Although the Trump administration has been successful in expanding security cooperation, its economic aspirations, as well as building a larger coalition, remain, at best, a work in progress.
The newly declassified 2018 Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework, released by the Trump administration in its last week in office, underscores how much what it describes as “strategic competition between the United States and China Has defined Washington’s regional policy for the past four years. , as well as the mixed record of President Donald Trump in effectively meeting this challenge.
Among the objectives stated in the document are the promotion of American values throughout the region to “counterbalance” the values promoted by China, to deter China from using force or threats against its American allies and partners, and to build a response. economic credibility and advance “US global economy leadership” to counter China’s influence, as well as its major regional projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
China reportedly criticized the document on Wednesday. Asked by state media about his references to “protect Taiwan and help India contain China,” Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian dismissed the executive as “some politicians on the side. american want[ing] to mark their heritage ”. “This only proves the malicious motives of the American side to contain China,” he said, adding that it “smacked of Cold War mentality” and “belonged to the trash of history.”
While the Trump administration has certainly achieved some of the stated goals, in particular by expanding security cooperation with India, Japan and Australia – or the “Quad” – its economic aspirations, as well as building a broader coalition to respond to China’s actions, remains, at best, work in progress.
Mr. Trump’s inconsistent approach to many of America’s allies and partners, especially on the trade front, has been a major obstacle. One of his first acts in power was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have created the world’s largest trade bloc, without China. The deal was then made without the United States
The end of his term, meanwhile, saw the entry into force of the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), which includes Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. -Zeeland – countries that the United States hoped to align itself with to provide an economic response to China.
The document notes China’s goals “to dissolve US alliances and partnerships in the region” and “to exploit the voids and opportunities created by these diminished ties.” Yet one of the biggest critiques of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy has been his hot and cold approach. to the allies, for example, demanding that South Korea pay more to maintain a US military presence there. His successor, Joe Biden, said building alliances was one of his immediate priorities and was moving away from the “America First” message.
Indeed, countries from India to Japan, wary of the unpredictability in Washington, had moved in 2018 and 2019 to try to consolidate relations with China. India proposed in June 2017 to hold an “informal summit”, which it organized in 2018 and 2019 despite a border crisis in Doklam that erupted just days after Prime Minister Modi’s proposal.
Ultimately, China’s own actions, on multiple fronts, have more than anything else helped advance some of the goals of the United States’ strategic vision, particularly in building security partnerships. Rather than seeking to “dissolve” American partnerships as the framework feared, Beijing’s actions, from the crisis unleashed at the Indian border by its transgressions to tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, have failed. does that deepen them.
Relations with India appear to be a major positive element. The framework describes as one of its “desired end states” the United States becoming “India’s preferred partner on security matters” – a trend observed over the past four years – along with the two cooperating countries. to counter Chinese influence in South and Southeast Asia. – which, however, remains a work in progress.