Maverick calls to foreign powers, captured submersibles, threatened blockades and retaliatory nuclear strikes all make for a great new novel designed to thrill the reader. In fact, I regularly turn on my computer and watch global events and pretend that none of it is real, that it is all in fact a Tom Clancy novel and that at any moment Jack Ryan will jump into save the day. But then reality smacks me in the face like a jilted lover and reminds me that it is not a made up thriller…but in fact what we mortals call “the news”.
There can hardly be a person in the world who has not noticed that something serious is afoot in the White House. Despite all polls and predictions to the contrary Donald Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. It seems hardly a day goes by without there being some controversy surrounding his actions….. Before he has even been sworn into office. He has been called a maverick, a loose cannon, amongst the politer terms I’ve heard used. To be honest, the politest term I could come up with was “a fucking fruit cake”.
Whilst within the United States he is viewed by a proportion of the population as a bigoted, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic incompetent orange ball-bag, it is not how he is viewed at home which are really setting the alarm bells off inside my mind. It is how he is seen, and responds to the wider world political arena that has got me reaching for the bottle (more than usual that is).
I am all for the use of social media and the internet, but I find it worrying that Presidential control of all aspects of foreign and domestic policy is enacted in 140 characters or less. The King of “Twatter” seems intent on shooting first and asking questions later. Certainly he has demonstrated that he is not one to let advice, diplomacy or petty concepts like common sense get in the way of a runaway tongue. In the largest alleged Democracy in the world he seems intent on instigating rule by Presidential decree and has shown himself on numerous occasions to be at odds not only with his Republican Party, but also with his appointees. Diplomatic convention has stood no chance in the face of Trump’s apparent divine knowledge and wisdom from his golden throne in Trump tower.
This has never been more clearly demonstrated than in his dealings with both Russian and Chinese political leaders. Trump appears to be in a love affair with Vladimir Putin whilst seemingly intent on destroying decades of careful US-Sino relationships. Everything is being turned on its head. Americans are being cajoled by Trump into believing that Russia are the good guys, and Putin is a great guy, a really great guy, just like himself. The world has nothing to fear from Russian intentions and actions in the Ukraine, in Syria, Crimea and interference in the Presidential election. Just like the recent #showergate revelations it’s all fake news and not to be discussed….period!
The Chinese on the other hand are the real bad guys, and it seems that Trump is intent on deflecting attention away from Russia and putting the focus on China, you know those guys who invented global warming. This brings us to the headlines at the start of this article. Not a new political thriller, but the actions of Trump in an ever increasing escalation of words between China and the US. One of President Elect Trump’s first actions was to throw diplomatic protocol to the wind and receive a phone call from the President of Taiwan because “it would be rude not to”. Since US-Sino relations started to improve in the 1970’s the United States has respected China’s “One China” stance, until the Trump picked up the phone.
For those who are unaware, Taiwan is officially called “The Republic of China”, it is what was left of the Nationalist government after being defeated by the Communists in 1950 (People’s Republic of China), it still to this day claims to be the legitimate government of China over the mainland. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province, and a rightful part of China, and one day, preferably soon, will once again be part of China. Although there has never been complete acceptance of that stance by United States diplomats, there has always been an unwritten respect of that stance. Diplomacy between Taipei and Washington is conducted in a hush, hush manner. After all, no one in their right mind would wish to prod the sleeping dragon with a pointy stick, right?
Instead Trump shoves the stick up the sleeping dragons arse and commits the diplomatic equivalent of shitting on their neighbour’s door step. This must all have been planned, must have been deliberate and he must have known the response he would get from Beijing. Thankfully to date the response from Beijing has been measured and consoling, with just a hint of rebuke, just like an owner gives to a young puppy being house trained.
All the time continuous 140 character electronic words of wisdom have emitted from his twatter account decrying the Chinese nation and people. He has publicly condemned China accusing them of manipulating the US currency and taking advantage of American business. This is probably not an indication of what is actually taking place as Beijing has helped maintain the stability of the US Dollar in a time where financial markets have been notoriously volatile. I suspect, that as with anything this man appears to do, it is driven by thoughts of himself and his business empire. He has already made it abundantly clear that he is not prepared to put a reasonable distance between himself and his businesses with concern from the Senate Ethics Committee being largely ignored. It is those business interests that I suspect are at the heart of Trumps policies. He has few business interests to protect in the world’s largest economy, but many in neighbouring countries, including a proposed Hotel complex in Taiwan, remember them? And of course huge interests in Russia… that’s the Good Guys, got that ?… Russia Good… China Bad. Trump continues to antagonise the sleeping dragon with only this week threatening to blockade the South China Sea and restrict Chinese movement in that area. Like Taiwan, this is a sensitive area for the Chinese and already the People’s Daily and other Chinese Newspapers have warned the US that they should prepare their strategies including nuclear options if they continue along this aggressive line.
So where do we go from here? He seems committed to promoting Russia as the good guys and the need for better understanding and friendship with the Kremlin. In a dangerous and volatile world nobody would argue with those apparently very sensible ideas. De-escalation of any potential flashpoint, particularly with a nuclear power, has got to be seen in a positive light. What is more worrying is the motives that drive that sentiment. Trump has much to gain by an increasingly more conducive relationship with the Kremlin, particularly regarding his business interests. What still remains unclear is if that is the sole purpose in this huge swing from suspicion of Russia and all of its motives, and acceptance of China, to suspicion and almost outright hostility towards China and open arms towards Russia. Is there something more behind this? Is he being manipulated by Russia in some way? Do they have dirt on him as has been suggested by recent events? Is he purely driven by self interest and a myopic focus on personal financial gain, or is there something more sinister afoot?
Only time will reveal that answer, but in the meantime the world is placed in a more precarious and dangerous situation. Trump seems unaware that China holds many sharp sticks in this war of wills as well. It holds the key to financial stability not just within the US, but also within world markets. It holds the key to control of North Korea. It could even wage war with the US by proxy by arming the North Koreans. In the meantime Russia will undoubtedly use this period effectively to undermine the European Union and rebuild its position in the world. What could be at stake is not just American dominance, but the whole of the world order and the potential security of everyone on this planet. At least we can’t claim to live in boring times right?
We must also remember this is all from a person who has yet to assume the mantle of full power as the 45th President of the United States.