“Details are scarce as to what Trump’s policy approach to the Asia Pacific might look like, and many of his off-the-cuff remarks have sent mixed signals about how the administration might proceed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. “Had Clinton won the election, there’s little doubt that she would have continued to prioritize the Asia Pacific region.”
“China will likely find a business-minded leader like Trump to be easier to influence than a political and ideologically minded leader like Clinton,” Spangler forecast.
From interview transcript:
“Secretary Clinton’s campaign platform was relatively heavy on policy details, which is unsurprising given her many decades in government. In stark contrast to her approach, President-Elect Trump’s rise to power was fueled by public distrust of government combined with a wave of misogyny, xenophobia, and racism. Trump’s approach earned him the presidency, but it left many questions about where the country is headed unanswered – particularly in terms of foreign policy.
Had Clinton won the election, there is little doubt that she would have continued to prioritize the Asia-Pacific region. As Secretary of State, she became the founding architect of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy with her influential article “America’s Pacific Century” published in Foreign Affairs in 2011. She is also known for being more hawkish than President Barack Obama, which could have meant a tougher stance against China’s actions in the South China Sea and greater willingness to increase US naval presence in the region.
Details are scarce as to what Trump’s policy approach to the Asia-Pacific might look like, and many of his off-the-cuff remarks have sent mixed signals about how the administration might proceed.
What we do know is this. He has blamed China for many of America’s economic issues and vowed to be tough on Beijing. For its part, China will likely find a business-minded US president like Trump to be easier to influence than a policy- and ideology-oriented leader like Clinton.
Trump has also suggested that regional powers like Japan and South Korea take more responsibility for their own defense and threatened to withdraw US forces from the region. On the other hand, he may also be influenced by advocates of military modernization, such as Republican Congressman Randy Forbes, who has pushed for a stronger US Navy.
What we also know is that Trump is impulsive, perpetually concerned about his own image, and not necessarily bound by Republican Party doctrine, so he might prioritize high-profile short-term gains over a more nuanced approach that would benefit long-term national interests in the Asia-Pacific region.”