One of the president’s first actions was eliminating the Pacific trade agreement and shaking up trade practices of Asian neighbors. While the president threw away years of negotiating, the Chinese government might not be so quick to let go. President Xi Jinping has a reputation of preferring stable and predictable relations. So, it is easy to see why Trump’s administration is causing some concern.
The New York Times reported that on the very same day that the Trans-Pacific Partnership was withdrawn, Trump’s spokesperson was also quoted as saying that the president was also adamant about preventing the country to access its claimed islands in the South China Sea. This is an action that could spell inevitable war.
“This shows that Trump might act on his words. With previous presidents, their election promises weren’t taken so seriously,” said Deng Yuwen, a Beijing public affairs commentator. “ That means China must take his other warnings more seriously, especially about the South China Sea and Taiwan.”
However, as this New York Times article suggests, Trump’s actions could also cause exactly what he was trying to avoid. In an effort to contain China’s economic growth, scrapping this agreement could create an opportunity for China to fill a new void.
“This is indeed a big win for China in the struggle for global leadership,” explains Shang Baohui, director of the center for Asia Pacific studies at Lingnan University in Hong kong. “Trump is surrendering this opportunity to prove the continuing relevance of American primacy.”
Now, economists predict that other Asian countries will now have more access to the Chinese market. This is despite that threat of imposing higher tariffs on Chinese goods coming into the United States.
It is important to note that Trump’s relations with China will have effects on on other countries, such as Australia. Michael Fullilove, Lowy Institute’s executive director, spoke with The Guardian on the topic.
“The big picture move would be that Donald Trump is in favour of retreating from the world, retreating from Asia,” Fullilove explains. “Once the US steps back from Asia, it becomes a much harder environment for Australia to operate and to have a rules-based order. All we know is he has certain long-term views: that’s he’s allergic to alliances, he’s sympathetic to strong men like Vladimir Putin. His views have echoes of isolationism.”
The Australian ambassador to the United States also chimed in on The Guardian’s question. She also warned her country of the consequences of the United States’ relationship with China.
“Taken at face value, Donald Trump’s policies could induce crises in the US’ military relationship with two of Australia’s most important trading partners,” Kim Beazley explained. “He will discombobulate the pivot to Asia that has a south-east Asian focus that was Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s speciality.”
As critics point out that the United States is vacating its interest in China, it is causing some risky outcomes for Australia. Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, summed it up by saying her country respects China, but foresees the issues that will arise.
“Australia welcomes China’s peaceful rise. We also acknowledge that the United States has been the guarantor of peace and security and stability in our region. We would certainly appeal to any upcoming administration for the United States to maintain that role.”