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Trump’s foreign policy wreckage in Asia

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IF the past year is any indication of the year ahead, US policy in Asia will be erratic and self-serving. The beginnings of an Indo-Pacific strategy notwithstanding, the Trump administration continues to work out its issues with countries in the region bilaterally and sporadically.

The Trump administration’s trade confrontation with China is yet to produce a negotiated solution. The challenge is structural and no amount of Chinese promises to “buy American” will fix the underlying problems.

The challenge posed by Chinese companies is felt far beyond the US government. The Department of Justice’s enforcement of US law on companies accused of commercial espionage and cyber theft is only strengthening. Beyond the high-profile detention in Canada and pending extradition of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, numerous indictments of Chinese companies are being pursued.

SEE ALSO: Could the Huawei arrest threaten Trump’s trade truce?

Without real change in Beijing’s enforcement of intellectual property theft, simply shifting the trade balance toward a more favourable direction for the United States will be insufficient to address the economic strain.

Trump’s approach to China is not only about commerce. Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in October last year made that clear. A wide-ranging critique of China’s behaviour in the United States and efforts to expand its influence abroad, the speech was welcomed by some in Asia as evidence that the United States is ready to stand up to China.

But across the Indo-Pacific a more openly pugilistic US relationship with China unsettles nerves. Is........

© Asian Correspondent