Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

President Trump and His Times - Bracing for Close Encounters of the Third Kind
CHINO Keiko / Journalist

January 17, 2017
Donald Trump may not be President just yet, but he has already accomplished one thing – he has managed to generate unprecedentedly high interest in the US presidential election among people all over the world.

Students attending the United Nations International School in New York have announced their “Advice from a Young Global Citizen to the President-elect: 45 Ideas to Embrace,” which included “Work and talk with other world leaders” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” Indeed, these children seem to have gotten a good grasp of the man. Young as they may be, the next President must be giving them plenty to worry about.

Even in Japan, from the early stages of the primaries, everyone from elementary school children to housewives and elderly citizens had shown extraordinary interest in the choice of a leader in a country not their own. No other presidential candidate could have pulled off such a feat. While this is all good and well, what really matters is what lies ahead.

Mr. Trump’s victory and Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) were described as the two major surprises of 2016. However, there should be no surprise in the common threads running through these events - “me-first” nationalism, protectionism and populism. These trends were already apparent in the rise of European political parties that have garnered support under the banner of excluding immigrants and refugees, and leaving the EU.

Last December, Austria held a presidential election and Italy held a constitutional referendum. In Austria, a candidate who had been critical of recent trends in Europe emerged victorious, while in Italy the Prime Minister lost the vote as well as his job to the growing strength of the Euroskeptic Five Star Movement. That left the score even, but depending on the outcome of this year’s presidential election in France and federal elections in Germany, we may be surprised that what had been surprising was no longer so.

It’s amusing to think that these developments have made Japan seem the most stable among G7 countries. But judging from the actions of President-elect Trump and his transition team, Japan should brace itself for a bumpy ride ahead.

Japan must have the courage to resolutely oppose any acceleration in me-first nationalism and protectionism. It should stand firm particularly with respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the face of Mr. Trump’s stated intention of withdrawing as soon as he becomes President. Japan should collaborate with other member countries and pursue a dogged effort to persuade the United States to reconsider.

As for the American Economy, in his first press conference after the election, Mr. Trump openly took credit for Ford’s decision to stop plans for a billion-dollar plant in Mexico as if it had been his own decision. The decision may be in keeping with Mr. Trump’s stated intention to cultivate an environment for reconstructing the economy, in which American companies remain in the country, creating jobs and paying taxes. But if only were it such an easy game that this led to “making America great again.”

Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to have any prescription for reviving US manufacturing, which has lost its global competitiveness along with its relevance. If things remain the same, sooner or later voters in the Midwest “Rust Belt” states, who had propelled Trump to victory, will become disillusioned. And when that happens, it is doubtful that the “angry voters” dug up by the Trump campaign will quietly resign themselves to reality.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump excels in unpredictable behavior. Japan should prepare itself by contemplating various scenarios and running simulations to avoid panicking when he starts saying things like “We’ll quit the TPP and join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).”

As for security issues such as the intrusion by Chinese vessels into waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and confrontations in the South China Sea, there are elements that may lead to further deterioration. Considering that Mr. Trump seems to have neither sufficient interest nor knowledge about national security or Asia, Japan will have an even greater role to play as an ally. I earnestly hope Japan will be able to steer its way around the treacherous waters.

At any rate, we should expect more close encounters of the third kind from 2017 onwards. That doesn’t mean I am pessimistic about the future. America’s greatest strength lies in its resilience, and that source of power hasn’t run dry. We should watch closely how the next four years pan out. I received a Christmas card from an American acquaintance, which contained the following words.

“Am I optimistic about my country? Absolutely. Serious challenges, yes. Bleakness, no. Maybe you recall what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: ‘The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’ This is our history. I believe it is our future. You can trust America.”

Keiko Chino is a freelance journalist, Guest Columnist of the Sankei Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2017年 1月 17日

ニューヨークにある国連インターナショナル・スクールの子供たちは『次期 大統領へのアドバイス、45のアイデア』を発表した。「世界の他の指導者たちと一緒に仕事をし、話し合って下さい」とか「良い話がない時は話さないで下さい」なんて、子供ながらトランプ氏のことを良く分かっているではないか。子供たちも次期大統領には心配の種が尽きないのだろう。







経済に関しては、当選後初めての記者会見でトランプ氏はメキシコでの何十億ドルプラント計画を中止するとのフォードの決定を自分の手柄のように評価した。 この決定は、企業が米国内に留まり雇用を創出し、納税し、経済を再建するような環境を醸成するとの彼の主張に沿ったものかもしれない。しかし、これで「米国を再び偉大にする」ことが出来るほど話は簡単ではない。







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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > President Trump and His Times - Bracing for Close Encounters of the Third Kind