One of the prerequisites for hegemony, be it global or regional, is the maintenance of a strong alliance system for the reason that hegemony can either be achieved through persuasion or coercion. America although has employed the latter too but has for decades enjoyed a strong alliance system in Asia and elsewhere in the world allowing it to maintain its dominant status. However, American policies under President Donald Trump appear to be a deviation from the longstanding US tradition of maintaining a network of a strong alliance system. The US policies have been a reflection of the fact that Trump is more driven to pursue transactional relationships. The traditional US allies are now questioning the credibility of the US in deterring aggression against potential adversaries thereby discrediting the US role as the hegemonic stabilizer. The policies adopted by the current administration towards US allies and adversaries are imperial and domineering by design in that the policies are adopted with a belief that the rest of the states will bow before the will of the United States and that the US has a limitless capacity to mould the behaviour of the rest of the states.

Beginning with East Asia, there has been a partial weakening of the American alliance system following the imposition of tariffs on South Korea and Japan-key American allies in the region, as well as the suspension of US-South Korea drills considered essential for the East Asian security. Similarly, Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has also antagonised several of the ASEAN member states and Japan. These policies have sent a clear signal to the friendly East-Asian states that the US cannot be relied upon as a credible ally and have been a turnaround from the previous US policy of “Strategic Pivot and Return to Asia”, focused on building alliances around China’s periphery.

Above all, the US policies under Trump administration have also frayed its longstanding transatlantic alliance. Since the beginning of his term, Trump has been questioning the relevance of the NATO alliance and has refused to endorse the Article 5 guarantee of mutual defence. Similarly, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear deal was also in opposition to the European states’ will and the European countries were neither consulted with regarding the decision of pulling out the US troops from Syria. Moreover, Europe has also been a target of the US global tariffs on steel and aluminium. These policies have sent Europe a signal that it is regarded as more of a rival than an ally by the US.

Moreover, following the adoption of immigration ban policy and US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and thereby the abandonment of the two-state solution as well as the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the American credibility in the Middle East is also on the decline. Given the influence of Israel, the US seems to be headed towards a conflict with Iran which could also have negative repercussions for America’s influence in the Middle East.

Thereby, America now seems to be losing the comparative advantage that it has in the past enjoyed in these regions over its competitor, China.

Many writers have argued that China achieving hegemony is easier said than done since it lacks the prerequisite of having a strong alliance system but it is against the backdrop of the uncertain relationships developed by the US in various regions under the Trump administration that China has taken advantage by extending diplomatically and economically into those regions. The traditional US partners are now questioning the credibility of the US as an ally. Meanwhile, China in the past few years has established itself as a trustworthy ally. Chinese strategy thus seems to be that of avoiding a direct confrontation with the United States but encircling the US allies, thereby keeping them from aligning with the US against China. A great many analysts have also termed Chinese strategy as that of ‘divide and conquer’-a strategy focused upon driving wedges between the US and its allies and thereafter to bring them into its own sphere of influence. The US policies in the Trump administration have proven to be a blessing in disguise for the aforementioned Chinese strategy.

In East Asia, China appears to be winning with every move that Trump makes. With the partial weakening of the US alliance system in East Asia following the imposition of tariffs on South Korea and Japan-key American allies in the region, as well as the suspension of US-South Korea drills considered essential for the East Asian security, China jumped on the opportunity by taking a step forward towards mending ties with South Korea over the issue of THAAD missile system and Japan over the Senkaku Islands dispute. It also restarted the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral dialogue and lowered tariffs on imports from South Korea. This by no means implies a complete thaw in the relationship but is an indication of the fact that the adversarial relationship is in a phase of transition.

Similarly, in South East Asian region too, the rise of China is attracting much attention and the ASEAN countries continue to be tempted by the Chinese initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative. For these nations, China appears to be more relevant to their interests than the US but this perception has been intensified by Trump’s protectionism particularly the withdrawal from the TPP. This has led to various cooperative arrangements such as train deals with Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, Lancang–Mekong Cooperation Initiative to further cooperation among Mekong River riparian countries as a counterweight to Lower Mekong – Mississippi Cooperation proposed by the United States and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

From establishing the Chinese dominated Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, and providing low-infrastructure loans to countries from the Baltic to the Pacific which are already funding various major projects, to building a comprehensive network of transcontinental gas and oil pipelines and working to link Europe’s extensive rail network with its own expanded high-speed rail system via transcontinental lines through Central Asia, China is successfully encircling allies. And not only this but China is also diversifying its clout in Africa and Latin America by the stepping up of its investments and China’s appeal in Africa as well as Latin America-regions considered to be the secondary and tertiary theatres for the Great Game respectively-has increased.

Similarly, in the Middle East, where the American credibility today is on the wane, China appears to be increasing its otherwise stagnating influence in the region particularly through its belt and road initiative. Today, China is constructing or financing ports in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Turkey and has increased its military presence in the region. In the Middle East, China is not only targeting the major OPEC countries but also the US allies.

These shifting global alliances will also ultimately determine the shifts in the power relationships. These current trends elucidate the fact that these shifting of global alliances will ultimately benefit China in acquiring its requisite intent of achieving hegemonic status.