James Crabtree, Author of the bestselling book, ‘The Billionaire Raj’, argues in this piece that Asian politicians are underestimating the risks that Donald Trump’s potential return to the White House poses to Asia:

“Then there are three bigger problems that should alarm Asian leaders.

The first is Trump’s growing unpredictability. Here, the recent case of TikTok is instructive: Trump has totally changed his view on the Chinese-owned app of late, moving from backing a ban to opposing it. His view seems to have changed for no obvious reason beyond political expediency and lobbying by donors.

If he is willing to flip-flop here, U.S. allies and partners must be prepared for significant change in other areas. Trump says he will junk Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which wouldn’t be the end of the world. But will he really back the Biden administration’s hugely expensive AUKUS submarine deal? Or continue to invest in alliances with South Korea and Japan—or in bodies such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue?..,

The risk of a new Sino-U.S. flare-up remains strong. And with Trump in charge, the risk that any such flare-up could escalate into a genuine crisis would rise…”

Mr Crabtree turns to the celebrated political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, for a clear headed view of why Trump’s return to the White House would spell trouble for Asia: “…Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man, who warns that Asian leaders should in fact be deeply alarmed at Trump’s probable impact on U.S. policymaking in areas from alliance management to deterrence posture. But most alarming would be the shake-up a new Trump administration would bring to the U.S. government itself.

Fukuyama points to a new wave of so-called “Schedule F” political appointees, named after an executive order that Trump pushed through a few weeks before the 2020 election. With the goal of dismantling what his allies view as the “deep state” and asserting presidential control, they now talk of forcing as many as 50,000 career civil servants from their jobs and replacing them with political loyalists.

Lawyers are gearing up to challenge any such plans, which would likely lead to a battle in the Supreme Court. If successful, the impact of this move on the core of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment in the State Department and the Pentagon would be seismic. “If I was an Asian ally, I would be very worried indeed,” Fukuyama told me. Whatever happens, domestic infighting will prove an overwhelming distraction for U.S. policymakers. It will invite global rivals, notably China and Russia, to test U.S. alliances and commitments. “If anyone in Asia thinks the U.S. is going to be able to do more to support allies like Japan and Korea at a time like this, they are crazy,” Fukuyama said.”

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