The Trump Era is now officially underway.
Eight years ago, as many as 1.8 million supporters descended on Washington, DC, shouting “Yes, we can!” in support of the newly-elected African American president. The euphoric crowd filled the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building. All I can remember of that day now, though, is that the claim that the United States is made up of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and agnostics, overlooking those who practice Buddhism.
In his intonation and linguistic sensibilities, in his body language and hand gestures, the previous president was much more skillful than President Trump. Unfortunately, however, speeches were not enough to make the world move. Trading in eloquence for words coupled with action, President Trump quickly stirred the world to action with a single phrase: “America first.”
Among the so-called pundits and experts, there were more than a few who expected President Trump to refrain from saying outrageous things in his inauguration address. But Trump will always be Trump. Trump understands better than anyone that if he were ever to alter his distinctive style, the cohesive force binding his administration together would disappear overnight.
The realization of completely separating the United Kingdom from the European Union continues apace. The world is now in a period of adjustment of a globalism that went too far. A world in which the eight richest people own as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poor is glaringly atypical.
There is therefore nothing unusual in the fact that Trump, who occupies the same rarefied heights of fantastic wealth, was able to convince regular workers that he understands how they feel and thereby become the American president. To hell with NAFTA and the TPP. And of course, build a wall between the United States and Mexico. We will henceforth witness the United States—formerly the land of the free—implement policies that heretofore would have been completely unthinkable.
How should Japan respond to the Age of Trump? At this point, it would be a waste of time to raise the lament that a President Hillary Clinton would have been better, or to attempt to convince the new President Trump to keep the TPP in force.
We must begin from the starting point of reality. Whether we laugh or cry, for the next four years (or even eight, as now seems highly likely), the Age of Trump will continue. It will be an age during which an agenda of ungenerous and pitiless America First-ism will be pushed forward. If we take our time, scrutinizing the administration in order to take its full measure before making ready our response, we will be swallowed up in an instant by America First-ism.
There is only one option. We must respond to America First-ism with Japan First-ism.
If companies want to do business in Japan, then it goes without saying that they must make investments in this country. We as Japanese should buy products made in Japan, and should eat foodstuffs grown and raised here. As for the security arrangement, we cannot ride piggyback on the United States, or be carried along in her arms. We should shore up our own defensive strength. If we need weapons and military equipment, we should make those items domestically. If a country is determined to bring up, endlessly, vague circumstances and the numbers and evidences from seventy or eighty years in the past, then the best thing to do is to leave such a country to its own devices and move on. If every country pushes through its own selfish national interests, then friction will necessarily increase.
This is the very situation which first gives rise to the “deal” called “diplomacy.” Japan has now entered into an age beyond the “postwar”—whether we like it or not. A dog-eat-dog world is coming, and we must hurry to prepare for it.
Masato Inui is executive editor of the Tokyo office of Sankei Shimbun