The US embassy in Israel was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and many US officials attending the opening ceremony on Monday. But the move triggered intense clashes between Israeli police and protesting Palestinians, resulting in at least 41 deaths.
Donald Trump pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his 2016 presidential campaign, but nobody took him seriously. Even when Washington recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital last year, many conjectured that the White House might postpone the embassy relocation. But now the US president really fulfilled his promise.
There seems to be no clear logic behind the Jerusalem move. The relocation will for sure enrage Palestinians and offend the Arab public, and may even trigger a new uprising in Palestine. Washington seems to be making trouble out of nothing.
But Mr Trump is not that illogical. His reckless behavior and devil-may-care campaign pledges reflect his smug confidence in Washington’s strength. Mr Trump believes that former presidents of the US haven’t fully exploited the country’s strength. He can take advantage of Washington’s comprehensive strength to forcibly create new realities. Dissatisfaction in the outside world cannot obstruct the implementation of his tough policies.
Mr Trump is apparently confident that angry Palestinians cannot make waves and that dissatisfaction among Arab countries won’t be transformed into resistance against the US, especially as conflicts between Iran and Sunni-dominated Arab countries are more acute than those between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East. Israel also shares a common stance with Sunni states on the Iran issue.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia supported Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and Riyadh is highly representative of Middle East countries. Perhaps Washington believes that suppressing Iran can alleviate Sunni states’ anger at the embassy relocation.
Strength means everything, and thus Mr Trump attaches more importance to reviving the American economy and increasing the defense budget than soft power. He was unswerving about launching a trade war.
China must be clear that strength is all that matters to Washington in future negotiations. Rules and morality will be respected only if beneficial to the US. Otherwise they will be abandoned.
Washington has been taking advantage of its dominance to acquire more benefits in a US-led world order. But now Americans believe the benefits gained from the world order are meager and that the US should coerce other countries to surrender to its will so as to accrue more benefits. In this way, the world will be dragged into a new turmoil.
China in response should build up its strength, especially its strategic deterrence. China’s performance in this regard determines the extent to which the US respects us. On the other hand, China shouldn’t provoke the US. A defensive strategy should be the basis of China’s Washington policy. But Beijing should be confident that Washington cannot afford to clash with us in every field. We should stick to our core interests and peacefully coexist with the US.
Washington is acting tough but meanwhile its global battlefront is shrinking. This combination of aggressiveness and shrinkage provides the backdrop for the Trump administration’s tactics.