The United States is finally coming to terms with the realities of a changing world. With President Trump at the helm of affairs, Washington has realised that it is not Russia, but China which poses the main challenge to a US-defined world order.
Ever since he came to power Trump has been busy fixing mistakes of his predecessors. We are talking about American mistakes vis-a-vis China that have allowed Beijing to grow into a giant bully. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the year 1949, the US has ignored many of Chinese misadventures including Tibet annexation, denial of Taiwan’s independent existence and the crackdown on the liberties of the people of Macau. Now, Trump is rectifying all these errors.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has given a grant of 1 million US dollars to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) to “strengthen the financial and cultural resilience of the Tibetan people and contribute towards sustained resilience of the Tibetan people’s economic and cultural identity.”
It is well known that Beijing had illegally annexed the Buddhist country. Yet Washington wasn’t really bothered. It was then engaged in the Korean war. Washington was losing hundreds of troops in the Korean Peninsula.
Therefore, when four thousand Chinese troops crossed the Yangtze River into the independent-Buddhist country, the US did not object or send in boots to fight the Chinese troops.
Even after Tibet was occupied in 1951, successive American Presidents did not really confront China over Tibet. Washington kept fighting the Cold War with Moscow, and never perceived the real threat that China posed.
There have been far too many occasions when China has been let off by the US on the Tibet issue. Even after the Soviet Union got disintegrated and the Cold War ended, the US did not confront China.
In 2008, the Summer Olympics were hosted by China in its capital, Beijing. Tibetans had protested against Chinese occupation around the world. Some years later, there were a series of self-immolations by young Tibetan monks. President Bush and later President Obama did not flag this issue.
In fact, when the Dalai Lama met then US President Obama in spite of Chinese protests, Obama went on to advise Dalai Lama to speak to Beijing.
Things have however changed with Trump at the helm of affairs. In 2018, Trump signed the ‘Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018’ into law. It paved the way for denying visas to those Chinese officials who deny American citizens, government officials and journalists access to the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet, the homeland of the Dalai Lama.
Trump had reformulated the American policy on Tibet. Now, Trump is also looking to help the Tibetan government in exile located in India’s Dharamshala.
Trump is confronting China not only in the issue of Tibet but also in Taiwan. Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, was formed after the rightful representative of China fled to the little island of Taiwan while the People’s Republic of China was established in mainland China.
It is still an enigma as to who represents true China. In fact, till the late 1970s, the United States recognised Taiwan as the real China. However, a blunder was committed in the year 1979 former US President Jimmy Carter severed ties with Taiwan and recognised the PRC.
In the years ahead, successive American Presidents did not engage with the Taiwanese Presidents and political leaderships. Washington was careful not to irk China by denouncing the “One China Policy”.
The first major policy departure, however, happened when Trump stormed to power. The US President had tweeted, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”
In another tweet, he had added, “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” much to Beijing’s chagrin.
In the process, Trump became the first US President since Jimmy Carter to speak with the democratically elected leader of Taiwan. Even after Trump spoke to Tsai Ing-wen, the outgoing President Obama warned that a departure in its China policy could lead to serious consequences in US-China relations. This shows how deeply the US had entrenched the policy of appeasing China.
Trump, this year, signed the TAIPEI Act to support Taiwan’s international relations. The TAIPEI act states that the US should strive to support Taiwan in strengthening the country’s alliances across the world in the face of Chinese pressure
Recently, the US State Department also announced a $620 million upgrade or recertification package for Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Taiwan.
As his wars with China intensified, Trump has also batted for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.
Today, the Trump administration has spoken up against the brutal enforcement of the National Security Law in Hong Kong that violates the principle of “One country, Two systems” and also robs Hong Kongers of the most basic of liberties and freedoms.
The US even suspended some Hong Kong trade benefits over the new security law imposed by Beijing
Much like Hong Kong, Macau, another Special Administrative Region of China, remained a European colony till 1999 before Portugal handed it over to China under the “One country, Two systems” policy. However, Beijing was able to hijack Macau even before Hong Kong.
In 2009 itself, Macau had willingly subjected itself to a milder version of the National Security Law that has now been imposed in Hong Kong. However, no one in the US or anywhere else in the world had bothered about China’s takeover of Macau.
Beyond Chinese authoritarianism, Trump is the first US President who has vocally confronted the Dragon’s hawkish South China Sea policy. Trump has got rid of the anarchistic American policy of focussing on Russia and letting China grow even bigger than what it already is.
With Trump at the helm of affairs, the US is strongly pursuing the Indo-Pacific policy of containing China. Mike Pomeo, the US Secretary of State, has even suggested that American troops mobilisation will focus on the Indo-Pacific even as the US recently reduced the number of NATO troops stationed in Germany.
Countering Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea is now at the centre of Trump’s policy. In fact, the US has grown conscious of the fact that China, not Russia is the real threat to Washington.
Throughout his tenure, Trump made it clear that he is going to contain China. As a part of his ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign, he has waged trade wars against China. Trump no longer wants Beijing to gain an unfair advantage over the US and therefore the US has been constantly hurting the Chinese economy with steep tariffs.
Trump is correcting the mistakes of his predecessors. In this process, Washington has finally started fighting the right battle with the right enemy.