Someone with an ego the size of Donald Trump’s is not difficult to flatter. Trump just took a foreign tour through Asia, meeting with several world leaders, and many critics fear that those leaders took advantage of him by flattering him. Many ignored the grave threat that he poses to their region – or, rather, calculated that they are best served flattering the leader of the free world.
“You are already making great progress in making America great again,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in, even though Trump has escalated tensions with neighboring North Korea to nearly unprecedented heights. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took Trump golfing with a top-ranked Japanese professional golfer for much the same reason.
“We’ve had a tremendous period of time,” Trump said of his friendship with these Asian leaders. “Last night’s celebration in China was something the likes of which few people have ever seen before. So we’ve had a very exciting time.”
“Unfortunately, for the United States, President Trump’s trip so far in Asia has just reinforced the view in Asia of President Trump as a paper tiger. He talks a big game when it comes to China — whether it’s hitting them with tariffs or urging them to crack down on North Korea. But when he’s face to face with Xi, he has nothing but praise for him,” said Michael Fuchs, a former Obama foreign policy official for the Asian region.
“Foreign leaders, especially in Asia, always want to put on a good show for the U.S. president. But I think they increasingly realize the key to a good relationship with President Trump is to roll out the red carpet,” Fuchs continued.
“Trump is a flatterer and foreign policy neophyte. He’s going to say some stuff that Xi will like and make experts gnash their teeth. But look just a little below that surface and you’ll see an approach to Asia largely the same” as Obama’s, added Eric Gomez of the libertarian CATO Institute.