by Ellen Laipson
November 22, 2016
GoogleWebcache PDF Format
A man reads a
Trump's election victory,
Beijing, China, Nov.
(AP photo by Andy
European and Asian political analysts are reacting quite differently
to Donald Trump's victory in
the U.S. presidential election.
Many European public policy
intellectuals are deeply worried about the new team in power in
Washington and they see the election outcome as a sign of the
decline of the liberal international order.
Some distinguished Asian thought
leaders, in contrast, see an opportunity to build a new order - one
in which Asian powers will be more prominent in setting the rules.
In any event, the consensus seems to be
that the Trump win will result in the further redistribution of
power to regional players.
Conversations with a range of Europeans who see themselves as part
of the vital trans-Atlantic community that created the postwar order
in the late 1940s show that the Trump victory has badly shaken their
sense of security, both national and personal.
They see the election outcome as
accelerating the decline of the liberal international order, which
could affect the world economy and the increasingly multicultural
societies in which they live.
They worry about Trump's disdain for the
postwar alliance system and fear that his approach
to Russia creates grave risks to their national
At the same time, there is no sign that they see Europe as being
able to generate new big ideas about the international system. For
them, a less engaged America is a threat because they are not
confident that any single European state can fill the vacuum.
Germany is the most likely
candidate, with a 'steady' and 'sober leader' and a
natural dominant role in the regional economy.
But the European project of the past
half-century would mitigate against any one country, and Germany in
particular, being assigned an outsized role. The European Union
prefers collective leadership, with all its flaws and
Absent the 'moral lodestar' that American leadership
has represented for many years, reinforced for some by the grace and
integrity of the Obama years, the pressures on liberal values
caused by terrorism, refugees,
Brexit and the rise of the
political right in many EU countries will only increase.
Even if European public policy
intellectuals fretted about specific policies advanced by the Obama
administration or worried about the White House's rebalance to Asia,
no one really imagined global security without the NATO alliance as
its center of gravity - that is, until the Trump era.
Now many fear an America that is either
less engaged in world affairs, or that returns to an approach of
dominance through strong-arm policies and military buildup.
The despair among Europeans stands in contrast to the attitude of
some influential Asian policy intellectuals, who see Trump's victory
as an opportunity, even an acceleration of a trend already underway.
This past week, the Asia Foundation
released its quadrennial report,
Asian Views of America's Role in Asia,
with accompanying events in,
At the events, the experts chairing the
report's chapters on each of the three sub-regions of Asia,
C. Raja Mohan for South Asia
Yoon Young-Kwan for Northeast
Thitinan Pongsudhirak for
... tried to explain to American
audiences that they are working through the surprise of the election
with less emotion and more reasoned analysis than many Americans.
Some influential Asian policy intellectuals see Trump's victory as
an opportunity, even an acceleration of a trend already underway.
There are at least three dimensions to their analysis.
First is their disappointment
with the rebalance to Asia that the Obama administration
heralded in its first term as a major geopolitical shift.
Asian publics have not seen any
significant change in the American posture and presence, and
they see U.S. officials still absorbed by the crisis
environment of the Middle East rather than the strategic
terrain of Asia.
They worry that the U.S.
response to Chinese maritime provocations has been
insufficient, and that Washington cannot match in money or
leadership Beijing's plans for new regional institutions and
funding for large infrastructure and development projects.
The net result is that they are
open to hear the ideas of a new team that is not bound by
the conventions of current and past policies.
Second is their belief, perhaps
naive, that Trump's administration will have to make the
transition from dramatic campaign promises to the realities
They are not as worried about
the most alarmist scenarios raised by his campaign rhetoric
- more nuclear states in Asia, a total withdrawal of
American forces, and the appeasement of Russia and China -
because they assume that the general inertia of large
bureaucracies will prevent any radical swings in policy, and
that the new team will moderate its positions once it is in
The third dimension is most
Many in Asia believe it is
time for them to take more responsibility for their
regional agenda, and therefore they are less worried
about a possible retrenchment of America from Asia.
The three chairs of the Asia
Foundation's report, for instance, are not entirely
pessimistic about Asia managing the rise of China.
They already see more capacity
and more confidence in India and Japan to balance China, and
to engage effectively with the smaller and more vulnerable
Asian states. And they confess to some relief that the U.S.
will not be preaching democratic values and human rights.
They want their own societies to
progress, but the rising generation of Asians does not want
to be scolded for its shortcomings.
Barack Obama's last trip this past week, to Europe
and to the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference
summit in Peru, was his chance to shore up those
fundamental pillars of American leadership and global security.
His messages about the enduring values
of trans-Atlantic 'cooperation' and 'global trade' (TPP
for the Pacific Area and
TTIP for the EU) as an engine
of economic 'growth' are what
European and Asian elites want to
hear, but they realize things may change quite a bit.
For Europe, the past model is
still valid and worth preserving.
For Asians, new models are
possible, and though they prefer to face the future with a
capable American partner, they will prepare for other