When it rains, it pours. As the Great Recession, eurozone crisis, stalled trade deals, increased conflict between Russia and the West, electoral revolts against European political elites, and finally Brexit followed the 2008 financial meltdown, it seemed clear that globalization was running out of steam. Yet few expected that its opponents would claim the top prize—the White House—and so soon.
World powers are now scrambling to react to Donald Trump’s paradigm-shifting election as president of the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after repeatedly expressing concern about a potential Trump presidency and pointedly meeting with only Hillary Clinton before the election, rushed to New York for face time with the president-elect. European leaders have been more ambivalent, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel even putting conditions on working with Trump. And the Russians have seemed downright gleeful; in a congratulatory note, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote that Trump’s victory could bring “a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington on the principles of equality, mutual respect and real consideration.”
Yet the feelings of perhaps the most consequential power—China—remain somewhat unclear. During the campaign, China was a primary target of Trump’s dissatisfaction with trade. Yet Trump’s likely jettisoning of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would immediately benefit China. And for obvious reasons, his anti-interventionist foreign policy outlook suits the Chinese. For now, there are signs that Beijing is still processing the enormous development and is calibrating its response. In the new era ushered in by Trump’s victory, the Chinese have the most to gain—or to lose.
It better hurry. In the new era ushered in by Trump’s victory, the Chinese have the most to gain—or to lose. And as the world’s second-largest economy and its largest trading nation, China’s response could mean the difference between prosperity and stagnation, and even war and peace, around the world.
THE RISE AND FALL OF GLOBALISM