POLICY ALERT: What Rising Powers Saw at the Republican Convention
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.
- According to Liang Jun of Global Times, many Chinese netizens and scholars were “stumped” and left to “wonder how a businessman, who was often ridiculed, could have bested politicians and is now just one step away from the presidency.”
- Trump’s electoral success stunned Jin Canrong, deputy director of the Center of American Studies at Renmin University, who did not “expect American disgust with Washington and Wall Street to have such a powerful impact.”
- China Daily saw Trump “riding a wave of protest against political establishment toward the White House,” a sign of discontent the news outlet placed within the “global context of the so-called Great Rebellion against elitism, or the neo-liberal crony capitalist order.”
- Wang Yiwei, senior fellow at Renmin University, pinpointed globalization’s negative effects on Western countries’ middle class (e.g., terrorism, immigration, economic crises) as responsible for recent populist waves in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- According to Politico, a “survey of both official state media and social media networks reveals that a growing contingent of Chinese believe the mogul’s potential presidency could actually end up benefiting China – perhaps more so than a President Hillary Clinton, whose criticism of the country’s human rights record infuriates Chinese leaders.”
- Li Xiakun, journalist for China Daily, indicated President Trump would “shelve U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” a trade deal many in Beijing see as a “tool for containing” China.
- The People’s Daily assessed that a Trump win might benefit China as the United States turns away from its traditional Asian allies (e.g., Japan, South Korea ), allowing Beijing a freer hand in the region.
- Chen Weihua, Washington correspondent for China Daily, criticized U.S. leaders who “claim their country is the greatest democracy in the world” even as “a large number of American voters seem to feel that they have to elect the lesser of two evils.”
- Xinhua pushed back on accusations made in Trump’s convention speech of China’s “outrageous theft of intellectual property,” “illegal dumping,” and “devastating currency manipulation.”
- China Daily did not expect “most of Trump’s promises to materialize in the end given that many are far-fetched” and would be met with resistence. This opinion was echoed by several others.
- In contrast, Global Times compared Trump’s brand of ultra-conservatism to the social upheaval during China’s “10-year calamitous Cultural revolution.”
- Journalist Rong Xiaoqing predicted Americans will experience “nostalgia” for political correctness in the event of a Trump White House, because “PC” helps ease ethnic tensions and police-community conflicts increasingly affecting Chinese communities in the United States.
Finally, Chinese media highlighted ways Chinese citizens and Chinese-Americans were becoming increasingly engaged in American politics.
- China Daily recounted the rising number of Chinese communities in the United States attending the various political conventions.
- While many identified with the Republican Party’s economic platform, a number of activists such as Lanhee Chen (adviser on Asian American affairs for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign) and George Leing (RNC member from Colorado) hoped Trump would recognize the importance of immigration and become more inclusive in his outreach to Asian-Americans.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.”