President Trump’s first Asia visit: U-M experts can comment

November 3, 2017
Debing Su, 734-764-0266, or Mandira Banerjee, 734-764-4251,


President Trump will start his first Asia visit Nov. 5, stopping in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Experts at the University of Michigan can discuss the various issues around the trip.

John Ciorciari is an associate professor at the Ford School of Public Policy. His research focuses on Southeast Asia and examines foreign policy strategies, human rights and the reform of international economic institutions.

“Trump’s visit to Vietnam and the Philippines will demand U.S. positions on human rights, trade after the TPP, the South China Sea and other issues,” he said. “The trip could easily degenerate into a series of poorly connected presidential pronouncements. What Southeast Asian leaders need to hear is a coherent and integrated vision for U.S. engagement with the region. And it needs to come from the president’s mouth.”


Dan Slater, professor of political science, specializes in the politics of enduring dictatorships and emerging democracies, with a regional focus on Southeast Asia.

“The biggest challenge for the White House on this lengthy Asia visit will be to listen as well as to talk,” he said. “The Trump administration hasn’t shown signs of listening to its allies when it unilaterally pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Or when it threatened to rain ‘fire and fury’ on North Korea, to the dismay and horror of our South Korean and Japanese allies.

“Hopefully, the president will be able to begin reassuring our allies that when he says ‘America First,’ he doesn’t mean ‘America Only.’ Otherwise, it could soon look like ‘America Last’ in the world’s fastest growing region.”


Linda Lim, professor emerita of corporate strategy and international business, is interested in U.S.-China trade relations, political economy of multinational and local business in Southeast Asia, including the changing international trade and investment environment, and the influence of domestic politics, economic policy and culture on business structure, strategy and operations.

“President Trump’s visit to Asia will be a reality check or object lesson in the global nature of foreign policy issues that cannot be resolved through his preferred unilateral or bilateral actions,” she said. “The most important issue is North Korea, which directly impacts on the security of China, Japan and Korea (who do not get along with each other), as well as the rest of East Asia and the world. Here the president’s imitation of Kim Jong Un’s bellicose rhetoric has made Asian allies nervous and they will want assurance that he has a credible strategy to ensure—or at least not undermine—regional peace and stability.

“On the economic front, the main issue is U.S. trade policy, which has disappointed two of the countries the president is visiting—Japan and Vietnam, which are enthusiastic about the TPP regional free trade deal from which he withdrew the U.S. (which did, however, please China)—and threatens to undermine the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The administration is also embroiled in various trade conflicts with China, and its expressed hostility to the WTO also causes concern among other countries. Asian leaders will be keen to get the president’s view on the regional blocs APEC and ASEAN.

“Two other security issues that concern the region collectively and might come up are the South China Sea, and fighting terrorism, especially as ISIS is now focusing on ASEAN member countries the Philippines and Indonesia.”

Contact: 734-665-4803

Allen Hicken, professor of political science, researches political parties and party systems in developing democracies and their role in policymaking, particularly in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia.

“As President Trump prepares for a trip to Asia, a key question is whether the U.S. is no longer willing or able to play an active leadership role in the region,” he said. “With continued security concerns on the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea and democracy under threat across much of the region, vital U.S. strategic interests are at stake.”


Dean Yang, professor of economics and public policy, is an expert on migration remittances and international financial flows, such as foreign aid and foreign direct investment.

Contact: 734-764-6158,

Mary Gallagher, professor of political science and director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, is an expert on Chinese politics, law and society.

Contact: 734-615-9154,