World awakes to shock and uncertainty at prospect of a Trump presidency

US president-elect Donald Trump arrives at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Nov 8, 2016.
US president-elect Donald Trump arrives at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Nov 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

(NEW YORK TIMES) - The world awoke Wednesday (Nov 9) to the increasingly likely possibility that Mr Donald Trump might achieve a stunning upset to become the next president, defying most polls, which showed Mrs Hillary Clinton with a modest if steady lead. Such a victory could upend international relations. Criticisms of trade and immigration were central to his candidacy; Mr Trump has professed admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia and once called climate change a Chinese hoax; he has criticized the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and he has demanded that the nation's allies foot more of the bill for their defence.

With markets in a swoon over a likely Trump victory, the Bank of Japan and the country's Finance Ministry announced that they would hold an emergency meeting to discuss the surging yen and the plunging stock market.

"No matter which candidate is elected, the United States-Japan alliance is the key for United States-Japan diplomacy, and Japan will keep working closely with the United States for peace and prosperity, for Asia-Pacific and the world," Mr Yoshihide Suga, the chief Cabinet secretary, said at a regular morning news conference in Tokyo.

Asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership - a proposed multilateral trade deal that the Obama administration began negotiating with 11 other countries but that neither Clinton nor Trump supports - Mr Suga noted that last November, the United States "confirmed that they will aim to ratify it as soon as possible".

He added: "We understand that President Obama is making full efforts to pass the bill within this year."

Japan, he said, would "of course" pass the trade bill.

The prospects of a Trump victory were being greeted with ambivalence in China, which has grown more assertive both at home and abroad during the presidency of Xi Jinping. Chinese officials had worried about the unpredictability of a Trump White House, while they were expecting a more hawkish US policy toward Beijing on issues like the South China Sea if Clinton was elected.

Dr Su Hao, a professor of international relations at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, said that the Chinese government was probably ready for a Trump presidency: "There could be less conflicts between United States and China." Clinton backed President Barack Obama's "pivot" toward Asia, while Trump criticized it. Beijing sees the strategy as an attempt to contain China's rising power.

But Prof Su also said that "a decline of China-US relation is inevitable" if Trump becomes president, as he has accused China of manipulating its currency and engaging in unfair trade practices.

"More frictions on trade would arise during his administration," Prof Su said. "But in general the Republicans have proved they are capable of maintaining a stable relation with China. We expect the tie could stay on track."

By late morning in India, citizens were still riveted by the news, and most experts were unprepared to speculate on a Trump victory. But a panel discussion on NDTV, a news channel, talked about Trump's likely presidency.

Mr Prannoy Roy, co-founder and co-executive chairman of NDTV, asked the panellists: "If you can't respect a president, does it also stop the world respecting the American people for voting for a man like this?"

Later, Ms Leela Ponappa, a former deputy national security adviser in India, spoke about the uncertainty across the continent - the world's largest and most populous - over the United States.

"Trump is going to add to those uncertainties," she said. "What happens to the Japanese alliance? What happens to the Korean alliance?"