De-coding New Yorker Trump in The White House

February 18, 2017

De-coding New Yorker Trump in The White House

by Bunn

On Wednesday, February 8, a US Navy spy plane and its Chinese counterpart each tempted fate, flying within 300m of each other over the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

Image result for Ariel aircraft surveillance of South China Sea by US and Chinese aircrafts

Both were quad-prop surveillance aircraft on airborne patrol. The near-miss, the first this year after two incidents last year, showed the high-risk “great game” of the two major powers in this region.

US-China relations were already strained after President Donald Trump questioned Washington’s One China policy and wanted China to quit the disputed islands it already occupies ( he subsequently reaffirmed that his administration  would abide by the existing US 1-China Policy would remain much to the relief of China) .

Image result for Ariel aircraft surveillance of South China Sea by US and Chinese aircrafts

There was also speculation on a “trade war”. An aerial collision between their military aircraft over disputed territory would have sharpened prospects of conflict.

Within hours, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson persuaded Trump to go easy on China rather than flirt with reviewing the One China policy. The result: a long and “very cordial” phone conversation between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping, the first after Trump’s inauguration and the second since his election. Warm mutual greetings were exchanged with mutual invitations to visit each other’s country.

Image result for secretary of state rex tillerson and Donald Trump

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson–Go  Easy on 1China Policy

Trump had his moment as the master of brinkmanship. Now it is Xi’s turn to shine, if he does, as a master strategist – if he is one.

China’s chances here are uncertain. It has been slow and flat-footed in the diplomatic stakes with Washington so far. In contrast, Japan and Israel moved quickly to engage Trump early. When it did not seem clear if Trump would favour Japan or Israel in any way, their leaders sought to engage him first.

Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Benjamin Netanyahu correctly read Trump, when reasonably managed, as a highly impressionable person with very impressionistic views. Whoever engages him first gets a head start in good relations.

Now Trump may be better disposed to Japan and Israel than he might otherwise have been. Diplomatic engagements are basically a political investment.

Image result for Donald Trump and China's Xi

Towards Better Relations with China?

But the media focus on US-China ties has obscured the poor state of US-Japan relations. Abe needs to invest in the Trump presidency.Trump had swiftly dumped the TPP that Japan was counting on. He has also accused Japan of suppressing the value of the yen and not paying enough for its own defence, while threatening Toyota with high taxes on vehicles from new Mexican plants rather than US ones.

Japanese manufacturers, including Toyota, then pledged more production, and jobs, at US plants. Abe may also want to “position” Japan favourably over China in strategic terms to Trump.

Last September, Netanyahu met Trump and Hillary Clinton separately in New York. He reportedly spent a long 90 minutes at Trump Tower.

When Trump received flak for wanting a wall on the border with Mexico, Netanyahu signalled approval by referencing his own fence projects on the borders with Egypt and Palestine. Trump duly reciprocated.

Now Israel’s barrier builder, Magal Security Systems, wants to build Trump’s wall with Mexico. Beyond just a business deal, it would be a political investment to cement Israel’s controversial schemes.

Israel’s right-wing now wants Netanyahu to drop the two-state solution altogether. But Netanyahu will not have it easy, since just days before his arrival, Trump openly opposed his settlements policy.

Image result for Trump and Netanyahu

Reaffirming US -Israel Relations

In September, candidate Trump used the meeting to project his image as a prospective world leader. Now Netanyahu is using Friday’s meeting with President Trump to draw dividends as Israel receives flak for illegal settlements in Palestine.

Yet, compared to other countries, the US and China have more to talk about: from economics to diplomacy to security. As two hulking, intertwined economies, and as permanent members of the UN Security Council, their range of interests and concerns is global.

Enter the low-profile second track diplomacy China has been pursuing with the US since late last year. This is led by State Councillor Yang Jiechi, an ambassador to the US before serving as Foreign Minister when Secretary of State Clinton announced the US “pivot” to Asia.

An alumnus of the London School of Economics, Yang is fluent in English and understands the US better than his contemporaries in Beijing. He is often described as China’s “top diplomat” who outranks Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

This second track is vital and befits “ChinAmerica”, ties between the two major powers that make for the world’s most important bilateral relations today. However, how far Xi or Beijing ultimately listens to Yang remains to be seen. A lacklustre first track diplomacy remains very much in evidence.

The hesitancy and passivity of Track One, notwithstanding standard shrill reactions to issues like Taiwan, seem to be a timid international response to the Trump era.

There are vocal Trump opponents, there are visible Trump supporters, and there are others like China gingerly treading water and keeping their distance. But there are also others like Japan and Israel who seize the moment without hesitation.

Much of the hesitancy seems to be caused by internal US politics rejecting someone who is wilfully politically incorrect. This sense is consistently projected by Western mainstream media, as if the issues they cover are necessarily universal.

They include Trump’s decision to scrap Obamacare, state-sponsored abortions and special toilets for transgender people. Given the extreme views at both ends, the middle way Trump prefers begins to look like moderation.

Meanwhile, an opposition-fuelled media has been tweaking news about Trump policies in an unfavourable light, carrying negative emotions with it.

Image result for christiane amanpour

Case in point: travel restrictions into the US, pending new measures to screen out potential terrorists. What Christiane Amanpour on CNN (pic above) and some others call a “Muslim ban” is nothing of the kind.

The restrictions comprise three components suspending entry regardless of race and religion: by all refugees for four months, by Syrian passport holders indefinitely, and by passport holders of six other countries for three months.

If the restrictions are defined as a Muslim ban, they have to be definitively a ban on Muslims which they are not. Protesters argue that since the seven are Muslim-majority countries, there is a Muslim ban.

But if a majority count determines definition, then since the majority of the world’s 49 Muslim-majority countries (2010 data) are unaffected, there is no Muslim ban. How effective such restrictions can be in keeping out potential terrorists is another matter.

Protesters forget that Barack Obama had earlier listed these seven countries as being “of concern”. Trump only used the list for restrictions for a limited period.

The US has had several immigrant and citizenship restrictions going back a century. Some of these came together in the Immigration and Nationality Act (1952), parts of which remain today.

These restrictions survived Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Yet they were not controversial before, or the media did not make them appear so controversial.

Image result for trump and iran nuclear deal

A real concern, however, is Trump’s intention to scrap the Iran nuclear deal. He and his advisers fail to realise that it is more than a nuclear deal, being also a face-saving measure for all eight signatories, including Iran.

Nobody can know if Iran ever wants to develop nuclear weapons. The only possible agreement is the present deal that puts any such plan on hold.

Undoing the deal will open a can of worms, starting with emboldening Iran’s hardliners over its moderates. Learning superpower politics on the job can be so hazardous.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

12 thoughts on “De-coding New Yorker Trump in The White House

  1. Pathetic arguments by Bunn Negara. Although the countries named also had a very small minority of non-Muslims, the Muslims were the ones picked out by the US immigration/customs. Muslims going to the US were singled out at airports and entry points. If this is not a Muslim ban, what it it then? This is Trumpspeak and fake news. As for China, events have overtaken the armchair commentary.
    Bunn Nagara is an apologist for the Najib Administration because ISIS Malaysia is funded by the Government. I posted it to show what Najib is trying to do to get into Trump’s good books. 1MDB and Malaysian Official No. 1 matter is far from over.The Justice Department is now after assets in the US believed to have been acquired with 1MDB money. Riza Aziz, Najib’s step son, is shivering in his pants.–Din Merican

  2. The article reads like UMNO Baru BN-controlled Malaysian mass media buttering Trump up. Moderation of Trump (!) indeed.

    Our klepto regime hoping that 1MDB-related criminal investigations in USA will be stopped ? If so, they don’t realise that there is rule of law in the USA ?

  3. So, we are friends of Trump. In four years, Elizabeth Warren is going to take over and she more likely lead Anwar’s release.

  4. Quote:- “Nobody can know if Iran ever wants to develop nuclear weapons”


    Could it be that the Iranian Ayatollahs found nuclear physics such a fascinating subject?

  5. The writer writing from a distance fail to recognize the actual intent of Trump travel ban, which was barred by a federal judge and upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court. It looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and the writer says it’s not a duck.

    The travel ban was opposed by CAIR, ACLU and many other civil rights organizations, churches and synagogues. All travelers affected by the ban when it was first imposed are Muslims including those with valid visas and Permanent Residents who have lived in the US for years. How do you explain that. Visas to the US are difficult to obtain and applicants are vetted including interviews. Refugees undergo vetting lasting as long as 2 to 3 years. it’s not just the period but the process that includes biometric verification.

    Strange still is that the ban does not include Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE where most of the terrorist from 9/11 come from? Why is that?

  6. Trump’s moratorium on some high-risk nations’s citizens is as antagonistic to world’s Muslims as Kampung Baru (New Villages) policy is to world’s Chinese during national fight with violent Malaysia communists who were overwhelmingly come from Chinese community. Kampung Baru policy might have caused severe inconvenience and disruption of life of hundred of thousands of almost exclusively Chinese Malaysians, but in 2017, I don’t think anyone, including the descendants of Chinese from Kampung Baru, think the Kampung Baru policy was racist in its essence. Why? Because the policy was appropriate for the given situation – and history seems to support it.

  7. Those who do not object to Trump’s entry ban from those countries alone should also not object if he, waking up one Sunday morning and reading or told of a fatal shooting in predominantly colored / Hispanic parts of, say, New York City decided to ban all possession by residents and visitors, legally or illegally, of firearms within a 1.5 sq. mile radius from some arbitrary central point.

  8. Bunn Nagara is either very ignorant or very stupid not to recognize the immigration travel ban as Muslims travel ban. If only he knows the backgrounds of alt-right guru Steve Bannon and the Jewish wunderkind Steve Miller who wrote this inflammatory immigration travel ban that has ignited demonstrations all over the country.

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