Erratic US foreign policy incites global chaos

By Zhang Jiadong Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/9 21:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump held two rounds of talks over a variety of issues on Thursday and Friday. Prior to Xi's visit, hawkish voices toward China were heard in Washington in an attempt to impose pressure on Beijing and gain diplomatic advantages.

The unusual modus operandi reflected nothing but a power in decline with a dearth of effective foreign policies and a slew of risks involved in the Trump administration's behaviors.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the US has seen a downturn in its hard power and therefore, it could hardly achieve its diplomatic goals by merely relying on its traditional political and military strength. It was under such circumstances that the nation focused on the concepts of soft power and smart power, attempting to offset the fall in its hard power and defend its hegemonic position with crafty diplomatic means and cultural exchanges.

Former US president Barack Obama did well in this regard. He managed to bring the US out of the isolation it had been stranded in, reconsolidated Washington's alliances, improved the country's international image and also alleviated its obligations.

Trump's policies, on the one hand, are similar to that of Obama. But on the other hand, they have their own characteristics. The business tycoon-turned president has recognized that the US is a declining power weighed down with heavy international burdens. Obama was committed to safeguarding the US' hegemonic status in the Asia-Pacific region. But Trump has gone in the opposite direction by asserting that he is neither interested in world leadership nor intent to be a world president. He just wants to be a president for America.

Trump seems to believe that Washington must not show weakness as its hard power declines. Instead, it must increase the uncertainties in its foreign policies so that others could not see through its façade. Because of this, Trump and his team have taken a tough stance on some international affairs.

He made accusations against the Syrian government immediately after the news came out that chemical weapons were used in a bomb attack in the war-torn country. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told UN Security Council members that the attack was "a heinous act and will be treated as such." On Thursday evening, the US military fired a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian government-controlled airport.

In addition, the White House has kept imposing pressure on the North Korean nuclear issue. In Seoul, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared an end to the US' policy of "strategic patience" toward North Korea. And Trump told the Financial Times, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

It is palpable that in major international issues, the US no longer has the open-mindedness and composure as it used to. Now, the country is becoming increasingly selfish, tinted with irascibility and mutability, which has brought about new anxiety to the rest of the world, especially when the turbulent world needs the US to help bring about stability. However, its petulant diplomatic model is of no help to both the US and the international community.

Instead, it will trigger a series of harmful ripples. To begin with, it will inevitably damage the US' international image. For a long time, Washington has been acting as a solution-seeker to international conundrums, a defender of international order and a stabilizer of global security. It touts itself as an "invited hegemonic power." But now, the US has turned from a power focusing on great country relations and seeking hegemony to a calculating regional nation astute at striking bargains. In this way, it has become a saboteur, a source of international conflicts.

The overbearing diplomacy will also shake Washington's alliance. Uncertainties have been swaying US allies' confidence in its strength. The US has ignored the intricacies and sophistication of some issues, which will undermine its credibility. Furthermore, erratic diplomacy will also make it difficult for the White House to coordinate policies with its allies. Another negative impact is the dampening of the US' political influence. Diplomatic chaos is an indication of a domestic mess; self-interests-oriented diplomacy creates polarizing politics. Therefore, the changes in US foreign policy will likely cause a decline in confidence in the rest of the world toward the country's political system.

Washington's actions and rhetoric have posed many challenges for Beijing and created obstacles for China in keeping up its tempo with the US. But they will not damage China's strategic interests. For China, an effective way to deal with the US government is to remain calm and respond actively.

The author is a professor with the Center for Amercian Studies, Fudan University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus