Historically, America’s strategic advantage over China lay in our combination of reliability, likability and preponderant military and economic strength. We were friendly. We dealt squarely. We were the future.
But America’s naval mastery in Asia is increasingly in doubt. The United States withdrawal from the TPP creates a trade void for China to fill. As for square dealing, one of the reasons Trump’s truculent January phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull so shocked Australians is that the American president appeared to renege on Barack Obama’s pledge to resettle 1,250 refugees held in Australian detention centers. It was only this week that the United States took in the first 54.
Australians know that Trump, too, shall pass. But an erratic American president can do a lot of damage in four or eight years.