On his trip to Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump surprised many observers by staying on script for the better part of two weeks. But beyond the gaffes – some comical, some dangerous – what was most concerning about the trip was not the undiplomatic outbursts, but rather the consistent policy he outlined that emulates China’s hegemonic approach. As China’s power has grown, it has adopted a “might makes right” approach to foreign policy, bullying neighbors to extract concessions. Donald Trump’s Asia policy is for America to act like China.
To China, others are tributary states that should naturally submit to Beijing. In line with that attitude, in Japan and South Korea Trump reaffirmed his view of alliances as purely transactional protection rackets that should take orders from Washington. Beyond the smiles and talking points in Tokyo and Seoul, when Trump broke free of his script, his true colors came out: He criticized allies over trade, chided them to buy more U.S. military equipment and claimed that a U.S. base in South Korea was built “to protect South Korea, not the United States.”