge pressure from China and South Korea is suffering from increasing threats from North Korea. If Trump insists on making the two cough up more money, they will pay the money eventually, though reluctantly. Once they do so, Washington will turn back into Tokyo and Seoul`s good ally once again.
On the other hand, after such a disturbance, Japan and South Korea will no longer trustingly rely on US military protection. They are likely to start developing their own independent armed forces in private.
Furthermore, as a Republican, even though an abnormal Republican, Trump will surely increase defense budget due to the party`s tradition as well as his team`s suggestions.
According to the Navy Times, Trump has proposed to boost the US Navy`s fleet to 350 ships in October. Where will he place the many ships? The first choice will be the Pacific.
All the tendencies above are not necessarily in Beijing`s favor.
China is incapable of replacing the US as the world leader. It has never had such an ambition ever. Following the path of imperial expansion will only cause one to fall on hard times. Since the founding of the People`s Republic of China, all generations of Chinese leadership have claimed the country will never seek hegemony. The decision was made not only to assure the world, but also out of the hard lessons from the fall of empires.
The author is director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University of China.