Wednesday, June 28, 2017

China, the U.S., and Trust

It has been 20 years since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to the People's Republic of China. On the anniversary of that handover, the last governor - Chris Patten - has done an appraisal of its status, China's treatment of HK, and more broadly the limited extent to which the PRC keeps its diplomatic word, written for the Project Syndicate website.

Much of the article is useful, except for this gratuitous dig at President Trump. The following paragraph not only adds nothing to his narrative, but is actually blatantly incorrect.
It probably seems hypocritical for a Western politician to criticize emerging powers for untrustworthiness, at a time when the president of the United States – once the leader of the West – is the shockingly undependable Donald Trump. With moves like withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement, Trump has shown that he can be trusted no further than he can be thrown.
The Paris climate agreement was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, the sole body which can commit the United States to any international agreement. President Obama did not submit it for ratification because it would not have achieved a majority there.

With regard to the Paris climate pact, Obama found himself in the same position Woodrow Wilson occupied with regard to the League of Nations. Both approved of policies they could not "sell" back home. Patten should at least understand, if not endorse, our system's operation.

Trump is not required by U.S. law nor custom to agree with everything done by his predecessor. In fact the people who elected Trump wanted many Obama policies changed. Had they not, they would have elected Clinton who promised continuity.

During his election campaign, Candidate Trump promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and President Trump did so. Doing what one promises to do is in fact the very essence of being dependable and trustworthy.

That Trump disagreed with President Obama, whose approval of the Paris climate pact was merely his personal agreement and not the nation's, was well known. I would fully understand if Patten disagreed with Trump's judgment and said so, however Trump's "trust" and "dependability" are not at issue.