Republican Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. The unexpected election results have sent shockwaves throughout the world. How are we to understand this choice made by the United States? We asked political scientist Makoto Iokibe for his thoughts.
Like Britain's June vote to leave the EU, the U.S. presidential election fell victim to populism. Now that the U.K. and the U.S. -- which have long contributed to protecting world order -- have collapsed, international confidence in liberal democracy will decline. The year 2016 is bound to become an unforgettable year in the history of mankind.
How far will Trump push his "America First" agenda? Historically speaking, those who have made the impossible possible have a tendency to believe the illusion that nothing is impossible. A U.S. refusal to engage in trade that it deems disadvantageous to itself could trigger a Great Trump Depression worldwide. In the Great Depression that began in 1929, the U.S. government implemented a protectionist policy in the form of tariffs, and the resulting international backlash killed the world economy.
Will the U.S. abandon its responsibility for world order and go back to the approach that it took prior to World War II? Is it going to return to a policy of isolationism in which it refuses to take care of other countries or become party to international treaties? Needless to say, the U.S. is unlikely to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
That's not all. American isolationism will fundamentally uproot the foundations of Japan's national security arrangement. We will never hear Trump utter the words "Article V (of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty) covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku islands," as U.S. President Barack Obama said. It is possible that the U.S. under a Trump presidency will leave many problems to regional hegemonies such as Russia and China. If that is the case, there will be grave consequences for Japan.
The Japanese government must continue to work with the U.S. government even if it is headed by Trump. The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must forge lines of communication and connection with senior officials in the Trump administration, as well as a rapport between the two heads of state. Prime Minister Abe has the mysterious skill of getting along with people. If Abe can get along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, perhaps he won't find it difficult to strike up a cordial relationship with Trump. Japan must rush to run a character analysis on Trump and learn about his temperament and disposition. And when it comes down to it, Trump is a businessman. Japan has no choice but to seek what most benefits the U.S., and use that as a tool for negotiation. Since Trump appears to be someone who is moved to action by his personal connections to people, the most pressing task will be for Abe to create a relationship of trust with Trump.
Japan will face increasingly more situations in which it will have to go to great lengths for the good of the Asia-Pacific region. It will be crucial for Japan to build an amiable relationship with China, while also encouraging the U.S. to revive its sense of responsibility toward the world. The reality is that, as it stands now, we cannot maintain world order without the U.S. (As told to Tadahiko Mori, Opinion Group)