As America retreats, China moves to create a new world order


The last time nationalism was on the march, we experienced two world wars that killed tens of millions of people.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the United States created institutions deliberately intended to establish a multilateral, liberal world order. These included the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Marshall Plan and trade-liberalizing rounds that culminated in the World Trade Organization. The success seemed validated with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But less than three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, nationalism is back.

The European Union, crowning achievement of bringing peace to the bloodiest continent of the 20th century, is in trouble.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leading champion of internationalism since Trump’s election, has resigned as head of her party and won’t seek re-election. French President Emmanuel Macron, seen as an essential Merkel ally, was forced into a humiliating retreat from economic reforms. Liberalism, including democracy and the rule of law, is in retreat in Hungary, Poland and Italy.

President Donald Trump’s “America First” is the most troubling development. He dislikes international institutions, withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accords, antagonizes American allies and attacks immigrants.

Whatever the fate of “Individual 1” and his legal troubles, these pillars of Trumpism will endure with a substantial portion of the electorate.

With the defeat of internationalist Hillary Clinton and the withdrawal of America from President Barack Obama’s signature “high standard” Trans-Pacific Partnership trade (and geostrategic) agreement, America is retreating from world leadership. It’s uncertain if the next election or two can reverse this.