Will China replace a Trump-led U.S. as the world’s leading superpower?
President Donald J. Trump has vowed to change America and the world, and while he didn’t win a popular majority, a not-insignificant percentage of the American people are with him based on the November election. In this, he mirrors the last Republican president, George W. Bush, who represented an assertive America ready to go abroad and fix the world according to American values. But their similarities are superficial, at best. Where Bush sought to ‘improve’ the world, Trump would rather focus on more domestic concerns.
The “neocon” experiment made shipwreck in Iraq, undermining the American economy because U.S. soldiers are among the most expensive resource America can send abroad. After Bush’s exit, President Obama, faced with the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis, turned appropriately shy to taking expensive action abroad and was accused of being a “do-nothing” president. But he only presaged the beginning of what Trump is about to do: become smaller and come home.
Democrats, keen to spend on the disadvantaged American, were always less keen to act as the global guardian of American hegemony. It was the Republicans who established the United States as a global leader during the Cold War that followed the Second World War. Pakistan has always benefited from Republicans—and their loose purse-strings—in power, and that policy paid off for everyone with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy and globalization became the new order of the day in Washington.
That liberal order is about to be dismantled because people in the West no longer find it attractive and are fine with it being labeled populism. Democrat Obama couldn’t have done it and stuck to his mild “do-nothing” adjustment in foreign policy. Republican Trump, however, will now deliver in full measure and it will mean retreat from world leadership so he can save on overseas military commitments and cut taxes at home. Globalization is left for China to defend on the basis of the vast connectivities of trade already established. Internally unstable, terror-haunted and cash-strapped states like Pakistan face an uncertain future.