The world waits out Trump

Beijing’s latest policy choices represent an across-the-board defiance of U.S. pressure. Last week, one of China’s most senior military officials, Gen. Li Zuocheng, gave a chilling speech in the Great Hall of the People: “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost,” he warned, “the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions.” Beijing has always claimed the right to use force to block Taiwan’s independence. It is, however, unusual for such a senior military official to threaten the island so explicitly…

The president’s critics will pounce on his inability to coordinate a united allied response to Chinese and Russian provocations as further proof of his inability to achieve constructive results in foreign affairs. They will not be entirely wrong, but this story has more characters than Donald Trump. The problem isn’t only that Russia, China and Germany don’t see much point in trying to reach agreements with the current president. They likely believe that the triple threat of the pandemic, economic crash and civil unrest in the U.S. will promote an American withdrawal from global issues no matter who wins in November.

Recent events reinforce a beliefs in many foreign capitals that U.S. society has entered a period of dysfunctional chaos and that the American political system is no longer capable of providing consistent leadership in international affairs. As each president dedicates himself to the destruction of the previous executive’s policies, what Mark Twain said about New England’s weather begins to look like a description of American foreign policy: If you don’t like it now, just wait a few minutes.