So, to sum up: Beijing has to be thrilled, as in the span of three months they’ve one from Trump questioning the “One China” policy to the United States accepting China’s “core interests” logic. On the other hand, Tillerson managed to alienate State Department staffers, infuriate the diplomatic press corps, suggest his South Korean hosts had been lying, parrot Chinese rhetoric on the bilateral relationship, and probably alienate the White House.
Inboden is still correct that it’s early. James Baker is thought to be one of the greatest secretaries of state in American history, and his first trip to the Soviet Union was widely panned at the time.
The difference is that Baker was a seasoned government official who everyone knew already had the full confidence of the president. Tillerson possesses neither of these qualities. If he continues to stumble, it will be increasingly likely that both allies and adversaries will find other channels through which to communicate with the United States. This would marginalize Tillerson and the State Department even more than the planned budget cuts.
First impressions matter in foreign policy. Tillerson was treated with kid gloves by much of the foreign policy establishment in his first few weeks. Now…