The Presidency of Donald Trump is not something I expected to be a typical in any way. When a blatantly racist, xenophobic rapist candidate is fucking skyrocketed into the presidency, you can’t expect typical. It certainly has been atypical, but in some very unexpected ways, posing very unexpected threats to global stability and human rights.
The day after the election I had a lot of concerns. I was, and remain, particularly concerned about what a Trump presidency means for the rest of the world as well as for the US. During his campaign Trump promised his horde of nationalist voters a staunch “America First” policy, He said we’d leave NATO and the UN, he said we’d build a wall between the US and Mexico. Trump promised to take action against North Korea, to name China as a currency manipulator and completely disregard the “One China” policy. Trump even took a call from the president of Taiwan, which might as well be the diplomatic equivalent to poking China with a stick.
Within days of his inauguration, Trump’s delusions were met with certain realities of the world, and the resulting presidency has carried the US into some more familiar territory regarding international diplomacy, and some even stranger than I would have expected. Between divulging top secret information to Russian officials and potential new trade deals with China, Trump’s charm has gone over well with some foreign leaders, not so with others, and none of it is good news for causes on the left.
As it turns out, US foreign policy is messy, and governed by one force which supersedes any ideological positions a president may have when taking office. After Trump’s first meeting with Chinese president, Xi Jinping, he seemed to have changed feelings about relations with the Chinese.
“We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea. We talked trade. We talked a lot of things, and I said the way you’re going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea.”
-Donald Trump, 2017
China has experienced significant economic growth in recent years. Experts from capitalist economies all over the world have been puzzled trying to explain the sharp increase in Chinese GDP. This is funny, because now one of the most significant factors missed by traditional economists seems to be an increase in labor productivity. This has surprised economists still using economic models in which capital is seen as the primary driving force of economic growth. It makes sense to me that a formerly communist nation would accurately see labor as the key to a thriving economy. Since 1978, China’s government has been slowly letting the reigns of economic production to the global free market. They’ve done this primarily by lowering the cost of labor and increasing worker production. A goal Chinese companies have achieved by keeping many of their workers in sub-human working conditions. China’s “open door policy”, which allows for corporations from other countries to build factories in China, keeps many US manufacturers like Walmart or Apple from being held to more strict working condition or pollution standards.
Barack Obama’s foreign policy towards China was a complex game of international politics involving looking for ways the US could profit off of Chinese growth, while walking on eggshells as he tried to persuade China into following along with labor and environmental regulations.
Donald Trump is approaching things in the exact opposite way. With a learn-on-the-job mentality, Trump is pushing the US into potential international crisis at every turn. He’s making decisions.
The flow of global capital from the pockets of workers and into the offshore bank accounts of CEOs and Wall Street executives drives US, as well as global foreign policy. As it has for decades, expecting Trump to cause a change in this system is, I believe both a miscalculation of his intelligence, as well as an overestimation of how much power a president really has.