POLICY ALERT: What Rising Powers Saw at the Republican Convention

POLICY ALERT: What Rising Powers Saw at the Republican Convention

GOP Nominee Donald Trump at RNC Convention (Source: AP)

From July 18-21 in Cleveland, the Republican National Committee held its convention to nominate Donald Trump as their party’s candidate for president. With the U.S election season now in full swing, rising powers are closely watching to see how the Trump campaign’s foreign and economic policies might shape the future direction of the United States. While some in China have welcomed his willingness to disengage America from the Indo-Pacific, others in India, Japan, Brazil, and South Korea are anxious to reevaluate the fundamentals of their relationships with Washington. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the RNC Convention and the prospects of a Trump presidency. In the next Policy Alert, we will cover reactions to the Democratic Party’ convention in Philadelphia.

CHINA
Trump’s nomination has surprised Chinese government officials. Just last September, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed Trump’s harsh views of Beijing since China only concerns itslef with policies held by “the mainstream opinion of the U.S. people.” Nonetheless, many in China have grown into Trump supporters over the course of the campaign, especially when compared to Hillary Clinton whose “pivot to Asia” strategy as Secretary of State incensed China as a means to contain the country. An online poll conducted in March 2016 by Global Times showed a preference for Trump over Clinton with 54 percent in support of the GOP candidate, citing the nominee’s image as a successful businessman, his foreign policy views, and the popularity of The Apprentice and the Trump family brand in China.

 Some commentators in China debated how Trump was able to beat the odds and secure his party’s nomination.
Others debated whether a Trump White House would be a net positive or negative for Chinese interests, U.S. democracy, and Sino-U.S. relations.

Finally, Chinese media highlighted ways Chinese citizens and Chinese-Americans were becoming increasingly engaged in American politics.

INDIA
Harmeet K. Dhillon – a lawyer in the Bay Area – became the first Indian-American to join the RNC last week. Dhillon pushed New Delhi to consider Trump’s immigration ideas, because while “it good to accept refugees,” “we must also realize is that mixing with the refugees are also people who have every intention of doing harm.” During an invocation, she recited the Ardas, a Sikh prayer, in Punjabi, the first time the Ardas was spoken at any national convention.
Many commentators in India explored how Trump was able to secure the nomination and the meaning of his victory for the American electorate.
  • The Hindu, a left leaning newspaper, thought hthe Republican establishment are in a “political terrain”
    that must feel like “quicksand.”
  • The Economic Times said Trump was not a “regular Republican” given his positions against free trade, tax cuts, and welfare reforms. Instead, the paper said Trump’s politics is one where “feeling and emotion trump reason and mere facts” and “blaming the other,” rhetoric that sounds “vaguely familiar to Indian voters” in their own campaigns.
  • C. Raja Mohan, columnist for The Indian Express, said Trump’s rise has challenged GOP views on trade and immigration and undermined traditional Democratic bases of support in the working class. “Win or lose,” Mohan concluded, “Trump is likely to herald a major discontinuity in America’s political evolution.”
  • The convention reaffirmed Trump’s “powerful, and what many see as dangerous, political message,” editorialized The Indian Express. Likewise, Varghese K. George, U.S. correspondent for The Hindu, wrote that “real estate baron’s speech allowed prejudices to fester against Muslims.
  • The center-right Hindustan Times said the Republican Convention must have made viewers “[wince] at the rhetoric of pessimism” and “hopelessness” in the GOP view of the state of American affairs. In another editorial, the paper contrasted Trump’s approach to politics and policy with President Barack Obama, including the GOP nominee’s worries about how “China and India are taking American jobs.”
  • On the other hand, The Pioneer – a BJP-leaning news outlet – believed Trump’s candid, “realistic,” and sometimes “hard-hitting nativistic overtones” was showing people “the dangers America might face in the near future.” The paper criticized Obama and Clinton for “empty rhetoric” and praised Trump for appealing to “many more young as well as older generation of Americans who are badly yearning for a stable society.”

Many debated how a Trump Administration would help or hurt Indian economic and diplomatic ties with the United States.

  • George detailed the RNC policy platform’s “continuity and stability” toward South Asia, which painted India as a “geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner” and Pakistan as a “working relationship” that is “necessary though sometimes difficult.” He also cautioned, however, that Indian leaders should be wary of Trump’s immigration policies that may reduce H-1B visas and other programs many Indian-U.S. firms rely on for business.
  • In The Huffington Post, journalist Sandip Roy pleaded with readers to not “be fooled into thinking Donald Trump is pro-India.” While Kumar may calling Trump “the most pro-India President” ever, Roy worried about focusing too much on Trump’s “anti-Pakistan, anti-Muslim” views and not on the candidate’s broader “America First” and “anti-globalism” stances that may harm India’s interests.
Others discussed the role of Indian-Americans in the 2016 presidential election.
  • PTI/ India West cited several Indian-American delegates who remained cautious about Trump. Sudhir Parikh, founder of Indian American Republican Council, said “Trump is too anti-immigrant, too anti-minority, and anti-trade.” On the other hand, delegates such as Dhillon praised Trump’s economic plans and rejected “hyphenated identities” such as “Indian-American” in favor of “unity” as Americans.
  • During an event on the convention side-lines, Indian-American industrialist Shalabh Kumar (who also chairs the Republican Hindu Coalition) argued Trump would be a better president for India than Hillary Clinton because Trump “was committed to a firm foreign policy of strength against radical Islamic terrorism and policies that keep in mind America’s economic security.”
  • Some Indian-Americans politicians such as former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley either did not attend or declined speaking invitations at the convention. Newt Gingrich, a prominent Trump supporter and former Speaker of the House, said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the GOP nominee would be a “natural fit” as both are “tough defenders” of their countries’ democracies and getting deals done.
  • Ishani Duttagupta, editor for The Economic Times, saw “high profile support for Trump from the India American community, which has historically leaned towards the Democratic Party,” citing supporters who favored the Republican platform on free markets, fewer government regulations, and a foreign policy targeting global terrorism.
BRAZIL

The Republican Convention was widely covered in the Brazilian press with all eyes focused on the coronation of Trump as the new, insurgent leader of a divided party and his controversial, anti-immigrant statements rather than his foreign policy and free trade positions as per the norm for Brazilians in past U.S. elections.

  • The daily, O Globo, concentrated on his apparent weakness within the Republican Party by noting that the nominee was selected with the most votes cast against his nomination since 1980. Likewise, Claudia Trevisan of the daily, Estado de São Paulo, reported Trump’s victory reflected the rising importance of the insurgent forces within the party, disgruntled with Republican leadership.
  • The most popular weekly news magazine, Veja, remarked how few believed Trump could win the Republican nomination with his national-populist rhetoric and insurgent “outside” forces. However, Trump attracted the discontent and gained favor with those opposed to the party’s national leaders with anti-immigrant positions galvanizing support for his candidacy.
  • Political scientist Cristina Soreanu Pecequilo wrote in the pages of Carta Capital that Trump’s nomination represents a step back in U.S. politics after the election of Obama and given that the U.S. electorate is increasingly Latino and multiracial. Pecequilo argued Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-civil rights “law and order” positions distances his campaign from mainstream voters who favor more progressive positions.
JAPAN
Yomiuri Shimbun reported a “sense of crisis” within Tokyo about Trump’s isolationist tendencies and a perceived devaluation of the U.S.-Japan alliance. As a result, the Japanese government has attempted in recent weeks to “influence the Trump camp to reappraise its policies” toward the island-nation. According to The Japan Times, other officials are taking a “wait-and-see attitude about Trump” as they assess whether his “radical remarks” about the alliance would “actually become his foreign policy.”
Most Japanese news outlets fretted the implications of Trump’s nomination and possible presidency.
  • Yomiuri Shimbun said Trump set a “high value on the national interest while dismissing globalism,” a “worrisome” trend of “isolationism and populism.” The editorial painted Trump as a “business tycoon running a hotel chain” that is now the head of a party with a “clearly visible” internal split.
  • Mainichi regretted Trump’s acceptance speech did not demonstrate “enthusiasm about assuming responsibility as head of a superpower” nor a commitment to keeping up strong relations with allies such as Japan, South Korea, and NATO. Not only are those ties essential to counterterrorism measures, Mainichi contended, but their diminishment means U.S. rivals like Russia and China will benefit at the expense of allied interests.
  • Mainichi was anxious Trump’s party has moved away from the TPP trade deal, which is a “cause of serious concern for Japan.”
  • The Japan Times said the “grand failure” of the convention was being “marked by disunity and an absence of ideas that could rally the country,” particularly those not already in his camp.
SOUTH KOREA
Donald Trump’s stated willingness to withdraw U.S. forces from allies if they don’t pay more for protection and his campaign’s belief that the U.S.-Korea free trade deal was a “mistake” was heard loud and clear by officials in Seoul. According to The New York Times, South Korean officials have attempt to contact Trump’s campaign advisers “in hopes of persuading him that the American military presence here benefits” all parties. On the other hand, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North Korean ruling Workers’ Party, praised Trump’s threat to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea and his willingness to talk directly with Pyongyang.
The Republican Convention led many South Korean news outlets to express concern for Trump’s nomination and rhetoric on the alliance.
  • The Korea Times sensed Trump’s nomination “is disappointing for many Koreans” due to his “starkly protectionist views of trade policy,” his contention that the country pays “peanuts” for the protection offered by U.S. troops, and the candidate’s “language of hatred and division.” This view was seconded by Korea JoongAng Daily.
  • Dong-a Ilbo predicted a Trump victory would mean U.S. foreign policy would “shift from interventionism to neo-isolationism and its economic policy will adopt protectionism.” The paper predicted a Trump general election win means Seoul must prepare to spend more on national defense and re-negotiate its free trade deals with Washington.
  • The Korea Herald pressed leaders to “brace for unpredictability in U.S. policy” should Trump win and demand greater “shares of the costs of stationing U.S. forces” in Korea.
  • Lisa Shen, New Mexico delegate and founder of Korean Americans for Trump, held that while the nominee has an “uphill battle” in gaining more support within her communities, his push for stricter immigration laws was a powerful message as South Korea, China, and Japan have similar policies “they actually enforce” to advance “national sovereignty and national safety.”

 

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