US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting with energy sector CEOs in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images/AFP

Does Trump’s Cold War with China have geopolitical underpinnings? 

There was a time when such a question was not relevant. Before the 19th century, the paramount diplomatic concerns were whose nephew or cousin would inherit this principality or that duchy or indeed the entire Iberian Peninsula. Trace the origins of Luxemburg and other mini-states and there is much ado about royal succession.

The aftermath of the Napoleonic wars changed all that.  Sovereign nation-states became dominant players and when their diplomats gathered at the Congress of Vienna, they sought to found a balance of power among them.  Royal successions were no longer cause for war.

Aside from the Crimean War and a Franco-German skirmish, both of which involved domestic intrigues and idiocy, peace was maintained for a hundred years until an imbalance in the Balkans pushed the world slip-sliding away into a struggle that is misnamed the first world war.

National interests of sovereign nation-states may sound like a pompous mouthful, but that concept became the firmament upon which foreign policies were drawn. Even Nazis and Communists could sit down at the same table and merrily slice up another country for their own geopolitical interests.

Henry Kissinger reminded Richard Nixon of the importance of keeping the global balance of power in Washington’s favor: The US should initiate rapprochement with what was then called Red China before the Soviet Union could make up with China.

Foreign policy founded on firm geopolitical interests could overcome ideological blinders and permit Nixon, the most anti-communist red-baiter of them all, to clasp the hands of Chairman Mao. 

Chinese communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong welcomes US President Richard Nixon to his house in Beijing’s Forbidden City on February 22, 1972. Photo: AFP / Xinhua

US foreign policy flipped 180 degrees the night Nixon announced his 1972 trip to Beijing. That Beijing-Washington rapprochement lasted half a century despite the Viet Nam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed it hastened that collapse.

It also helped Deng Xiaoping move his country to adopt aspects of market economy and send students to universities all over the world. There followed four decades of double-digit economic growth. 

The historic rapprochement was good for China and the US. “Our relationship with China now might be the best it’s been in a long, long time,” said Trump in January this year.

And then? 

This from the Republican Party playbook for the 2020 elections: Don’t defend Trump, other than the China travel ban. Attack China.

Is that in the national interest of a sovereign nation-state?

As was so amply demonstrated in the impeachment proceedings, this is not the first time that Trump has manipulated foreign policy for his own personal benefit. And now the whole world sees that the head of state and government of the United States is a repeat perpetrator in changing American foreign policy to suit his personal needs and, arguably, in complete disregard of national interests.

This is just another way in which the Trump presidency has diminished the global standing of the United States.

US President Donald Trump with China’s head of state Xi Jinping at last year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Photo: The Yomiuri Shimbun / AFP

In January, Trump wanted to hold the G7 at his resort. In March he decided the meeting should take place virtually because of the pandemic. In May he reinvited the leaders to showcase the “reopening” of the country in June. 

Guess what? 

Thank you, but no thank you, said Chancellor Angela Merkel, now widely recognized as the leader of the free world. 

Trump is trying again, rescheduling the G7 to September. Lets see who next will decline the invitation for September. 

Trump is no longer taken seriously.