How China can turn the tables on Donald Trump’s America

Donald Trump’s US presidential election victory is another milestone in the backlash against globalisation in the West. Brexit was the first one, and there are more to come. In five years, the post-cold-war world order could be remade. Negotiated deals, rather than uniform rules, could define the global economy.

Blue-collar workers in America’s rust belt made Trump the next president of the United States. His promises to bring back jobs and limit immigration were at the heart of his appealing messages. If Trump wants to keep their support, he must deliver on these promises. That means he will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and redefine America’s economic relationship with China.

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For the quarter of a century after the cold war, both the Republican and the Democratic parties persuaded their supporters to vote against their economic interests.

The Republican Party conjured up a culture war to persuade low- and middle-income white voters to support them with their policies of cutting taxes, dismantling labour unions, empowering financial speculators, tolerating rampant illegal immigration, and maximising corporate profitability through cross-border arbitraging in the name of free trade.

The Democratic Party has created identity politics that push people to vote according to the colour of their skin or against socially conservative voters, the so-called “values voters”, on the other side. In the meantime, the party has become driven by corporate donations by advocating free trade and financial deregulation. And the leaders of the Democratic Party have become fabulously rich by selling influence to rich people.

A redistribution of income would be difficult. Trump’s tax package would make income distribution worse. His buddies may try to deregulate the financial sector more, which would encourage even more speculation. His domestic agenda will not satisfy the voters who elected him. Hence, it is inevitable that he will turn to abroad to fulfil most of his promises.

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