US sanctions and dictatorial trade policies are backfiring, After the fall of the Soviet Union, the US became the sole superpower on the world stage and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century. But in recent years, this power has been fading. From the South China Sea to West Asia to Latin America, places where the US once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip.
China has been replacing the US as the main foreign power in Africa and elsewhere around the world. President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
The dollar is slowly losing its status as the world’s undisputed reserve currency. This is not an unusual event as far as history goes. In fact, about every century or so since the Renaissance, the global reserve currency has shifted. Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, France, and Britain have had dominant currencies at different times.
The wind is shifting in international trade. With less countries and organizations using the dollar to settle international transactions, it slowly chips away at its hegemony of the dollar. China is at the epicenter and the country is making continued progress in cutting deals outside of the U.S. dollar framework. Deals shown in the graphic are currency flows between countries that have abandoned the dollar in bilateral trade, as well as countries that are considering such measures.
US sanctions, a weapon once designed to effectively and completely undermine a rogue nation, is no longer a death sentence. In fact, in many ways, it is a key to survival.
In 2008 when US had a financial crisis, it hit its trading partners very hard. Countries like Iceland, the UK … were on life support…because of their umbilical relationship with the U.S. economy. And, truth be told, the US economy right now is not doing especially well. In the past three months, the US has borrowed One Trillion dollars a month to simply stay alive. It doesn’t make sense for any economy to link up to the U.S. economy in a significant way. It’s a high-risk proposition.
However, it is completely the opposite case with emerging markets – especially those with minimal economic ties to the U.S. Emerging markets’ share of global GDP is rising and rising at a faster rate than advanced economies. Most of the world’s economic growth is outside the US, or US dominated markets.
US economic supremacy is being challenged by China. Why tie your future exclusively to Donald Trump? Not only will you benefit economically, but you don’t have to suffer the indignation of dealing with him and his administration. (They have left no self-respect or dignity for anyone that shakes their hand – one day they are your best friend, next day they berate you.)
The world is changing. Here are 10 regions where US influence has faded most dramatically:
The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the US and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of US power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the US anymore to resolve such disputes. In effect, this brought China closer to virtually all its neighbors in the South China Sea region.
The US has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the US and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the US out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the US earlier this month, cutting the US out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter this is deeply damaging.”
US Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the US would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the US acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the US has maintained bases in the Philippines, and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
But since his election last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a hardline against the US, and has vowed to kick US troops out of the country “within the next two years.” He has also insulted the US on numerous occasions, calling it “lousy,” and said the Philippines do not need the US.
Duterte has softened his anti-American stance in recent months largely because of the joint Philippine-US operations to oust Islamist fighters from the southern city of Marawi, and has said that he would honor existing military agreements the Philippines have with the US and will upgrade bases as necessary.
Nevertheless, he has still criticized the quality of US equipment being given to the Philippines to fight the extremists and has received arms shipments from Russia and China. And perhaps most importantly, support for the US in the Philippines has dropped significantly, all while approval for China has grown.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable US ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the US’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the US on numerous regional issues.
On natural gas imports, the war in Syria, and Kurdish independence, Turkey has turned to Russia and Iran for support as a direct result of friction with the US.
A scrapped weapons shipment to Turkey, a refusal to extradite anti-Erdoğan preacher Fethullah Gülen from the US, and Erdoğan’s own refusal to pander to American and European liberal norms have all contributed to a rapid decline in America’s influence in the country, which now sees its NATO membership as increasingly unnecessary.
As the African continent continues to emerge as a region ripe for investment, the US has fallen behind its rivals, and its lack of influence over African politics has been painfully apparent in its failure to control the South Sudan crisis, provide security in east Africa, and tamp down on extremism across the continent.
China has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials like former US representative to the African Union Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told US News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
The US has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the US’s backyard.
As the US has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the US as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the US and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the US Army War College, told CNN that like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the US passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the US for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the US ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the US has fallen by more than half since 2009, and more recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the US in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the US had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that US influence in the region is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism there has been little tangible fruit for the region. If anything, US backing for its ‘allies’ has increased the desperation of Arabs across the region from merciless bombings in Yemen by US armed Saudis, to 500000 deaths in Syria by US backed ISIS terrorists, to Israel’s take over of the West Bank! Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the US has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria (and tacit support for ISIS and its backers in Saudi Arabia and Israel), which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the US has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
As a result, many former US allies in the region are simply looking for alternatives.
The US has long strived to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting US influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the US to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see US influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the US had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The US and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Already under pressure from the US for its ties to the Taliban, the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence’s corruption and potential connections to terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s alleged dishonesty on late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, the relationship has been damaged further by the US cozying up to India, which has accelerated in recent months.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid US allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
All this spells opportunity for nations at the other end of US’s spear. For Iran, the pull back of US influence across the world, means Iran can trade directly with these nations and survive while being sanctioned by the U.S. It really doesn’t take much to feed 80 Million Iranians. You don’t need access to major markets – like the U.S. or even Western Europe. And clearly, Iran has shown that it has a vast capacity to manufacture products and grow its agricultural sector, i.e. do other things beyond exporting oil and gas. And by the way, many of these markets also represent a market for Iran’s oil and gas too. There is a big world, outside the U.S. and Western Europe. An alternative world that is getting bigger, faster than the U.S. and Western Europe.
US policy has been naive at best, and short-sighted at worst. US policy has basically paved the way for an alternative global economic and political infrastructure to be established – with no ideological or military foundation – but with one unifying principle: “Opposition to the U.S.”! We have become difficult and nasty bullies, who people would rather not invite to their party. Trump needs to look in the mirror. Raw facts, raw economic data … brute reality… is proof, that the era of American Greatness is gone, and the decline has been accelerated under Trump’s leadership. To use a British expression, the U.S. has gotten too big for its boots!!