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Trump-ageddon and Implications for Asia
- Jeff Kingston
The election of Donald Trump has shocked Americans and the world as leaders adjust to the uncertainties and risks of a Trump presidency. Like the recent “Brexit” vote, in which Great Britain has proved to be a not so united Kingdom, Trump’s election highlights a conservative shift toward reactionary nationalism, fed by economic anxiety, animosity toward minorities and immigrants and a desire to change by returning to an idealized past. Similar themes are evident in Asia as discussed in Kingston’s new book Nationalism in Asia: A History Since 1945 (Wiley 2016), an overview analyzing manifestations of nationalism in the region. He argues that chosen traumas are key to understanding the sense of victimhood evident in national identities and explains how the greatest danger of nationalism is internal, fanning intolerance towards minorities. In his view, the riskiest flashpoints are the Korean Peninsula and Kashmir and to a lesser degree the competing claims in the South and East China Seas.
Trump will have to manage various complexities and challenges in Asia outlined here, but there are good reasons to doubt that he can do so and significant risks that he will diminish US influence in Asia, derail the post-1979 regional peace and spark an economic meltdown. He proved naysayers wrong about the election, but can he prove his critics wrong about his leadership qualities?