The Conception of the United States Foreign Policy at the End of 2010s

This article was written in 2019, and some political criticisms and predictions are subject to obsolescence, so readers are advised to read or refer to them selectively.


Barack Obama had said, “Do not change the future because of fear in the present.” However, some situations seem to be changing in the last few years. Since the 2016 United States presidential election had ended, the decisions made by the White House have always been controversial. Especially in foreign policy, the conservative and populist tendency has become increasingly evident; for those countries who challenge the United States’ benefits and advantages in the international, the White House mostly shows overreacting to carries some extreme strategies.

The foreign policy needs to be changed. Syria issues come to the first to bear the brunt. The United States is supposed not to withdraw from participating in Syria due to its serious relation to the political and economic interests of the US in the Middle East and the competition with Russia, and the process of promoting the universal value of democratic freedom worldwide. In East Asia, the same problem has just begun to emerge recently. People have speculated that the result of the Hong Kong issue will herald the final countermeasure of China to Taiwan in the future. The ending scene of the Taiwan issue is likely to come ahead of arrival; thus, the United States must come up with efficient and targeted solutions rather than capriciously carrying out tariff increases. Mentioning tariffs, it should be emphasized that continuing the trade war is clearly the most stupid double-lose decision. Domestic consumers in the United States are about to start taking on several times the pressure of consumption in the past, completely contrary to Donald Trump’s willingness to formulate policies at first.

Ending the trade war, returning to the Asia-Pacific, and holding the position in the Middle East is the most necessary change for the United States to make right now. The continued competition with Russia, and the enhancement of NATO armaments, etc., will also be shortly elaborated on in this article. In addition, of course, it would also mention what kind of future these resolutions will lead the United States to.


Just in the past October and November, the situation in Syria has undergone several critical transitions. The United States withdrew its troops, Turkey suddenly attacked the Kurdish armed forces, Russia conducted mediation, and the United States resumed its support for the Kurdish armed forces. According to the situation in Syria in the past two years, the Kurdish armed forces occupied in the northeast and parts of the northwestern territories have undoubtedly become one of the most influencing factors affecting the peace of Syria.

This is also why the US Congress decided to re-engage with the Kurdish forces in the past few days. After Trump issued his immature order, he and his advisors were obviously shocked by the sudden insertion of Turkey. However, as a reason for withdrawing troops at that time: wasting a large amount of unnecessary military investment, it seems that it has no convincement. Because maintaining military control in Syria is neither unnecessary nor costing largely.

First and foremost, the current complex situation in Syria shows that the United States’ participation is necessary and justified. The Syrian Civil War began with the uprising of the domestic opposition and the intervention of the surrounding Sunni countries. This seems to be commonplace as a battle between religious nations, but the Russian intervention as an outsider means this affair was not that simple – it belongs to a game between powers. This also came to the main reason why the United States has long been involved in the wars in Syria: against Russia and ideologically confronting the authoritarian "hereditary" Assad government supported by Russia. Nevertheless, as the Russian military’s support for the Syrian government forces became more and more effective (due to geopolitical factors), the Syrian opposition and Kurdish armed forces supported by the United States were apparently forced to the corner. Hence, in 2018, Trump publicly announced the dispatch of troops to Syria under the pretext of using chemical weapons by government forces. Until this move, the actions of the US military are still reasonable. Although the resolution to suddenly send troops may seem extreme (very Trump), it is fundamentally in the interests of the US and the liberal democratic camp. After all, as a concept often cited by American and British politicians: Munich's Analogy is appropriate for describing the situation in Syria at this time. It is worthy of reference, in the last century, John F. Kennedy had also used it for the Vietnam War, for a similar but not the same situation: “Viet-Nam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia…would be threatened if the red tide of Communism overflowed into Viet-Nam…. the independence of Free Viet-Nam is crucial to the free world in fields other than military….

The above words represent the constant vigilance of the free world for communism and totalitarianism in the Far East or the Middle East. Although the ideological struggle is no longer the mainstream of the times, there is still a conflict between totalitarianism and democracy in the world. In the past, because of the autocracy and corruption of the Assad government, government forces have always been the object of criticism in the Western world, and to a certain extent, constitute the people's panic about authoritarianism. Unfortunately, this panic has intensified since Turkey attacked the Kurdish region: the enemy comes from multiple directions. Therefore, the United States cannot allow the events in Munich to happen again. She must maximize the interests of the free front in the United States and the Middle East. First, ensuring a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds. Secondly, promote peace talks between government forces and the Kurdish army, giving Kurds equal political rights. However, it is obviously impossible to achieve the above objectives if they withdraw troops; therefore, this unreasonable resolution needs to be re-enacted.

What also needs to be refuted is the military expenses mentioned above. Trump has always advocated withdrawing troops from Syria's "ridiculous, endless wars." He believes that military spending in Syria will greatly affect the US fiscal expenditure and is not conducive to the national economy. Nevertheless, judging from his measures, it is impossible to effectively save military expenditures simply by withdrawing troops of several thousand people. The budget of installed facilities and communications in the base of the US military in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq (about $47 billion), accounting for 68% of the total war budget ($69 billion). In contrast, the number of soldiers is more like a marginal cost which is insignificant. Hence, the withdrawal plan seems totally self-contradictory.

Donald Trump’s foreign policy is full of loopholes, yet it is not only reflected in the Syrian issue. Just a few weeks before he announced his withdrawal from Syria, Congress had just decided to impose a tariff of $112 billion on a new batch of Chinese imports. This is the fifth time the United States imposing retaliatory tariff punishment on China since the trade war had begun in mid-2018. Ironically, this is also the third time China and the United States have started to retaliate against each other soon, just after their so-called “peace talk.”

After more than a year, when will the trade war end? Obviously, for China and the United States, only to figure out the damage and the profit of both sides so far can they decide whether they should continue the trade war. However, according to the analysis data of the United Nations and the European Union in the past six months, neither China nor the United States is a winner. The number of Chinese imports in the first half of 2019 has dropped by 25%, which seems to be considerable. However, at the cost, in the consumer market of footwear, clothing, furniture, and even diapers, the pressure is being passed on to American consumers. Nevertheless, Trump will raise the tariff to 45% again in December. If implemented, the United States will bear the next negative impact. "The full-blown trade war, together with China's retaliation in kind, could reduce potential US GDP growth in the short run by almost 1%," said Gary Hoffbauer of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The trade war is spreading across the globe. However, this does not mean that all “affected countries” are victims. From Mexico neighboring the US to Vietnam and Taiwan in Asia, even the European Union has become the new target for exporting or laboring investment of Chinese and American goods. Especially Vietnam is hailed as the one economy racking up real wins in the trade war. In the first half of 2019, Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States increased by 39% to $25.3 billion. Before this, the US Treasury Department added Vietnam's bilateral trade surplus to the watch list; business and experts worried that Vietnam would become the next China. After expanding his investment in Vietnam, Nike's chairman began to worry about relying on Vietnam, which owns Nike's majority clothing producing factory. He said he wants more diversity, and so do other companies in the civil industries of America. In July, in response to international and domestic public opinion, Trump imposed more than 400% of the tariff on steel imported from Vietnam to balance his new potential enemy.

Sadly, Vietnam will not be the last developing country to take advantage of the trade war, yet no one can establish new enemies all the time, so does the United States. The current double-lose situation, the economic growth of cooling, and the shrinking domestic consumer market... The United States clearly did not get many benefits in this war. The situation needs to be alleviated. Of course, it is difficult to achieve a "ceasefire" with China immediately; this requires a long-term process and policymakers' introspection of the incident in the process. Moreover, the good news is, Beijing has also transmitted peace signals recently. It is worthy to note that, as the starting point and core of the trade war: the issue of intellectual property protection, China has made some concessions indeed. At this point, the United States can be said to have won. Nevertheless, as many politicians have said, China is worth much more vigilance than this as a long-term enemy of the United States.

For instance, the Hong Kong issue cannot be ignored currently. The Hong Kong protest movement began in June 2019, coinciding with the peace talks between China and the United States at the G20 summit in Osaka. China used this to accuse the protests of being "infiltration of foreign forces" but did not specify which country it was. In fact, Hong Kong’s problems have been plagued for a long time. The “Umbrella Revolution” five years ago is an example. The Chinese government chose the cold treatment method, making the movement end with silence. Today's Beijing is also planning to do the same at first. However, as the conflict between the police and civilians intensifies, the normal life of the people in Hong Kong has been seriously affected. It seems that Hong Kong's problems have been difficult to cool down - instead of comparing it to the “Umbrella Revolution,” it is more like the “Tiananmen Square Protest,” which is even worse for Beijing.

The root cause of the Hong Kong issue can be attributed to the long-standing conflict between China and the United Kingdom on historical issues and ideology. Hong Kong used to be a British colony and has become accustomed to and constantly improved the Western democratic law system. It can be self-consistent. However, after Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, Beijing has always gradually penetrated Hong Kong despite establishing a different judicial system from the mainland. The “Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement” this time is such an outbreak for this, which has been accumulated for a long time. As a front line of freedom and democracy, Hong Kong is certainly critical to the democratization of East Asia.

From a strategic point of view, the United States needs the Hong Kong movement's success. Alternatively, at least hold the time and let China spend a certain amount of energy to deal with it. Despite the United States cannot directly intervene in Hong Kong (Trump says "Hong Kong will solve it by itself"), as stated at the outset, the outcome of the Hong Kong issue will also hint at the future of Taiwan. This will be seriously related to the interests of the United States. China will use Hong Kong as a reference to formulate plans for the future reunification of Taiwan and the improvement of "one country, two systems" - even cancel "one country, two systems" and fully implement socialism. The United States must be prepared to support Taiwan before this. Because once Taiwan fell, Asia has lost one more force to stop China's rising. From the perspective of some Asian countries' foreign policy since the trade war, some tendencies are highly inclined toward China, including Japan. Therefore, the United States can no longer continue to lose its allies. It must prepare for Taiwan while easing the trade war. Moreover, against the background of China’s recent concessions in the trade war, it may be possible to use the Hong Kong and Taiwan issues as a bargaining chip for peace talks. Some newspapers have been speculating that the protests in Hong Kong will end or be ended by the end of 2019, but now it seems that the end of the protests in Hong Kong is the same time as the China-United States trade war peace talks are reached. This will all be determined by the next actions of the White House.


Due to the previous foreign policy has had influence, it is not an easy task to make a big change. Nevertheless, from the great game across the Middle East to the Far East, the United States cannot lose the opportunity to control the situation again. A few days ago, Turkey agreed to a ceasefire under the mediation of the United States and Russia but set up a 30-kilometer "safe area" at the border to realize actual control. The United States’ political influence in the Middle East is declining, and Assad invited to Russia for negotiations is also a signal. The White House should probably strengthen control over more areas and support Kurdish, not only "protect the oil fields."

What is more, the United States needs allies: the military expenses in NATO are not supposed to be cut. Of course, NATO has to deal with not just Russia. After Trump has withdrawn from the TTP and refused to restrict China in a polygonal way, a US-led organization has become precious. On the contrary, in observing the recent RCEP negotiation process, this "Asian version" of TTP may, in turn, restrict the United States soon. Therefore, to maintain the US's layout in the Asia-Pacific region, it is necessary to resume support for Taiwan and use the end of the trade war as a condition to restrict China from various aspects, such as using the Hong Kong issue.

If China fails to achieve a unified Taiwan or suffers from a five-year or even ten-year trough due to the problems of Hong Kong and the trade war, it is the most advantageous situation for the United States. Gradually restricting and dragging China's rising, some other issues will be slowly resolved. For the United States, the forced policy of checks and balances upon China like this will be tricky initially, may even at the cost of the United States' own economic downturn for several years. However, it is worth it. De-threatening China and Asia will eventually bring real, permanent benefits to the US, as does the western world.


[1] Müller, J. W. (2017). What is populism? Penguin UK.

[2] UNCTAD Research Paper No.37 (2019). Trade and Trade Diversion Effects of United States Tariffs on China.UN Publications.

[3]Selcan Hacaoglu. (2019). Whom are the Syrian Kurds the U.S. Has Abandoned? Bloomberg.

[4] Rick Berger. (2019) Why withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan will not save much money. American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

[5] Trade war: the US hits China with the new wave of tariffs. BBC News. 21 October 2019.

[6] Michelle Jamrisko. (2019) Vietnam is a Trade War winner. Now it has to figure out how to stay ahead. Bloomberg Businessweek.