The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States has raised concerns that a split in U.S. society has already crossed the ocean and reached Europe and Asia, and that the world will eventually face a division emanating from the land of the free.
While the inauguration ceremony for new President Trump was held in a solemn manner in Washington, those opposed to Trump's inauguration staged demonstrations. Many of those who shouted that Trump is "not our president" began to riot, some of whom were arrested after clashing with police, highlighting the split that is deep-rooted in the country.
American society is divided over the role of the country. The U.S., which is a symbol of freedom and democracy, is experiencing unprecedented chaos. This, in other words, reflects confusion in the international order.
Trump's inauguration as U.S. president marks the start of an uncertain era.
The new president's inaugural address was unique both in a positive and negative way. Trump declared, "We are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people." He apparently meant that he is determined to eliminate the establishment and revive citizen-oriented politics.
He also emphasized "America First." What he wanted to say was that both the economic and security fronts, the United States can gather more money from the world and be stronger.
His speech appears to have been influenced by President Ronald Reagan, who was also a Republican. Still, it was fundamentally different from the inaugural address by Reagan, who called the United States "a beacon of hope" and underscored the importance of his country cooperating with its allies.
Trump did not talk about the history of the United States or ideals the country has pursued since its founding. And he is well aware about not including these matters in his speech. He appears to regard the past presidents as "established authority" and have declared that he will be an unorthodox president through his address that was far removed from dignity.
That means he intends to change the American identity. The traditional concept that the United States is a special country and should be a model for others like "a city upon a hill" written in the New Testament will apparently diminish under the Trump administration. The world has thus entered an age in which the United States is no longer regarded as a country that people look up to or as the world's policeman.
However, politics without philosophy and unilateralism could eventually put the country in jeopardy and bring disadvantages to the international community.
Trump has declared that the U.S. will pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and demanded that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) be renegotiated. Serious questions remain as to whether these measures will benefit American citizens in the long run.
Trump's haphazard diplomatic policies are also highly questionable. His suggestion that the United States will ease its sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis in return for Moscow cutting back on its nuclear weapons program should be regarded as mixing up diplomacy and business dealings.
The new president's efforts to improve strained U.S.-Russia ties should be appreciated. It is also welcome that the Trump administration is seeking cooperation between the two countries in responding to the Syrian crisis and fighting against the Islamic State militant group. However, reconciliation between the United States and Russia and the easing of sanctions that the West have imposed on Moscow are completely separate issues.
There are reports that Russia possesses compromising footage of Trump. Problems involving the U.S. presidential race, including allegations that Russia hacked into U.S. computer networks to intervene in the election, should be clarified through non-partisan efforts.
What is worrisome is that the Trump administration is considering relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which is not recognized as Israel's capital. The relocation could stir bitter protests from the Muslim world. Washington should not go ahead with the relocation without justifiable reasons.
U.S. relations with China could also be stormy. The administration of President Barack Obama failed to take effective countermeasures against China's reclamation in the South China Sea and construction of a military stronghold there. That the Trump government is on full alert against China's moves and is taking resolute action will be beneficial to Japan.
However, even a single misstep could trigger a serious U.S.-China conflict, possibly affecting the region including Japan. Trump has suggested that Washington will review its "One China" policy, in which Taiwan is regarded as part of China's territory. He should exercise caution in doing so.
It has become more important for Japan to conduct proactive diplomacy since it is difficult to predict U.S. moves. Japan could suffer unexpected losses depending on U.S.-China deals, and the role that U.S. forces play under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty needs to be reconfirmed. Japan can contribute to U.S. policies by vigorously exchanging opinions with U.S. officials.
To prevent a split in the world, it is also essential to consider why Trump has been elected president in the first place. If the election of Trump were to be regarded as a victory of populism and anti-intellectualism, it would mean making light of those who desperately hung onto Trump by voting for him.
While globalism that has progressed since the 1990s spurred growth in the world economy, it also increased income gap. The numbers of immigrants and terrorist attacks have similarly risen. Jun Furuya, professor at Hokkai School of Commerce, points out that Britain's decision to break away from the EU and American voters' election of Trump represent "a chain of awareness" concerning problems involving globalization.
If so, it is easy to imagine that similar chains could spread in Europe and other regions in the future. To prevent a division in America from spreading to other parts of the world, it is necessary to squarely face a wide variety of global problems, and the United States should play a leading role in such efforts.
Trump is recommending other EU members break away from the bloc. Japan should exercise wisdom to convince Trump that a split in the world would never benefit the United State and he should refrain from making statements spurring such a division.