2020 is going to end as one of the most forgettable years in recent memory. The Chinese virus, which has affected every single part of the planet, and Turkish belligerence in the Middle East have dominated this year. Yet, there are six big leaders who have ensured that the world doesn’t slip into outright anarchy.
- Donald Trump
The US President is going to leave the White House next month. Yet, 2020 remains the most glorious year of his tenure especially in terms of American foreign policy. First and foremost, Trump has shown the much-needed energy to challenge China’s growing influence.
Since last year, Trump was fighting a tariffs war against China. But things escalated further after the Chinese government’s epidemiological misadventures caused a huge rift between Washing and Beijing. From bringing down Chinese tech giants to restricting the American stock market for Chinese companies, and generally decoupling the American economy from the paper Dragon, Trump has ransacked the Chinese economy.
On the military front, Trump has made it clear that the American Navy won’t tolerate the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s belligerence in the Western Pacific. Today, the US military is undermining China in key regions- the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
On the diplomatic and strategic front, Trump has taken American relations in the Indo-Pacific to a whole new level. The QUAD comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan is at the verge of getting formalised owing to Trump’s efforts. The US-South Korea relationship too is peaking due to Trump’s anti-China activism.
Also, Trump has made Taiwan more confident about its independence and sovereignty. He has also started pushing Tibet’s right of self-determination, apart from taking up the issue of human rights violations in China-occupied Xinjiang.
Even outside the Indo-Pacific, Trump has stabilised the world. He has brokered a series of peace agreements between Israel and Arab nations, called the Abraham Accords. The Middle East is moving towards peace, wholly due to Trump’s efforts.
If someone comes close to Trump in fighting China, it has to be India’s Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. India remains the only country that has gone as far as exchanging physical blows with Xi Jinping’s belligerent PLA. And the Indian Army also managed to inflict heavy casualties upon the PLA.
PM Modi himself remains committed to the cause of devastating the Chinese economy. Under PM Modi’s watch, the Indian economy is getting fully decoupled from China. While military tensions between India and China are showing no signs of dying down, the Modi government keeps restricting from China. Also, it is PM Modi who really started the global tech wars against China by banning hundreds of Chinese apps.
On the diplomatic and strategic front, Prime Minister Modi has been at the forefront of the Indo-Pacific vision to contain China. Along with Trump, PM Modi has elevated the Indo-US ties to a very high level. And even with Biden in the White House, the Indo-US relationship is expected to keep getting better. Moreover, PM Modi has also managed to form a unique trilateral along with Japan and Australia to keep a belligerent China in check.
Similarly, PM Modi has managed to improve India’s ties with countries like South Korea and Taiwan, as well as key Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar. Again, it is Prime Minister Modi who reignited the issue of Tibet’s self-determination before the Trump administration took it up.
- Tsai Ing-wen
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) managed to kill Hong Kong’s autonomy earlier this year. Xi Jinping also started pushing the envelope on the independent island nation of Taiwan. But Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen continues to defy Beijing.
She has been able to improve Taiwan’s ties with Australia, Japan, India, France and the US. Today, Taiwan’s popularity is peaking around the world despite China’s threats. And as for the PLA, Tsai has ensured that the Taiwanese military mirrors the Chinese military build up, in order to deter any misadventures from Beijing.
- Scott Morrison
The Australian Prime Minister started 2020 with mounting criticism about the raging bush fires in Australia last year. Yet, by the end of 2020, he has emerged as the face of democratic resistance against authoritarianism.
Morrison was one of the first leaders who called for an independent inquiry into the causes behind the Chinese virus Pandemic. Morrison’s campaign against Chinese authoritianism made him Beijing’s biggest enemy. And the most immediate casualty of the Sino-Australian rivalry was the Australian economy, as China started weaponising Canberra’s economic dependence upon the Communist nation.
Yet, Morrison refused to trade his values and continued his campaign against Chinese belligerence. Morrison has ensured that Chinese interference in the Australian system is kept in check.
- Shinzo Abe
Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains an icon in Japanese politics. For years, Abe has represented a sense of stability following years of chaos in the Japanese political system. This year, he had to resign because of health reasons. But the former Japanese PM has emerged as a statesman, who did not keep his countrymen and Japan’s allies in the dark.
Abe knew when to resign even though everyone wanted him to stay, and he also did not fall prey to the tendency of tall leaders to hide their diseases. Abe’s maturity and statesmanship has ensured a smooth transition in Japan. And now Abe’s successor, Yoshihide Suga is taking his legacy forward. Abe’s efforts to decouple the Japanese economy from China and to move Tokyo away from post-war Pacifism to the lurking Chinese military strength, still forms the centre-piece of Japanese foreign policy.
In fact, Japan’s historic resurgence under Abe and now Suga has come as a bolt from the blue for China, because the Chinese economy is getting overshadowed and Tokyo’s military prepared is also setting a precedent on how to handle the China threat.
- Emmanuel Macron
Macron continues to impress. He has grown into a statesman through several phases. First, he shocked China by befriending India, Japan, Australia and Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific. Then, he contained Hezbollah in Lebanon.
To follow up his bold manoeuvres in the Indo-Pacific, Macron decided to take on the Turkey threat. Turkish President was bullying EU nations like Cyprus and Greece when Macron decided to send in the French military and take on Ankara.
But Macron really came to the forefront, when he decided to crack down on radical Islamism following the beheading of a history teacher. Suddenly, Macron became an enemy of the leftist media, but nevertheless, he has emerged as the tallest European leader. With Merkel heading towards political retirement, it seems it is Macron who will decide Europe’s future policies from here on.
2020 was a forgettable year, yet six impressive leaders have ensured that the future doesn’t remain just as bleak.