Donald Trump’s Presidency began with a foreign policy decision forged in the furnace of America’s domestic politics. The abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership certainly has had implications for New Zealand. But it would have been unwise at the time, and is even less wise now, to conclude from this single step that all the new Administration’s external policy preferences would be reversals of what we had come to expect from Washington.
Yet there were reasons to wonder if at least some of the established settings would change as Trump arrived at the White House. The President-elect seemed to be angling for a change to Washington’s longstanding one China policy. But that has proven to be little more than a transitory thought. Rex Tillerson’s recent China visit is instructive here. We don’t know how robust things got in private discussions, but the Secretary of State’s language (using formulations we have come to expect from Beijing rather than Washington) cannot have been more welcome to Xi Jinping.