China will move into any power vacuum created by Trump

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FRANK CHING

FRANK CHING

LAST week, President-elect Donald Trump confirmed his intention to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “from day one” of his administration. In a clip posted on YouTube, he called the TPP “a potential disaster for our country” and said that he would instead “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back.”

The trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim countries was the Obama administration’s attempt to deny China the right to “write the rules of the global economy.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan has said that it would be useless for the 11 other countries to proceed since the TPP would be “meaningless” without US participation.

Indeed, from the perspective of Japan and other Asian countries, a major attraction of the TPP was to anchor the US in the Asia-Pacific region. Without the US, there is little point to continuing the exercise. Worse, the US campaigned actively to get the other TPP members to sign on and quite a few governments had to take domestic political risks to accept American terms; now, the US itself is pulling out.

This is a very severe blow to American credibility andprestige. It will certainly be much more difficult in future for the US to persuade other countries to adopt positions that may be unpopular domestically when they have no guarantee that Washington will not do a 180-degree turn when a new administration takes office.

President Obama had on more than one occasion said the TPP was necessary to enable the US, not China, to set the rules of trade. But now, with a President-elect who is openly opposed to multilateral trade agreements, the US has in effect ceded the ground to China, which will no doubt move in to fill the vacuum.

The same applies to leadership in climate policy. Trump had said during the campaign that climate change was a Chinese hoax perpetrated on the US to cripple American business and manufacturing. However, in an interview with The New York Times on Nov. 22, the president-elect said he had “an open mind” on the issue and accepted there was “some connectivity” between climate change and human activity.

“It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies,” Trump said. “You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.”

So, it appears, Trump has not repeated his campaign pledge to pull the US out of the Paris climate change agreement, which entered into effect on November 4. But it is ironic that while he sees that agreement as an impediment toAmerican growth, China sees it as a spur to the next cycle of its economic growth.

It is also ironic that, in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, China and the US were on opposite sides of the climate question, with Washington putting pressure on Beijing to cut its emissions. Today, China has decided that it is in its own interest to reduce its emissions and move toward a low-carbon economy, given the severe pollution that its big cities are experiencing.

Now China is a major investor in renewable energy, such as wind technology, and is steadily reducing its reliance on coal, though it is still highly dependent on it.

China has already indicated that it is committed to a green economy and, in fact, is ready to assume global leadership on climate in the absence of the US. As the People’s Daily-affiliated newspaper Global Times said, “Although there is a possibility that the US may betray its words, China will unswervingly keep its promise and seek to play a greater role in global affairs.”

As Washington withdraws from the global role that it has assumed since the end of World War II, China will inexorably play a bigger role.

“It is beyond imagination to think that China could replace the US to lead the world,” a Global Times commentary said. Then it added: “But as China is rapidly developing, bringing about changes to the global power structure, its participation in global governance will be a natural and gradual process, which Beijing cannot rush or escape.” That is to say, global leadership will, inevitably, be thrust upon China and the country will have to bear it as both a responsibility and a burden, just as has been the case with the US for the past 70 years.

Of course, if America were to withdraw faster, China’s pace would need to be quickened. After all, nature abhors a vacuum.

Frank.ching@gmail.com
Twitter: @FrankChing1

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5 Comments

  1. This whole article is full of misleading half truths and is patently disingenuous. Of course China saw the TTP as a spur to further growth because the agreement would have further limited the ability of its trade partners to compete against China, and legally would have bound the other countries permanently to that disadvantage. LETS BE HONEST China’s dependence on coal is still growing with many new coal fired powerplants being built, it’s laughable!! only thing they have slowed is the pace at which they build new plants whereas the USA had under Obama and Clinton promised to close every single coal fired plant. Whatever is left of America’s manufacturing base cannot compete on such terms when China has this advantage, thus Trump is out of the TTP and US corporate taxes are being lowered to 15% right away.

  2. China’s emissions problems are all it’s own. The technology to clean them up is decades old and can be applied immediately if they want to spend the money. The “Man Made Global Warming” issue is a political scam used to rein in growth and compel “socialist”/”communist” solutions that leave everyone as poor as the next guy. Just look at Cuba and Venzuela. It is a lethal policy for the Philippines and is designed to keep the FIls poor and living in the jungle. Philippinos should reject the fallacy of “carbon” footprints and other such useless worries no matter where they are coming from and concentrate on growth with plentiful energy generation. Electricity has to be cheap in order to succeed. With success comes a clean environment. Doing without and sacrificing is not the answer. You have hundreds of years of that behind you already. Enough is enough.

  3. Joshua Schneider on

    Well we started with four countries about 12 years ago. We are up to 11 and the have a deal that Obama and Hillary helped put together. And you say nature abhors a vacuum. Who in their right mind would want anything to do with this deal. It is like Nancy Pelosi telling us all over again that we have to pass it to know what is inside.

    China wants it… okay.. let them have it. As far as I care they can enjoy all the benefits at their own expense.

    Mr. Ching thanks for the joke of the day :)

  4. Well, well, well. The truth comes at last. Of course, as long as the narrative absolves those who take a ‘go along to get along’ policy. Playing one against the other while appearing so harmless and defenseless. The TPP is a Obama and Hillary scam was and is just a scam. Trump will have to produce and follow through on his pledges. Its just a matter of time before the world will get what it wants. It just may not like what it gets. Have a nice day.

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