Policy Alert: Rising Powers React to President-Elect Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. After the polls closed and the votes were counted in a nail biter of an election on November 8, the Trump campaign won enough electoral college votes to defeat Hillary Clinton and retake the White House. Along with a GOP majority in the Senate and the House, President-Elect Trump and Republicans will have free rein over the instruments of American government. As demonstrated by previous Policy Alerts on the nominating conventions and the debates, rising powers have been closely watching the U.S. presidential election to understand how the next administration might change U.S. foreign policy and the global economy. In this Policy Alert, we explore the reactions from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea to the surprise conclusion of the 2016 race for the White House.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed congratulations to President-elect Trump and his desire to work closely together to “manage differences in a constructive way, in the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation and win-win.”
Several commentators in China worried Trump’s presidency might have a negative effect on U.S.-China relations and could complicate Beijing’s economic and foreign policy ambitions.
- China Daily saw Trump’s victory as the “logical outcome of the prevailing anti-establishment feelings” in a deeply divided U.S. society. China will have to adapt to “Trump at the helm” and see if his threats to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States and withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change were just campaign rhetoric or a promise.
- Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University, foresaw Beijing being more assertive in its dealings with Washington with Trump’s China policy having “negative effects on Sino-U.S. economic cooperation.”
- Lin Hongyu, scholar at Huaqiao University, credited Trump’s win with the campaign riding a current of anti-globalization to the degree that the election result did “not come as a surprise at all” to those not blinded by the media and elites.
- Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University, predicted if Trump “indeed removes the troops from Japan, the Japanese may develop their own nuclear weapons.” He worried “South Korea may also go nuclear if Trump cancels the missile deployment and leaves the country alone facing the North’s threats. How is that good for China?”
Others were less worried about Trump’s victory either because China can adapt or that Trump will be constrained at home.
- Mei Xinyu, research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, thought Trump’s victory would “create a chance to end the ‘self-damaging competition’” between China and the United States.
- On whether Trump would continue Obama’s “Pivot to Asia,” China Daily predicted that while the next administration will not “roll back the U.S. presence in the region,” it matters “a huge difference how the Trump-led” White House “goes about it.”
- Global Times guaranteed China was “strong enough to cope” with President Trump, who is “not as bold enough to really change” the United States.
- Jin Canrong of Remin University considered it “unlikely” Trump will be able to fulfill his foreign policy promises as he is restrained by other conservatives and a pluralistic democracy. Lin Hongyu voiced a similar viewpoint.
- “Democracy is the loser in U.S. Vote,” declared China Daily while criticizing the level of personal attacks and “nasty aspects” of American style democracy. The People’s Daily made a similar claim.
The Kremlin was ecstatic over Trump’s victory. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first world leader to personally congratulate Trump and pledged Russia would “fully restore relations” with the United States “from its deep crisis under the Obama administration.” When the State Duma was told of Trump’s victory, it “broke into applause” with a celebration complete with champagne, sweets, and sausages.
- In spite of the Kremlin’s excitement, there is concern over Trump’s foreign policy positions precisely because they are not fully fleshed out. Moscow Times’ Vladimir Frolov supposed “Trump’s impulsiveness and unpredictability, particularly his penchant for going personal, unnerve the Kremlin,” as “having an equally unpredictable partner in Washington may actually limit Moscow’s freedom of maneuver.”
- On the other hand, Frolov said Trump will lead to an economic “full-blown crisis,” and with the United States “occupied with its own issues,” Washington “will not bother Putin.” He saw a geopolitical “window of opportunity” for Russia to regain control over the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. “What is there not to like?” he asked.
- Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev hoped that with close ties between Trump and Putin, “the Russian-American relationship could get significantly better.”
- Mikhail Fishman, Moscow Times’ editor-in-chief, expressed concern over the effect of Trump’s victory on Kremlin. Although “there was a fresh sense in the air that the [Russian] regime might start loosening its grip,” he urged that the unpredictability and messiness that the Trump presidency brings would make “taking advantage of the disorder looks much more rational as a strategy.”
- RT op-eds drew a parallel between Trump’s victory and the U.K.’s Brexit vote as they both sent “an unmistakable message to the elite that [the people] are tired of business as usual.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded Trump on Twitter with a message saying “we appreciate the friendship you have articulated toward India in your campaign.”
Many commentators in India worried about the prospects of Trump’s surprise win.
- The Times of India saw “opportunities and dangers for India” in President Trump. Closer U.S.-Russia ties would benefit Indian interests and a U.S. split with Pakistan could pressure Islamabad on its support for terror. However, Trump-style protectionism “could unleash trade wars and pile up unstainable debt,” hurting the U.S. and Indian economies.
- Srinivasan Ramani, deputy national editor at The Hindu, wanted the U.S. election to “make American normal again,” but he was left disappointed.
- Hindustan Times said Trump’s victory was evidence of an “inward looking America” and one more internally divided over the next several years.
- Business Standard saw Trump’s win as adding greater uncertainty to the global order.
Others tried to explain the election results and show that fears about the Trump White House are overblown.
- The Hindu explained the “Trumpocalypse” saw voters “throw a metaphorical grenade” at the country’s political and financial elites. Comparing the election to Brexit, the paper hoped Trump’s “conciliatory” victory speech could help heal the nation and continue the U.S. tradition of lending “strength to the global order.”
- Economic Times urged its readers to “beware, don’t fear, President Trump” because no one has any “reliable” guide to what he will actually do in office. The paper welcomed the constraints that would be placed on the Trump administration, including a Republican Congress that favors U.S. engagement in the world.
- Sanjaya Baru, director for Geo-Economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, mocked U.S. political commentators who showed an ignorance of the “yawning gap between ivory tower analysts and grass roots politicians.”
Brazilian President Michel Temer assured nothing has changed for U.S.-Brazilian relations: “when one assumes power, they must govern for all the people.” He said he intends to work with President-elect Trump to achieve the best relations possible. Brazilian media outlets quickly responded to the surprising results of the United States elections with many of the reports focusing on the immediate impacts upon the financial markets and the longer term prospects for the U.S. economy and trade policy overall.
- Folha de São Paulo ran a detailed article of Donald Trump’s surprising victory and characterized his rise as improbable and a challenge to both the conventional wisdom and the political class in Washington.
- Folha de São Paulo also noted a majority of economists conclude Trump’s stated intentions of cutting taxes and imposing strict immigration rules could throw the country into recession. The story asserted Trump could complicate international affairs given his derogatory comments against Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans among other nationalities.
- The financial periodical Valor Econômico reported an immediate drop in value for the São Paulo stock exchange. Several Brazilian financial market analysts claimed it will take a while to understand how Trump’s campaign statements might translate into concrete action and policy. These analysts, including Julio Zamora of Citi, forecast a 5 to 10 percent drop in stock values throughout Latin American markets, but others argued Trump will be favorable to business and stimulate greater interest over time in buying stocks than selling them.
- Lucianne Carneiro of O Globo thought Trump’s isolationist tendencies foretold the United States entering into a more ‘protectionist’ trade policy and the decline of free trade globalization. The article quoted Mark Langevin, director of the Brazil Initiative and research professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, who reminded readers the U.S. presidency is less powerful than its Brazilian’s counterpart, and that the next president will need to negotiate with Congress to approve of any big changes in fiscal or trade policy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conveyed his “heartfelt congratulation” to Trump “as a very successful businessman with extraordinary talents.” Furthermore, he predicted “America will be made even greater” under Trump’s “strong” leadership even after Trump’s statements on the campaign indicated a willingness to pull back U.S. military support for Japan without economic concessions. Abe underscored that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region is “a driving force of the global economy” and security for the United States. The two leaders are expected to meet while Abe is in New York next week.
There was overwhelming concern and uncertainty expressed in Japanese newspapers with headlines like “Trump’s White House Victory Sends Shock Through World” in The Japan Times and “Global Concern Over Trump’s victory” in The Mainichi. The apprehension was not just for Japan and the international arena but the possibility of a surge of exclusion and discrimination against minorities in Trump’s America.
- Takeshi Yamawaki, U.S. bureau chief of The Asahi Shimbun, saw Trump’s victory as an indication the United States “has become disengaged and inward-looking in an unprecedented way.”
- The Asahi Shimbun stated “Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election amounts to a huge political earthquake that will shake the postwar world order to its core.” The paper hoped Trump will learn quickly what role the America should play and how cooperation with allies serves the interests of the United States and the world as a whole.
- The Japan Times questioned what Trump’s vague promises to “make America great again” and of “winning” mean in terms of policy implications and concluded “the Trump victory means that U.S. politics and policies have entered vast and uncharted waters.”
- As news of Trump’s victory was reported, the Nikkei Stock Average plunged and the appreciation of the yen against the dollar progressed. Japan’s finance ministry and central bank held an emergency meeting Wednesday after wild trading in Japan’s stock market and currency unleashed by the U.S. election.
- “The question is whether you will continue to be involved in international affairs as a dependable ally to your friends and allies,” argued Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat and professor at Ritsumeikan University. “If you stop doing that, then all the European, Middle Eastern and Asian allies to the United States will reconsider how they secure themselves.”
In a phone conversation with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Trump pledged to maintain Washington’s “firm, strong” security commitment to Seoul. Despite moments during the campaign where Trump questioned the cost of the U.S. alliance with South Korea, Park expected they “can strengthen and develop the alliance down the road for the shared interest in various areas,” including on North Korea which she urged was “the greatest threat” facing the two nations.
Trump’s victory was described as a “dark event” by many in the South Korean press. Like the Japanese papers, South Korean papers also highlighted uncertainty. And Korea’s business community appeared as shocked by the news of Donald Trump’s victory as everyone else.
- Chosun, the country’s newspaper with the largest circulation, ran a headline after the election that read “Angry Whites Overturn America.”
- The Kyunghyang Shinmun declared “We Cannot Entrust Trump with Peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
- The Korea Times reported a recent survey “67 percent of Koreans are worried about the future of Korea’s relations with our decades-long ally after the election of the political novice as the 45th U.S. president.”
- Although “Korea must brace for shifting foreign policy amid Trump presidency” DONG-A-ILBO said the country “does not need to be too pessimistic. Trump’s remarks are more likely to be political rhetoric aimed at reaching out to his internal supporters during his campaign.” The Korea Herald also wished “President Trump will be different from the presidential candidate Trump.”
- There seems to be a consensus that given the uncertainty of Trump’s presidency, South Korea must take active action. The Hankyoreh wrote “the most important thing is to make a rational readjustment of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and to find a solution to the issue of North Korean nuclear weapons. South Korea must also stop its de facto degeneration into a junior partner” in the alliance.