04 February 2017
United States President Donald Trump’s inauguration speech on Jan 20 was long on aspirational statements but short on substance. Yet, his overarching message remained consistent – America first, take back jobs, no more defending or enriching foreign countries at the expense of the American people.
If anything, these statements served only to reinforce the view that, under the new administration, US foreign policy is about to change in discouraging ways for its friends and allies in Asia.
Before the inauguration, Mr Trump had already hinted that the depth of US engagement in Asia was likely to recede – even as his administration articulated a more hawkish position on China. As if this was not worrying enough for South-east Asia, Chinese assertiveness continues to gather pace, both in the welcome form of investments and economic ventures, and in the less-welcome trend towards diplomatic browbeating. As a collection of small and medium-sized countries, South-east Asia will inevitably be caught up in the turbulence of geostrategic crosswinds.
… The writer is dean and professor of comparative and international politics at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore. This article was first published in Nikkei Asian Review.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 06/02/2017