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

Trump Rides the Undercurrent of the Times.
Kumi Yokoe / Visiting Fellow for the Global Innovation Studies Center, Toyo University

December 28, 2016
I feel that the birth of President Donald Trump may finally shatter the image that the Japanese have had of America.

Since returning to Japan two years ago after my time as Senior Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, I have been concerned about the growing perception gap between those in Japan and the United States. During those three years I spent working behind the corridors of power of American politics, I was exposed to policy makers who plainly spoke their minds. And even now I find a gap between what I experienced then and the image of America that’s being conveyed in Japan today.

When Trump went on to unexpectedly win victory in the Republican presidential primaries, this gap continued to grow based on how these results were perceived in America and Japan. That is why I published my book last April entitled, “America in collapse – The birth of President Trump will make the world mad.”

As I wrote then, in terms of demographic polling, the popular trend favored the Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency. However, as we’ve come to learn, Trump had an uncanny sense of an “undercurrent” of the times – a trend not recognized by media reporters. He was able to detect and ride this undercurrent of American opinion, knowing that the popular trend was not in his favor. Hillary may have ridden the popular trend and won the popular vote, but Trump’s grasp of the undercurrent won him the election.

Hillary’s popular trend was the same trend that manifested itself throughout President Obama’s term. Political historians will tell us that 2008 was the year of “change,” and a year that necessitated a new set of yardsticks for assessing opinions at the time.

Over the last eight years, President Obama has brought drastic changes to America in every economic, international, security, and social aspect. He introduced universal health care under the Affordable Care Act that some would later name ObamaCare. He opened a dialogue towards improving America’s relations with Cuba, Iran, and Myanmar. He visited Hiroshima, the epicenter for the nuclear arms race and proliferation. He even endorsed same sex marriage, an issue that had been consistently opposed from the viewpoint of Christian values.

His policies were seen as bringing about fundamental changes to American society, and were met with vociferous opposition. There was even confusion from within his own governing Democratic Party. This negatively affected his polling ratings from time to time. Even people in Japan would see him as a less than popular president. Despite this, within the inner sanctums of Washington, D.C., he would still be perceived as a “powerful president who would change America” regardless of whether you supported or opposed him. The Republican Party seemed to be almost scared of him.

Incoming President Trump realizes that President Obama’s stances reflected many of the current popular trends in American society. And it could be that Trump would not hesitate to inherit President Obama’s policies so long as it meets his “America First” requirement. Already, Trump has backtracked on campaign promises by announcing that ObamaCare would not be entirely repealed.

However, Trump’s biggest difference from President Obama may be in terms of national security with respect to its overseas commitments. Despite President Obama declaring that “America is no longer the policeman of the world,” and Donald Trump’s general agreement with this statement, President Obama still recognized America’s role within the international community.

BBC news reported that America’s global influence had increased over the last 10 years. But even BBC noted that this may not be true everywhere stating, “There is just one country that sees the American influence declining,” while showing the map of Japan on its screen.

President Obama’s previous statement that the United States is no longer the police of the world was a shock in Japan. Many in Japan seem to believe that America is still the police of the world and that President Obama’s opinion on the matter was an exception. Many of Trump’s statements during the election campaign were no doubt too extreme in parts, but his agreement that America is no longer the police of the world shows a possible reflection with the prevailing popular perceptions established under Obama. And I have never heard the statement “US is the policeman of the World” as long as I worked at the Heritage Foundation.

As for the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), Trump intends to declare it dead on day one of his office. Some saw TPP as a response to the expanding economic influence of China. China is of course not an enemy to America, and even hawkish Republicans say, “China has never been our Cold War foe”. TPP was never proposed as a counter to China. In fact, many forget that the U.S. was not the originator behind TPP. However, it is obvious that TPP and other such FTAs are tools of national security for the U.S.

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton cited the possibility of “producing jobs,” “raising wages,” and “protecting America’s security” as the three conditions for her approval of TPP. The underlying assumption at that time was that TPP would have negative economic effects. President Obama promoted TPP because he attached importance to its national security function as a deterrent against China’s influence. Perhaps Trump will invest in his own bilateral trade agreements.

Trump’s behavior up to now shows he has scarce interest in the role of security as it pertains to the international community. Trump’s idea of security concerns rests solely within the limits of America’s homeland. If Trump were to pursue a security policy with only the defense of the homeland in mind, it would shatter the image of America that the Japanese have long nurtured.

We are entering an era in which it is incumbent on Japan to make a clear and firm case to Donald Trump as to why the Japan-US alliance is necessary. We will also need to inform the future President the important role Japan is already providing to this alliance.

Kumi Yokoe is a Visiting Fellow for the Global Innovation Studies Center at Toyo University
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

横江公美 / 東洋大学グローバルイノベーション学センター 客員研究員

2016年 12月 28日

 2年前、ヘリテージ財団の上級研究員を終えて、日本に戻ってきた時から日米の認識ギャップが気になっていた。アメリカ政治の奥の院と言える場所での3年間、私は本音の議論に触れていたと思う。だが、そこでの経験と日本で伝えられるアメリカ像のギャップは大きい。共和党の大統領予備選でトランプが予想外に勝ち進んだ時も、それをどう捉えるかでアメリカと日本の間には大きなギャップがあった。そこで「崩壊するアメリカ トランプ大統領誕生で世界は発狂する」を今年4月に出版した。










筆者は東洋大学グローバルイノベーション学センター 客員研究員
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Trump Rides the Undercurrent of the Times.