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Donald Trump’s mixed messages on China

After Donald Trump won the presidency Nov. 8, there was great trepidation about what the election of the blustery businessman might mean for U.S. foreign policy. But at least some political and media heavyweights allowed themselves to be optimistic. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told CBS News Trump’s election created an “extraordinary opportunity” for the U.S. to reshape relations with the rest of the world. Washington Post foreign-affairs columnist David Ignatius likewise said Trump has “room to maneuver” with China.

Unfortunately, less than a week into Trump’s presidency, it appears there is cause for trepidation. On the one hand, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday offered bellicose rhetoric about the Chinese military’s formidable presence in the South China Sea, where it has built islands as strategic outposts. On the other hand, Trump’s quick withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal suggests a disregard for the importance of the other 11 nations in the deal — and shoves them in China’s direction.

There are charitable interpretations of these events. The Obama administration warned China not to build a military base on Scarborough Shoal, an area of reefs near the Philippines, in the view that Beijing would then be in the position to dominate tens of thousands of square miles of the Western Pacific. The Trump administration is just obliquely making the point that it shares its predecessor’s objections. And on trade, Trump is eager for international deals but prefers bilateral accords with individual nations to regional treaties.

But the alternative interpretation is concluding that Trump hasn’t fully thought this through. If Trump is worried about China’s goal of dominating Asia, how can he not grasp that U.S. rejection of the Trans Pacific Partnership creates a huge void that Beijing can fill?

Yes, especially over the past quarter-century, U.S. leaders should have done better in making sure these gains reached more people. But it is a fiction for Trump to claim U.S. allies have simply been ripping America off — a fiction with the potential to change the global balance of power.

​The San Diego Union-Tribune, Jan. 25

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Oscar nominations not so white this year

The Oscar nominations that were announced Tuesday morning went to a dramatically more diverse group of people than in the last couple of years, when all but one or two of the top nominees — in the acting, directing and writing categories — were white. Nonwhite actors garnered more than a third of the nominations in their field, including at least one in all four acting categories. Barry Jenkins was nominated for his work as director of the acclaimed film “Moonlight.” Three of the five films nominated for best feature documentary were helmed by black directors. Two black writers were nominated for best adapted screenplay. And four of the nine best picture nominations went to films with story lines that revolve around nonwhite actors.

This blossoming of diversity follows a two-year long uproar, symbolized by the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, over the lack of minorities and women in the venerable Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members nominate and pick the recipients of the Academy Awards. Last summer the group invited into its ranks more than 600 new voters, a good portion of them women and minorities. (Women still make up only 27 percent of the academy and minorities only 11 percent.) The new members may have helped broaden the nominations, but a more likely explanation is that the controversy raised academy members’ consciousness on this issue, leading them to give more serious consideration to films with nonwhite casts.

But there is also no denying that 2016 saw a crop of extraordinarily good films. There was simply no overlooking many of those films.

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25

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