Trump school of diplomacy

A rather strange article (‘Lesson for Trump in Hong Kong: try to bounce China at your peril’, Tom Mitchell, FT, Dec. 12, 2016). Fails to persuade me on many counts. First, I do not see the HK democrats as inept, based on the evidence presented.

After all, Beijing had insisted that it would approve the candidates. They wanted none of it. The author thinks that one must take what is on offer from Beijing and be happy about incremental progress. I do not agree with it in the context of relationship/negotiation with Beijing for anyone (individual or institution) or any sovereign but that is the author’s mindset. His mind negotiates with the presumption that all that one would get from Beijing is incremental progress, if at all, and that one should be prepared to accept it. He is starting from a second-best situation. That is his approach. It is possible for someone to call that ‘inept’.

Second, the connection between that and that of President-elect Trump beats me. It is clear that Trump has not enrolled at the Tom Mitchell School of Diplomacy with China.

He is not prepared to start with a second-best world. It has also been revealed that the telephonic conversation with Taiwan President was not an impulsive decision.

Over the last eight years, the United States has negotiated or dealt with China under the presumption that China rescued the United States in 2008. Superficially, that is true. China helped and so did many other sovereign wealth funds. But, they were all helping themselves. Especially China. Its best and the biggest customer and debtor going down was not in China’s interest. More importantly, China had not developed other options for economic growth, despite its size. But, the outgoing Obama administration had adopted that defeatist or servile (if you will) mindset and then proceeded to deal with China on that basis.

Consequently, many of its initiatives- the TPP, pivot to Asia or its ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols in the South China Sea lacked conviction. May be, its heart was not on them.

They were just theatre, perhaps, showing a silhouette of a spine rather than true spine.

Given this background, President Trump is attempting a re-set and rightly so. China knows the game of power balance far better than Tom Mitchell does. They know their hand quite well. It isn’t good.

Therefore, to call HK lawmakers’ rejection of the Chinese government proposals ‘inept’ so that he could equate Trump’s moves with that is two leaps too many for Tom Mitchell.

He needs to enrol at a different school of diplomacy and journalism than FT, perhaps.


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