Trump Hands the Chinese a Gift: The Chance for Global Leadership
WASHINGTON — President Trump has managed to turn America First into America Isolated.
In pulling out of the Paris climate accord, Mr. Trump has created a vacuum of global leadership that presents ripe opportunities to allies and adversaries alike to reorder the world’s power structure. His decision is perhaps the greatest strategic gift to the Chinese, who are eager to fill the void that Washington is leaving around the world on everything from setting the rules of trade and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects that give Beijing vast influence.
Mr. Trump’s remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday were also a retreat from leadership on the one issue, climate change, that unified America’s European allies, its rising superpower competitor in the Pacific, and even some of its adversaries, including Iran. He did it over the objections of much of the American business community and his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, who embraced the Paris accord when he ran Exxon Mobil, less out of a sense of moral responsibility and more as part of the new price of doing business around the world.
As Mr. Trump announced his decision, the Paris agreement’s goals were conspicuously reaffirmed by friends and rivals alike, including nations where it would have the most impact, like China and India, as well as the major European Union states and Russia.
The announcement came only days after he declined to give his NATO allies a forceful reaffirmation of America’s commitment to their security, and a few months after he abandoned a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that was designed to put the United States at the center of a trade group that would compete with — and, some argue, contain — China’s fast-growing economic might.
“The irony here is that people worried that Trump would come in and make the world safe for Russian meddling,” said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was briefly considered, then rejected, for a top post in the new administration. “He may yet do that,” Mr. Haass added, “but he has certainly made the world safe for Chinese influence.”
The president, and his defenders,argue that such views are held by an elite group of globalists who have lost sight of the essential element of American power: economic growth. Mr. Trump made that argument explicitly in the Rose Garden with his contention that the Paris accord amounted to nothing more than “a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”
In short, he turned the concept of the agreement on its head. While President Barack Obama argued that the United Nations Green Climate Fund — a financial institution to help poorer nations combat the effects of climate change — would benefit the world, Mr. Trump argued that the American donations to the fund, which he halted, would beggar the country.
“Our withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” Mr. Trump said.
That, in short, encapsulates how Mr. Trump’s view of preserving American power differs from all of his predecessors, back to President Harry S. Truman. His proposed cuts to contributions to the United Nations and to American foreign aid are based on a presumption that only economic and military power count. “Soft power” — investments in alliances and broader global projects — are, in his view, designed to drain influence, not add to it, evident in the fact that he did not include the State Department among the agencies that are central to national security, and thus require budget increases. ” Read more…