The Trump presidency (1/2017 – 1/2021) was an unusual one. Donald Trump, as a wealthy real estate developer and TV show (Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice 2004-2015) host, had no political baggage. He does have a strong personality in approaching matters and making decisions. His victory of the 45th U.S. presidency by first defeating more than a dozen seasoned Republican rivals and later won over Democrat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surprised many domestic and international political analysts as well as the general public. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” and “Buy American and Hire American” resonated with the working class. Trump brought in a group of conservative staff but not well coordinated as a team. He quickly signed a major tax reform bill and directed the reduction of federal regulations for sustaining long-term economic growth and low unemployment rate. Trump was eager to win foreign policy marks with unilateral approach and quick decisions, such as pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Climate Accord and Iran nuclear agreement and applying tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel and kicking off a series of trade negotiations.
Trump's commitment to “America First” not only shaped his trade policies but also his approach to immigration, building walls at the border, and to U.S. Alliances, asking NATO allies to increase their contributions to the alliance. Trump's recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights and his personal direct dealing with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un on nuclear proliferation problem most likely will leave tacky issues for the next Administration to handle, but the most serious foreign relation matter is his anti-China policy. Since his presidential campaign, Trump blamed China for U.S. economic problems. His Tariff war with China created only a tentative phase one trade agreement leaving many fundamental issues unsolved, sorting out what and how U.S. shall engage competition or cooperation with China. In the 2020 November presidential election, Trump lost to Biden with a small margin. His accusation of an unfair election caused a sour 'storming the Capitol' event (Jan. 6, 2021) which was unprecedented in the history of U.S. democracy. Biden has been sworn into the Whitehouse but Trump seems to be working on a come back.
Joe Biden, the 46th U.S. president, showed a significant contrast with Donald Trump. Biden is a career politician with 16 years of experience with the Senate Judiciary Committee, 12 years with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 8 years as the U.S. Vice President convening sessions of the President’s Cabinet, led inter-agency efforts, and worked with Congress in his fight to raise the living standards of middle-class Americans, reduce gun violence, address violence against women, and 'end cancer as we know it' (Cancer took the life of his elder son Beau). President Biden relates to American citizens as an average American, he has chosen to work as a public servant after an average public education and become a Senator at age of 29. In his life, he had endured a tragic car accident that had killed his first wife Neila and daughter, Naomi; he remarried Jill Jacobs, an educator. As a senior most experienced Democrat, Joe Biden was his party's choice as the presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
Biden won the presidential election more on 'half of the country did not like Trump's harsh behavior especially on foreign affairs' than on his brilliant ideas. He did contrast Trump with his desire to work with allies rather than taking harsh unilateral actions in the international arena. Hence his presidential bid was not a clear-cut victory which was amply shown by the January 6th 'Storming the Capitol' event and Trump's unwillingness to accept defeat and continuing his effort to make a comeback. President Biden filled his cabinet and appointees adhering to 'identity politics' closely, that is placing high importance on his staff's identity, race, gender, etc. Of course, he also inherited and took advantage of his experience in the Obama Administration. After a year into his presidency, one can see that he is trying to reverse some of Trump's executive orders and apply his skills in leveraging alliances to foreign affairs. However, the continuing COVID pandemic has occupied a large amount of his energy. On the crucial U.S. - China relations, unfortunately, Biden and his team essentially followed the U.S. legacy of ideology, 'anti-communism' with no reflections and no new thinking on the change of the so-called communist world. More unfortunately, Biden and his team has essentially followed Trump's anti-China strategy without review or projection into the future. Biden doubled down on anti-China by trying to leverage the U.S. allies. Thus, we see the development of QUAD+ and AUKUS. How will these actions pan out must be closely monitored since the early signs are ominous.
The recent Ukraine crisis is the result of U.S. legacy of anti-communism, in this case, anti-Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This crisis is obviously the result of the continuous expansion of NATO presenting a threat to Russia approaching a boiling point. Trump Administration did not want to play the Russia card but to focus on anti-China is because it has placed the trade issue on the fore front of their foreign affairs agenda. Even though Trump's anti-China tactics were not necessarily working but his staying away from two enemy fronts was smart. Trump even uttered that the NATO was obsolete. In contrast, Biden Administration fueled the NATO expansion by attempting to lure Ukraine into it. Before Putin sent the troops in Ukraine to support the two newly independent nations in East Ukraine, he made a long speech to his congress and the world, essentially pleading and explaining from historical perspective and current situation in EU and NATO that don't choke the Russians to death. Russia wants to live and develop her economy with Europe. The U.S. may question Russia's past aggressive behavior and sincerity for future peaceful co-existence, but she must accept today's reality that EU intrinsically depends on Russia's energy and will have mutual prosperity if they indeed cooperate. EU and Russia's prosperity may not be beneficial to the U.S. but leading NATO and Ukraine to war is not the smart way of helping the U.S. What if the war leads to WW III or even a limited nuclear war? The U.S. can not afford it nor can bear that on her conscience.
The Ukraine crisis should be managed to stop as the only acceptable solution, that is Russia promising to keep Ukraine neutral, safe and peaceful and NATO removing threat to Russia. The U.S. and China are crucial in arriving at the above solution. Hopefully, they will work together towards that goal to avoid a serious war. As a history lesson, the Ukraine crisis should be used to guide the U.S. to rethink her China policy, encroaching like NATO is not a good strategy to deal with economic competition from China. Hence the U.S. needs to rethink QUAD+ and AUKUS. Let's hope Ukraine crisis will be a good educational lesson at the end helpful to guide a U.S. - China relation for mutual benefits and world prosperity. Biden should not follow the Trump anti-China strategy since there was no evidence it would lead to productive results.