US allies look on anxiously as Donald Trump wins presidential race

By Simon Denyer at Washington Post

Anxiety and disbelief mounted among US allies, but Europe's far right exulted today, as Donald Trump swept the votes to win the US presidential race.

Nowhere was the result felt more keenly than in Mexico, as the peso crumbled on a night of lightning bolts and thunder in the country's capital.

"It feels like our nightmare is here," tweeted Jorge Guajardo, who was Mexico's ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013.

Trump's disdain for Mexican immigrants and his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement have made him a figure of hate for many Mexicans.

Anxiety also mounted in Japan and South Korea, key US strategic allies in Asia.

In Europe, there was never any secret about the continent's overwhelming preference before the vote. Among major US allies across the Atlantic, leaders spoke openly of their contempt for Trump and their fear of the consequences should he be elected.

But Europe's far right began to cheer Wednesday morning, sensing an opportunity for itself. Britain voted to leave the European Union over the summer, and far-right parties are surging in France and Germany.

"The people are taking their country back. So will we," wrote Geert Wilders, the leader of a surging Dutch Euroskeptic party who has pushed for hard barriers against immigration.

In Japan, financial authorities called an urgent meeting to discuss a fall in the country's stock market in response to Trump's strong showing. Experts said Americans had expressed their dissatisfaction with politicians and with globalisation - a concern for exporters in Japan and South Korea.

"Trump is a protectionist in trade," said Hasung Jang, a professor of finance at Korea University in Seoul. "Trump's victory will be a very negative change for South Korea because we have an export-oriented economy. There's a possibility South Korea will become geopolitically closer to China if Trump wins."

A Trump victory could also heighten tensions between North and South Korea, Jang said, predicting that the already bad relationship would get worse. "The current situation seems like the beginning of the US's decline and a beginning of the failure of democracy," he said.

Guests watch a television broadcast of US election in Hong Kong. Photo / AP
Guests watch a television broadcast of US election in Hong Kong. Photo / AP

In China, by contrast, state media celebrated even before the vote what they saw as the gradual demise of American power and democracy. A commentary in the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said that the election revealed an "ill democracy," while China Daily branded the race a "chaotic political farce."

The nationalist Global Times said the United States and China might have more friction over the economy and trade under a Trump presidency - and experience fewer strategic and geopolitical obstacles - but argued that the overall situation would not change much.

The US ambassador to China, Max Baucus, also argued that the "world's most important relationship" would remain stable and played down Trump's threat to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods.

"People say a lot of things in the heat of a campaign that are not quite as feasible as they think when they are elected," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Shen Dingli, a professor in international studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Trump could cut American military support for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which would benefit China's geostrategic interests. But he argued that Trump would not necessarily damage trade ties.

"He is very practical in doing trade," he said. "He does business with China himself, he would not be stupid enough to stop the United States doing business with China."

On social media in China, opinions ranged from prediction of a world war to assurances that there was no need to worry.

"America has a constitution, Supreme Court, federal government and right to bear arms," one user posted. "Trump will not get too far. Even if he truly cannot do his job, he will mess up on stage for four years. If he has big faults, Congress can start a legal investigation or impeach him."

But David Schlesinger, managing director of Tripod Advisors in Hong Kong, posted on Facebook about his concerns over the power Trump could wield.

"If president, house, senate and court go one way, that leaves only the press - now horribly discredited and disbelieved - as a check," he wrote.

Despite the bitter presidential race, some Chinese Netizens said their own country still did not compare favorably with the United States.

"Although the US government is good for nothing, it is elected by citizens," one user pointed out.

Indonesians take a selfie during an election watch event held at US embassy's cultural centre in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo / AP
Indonesians take a selfie during an election watch event held at US embassy's cultural centre in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo / AP

"I don't know what voting is," another user commented. "I have never even been able to vote for my village chief."

A third user took a similar line. "It is not important whether Trump wins or Hillary wins. The important thing is that Americans have the right to praise, criticize, and impeach a president."

The exception to the anti-Trump sentiment in Europe came from far-right leaders and other anti-immigration populists.

British Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage cheered Trump's rise and appeared alongside him at U.S. rallies, urging America to stand up to the establishment in the way he said the British public had with its June E.U. referendum.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who built a fence to block migrants amid the refugee crisis, was among the few governmental leaders in Europe to back Trump.

In the Philippines, the mood was somber at the U.S. Embassy's election party in Manila, with a crowd of Filipino Americans and students eager to study in the United States expressing fear, shock and disappointment.

"The US is known as a country for immigrants, as the land of the free, but he wants to build a wall," said Carlos Llamas, a 19-year-old college junior studying consular and diplomatic affairs. "As president you are chief diplomat for your country, but he doesn't act like that."

Classmate Bria Tamayao, 18, wondered how two men known for posturing and tough talk - Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte - could work together.

"I don't know what will happen to the Philippines and the United States," she said. "This kind of unpredictable behaviour is not good for the world."

Protocol normally calls for foreign leaders to maintain strict neutrality in the internal affairs of their allies. But that didn't stop French President François Hollande from declaring before the vote that some of Trump's policy positions made him want "to wretch." The British Parliament even debated banning the New York billionaire from British shores.

The European public seemed to share the anti-Trump views of their leaders. A survey of seven European nations by the polling firm YouGov last month found support for Trump generally mired in the single digits, with Clinton receiving overwhelming majorities.

Majorities in nearly every European country surveyed also said their dominant response to a Trump victory would be to feel "afraid."

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 27 Apr 2017 12:52:15 Processing Time: 937ms