Trump Expected to “Flex American Muscle” in South China Sea

Only a little over a week ago billionaire and New York real-estate mogul Donald Trump was elected to be the next President of the United States. Just a few days ago President-elect Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a congratulatory call that President Xi made to Trump. According to CNN, “President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward.”

This claim of a mutual respect and cooperation is a far cry from Trump’s flippant remarks against the Asian powernation made during his campaign trail. Last May Trump accused China of “raping” the United States with its trade policy, labeling China as a “currency manipulator” and announcing to his audience of followers that China is responsible for “the greatest theft in the history of the world”.

Monday Trump once again displayed his flip-flop nature which characterized his entire campaign. Just a few days after the congenial phone conversation between the two leaders, Trump is once again showing his dark side against China.

While Trump did not make the contentious maritime disputes in the South China Sea part of his campaign, experts say that he is expected to make a few “strident anti-Beijing military moves” in the area. Trump exemplifies “brute force” in his frenzied rants and his demeanor in general, and is expected to bring this negative aspect of his personality into international relations.

Although the specific situation in the South China Sea was not brought into his campaign, he did have a few things to say about it on his campaign website, however. And they were not pro-China, as one might think based on Trump and Xi’s most recent conversation. The trump campaign website stated that “A strong military presence will be a clear signal to China and other nations in Asia and around the world that America is back in the global leadership business.” The website also said that a stronger military in the area would counter “adventurism”.

Analysts agree that this may just be a scare tactic. “Details are scarce as to what Trump’s policy approach to the Asia Pacific might look like, and many of his off-the-cuff remarks have sent mixed signals about how the administration might proceed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.

“Once Trump has shown initial force in the sea, his government will probably drop military action in favor of a practical business partnership with China,” Voice Of America wrote.

Trump is a businessman, after all (who has had no political experience). “He has to flex American muscle,” Eduardo Araral, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school, remarked.

“When Donald Trump ascends to the presidency, he will scale back the military presence in [the] South China Sea for sure,” said Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic affairs professor in Taipei.. “Of course Beijing is silently smiling now.”


About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.