What’s worse than the Coronavirus crisis for the USA? Trump destroying decades of foreign policy hard work in recreating the World Order to suit America’s needs.
Above all else, President Donald Trump hailed “Make America Great Again!” as his biggest promise while electioneering. Keeping up with the ideal, Trump administration backed out of Paris Accord. He then imposed a travel ban on people from countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia, later extending it to North Korea. Committing to withdrawing all US troops from Syria and prematurely declaring victory over ISIS, President Trump talked down to his allies. He blamed the Obama administration for the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Trump administration’s vision for America veers in the direction of isolationism that has a long history.
American foreign policy has oscillated between isolationism and strategic overextension. The United States refused to join the League of Nations after World War I. Nevertheless, they still offered to rebuild a war-torn Europe. The role of Washington in founding the United Nations in 1945 was a clear sign of an America determined to play a more active role in world affairs.
Trump’s immediate predecessors George Bush Jr. and Barack Obama sustained the US presence in Asia-Pacific. Both Bush and Obama, however, pursued active military intervention in Iraq and Libya, whose outcomes were scathingly attacked by Trump. Trump administration has unilaterally decided to clamp down American commitments. Quasi-vacuum created by the US administration has left many wondering if another country will take America’s place as the leader and predominant force in global affairs.
US’ withdrawal from the global stage
Withdrawal of the US from the global stage is not something that is only happening on the economic and military fronts. The US has seemingly decided to exit agreements and institutions, an act being condemned by the rest of the world. Ironically, while President after President, since WWII, invested resources in creating an unchallenged positioning in the present world order, Trump is no longer interested in preserving it.
The United States’ increasingly isolation has opened up an unprecedented scope of diplomacy for rising powers in the East. Both China and India are expanding their respective bases to fill in the void that the US retrenchment is likely to create. While China has emerged as the unchallenged new economic power throttled by its manufacturing prowess, India has turned out to be a center of global governance.
Chinese geopolitical ambitions under Xi Jinping
With the rise of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of CPC, China shunned concealing its might. It started highlighting its economic prosperity and launched massive infrastructure projects in Africa and Asia under the giant umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims at creating trade routes connecting a host of countries with China at its center. Extremely ambitious, this initiative has led countries into major debt-traps. Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka is a clear example of the policy. After Sri Lanka defaulted on its payments to the Chinese, the port was taken over for use by China. The incident raised concerns over the ‘debt-trap’ style of diplomacy China is pursuing. The policy aims at ensuring strategic returns for investments from poor host countries less likely to have the ability to repay.
Watch: Is China’s Belt and Road Initiative a debt trap’?
Liberalization of the economy saw China become an economic powerhouse, with both domestic and foreign entities making steady profits from their investments in Chinese development. With the ascent of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the CPC, he stated the time for China to hide its strength was over and the time had come for the country to highlight its economic prosperity to the rest of the world.
Growth of China’s GDP in the last decade (Xi Jinping became President in 2012)
China made steady progress on the international front. Simultaneously it ensured that it does not bend to any unnecessary demands from the US, particularly under the Trump administration. Trump’s decisions have put China in an advantageous position and positioned Beijing as a viable alternative to the US’ global influence. No case can be more relevant to this than the recent trade war. While Trump administration slapped tariffs on the import of steel and aluminum on its trading partners including Canada and Mexico, China reached out to the world highlighting its great import potential.
Can India act as the much-needed counterweight to China?
While India used to raise its voice against alleged injustice by global powers earlier, it has instead started helping the distressed with its own might as evident in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite itself bracing for an outbreak, India dispatched healthcare assistance to most of the countries including the US. India dialed up its medical diplomacy, sending loads of medicines to 100-plus countries over the last two weeks to help them fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 85 million hydroxychloroquine tablets and close to 500 paracetamol tablets were supplied to 108 countries.
Worldview happens to be clement to India’s rise to the center-stage unlike China’s, thanks to the diplomatic compassion involved. Given that existing powers including the US are busy battling their demons as manifested in the ensuing corona crisis. Consequently, the West is shutting down its doors for others, giving East a chance to assert its claim on the geopolitical landscape. But while China’s ascent to global leadership is viewed as a threat, the Indian initiative of good governance is considered to be the much-needed vaccine to the new world order.