Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Who Runs American Foreign Policy?

You have read it here before, on several occasions. The Trump-Kim negotiation for North Korean denuclearization was orchestrated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. The reason was simple. Trump and Xi made a deal. In exchange for Xi’s help—which Trump praised lavishly—Trump would do Xi a favor in return. 

When Xi asked Trump to help save Chinese telecom giant, ZTE, Trump graciously acceded to the request.  It was a simple quid pro quo, the kind the forges relationships between governments and between people.

Writing in the Asia Times, Spengler explained it:

American diplomacy achieved a landmark result in Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, offering the repugnant North Korean leader legitimacy and the prospect of regime continuity in return for his nuclear weapons program.

The president’s “Art of the Deal” negotiating style had less to do with the constructive outcome than old-fashioned diplomacy under the skillful guidance of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Consultation with allies, back-channel exchanges with the other side, and a proposal that both sides could live with. Asia Times published on June 10 former South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan’s guide to getting a “yes” from Pyongyang, and a Pompeo adviser told me that South Korean insights were incorporated into the American initiative.

The Korean deal also entailed some quiet trade-offs with China. Importantly, President Trump intervened personally to rescind the Commerce Department’s late-April ban on American chip sales to China’s second-largest telecom equipment company ZTE, in retaliation for ZTE’s violation of sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE’s mobile handsets use Qualcomm chips, and a ban on chip sales would shut the company down.

What was the ZTE deal?

On the president’s initiative, the Commerce Department instead negotiated a $1.9-billion fine, changes in ZTE management, and the imposition of American compliance controls on the company’s operations. That was a severe penalty and an unprecedented assertion of American control over the operations of a Chinese company, but a deal that both sides could live with.

It sounded reasonable. Administration figures, like Peter Navarro, have explained the deal explicitly. Yet, key senators, led by Marco Rubio have been trying to sabotage it:

Now the US Senate has sought to sabotage Trump’s ZTE deal, by embedding a ban on US chip sales to ZTE in the national defense authorization act – despite intensive lobbying by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other administration officials.

Perhaps it made sense to call him little Marco.

Spengler explains that the Rubio foreign policy theory holds that America should promote democracy and overthrow authoritarian leaders. It is positively Wilsonian in its thrust. It was promoted by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Rubio remains a utopian who thinks that the object of US foreign policy is to bring down authoritarian regimes and to replace them with democracies.

Worse yet, some Trump advisers, Spengler explains, believed that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Xi Jinping regime. They are making a large mistake:

Some of Trump’s advisers believe that shutting down ZTE would destabilize the Zi Xinping regime. “I want to shut ZTE down so that 75,000 unemployed engineers demonstrate against the government in Bejing,” a former administration official told me. The usual suspects among the neo-conservative punditeska, for example the perennial predictor of China’s collapse Gordon Chang, accuse Trump of crumbling before Chinese demands.

Yes indeed, Gordon Chang has been predicting the collapse of China for at least two decades now. The fact that he has been consistently wrong has not prevented him from becoming a great authority on China and Asia.

Do we really believe, Spengler suggests, that American democracy will cure all of the world’s ills:

The complaint among the foreign policy elite that Trump is crude and unsophisticated has a perverse element of truth: It takes enormous intellectual sophistication to convince one’s self that American democracy is a universal panacea for the world’s political problems and the inevitable goal of human progress. The foreign policy establishment is not stupid, but only psychotic.

As of now, the Senate has passed the appropriation bill with the attack on ZTE. The House appropriation bill does not contain it. If it goes through, the reaction will not necessarily be in our best interest:

If the Senate passes the defense appropriation bill with the ZTE bomb, and Trump is unable to excise it by presidential veto or other means, Beijing will draw the conclusion that the president no longer is in control of US foreign policy. Instead, it will confront an adversary that does not want to achieve this or that particular policy objective, but rather wants to undermine the regime. Its first response will be to mobilize national resources to achieve independence in semiconductor production as quickly as possible, replacing its $220 billion a year in chip imports with domestic substitutes.

And also:

Rather than a tariff war, the world will face a disruption of the global supply chain, major dislocations in high-technology trade, shocks to pricing, and a return to national autarky in a number of economic policies. The result will be ugly in economic terms, and it will raise strategic tensions everywhere in the world. Hard to imagine an American policy initiative stupider than its attempt to export democracy to Iraq, this will go down as the dumbest thing America ever did.

One cannot help but agree that the Rubio rider is among the dumbest things America ever did. Its attempt to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and to undermine his successful summit with North Korea speaks ill of little Marco.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Is Marco angling for a quid pro quo? My Magic 8-Ball says "Signs Point To Yes".
I do not have a smartphone, and don't want one. I see a ZTE chip as similar to Amazon's Alexa: It would be one's own personal Stasi agent on one's own payroll. You can call me paranoid, but I say I'm just "more aware".