Why the world and Asia hope for a Clinton victory

Xuan Loc Doan November 8, 2016 1:38 AM (UTC+8)
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Though she has a relative edge over Donald Trump in the last hours of America’s 2016 presidential race, it is not certain that Hillary Clinton will prevail in this long, dramatic — and at times, nasty — marathon race to the White House.

Yet, if it was a global election, Clinton would definitely and overwhelmingly defeat her Republican rival.

A poll of nearly 45,000 people in 45 countries, covering 75% of the world’s population in August and September by Gallup International Association (WIN) and a survey of over 20,000 adults in the world’s 20 leading industrial nation (G-20) in March by YouGov/Handelsblatt found that the US former secretary of state would resoundingly prevail in all but one country, Russia.

Asian countries in both or either of these two massive global polls — including Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan and Thailand — all voted for the Democratic nominee.

In Russia, where he enjoys exceptional popularity, the billionaire mogul would lead Clinton by 23 points in the WIN poll and 21 points in the YouGov/Handelsblatt one. According to these two surveys, the second most Trump-friendly nation is China, where he would only lose by 9% and 12% respectively.

Another poll of 10 EU countries by Pew Research Center in June also found that just 9% of Europeans in 10 countries surveyed have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs whereas 59% have confidence in his Democratic opponent.

The WIN survey offered some other notable findings. One is that the “American Election is arousing widespread engagement across the world.” This is in sharp contrast to what is felt in America, where more than 80% of its voters say the election campaign has left them disgusted rather than excited about this Tuesday’s vote.

Another is that 69% of global respondents said that who wins the election would have a high or very high impact on their countries, and 78% indicated that they would advise the next American President not to focus on American interests alone but also consider global interests. In contrast, 61% of American citizens prefer an American-centric policy, which is also championed by Trump.

The latter finding discloses, if not confirms, two other important points, which also explain why many people in the world and in Asia in particular would vote for the Democratic candidate. First, though it is no longer the sole superpower, the US remains the planet’s most powerful country and can still make a significant (and positive) impact on the world. Second, and consequently, most countries still want the US to actively engage in global affairs.

But why is Mrs. Clinton mostly preferred to Mr. Trump?

The world’s best hope?

As manifestly exposed during the 2016 presidential campaign, both Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival have many flaws, missteps and weaknesses. They are regarded as the two least popular presidential candidates in America’s recent history.

Clinton is disliked and distrusted by many Americans. Her penchant for secrecy (e.g. her use of a private email server while secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation’s alleged lack of transparency), and her status as an establishment politician are chief among the factors contributing to such a deep and widespread antipathy.

Yet, for many other Americans and especially for most of America’s mainstream media, while she is flawed, her opponent is even much worse.

For instance, as of November 3, 72 of America’s 100 leading newspapers had made presidential endorsements, with majority of these backing Mrs. Clinton and merely one, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, endorsing Trump.

For the first time in its history USA Today, America’s most read daily, took sides in a presidential race, imploring voters to reject Trump.

By choosing Clinton over Trump, several Republican-leaning papers, e.g. Arizona Republic and San Diego Union-Tribune, also endorsed a Democrat for president for the first time in their history.

Despite the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s decision to reopen probe into Mrs. Clinton’s emails on October 28, none of the papers that had already backed her have rescinded their endorsement. For some top newspapers, e.g. Los Angeles Times, “even with her email scandals, Hillary Clinton is the only alternative on Election Day.”

Trump’s presidential candidacy is even opposed by a number of former and present officials within his Republican Party.

Most of America’s media and its political and military elite see Hillary Clinton as the better candidate by experience, temperament and policy. This is also the reason why most countries prefer a Clinton victory on November 8.

In terms of experience, Trump has mainly made his name an fame in apolitical settings, e.g. property development, beauty contest, reality show and casino industry. In fact, the 70-year-old billionaire has never held elected office.

In contrast, Mrs. Clinton has at least a 20-year record of public service, political experience and diplomatic endeavor as first lady, senator for New York and secretary of state.

At a time when the world is faced with uncertainty, instability and disorder, a tested and experienced leader such as Clinton would be more desirable. That shares in Asia, Europe and elsewhere tumbled following Trump’s surge in polls last week is an evidence of why a Clinton victory is the best hope of both America and the world.

With regard to temperament and personality, Trump has serious flaws. The Washington Post depicts him as “bigoted, ignorant, deceitful, narcissistic, vengeful, petty, misogynistic” while others regard him as erratic, divisive, deceitful, belligerent and impulsive.

Again, at a moment when nationalist and xenophobic sentiments have become persuasive in America, Europe and elsewhere, an American president with temperament and personality such as Trump’s would be very bad — if not dangerous for — America and the world.

For a group of 50 former Republican national security officials, if elected Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history” while the Economist Intelligence Unit, a leading research and analysis division of the UK-based Economist Group, considered a Trump victory as one of the top 10 risks facing the world.

In contrast, Mrs. Clinton is seen as smart, mature, thoughtful, rational, confident, knowledgeable, tenacious and pragmatic. With all of this, she is thought to be better equipped to deal with American and global issues.

A third reason why most people among America’s media, political and military circles have endorsed Clinton and rejected Trump and also a key reason why — except a handful of countries, e.g. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Cambodia’s Hun Sen — most countries in the world prefer a Clinton presidency to a Donald administration is their leadership style, policy and vision.

As manifested during her four-year tenure as secretary of state and during the three presidential debates, Mrs. Clinton strongly advocates for a liberal world order that respects the rule of law and democratic values. She also insists that America must engage constructively and confidently in the world — and to work with its allies and partners in particular — to maintain and enhance such a global order.

On the other hand, Trump is portrayed as “contemptuous of democracy and enamored of America’s enemies,” by cozying up to “strongman Vladimir Putin” of Russia, “which is waging a cyberwar against America” while not taking America’s global alliances seriously. He

Due to Russia’s military adventurism in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged cyberwar against the US and other European countries, Trump’s explicit admiration for the Russian president, who has in return called the Republican nominee “outstanding and talented,” has alarmed the political and military establishments in both Washington and America’s allies.

For the likes of Cambodia’s Hun Sen — another strongman autocrat, who has ruled the Southeast Asian country for more than three decades — Trump’s election would reduce America’s tension with Russia and be good for world peace.

Yet, with his strongman rhetoric and antics, it is very likely that a Trump victory would lead to American isolationism and hugely weaken the liberal global order that the US has helped to create and led during the last seven decades.

If elected, instead of leading the free world, it is probable that he would join in the current cult of the world’s strongman politics led by Mr. Putin, who is regarded as “the patron saint of the world’s strongmen.”

As noted by Gideon Rachman in his “Trump, Putin, Xi and the cult of strongmen” in the UK-based Financial Times on November one, strongman leadership, be it in autocracies or democracies, is “intrinsically unstable.” One reason for this is that macho leaders tend to sort things out man-to-man, rather than relying on institutions or (international) law.

Asia’s best choice?

A number of other regional countries, including Singapore and Vietnam, were not included in the Gallup International Association and the YouGov/Handelsblatt. Should they be polled, they would also likely express their support for Hillary Clinton.

This is because, besides the exceptions (such as Hun Sen and perhaps, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, another Asian strongman leader) many Asians think a Clinton presidency would be better for their countries and region.

As revealed by the two polls, even China, the least Clinton-friendly and the most Trump-friendly in the region, would also vote for Clinton. A different poll by Pew also suggested that if China could vote, Clinton would come out on top.

A key reason why China, whose economic growth still significantly depends on export, would not back Trump, who is very anti-trade, is that he would review America’s commercial and economic ties with China. In announcing his candidacy in June 2015, he singled China out for criticism, accusing the world’s second biggest economy of dumping its exports and of devaluing its currency.

Yet, China reluctantly backed Clinton because she was seen as the person behind America’s Asia pivot, which has been aimed at counterbalancing Beijing’s regional ambitions. Unlike her Republican rival, Mrs. Clinton would reinforce America’s rebalancing strategy by enhancing its relations with its key allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, e.g. Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Strategically, Beijing would prefer a Trump victory as it would hugely decrease the US’s influence — and increase China’s — in the region. For the same reason, many other regional countries, especially those who are concerned about China’s maritime ambitions, would hope for a Clinton win.

Moreover, for the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Trump presidency would be a disaster because it will put the final nail into the coffin of this massive trade deal, which is on the verge of collapse due to vehement opposition the US.

Despite her anti-TPP rhetoric during the presidential campaign, there is a chance that America’s Congress will approve the 12-member agreement should Clinton prevail. That is why many countries in the region, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand,  Singapore and Vietnam, would definitely pray for a Clinton victory on Tuesday.

For this reason, they must be relieved at the latest news that the FBI has cleared Mrs. Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing in its latest review of her emails as this clearing will boost her chance of winning the election.

Xuan Loc Doan
Dr. Xuan Loc Doan is a UK-based researcher. He holds a PhD in International Relations and researches and writes on a number of areas. These include Vietnam’s domestic and foreign policy, ASEAN, EU, UK’s politics and international politics in the Asia-Pacific region.
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