Reuters: Chinese state media cheer Xi-Trump meeting, say confrontation not inevitable. This was preceded by (Washington Post)Tillerson’s visit to Beijing, which the Post summarizes as a win for China. The Post notes the remarkable pivot, from a campaign that demonized China and made a saint of Russia, to the polar opposite. In the old days, of which too much lingers in vocabulary, this would have been explained as “balance of power politics.” Today is radically different, because the real dangers come from tiny-to-small actors, state and non-state.
Ten years from now, it may be different again. China is much more adroit in the use of soft power than the U.S. The Trump administration seems blind to this: (Reuters) U.S. backs out of Latam development fund in sign of policy shift. In twenty years, it is likely that the railroads, airports, and mining concessions in South America will be controlled by China’s state capitalism. When they have built the Nicaragua canal, South America will have passed to China’s sphere of influence. Since China has larger population and lower labor costs than the U.S., it would require U.S. strategists of extraordinary talent and insight to avert this.
But the current problem is with tiny actors. In Donald Trump’s Internal Conflicts, I wrote
… This short note offers the possibility, not probability, that Trump’s points of view will evolve in unexpected directions. It takes note of unexpected diversity in Trump’s selection of his inner circle and unusual expressions of thought…
…It is possible that Trump is changeable. By implication of the above, he may be the kind of person who will recognize, perhaps not immediately, that eradication of our liberal heritage will result in a one term presidency.
This was demonstrated first with foreign affairs, and more lately, with an expressed desire to cooperate with the Democrats. In real estate all achievements are measured by the most fungible of commodities: money. (Classic examples of fungible commodities are oil, gas, grain, and pork bellies.) Except for the occasional problem of exchange controls, all money is equivalent. One tends to extend the familiar. So Trump may be the first president for whom achievement is fungible. If you can’t solve one problem (Russia), why not another?
Both pivots are the results of extraordinary challenges. It appears that Trump’s initially naive attitudes towards Russia, and his overconfidence in his ability to judge people gave him a bad case of the leeches. There is the distinct possibility that, completely unknown to Trump, some of his campaign associates were accessories, though not spies themselves, to espionage against the U.S.
In fairness, people confidence in business means trying them out and if necessary, saying, “You’re fired.” The ship of state can’t be managed that way. But only by turning away from Russia, by embracing the internationalist attitudes of the West, can Trump insulate himself from guilt by association.
Gone with the idea of rapprochement with Russia are the ideas floated in 2017 Predictions; Trump’s U.S./Russia Codominium/ New-New World Order. Excerpting,
- Deliberate exclusion of China from the codominium. As with a bad marriage, there will be attempt to blame the other partner. Subtle provocations will continue, with the motive to induce Chinese retaliation, providing further pretexts. But China will stick to soft power unless pushed to the wall.
- Promotion of economic interdependence between the U.S. and Russia.
- The Eurasian codominium warned of by Kissinger is averted.
- A profitable mercantile model with Russia is established.
Trump’s approach to China now reverts to the internationalist model. Without Russia as the favored natural resources state, it’s impossible to construct a self-sufficient codominium.
Since Trump’s concept of achievements is that they are fungible, he reconsiders the South China Sea. There are things you want to keep, and things you want to trade. It’s key to streamlining a business.
Maybe it’s trading material. I’ll finish this a little later.