China and Russia: True Love or Marriage of Convenience?

Russian president Vladimir Putin listens to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, making a speech in Moscow, July 4
Russian president Vladimir Putin listens to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, making a speech in Moscow, July 4 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

China and Russia are making common cause at a time when Donald Trump’s America is turning its back on the world. Are we seeing the beginning of a global partnership? Or is this only a marriage of convenience? Experts disagree. Read more

Trump Cedes Initiative to China and Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China observe a military ceremony in Shanghai, May 20, 2014
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China observe a military ceremony in Shanghai, May 20, 2014 (Presidential Press and Information Office)
  • Edward Luce argues in the Financial Times that Donald Trump is allowing China to take the lead in artificial intelligence and robotics. Whereas Trump is sabotaging his own country’s edge by proposing to cut investment spending, reduce visas for high-skilled migrants and pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, China is spending generously, drawing in foreign talent and developing its “One Belt and One Road” trade initiative.
  • Michael Crowley reports for Politico that Trump is ceding postwar planning in Syria to Vladimir Putin, allowing not only Russia but Iran to maintain a foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean. The effect: Egypt and Turkey, once bulwarks of American influence in the Middle East, are eying an entente with Moscow.

Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014
Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014 (ImageLink Photography/Dennis Kan)

For almost a century, America’s strategic priority has been to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia that could challenge it for world supremacy.

Halford Mackinder recognized as early as 1904 that a single power could lord over the continent if it controlled the entire Eurasian “Heartland”, stretching from Moscow to Tehran to Vladivostok.

Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman argued it was rather control of the “Rimlands” on the edge of Eurasia that could tip the balance of power: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.

Their ideas were not mutually exclusive. They both informed the United States’ successful policy of containment during the Cold War. To block Russian ambitions, America allied with democratic Europe, Turkey, the shah’s Iran and Japan. It exploited the Sino-Soviet split and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise.

Now Donald Trump is overturning this century-old wisdom. Read more

Mar-a-Lago Summit Overshadowed by Syria Strikes

Miniature American and Chinese flags on a table at the Pentagon in Washington DC, August 23, 2012
Miniature American and Chinese flags on a table at the Pentagon in Washington DC, August 23, 2012 (DoD/Glenn Fawcett)

The recent summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping was unprecedented in its fashion and noteworthy in several respects.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida was an unusual venue for the first meeting between the two most powerful men on the planet. Barack Obama’s summits with the Chinese president were more formal.

The summit was expected to shed light on the policies of both leaders toward various smoldering issues: North Korea, Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and Sino-American trade relations. Read more

Stop Reading Masterplans into Donald Trump’s Mistakes

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Donald Trump’s first weeks as president have been so shambolic, it is almost hard to believe he can really be so incompetent.

Indeed, some refuse to. From his misguided attacks on the judiciary to his botched diplomacy with China, these are observers who read masterplans into Trump’s puerile behavior.

Please don’t.

If there is one thing we have learned about Trump, it’s that he is self-absorbed and ill-tempered. He had no political experience before seeing the presidency and now surrounds himself in the White House with sycophants and zealots, as opposed to critical thinkers and professionals.

The more likely explanation for his mistakes is that they are just that: mistakes. Read more

Remember Trump’s “One China” Threat? It Was a Stupid Bluff

American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6
American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

Remember when Donald Trump, then newly elected, accepted a phone call from the president of Taiwan and his apologists told us it was all part of a masterplan? If it meant revising the “One China” policy, they said, well, maybe that needed revising anyway? Who’s China to say which countries America can and cannot recognize!

My interpretation was that Trump was simply ignorant of the sensitivities of Sino-Americans relations and had blundered his way into a diplomatic incident.

Trump’s first phone call with the president of China, Xi Jinping, supports that contention. Read more

Uncertainty in China as Trump Takes Office

Men stare across the bay of Shanghai, China, April 10, 2010
Men stare across the bay of Shanghai, China, April 10, 2010 (Ying Tang)

This weekend, more than a billion Chinese will gather with their families to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster. It is a lively tradition, the biggest family celebration in the year and, like New Year’s Eve in the West, it breathes the magic of the new.

But with the inauguration of the new American president, Donald Trump, it is even more unpredictable what this new year will bring. Read more