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Trump’s Failures and Their Consequences


Analysis of the Trump presidency by one of China’s leading international relations scholars.

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2020 has been a year of great defeat for Trump. This is not only manifested in his defeat in the presidential election but also in the full culmination of the ill consequences brought about in the United States by his administration. His bad influence will not disappear with Trump’s departure.


Failures of Internal Governance


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the world, and the United States, in particular, has paid a heavy price. As of December 31, the number of deaths in the United States due to the COVID-19 was as high as 340,000, exceeding the loss of U.S. lives during World War II. The United States has the world’s most advanced medical technology and the best medical experts, but it has failed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most important reason for this is that Trump did not play his due leadership role. His election-first political orientation, a strong anti-intellectual mentality and contempt for professionalism, and an exaggerated and even self-deceiving leadership style have caused the U.S. epidemic to spin out of control, with tremendously catastrophic consequences.

2020年,新冠疫情对世界产生了巨大的冲击,美国尤其付出了惨重的代价。 截至12月31日,美国因新冠疫情所导致的死亡人数高达34万,超过了美国在二次世界大战中的生命损失。 美国拥有世界上最先进的医疗技术和最优秀的医疗专家,但在应对新冠疫情方面却输得一败涂地,最重要的原因就是特朗普没有发挥应有的领导作用。他所秉持的选情第一的政治导向,强烈的反智主义心态和对专业精神的蔑视,浮夸甚至自欺欺人的领导风格等等,导致美国疫情失控并产生巨大的灾难性后果。

Affected by the out-of-control epidemic, the United States suffered its worst economic depression since the 1930s. The longest economic growth cycle in the history of the United States came to an abrupt end. Tens of millions of people became unemployed, thousands of companies went bankrupt, and the financial circumstances of a large number of low- and middle-income families deteriorated, putting their lives in danger. In response to the pandemic, the Trump administration launched a $2.3 trillion bail-out, bringing the 2020 fiscal year budget deficit to $3.13 trillion, equivalent to 15.3 percent of GDP, far exceeding the safe margin of three percent. By the beginning of December 2020, the total national debt will reach $27.41 trillion, which is equivalent to more than 130 percent of the estimated GDP in 2020, a record high. The U.S. economy has shrunk by about 4 percent in 2020.

受疫情失控的影响,美国遭遇了1930年代以来最严重的经济萧条。 美国历史上最长的经济增长周期戛然而止,数千万人失业,数以千计的企业破产,大量中低收入人群家庭财务状况恶化,生活陷入困境。 为应对疫情,特朗普政府推出了2。3万亿美元的“纾困计划”,使得2020财政年度预算赤字达到3。13亿万元,相当于GDP的15。3%, 远远超过3%的安全水平。 到2020年12月初,美国国债总额达到27。41万亿美元,相当于2020年预计GDP的130%以上,创历史新高。 预计2020年美国经济负增长4%左右。

In 2020, large-scale protests against racial discrimination and violent policing broke out in the United States. The protests, triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man, by violent law enforcement, swept across the United States. Serious violent conflicts broke out in many cities, reminding many of the turbulent 1960s. Although racial discrimination in the United States is a systemic disease, the strong racist tendencies exhibited by Trump himself exacerbated racial conflicts in the United States after he took office. The racial conflicts in Charlottesville from the summer of 2017 were a warning, and the widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 were a much larger a bigger outbreak of the racial conflicts of the United States under Trump.

2020年,美国爆发了反对种族歧视和警察暴力执法的大规模抗议活动。 这场因黑人男子弗洛伊德被暴力执法致死而引发的抗议示威席卷全美,许多城市发生了严重的暴力冲突,令人想起动荡的1960年代。 虽然美国的种族歧视是系统性痼疾,但特朗普本人所表现出的强烈的种族主义倾向在他执政后加剧了美国的种族矛盾。 2017年夏天夏洛茨维尔种族冲突事件即已发出了警讯,而2020年夏天 “黑人命也是命” 广泛抗议活动就是特朗普治下美国种族矛盾的一次更大的爆发。

The Trump administration has brought polarization in the United States to a state of divisive politics. Political polarization is the product of intensified and out-of-control political struggles in the United States in the post-Cold War era. From Clinton to Bush to Obama, political polarization and partisanship have intensified. During the Trump administration, polarized politics evolved into divisive politics. Trump sees himself as the president of some Americans, not the president of all Americans. He has mainly relied upon political fundamentals to advance his political agenda and has consolidated his political position by dividing rather than uniting citizens. The consequence of divisive politics is to draw completely partisan lines with political antagonism, with no room for cooperation or compromise. This was on full display in the Senate’s approval of Justice Barrett. Trump’s divisive politics has transformed the “United States of America” into a “Separatist States of America.”

特朗普执政使得美国的极化政治走向分裂政治。 政治极化是后冷战时代美国政治斗争加剧和失控的产物,从克林顿到小布什再到奥巴马,政治极化和党争愈演愈烈,到了特朗普执政时期,极化政治演变为分裂政治。 特朗普视自己为部分美国人的总统,而不是全体美国人的总统。 他主要依赖政治基本盘来推进其政治议程,靠分裂而不是团结国民来巩固自己的政治地位。 分裂政治的后果就是完全以党派划线和政治上全面对立,没有合作和妥协的空间,这在参议院批准大法官巴雷特一事上充分显示出来。 特朗普的分裂政治使“美利坚合众国”成为“美利坚分裂国”。

Trump challenged the American political system and made American political culture obscene. Trump has a penchant for appointing relatives and cronies. He has attached great importance to the loyalty of his officials, has interfered with the judicial process, has challenged the independence of the Federal Reserve, detests Congressional checks and balances, and hates media oversight. He has severely eroded the system and norms of American politics and has become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.


Trump’s challenge to the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election has caused unprecedented damage to the U.S. political system. Although the election results showed that the Democratic candidate Biden had won a significant victory, Trump refused to admit defeat on the grounds of election fraud by the Democrats and instructed his supporters to challenge the election through various means—from street protests to judicial proceedings. As a result, the lawsuit initiated by the Attorney General of Texas to challenge the election results of four key states was supported by the attorney generals of 17 other states and 126 Republican congressmen. Clearly, Trump has damaged the political system of the United States. Even when the Electoral College voted to confirm the results of the election, Trump still refused to admit defeat. If that were not enough, Trump is also a habitual liar who is accustomed to perverse attacks on political opponents, and his uncouth words and deeds on the international stage have utterly tarnished American political culture.

特朗普对2020年美国总统选举结果的挑战则是其对美国政治制度史无前例的破坏。 尽管选举结果表明民主党候选人拜登获得显著的胜利,特朗普却以民主党选举舞弊为由拒绝承认失败,并指示其支持者以各种方式——从街头抗议到提起司法诉讼——挑战选举结果,其中得克萨斯州总检察长发起的挑战四个关键州选举结果的诉讼竟然得到了17个州的检察长和126名共和党众议员的支持,特朗普对美国政治制度的破坏可见一斑。 甚至在选举人团投票确认选举结果的情况下,特朗普仍拒不认输。 不仅如此,特朗普撒谎成性,习惯于攻击丑化政治对手,在国际舞台上言行乖张,亦使美国政治文化变得粗鄙不堪。

Reckless Foreign Policy


In the four years that he has been in power, Trump has set a historical record for the number of U.S. “withdrawals.” Driven by the concept of “America First,” the Trump administration has adopted a brutal approach to international mechanisms that “do not agree” with this concept. From the Paris Agreement to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from the Universal Postal Union to UNESCO, from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to the World Health Organization, the Trump administration’s unscrupulous withdrawal from one group after another has severely damaged international mechanisms and the international order and has weakened international cooperation in many fields. This is especially so with the withdrawal from the WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic, risking the world’s ruin and fully exposing the Trump administration’s extremely selfish and intolerant mentality and modus operandi of recklessness and arrogance.

特朗普执政四年,创下了美国“退群”的历史记录。 在“美国优先”理念的驱使下,特朗普政府对国际机制采取“不合则去”的粗暴做法,从《巴黎气候协议》到《伊核协议》,从万国邮政联盟到联合国教科文组织,从《中导条约》到世界卫生组织,特朗普政府毫无顾忌的退群行为,严重破坏了国际机制和国际秩序,削弱了在诸多领域的国际合作,尤其是在新冠疫情肆虐期间退出世卫组织的举动,冒天下之大不韪,充分暴露出特朗普政府极端自私、偏狭的心态与任性、狂妄的行事风格。

The Trump administration has also severely damaged the alliances of the United States. Brazenly launching a trade war against a group of allies, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that European allies attach great importance to, initiating sanctions against German-Russian cooperation on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 oil and gas pipeline project, unilaterally deciding to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany, pressuring Japan and South Korea on the issue of military expenditure sharing—this series of measures has harmed the interests of allies and aroused serious dissatisfaction with Washington. The degree of separation between allies and the United States is almost unprecedented, and this is undoubtedly a major failure of American diplomacy.

特朗普执政也使美国的同盟关系严重受损。 悍然向一众盟友发起贸易战,退出欧洲盟友尤为重视的《巴黎气候协议》和《伊核协议》,对德俄合作建设“北溪二号线”油气管道项目发起制裁,单方面决定从德国撤出美军,在军费分担问题上向日本和韩国施压等等,这一系列举措损害了盟友的利益,激起了盟国对华盛顿的严重不满,盟友与美国离心离德的严重程度几乎前所未见,这无疑是美国外交的一大败笔。

The Trump administration’s strategic competition with China has shifted to strategic confrontation, bringing China-U.S. relations to its lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Trump initiated comprehensive and strategic competition with China, provoking the largest trade war in human history. Trump has done everything possible to technologically blockade and suppress China, and the political attack on China is akin to a repeat of the Cold War. The intensity of diplomatic confrontation has never been seen before. The Trump administration’s frenzied suppression and containment of China neither blocked China’s development nor made the United States greater. He has caused fierce turbulence in relations between major powers, destroyed the vital cooperation of major powers in international affairs, threatened the security of global production chains, value chains, and supply chains, and trampled on international rules and order, fully exposing the arrogance and madness of American hegemony. This is an extremely disgraceful page in the history of international relations.

特朗普政府对华战略竞争滑向战略对抗,使中美关系降到了建交以来的最低点。 特朗普发起对华全面战略竞争,挑起了人类历史上最大规模的贸易战,对华技术封锁、打压无所不用其极,对中国的政治攻击如冷战重演,外交对抗的烈度前所未见。 特朗普政府对中国的疯狂打压与遏制,既没有阻断中国的发展进程,更没有使美国变得更加伟大。 它引起了大国关系的激烈动荡,破坏了国际事务中至关重要的大国合作,威胁着全球产业链、价值链、供应链安全,践踏了国际规则与秩序,充分暴露了美国霸权的傲慢与疯狂。这是国际关系史上极不光彩的一页。

In the four years that Trump has been in power, under the slogan of “America First,” he has unscrupulously pursued his own personal interests, regardless of the bottom line, the antagonism, destructiveness, and danger of which have been fully revealed. The United States has shifted from acting as the creator and defender of the existing international order to its greatest disruptor, and its reputation and credibility in the international community have suffered more than ever before. Trump’s huge failure in responding to COVID-19, serious racial and social conflicts, hopeless political polarization and confrontation, unprecedented disputes over the outcome of the general election, and on and on have also riddled with holes the myth of the superiority of American institutions and morals. This is Trump’s failure, and it is also the tragedy of the United States.

特朗普执政四年,在“美国优先”的口号下为谋一己之私而不择手段、不顾底线,其对抗性、破坏性和危险性充分显露,美国从现存国际秩序的缔造者和维护者变为最大的破坏者,其在国际社会的声誉和信誉受到前所未有的重创。 而特朗普在应对新冠疫情方面的巨大失败、严重的种族和社会冲突、无可救药的政治极化和对抗、围绕大选结果的前所未有的争执等等,也使美国制度和道义优越的迷思百孔千疮。 这是特朗普的失败,更是美国的悲剧。

Grave Consequences


Trump’s rise to power is a product of the sharpening of American social contradictions and American political dysfunction. Trump’s administration, in turn, intensified political and social contradictions internally and exacerbated the tension between the United States and the international community. Serious governance failures wiped out Trump’s re-election efforts, but the consequences of his administration will not disappear with his departure.

特朗普上台是美国社会矛盾尖锐化和美国政治机能失调的产物,而特朗普的执政反过来对内激化了政治和社会矛盾,对外加剧了美国与国际社会的张力。 严重的治理失败使特朗普谋求连任的努力化为泡影,但是其执政所带来的后果却不会随着他的下台而消逝。

From an internal point of view, Trump won more than 70 million votes in the 2020 election, showing that Trumpism still has a strong appeal and a solid social foundation and will continue to have an important impact on the political and social ecology of the United States. In the future, such forces will attempt to anoint a new Trump-like figure to the throne, as they did in 2016. On the other hand, the forces represented by the Democratic Party will also actively seek to shape the trend of American politics and society, especially by seizing the opportunity of Biden’s administration to advance its policy preferences. In the future, internal competition in the United States will still be fierce, and political and social turmoil may become the new norm for the United States in the medium and long term.

从内部看,特朗普在2020年大选中获得7000多万张选票,这表明特朗普现象仍具有强大的号召力和雄厚的社会基础,将会继续对美国政治社会生态产生重要影响,这股力量未来还会试图把新的特朗普式人物送上总统宝座,一如其在2016年所做的那样。 另一方面,民主党所代表的力量也会积极谋求塑造美国政治社会走势,特别是抓住拜登执政的机遇推进其政策偏好。 未来美国内部的较量依然会很激烈,政治社会动荡有可能成为美国中长期的新常态。

Externally, Trump’s four years of misbehavior have reduced the world’s expectations for the leadership of the United States and confidence in the United States in playing a responsible role in international affairs to a new low not seen since the end of the Cold War. In a multi-polar world, the pace of decentralization is accelerating, and the world needs new forces to promote cooperation and governance. In the next decade, the development of regional and cross-regional cooperation, the further growth of emerging economies and their more active role on the international stage, Europe’s pursuit of “strategic autonomy,” and the creation of new mechanisms of cooperation will accelerate the pace of international political and economic restructuring in the post-hegemony era.

从外部看,特朗普四年的胡作非为使得世界对美国领导作用的期待和对美国在国际事务中发挥负责任作用的信心降到了冷战结束以来的新低。 在一个多极化的世界上,“去美国中心化”的趋势在加速,世界需要新的力量来推进合作与治理。 未来十年,区域和跨区域合作的发展,新兴经济体的进一步壮大和在国际舞台上更加活跃的角色,欧洲对“战略自主”的追求,新的合作机制的创立等,将加快后霸权时代国际政治经济重组的步伐。

To what extent can the Biden administration heal the trauma wrought by Trump? At home, Biden will seek to alleviate political divisions and racial conflicts. However, the state of polarization is beyond cure, and racial discrimination is a systemic disease. These are hardly expected to change significantly in the short term.


Internationally, Biden will attempt to repair alliances, restore U.S. influence in international institutions, and restore U.S. leadership. However, the world is no longer the world of the past, and the United States is not the United States of the past. No matter how determined Biden may be and no matter how rich his team’s experience in governance may be, in the face of a changed reality, it is hard to escape a sense of powerlessness.


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吴心伯 (Wu Xinbo). "Trump’s Failures and Their Consequences [特朗普的失败及其后果]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Fudan University [复旦大学], January 14, 2021

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