Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
November 16, 2023
As US President Biden just concluded his summit with President Xi in San Fransico yesterday and is hosting the APEC summit now, this article is a timely reminder to the US that we face a very grim future if Trump were to be re-elected in 2024, less than one year from now. Biden is basking in the warm sun of the bay area and plays the role of a top global leader who is in charge, making demands on behalf of the allies, standing up for democracy against autocrats and reaffirmed that Xi is a dictator to the news media.
But all these show of leadership, foreign policy experience and moral authority darkens by the prospectus that Trump will return to the White House by beating Biden: as of now Biden is polling behind of Trump. Yes, Trump II does pose the biggest danger to the world, but the US as a nation would be the most injured by Trump. If Trump behaved as Financial Times contemplated, the US as we know would be gone before Trump were done. The next group that would suffer badly are the US allies in Europe: they have to defend themselves. Majority of the US do agree with Trump that for “America to spend blood in Europe is a bad deal.” Biden is dealing with the Ukraine war the same way: No US boots on the ground.
Of course, the US bars any foreign interference of her elections so it should be Biden’s top responsibility to fight off Trump in the ballot boxes. Or Biden should realize that “it is mission impossible” then he should quit his reelection bid as soon as possible. Otherwise, Biden bears the same responsibility for whatever the global damages as Trump II.
Donald Trump poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024
Financial Times: Nov 16th 2023
That a Trump victory next November is a coin-toss probability is beginning to sink in.
Mr Trump dominates the Republican primary. Several polls have him ahead of President Joe Biden in swing states.
This is a perilous moment for a man like Mr Trump to be back knocking on the door of the Oval Office. Democracy is in trouble at home. Mr Trump’s claim to have won the election in 2020 was more than a lie: it was a cynical bet that he could manipulate and intimidate his compatriots, and it has worked. America also faces growing hostility abroad, challenged by Russia in Ukraine, by Iran and its allied militias in the Middle East and by China across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.
Because maga Republicans have been planning his second term for months, Trump 2 would be more organised than Trump 1. True believers would occupy the most important positions. Mr Trump would be unbound in his pursuit of retribution, economic protectionism and theatrically extravagant deals. No wonder the prospect of a second Trump term fills the world’s parliaments and boardrooms with despair.
The greatest threat Mr Trump poses is to his own country. Having won back power because of his election-denial in 2020, he would surely be affirmed in his gut feeling that only losers allow themselves to be bound by the norms, customs and self-sacrifice that make a nation. In pursuing his enemies, Mr Trump will wage war on any institution that stands in his way, including the courts and the Department of Justice.
Yet a Trump victory next year would also have a profound effect abroad. China and its friends would rejoice over the evidence that American democracy is dysfunctional. If Mr Trump trampled due process and civil rights in the United States, his diplomats could not proclaim them abroad. The global south would be confirmed in its suspicion that American appeals to do what is right are really just an exercise in hypocrisy. America would become just another big power.
Mr Trump’s protectionist instincts would be unbound, too. In his first term the economy thrived despite his China tariffs. His plans for a second term would be more damaging. Even if the Senate reins him in, protectionism justified by an expansive view of national security would increase prices for Americans. Mr Trump also fired up the economy in his first term by cutting taxes and handing out covid-19 payments. This time, America is running budget deficits on a scale only seen in war and the cost of servicing debts is higher. Tax cuts would feed inflation, not growth.
Abroad, Mr Trump’s first term was better than expected. If you squint, another transactional presidency could bring some benefits. Mr Trump’s indifference to human rights might make the Saudi government more biddable once the Gaza war is over, and strengthen relations with Narendra Modi’s government in India.
But a second term would be different, because the world has changed. There is nothing wrong in countries being transactional: they are bound to put their own interests first. However, Mr Trump’s lust for a deal and his sense of America’s interests are unconstrained by reality and unanchored by values.
Mr Trump judges that for America to spend blood and treasure in Europe is a bad deal. He has therefore threatened to end the Ukraine war in a day and to wreck nato, perhaps by reneging on America’s commitment to treat an attack on one country as an attack on all. In the Middle East Mr Trump is likely to back Israel without reserve, however much that stirs up conflict in the region. In Asia he may be open to doing a deal with China’s president, Xi Jinping, to abandon Taiwan because he cannot see why America would go to war with a nuclear-armed superpower to benefit a tiny island.
But knowing that America would abandon Europe, Mr Putin would have an incentive to fight on in Ukraine and to pick off former Soviet countries such as Moldova or the Baltic states. Without American pressure, Israel is unlikely to generate an internal consensus for peace talks with the Palestinians. Calculating that Mr Trump does not stand by his allies, Japan and South Korea could acquire nuclear weapons. By asserting that America has no global responsibility to help deal with climate change, Mr Trump would crush efforts to slow it. And he is surrounded by China hawks who believe confrontation is the only way to preserve American dominance. Caught between a dealmaking president and his warmongering officials, China could easily miscalculate over Taiwan, with catastrophic consequences.