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America’s allies watched the debate with their heads shaking and asked: What now?


President Biden told former President Donald J. Trump during Thursday night’s debate that the United States is “the envy of the world.”

Many Asian friends in the United States disagree with this view after watching their performances.

In Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and other places, Mr Trump roars and Stop Mr. Biden That has analysts worried — and not just about who will win.

“The whole thing was a complete disaster.” wrote Simon Canning, communications manager at Australia, commented on X. “The candidates and the moderators are a mess. The United States is in very, very serious trouble.”

Those who hope that the United States can balance China’s rise and prevent North KoreaAsian nuclear aspirants have spent the past four years trying to rebuild ties after Trump’s first term deeply disrupted alliances in the region. Thursday night’s debate immediately reignited serious questions about how American politics affects stability across Asia.

Tan Keng Chee, who served as Singapore’s ambassador to the United States from 1996 to 2012, said the quality of the debate had declined compared with previous ones. Biden’s out-of-touch performance and Trump’s repeated attacks and misrepresentations of facts unnerved those who rely on the United States as a trusted global partner.

“Everyone is looking at appearances now,” Ms. Chen said. “Does the applicant look qualified for the job, or is age an issue? Facts don’t matter now, and politeness is completely irrelevant.”

In Japan and South Korea, analysts saw the political winds shifting toward Trump, renewing questions about Biden’s age and ability to project strength.

“This is clearly a victory for Trump and a fatal blow to Biden’s campaign,” said Lee Byung-chul, a professor at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “Trump looks healthy compared to Biden, who looks like an old, stuttering grandfather who can’t hear clearly. We must now prepare for a second Trump administration.”

Japan is America’s biggest ally in Asia, and Japanese officials have all but insisted they are happy to work with any country the U.S. chooses. But Trump’s comments during the debate that he doesn’t want to spend money on allies are likely to reignite concerns that his approach to international relations is transactional rather than enduring.

“I guess Japanese policymakers think, ‘Well, there’s a good chance Trump will be elected, so we have to solidify institutional ties as much as possible so he can’t undermine them,’ ” said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo. “It’s like tying yourself to a mast that might sink soon, so it’s a false illusion of security.”

If Trump wins, though, Japanese officials may feel less pressure from him to demand that Tokyo increase defense spending or the cost of stationing Japanese troops in the United States.

Over the past two years, Japan has pledged to increase Defense Budget and stretch The limits of its pacifist constitution on its actionsinclude Buy more fighter jets and Tomahawk missilesThis was an initiative pushed by Trump during his visit to Japan during his presidency.

Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to Washington, said of Trump that increased spending and arms purchases were “in line with his thinking.” “If we were moving in the opposite direction of what he said, we would have to review our position, but we didn’t do that,” Fujisaki said.

Across the region, one of the most pressing concerns is how Trump might exacerbate tensions with China or undermine the region’s fragile stability.

If Trump wins, Washington is likely to adopt a strategy that seeks to boost U.S. influence in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, “but one that would prioritize U.S. dominance and not necessarily its network of alliances and partnerships in a collective sense,” said Don McLain Gill, a Manila-based lecturer in international studies at De La Salle University. “As a transactional leader, there are concerns that Trump might abandon key areas of U.S. commitment, such as Taiwan.”

On Chinese social media, the presidential debate was a trending topic on the Weibo platform. Chinese state media was largely blunt, reporting on the candidates’ remarks — and their lack of a handshake — without much comment.

But in online comments, some users compared Trump’s red tie to the Communist Party’s red scarf, and some social media commentators jokingly called Trump a “nation builder” because his leadership could accelerate China’s global rise.

Shares of Chinese company Wisesoft Co., whose Chinese name translates to “Trump wins big,” rose 10% in Shenzhen trading on Friday. Bloomberg.

Social media merriment aside, Shen Dingli, an international relations scholar in Shanghai, said the debate simply reinforced what the Chinese government has long thought: that no matter who becomes the next president, U.S. policy toward China will only become tougher, if not change.

Mr. Shen said the two candidates argued over who did a better job managing trade with China, when in reality the Biden administration continued Trump-era tariffs.

“Even if the Democratic Party urgently elects a new, younger candidate, they will all view China as a long-term strategic threat, even more serious than Russia,” he said. “I believe Chinese leaders have no illusions.”

What was apparent after Thursday’s debate was that few in the region are optimistic about any of the U.S. electoral options.

Kasit Piromya, former Thai foreign minister (2008-2011) and former ambassador to the United States, expressed regret over the current political situation in the United States.

“Where are the good people? Where are the brave people?” Casit said, adding that it was now time for Southeast Asian countries to have their own foreign policy vision. “Why should I wait until Trump gets bad? I should be able to organize and maybe work with other friends.”

Zhang Jiayan, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said President Biden looks very tired, while former President Trump sounded more unpredictable in terms of his expectations of other friendly countries and how to deal with China.

“This raises new issues for managing the relationship with the United States,” he said. “By and large, policymakers want a clear, firm and stable U.S. presence in the region. A vacillating, weak and uncommitted U.S. is just as troubling as an erratic and capricious U.S..”

“You’re looking at two extremes,” Mr. Zhang added. “It’s hard to imagine what a more moderate middle path in the United States would look like.”

Reported by Damian Cave, Huang Ruili, Choi Sang-hoon, Vera Wang and Camille Elemia.

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