Western liberals are having nightmares about Donald Trump, notes ‘The South China Morning Post’. Here are some random headlines from the last few days, all from prestigious news outlets in Britain and the United States: “Donald Trump poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024”, “Don’t discount the chance of a Trump return”, “‘A revenge term’: what would another four years of Trump look like?”
The rest of the world, though, is much less ruffled. When it comes to America, most people understand that the leopard doesn’t change its spots. The problem with Trump is that uncouth and cynical, he gave the lie away about the moralistic facade of the United States. But in terms of the substance – the embrace of Israel and rivalry with China, industrial policy and protectionism – his successor Joe Biden has not only failed to repudiate Trump’s policies, but actually maxed out on them.
In many ways, Biden has out-trumped Trump. Under the guise of reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO), Biden’s top trade representative, Katherine Tai, openly declared in September that Washington would not restore the WTO’s appellate body – the top adjudication body for trade disputes that ceased functioning in 2020 after Trump blocked all new appointments to its seven-member panel.
“The goal here is not restoring the appellate body or going back to the way things used to be,” she said.
This comes at a time when protectionism under Trump and Biden has given rise to more trade disputes than ever. Undermining or rather “reforming” the WTO is not just a cynical or tactical move. It might have started with Trump’s “America First” drive and disdain for multilateralism. But at a policy or even philosophical level, Washington is now convinced globalisation – of which the WTO is the ultimate symbol – has created a monster that is China, which now supposedly threatens the West and democracy; and hence the need for de-risking or decoupling.
Despite some nice gestures between Xi Jinping and Biden at the Apec summit last week, there is no real detente, only a pause in open hostilities.
First Trump then Biden is determined to test Beijing’s red lines on Taiwan, and such provocation will continue despite the Apec meeting.
Meanwhile, when it comes to human rights, the entire political class in Washington has shown they mean nothing when it comes to aiding and abetting whatever Israel sees fit to do to the Palestinians. There would have been no real difference between Biden and Trump’s response to the Israeli war on the Occupied Palestinian Territories – except Biden & Co have shedded more crocodile tears for a people under brutal military occupation.
Here lies the main difference between Biden and Trump. The current administration is much more focused in managing public messages with the American people and allies. Whatever you say about the Biden team, its most senior members understand the importance of dressing up and talking nice. Thus economic coercion and arm-twisting – from forcing allies and US companies to join the tech war against China to arming Ukraine – are sold as alliance solidarity and multilateralism.
The Western power elites needed the hypocrisy to look themselves in the mirror; not Trump. He may be a proven liar and cheat, but he is not a hypocrite. He may be cavalier with facts and figures, and doesn’t care if everyone knows it. A cynic, he also doesn’t care if you know the truth either. That’s why from the start, Trump had enunciated for his hardcore supporters and which also endeared other ordinary Americans: The rich and powerful game the system. He said he knew it because he did it, ‘The South China Morning Post’ stresses.
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