The New Asian Strategy of the U.S.:Continuity with Trumpian Characteristics

  • Date:2018-05-04

Prospect Journal No.17 (April 2017)

The election of Donald J. Trump in 2016 has sparked fears of a possible American retrenchment among several allies worldwide and uncertainty over the implications for regional stability.
Resource: Gage Skidmore, flickr,<>

Since Donald J. Trump has become president of the United States, the world has been deeply concerned about his international strategy. This issue of the Journal features essays by invited scholars who are long-term observers of Asia-Pacific policy of the USA, US-Taiwan relations, US-China relations and the Australia-US-China strategic triangle. The essays also provide policy suggestions to serve as a reference for think tanks worldwide.

he New Asian Strategy of the U.S.:Continuity with Trumpian Characteristics

J. Michael Cole
Senior Non-Resident Fellow, China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham,
Associate Researcher, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China


The election of Donald J. Trump in 2016 has sparked fears of a possible American retrenchment among several allies worldwide and uncertainty over the implications for regional stability as revisionist powers like China and Russia may regard this as an opportunity to consolidate their power in their immediate spheres of influence. Facing two major threats to stability and security within their region, US allies in the Asia-Pacific have been seeking reassurances over the future role of the United States, whose presence over the past seven decades has been a key contributor to stability and prosperity across a region. Despite domestic dynamics that call for an American withdrawal from the world and rhetoric by President Trump that seems to indicate that he envisions such a future for his country, systemic and institutional dynamics are likely to make such a pullout possible, particularly in the Asia-Indo-Pacific, which has displaced Europe and the Middle East as the most important geopolitical and economic center of gravity. Just weeks after his inauguration, the Trump administration has sent signals that suggest continuity rather than a clean break with past US foreign policy, which is likely to bring relief to longstanding American allies across the region.

Keywords: Donald J. Trump, Asia-Pacific, China, Japan, Alliance System


Trump's Actions Speak Louder than His Words:
Reversal of Trump's China Policy After Assuming the Presidency

Ian Tsung-yen Chen
Assistant Professor, Institute of Political Science,
National Sun Yat-sen Universit


This paper asks whether Donald Trump is likely to act tough on China as he signaled during his campaign for the U.S. presidency. According to evidence presented in this paper, I argue that the Trump administration has adopted a more moderate approach after assuming power for two reasons. First, Trump did not base his past harsh rhetoric on facts; therefore, there is no foundation to support a containment strategy against China. Second, antagonizing China in economic affairs may create unintended consequences for the U.S., which may harm the U.S. domestic economy and his odds of winning a second term. In the South China Sea, however, Trump will continue with a tougher stance, but refrain from further escalation because backing down on security issues will signify his cowardice, which will generate domestic audience costs. As a result, the likelihood of starting a trade war, currency war, or military showdown in East Asia under Trump is low.

Keywords: Donald J. Trump, U.S.-China Relations, Trade Imbalance, Renminbi, China


Challenges and Opportunities in the New Taiwan-U.S. Relationship:
The Phone Call Between Tsai Ing-wen and Donald Trump

Russell Hsiao
Executive Director, Global Taiwan Institute


While the long-term impact of the Trump-Tsai phone call remains to be seen, on its own, the phone call changed little about the content of relations between the United States and Taiwan. In terms of conduct, however, the call was meaningful and signals a positive trajectory in future relations between United States and Taiwan. Statements and actions taken by the People's Republic of China's (PRC) will likely continue to be directed against Taiwan. Beginning even before her inauguration in May, Beijing has been trying to pin the cooling down of cross-Strait relations on the incoming Tsai administration. If the PRC tries to further punish Taiwan through coercive means, it will likely further alienate the people of Taiwan. The U.S. approach to the trilateral relationship between Washington, Taipei, and Beijing requires recalibration. A continuation of a passive approach by the United States that in effect defers to the PRC's irredentist claim over Taiwan will lead to a widening sovereignty gap in the Taiwan Strait and greater instability. There is wide latitude or U.S. and Taiwan policymakers to work within the existing framework, but first it requires a clearly stated agenda of soft-balancing in the Taiwan Strait.

Keywords: Trump-Tsai Call, Taiwan Relations Act, Three Communiqués, U.S. "One China" Policy, Soft-Balancing


Australia's Strategic Dilemma: The Australia-US-China Triangle

Chien-jung Hsu
Adjunct Assistant Professor,
Department of Public Affairs, Ming Chuan University


Although Obama's government tacitly voiced concerns on the rise of China, and maintained that Australia does not need to choose between the United States and China, Trump's unpredictable policy and ignorance of the complexity of the international geopolitical order may place Australia in a situation where that choice has to be made. Australia's enduring alliance with the United States continues to act as a crucial force multiplier for Australia's security policy. Such an alliance, however, can be affected by two variables: the rise of China and the uncertain role of the US in the Asia-Pacific since Trump became president. The conventional view calls for a more active regional security policy so that Australia can weather the destabilizing effects caused by China and a wavering US. Although the Australia-US alliance has effectively advanced both nations' interests for decades, the rise of China could affect this alliance—in other words, in facing a rising China, Australia might have to modify its alliance with the US and forge a closer relationship with China. However, so far Australia appears to prioritize its ties with America over those with China.

Keywords:TPP, Donald J. Trump, ANZUS, Pivot to Asia, Asia-Pacific



  • Update:2018-07-13