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Perceptions of the U.S. Elites on Foreign Affairs
2020-12-14 View : 285 KANG Miong Sei

[Sejong Policy Brief] No. 2020-22 (December 14, 2020)

 

 

Perceptions of the U.S. Elites on Foreign Affairs

 

 

Dr. KANG Miong Sei

Senior Research Fellow, The Sejong Institute

miongsei@sejong.org

 

Executive Summary

 

 

Threatening factors to the U.S. diplomacy according to the American elites in 2018: Unlike the general public, the elite group overall

   maintained a liberal attitude toward the threatening factors to diplomacy. At the same time, the American elites differentiated and

   assessed six threatening factors.

 

 - A. 78 percent of the elites pointed out the threat of climate change.

 - B. 27.1 percent of experts recognized North Korea’s nuclear threat to be vital.

 - C. 14.7 percent said that international terrorism is vital.

 - D. Only 2.7 percent considered illegal immigration vital.

 

The importance of elite groups

 

 - Chicago Council on Global Affairs surveyed elites in 2014, 2016, and 2018. 890 respondents to the 2018 survey are professional, elite

   officialdom, who experienced in various fields related to diplomacy and security.

 - The elites differ from the general public demographically and in terms of policy preferences. They were in government service, such

   as the White House’s National Security Council. 22 of 338 were ambassadors. Understanding the elites’ stance and thinking is

   essential to understand and predict the direction of the government’s diplomatic policy.

 

The role of the U.S. in international affairs

 

 - The Trump administration unilaterally advocated America First policy. Meanwhile, the elites wanted active participation in world

   affairs. In the 2014 survey, an active role in international affairs was included as a factor that highlights the role of the U.S. as a

   strong leader.

 

Assessment of multilateralism and free trade policies

 

 - Multilateralism and free trade system are traditional international institutions that the U.S. has established and maintained for a long

   time after the war. As in the past, the elite group supported the idea of multilaterally solving international problems.

 - In a survey that asked about participating in international organizations, 86 percent preferred “to participate more than now.” Other

   responses included “less than now,” “as now,” and so on (Figure 1).

 

 

  

 

Attitudes toward alliance policy

 

 - The elite group’s assessment of the direction of the traditional alliance organization, NATO, contrasts to that of the Trump

   administration (Table 1). Unlike the Trump administration’s policy enforcement, the elite group supports to maintain or strengthen

   the NATO alliance.

 

 

Table 1: Attitudes of the Foreign Policy Opinion Leaders on NATO % 2019

Chicago Council for Global Affairs

NATO Commitment

2016

2020

Withdraw entirely

1.7

1.8

Decrease commitment

6.0

7.5

Keep commitment the same

73.8

54.0

Increase commitment

18.3

36.4

 

 

Policy implications: the elites’ perception of the Korean Peninsula

 

 - The perception that China’s development is a “vital” or an “important” threat to U.S. security began to widespread since China’s

   participation in international trade in 2001.

 - The fact that a growing number of the U.S. elites are expressing opinions that China’s development should be checked and pressed

   actually indicates the possibility of the U.S.-China conflict to be recreated at any time in the future. The South Korean government

   must note that the relationship between the U.S. and China will not easily go well during the Biden administration and consider

   policies toward the U.S. and China accordingly.

 

 

Table 2: Attitudes of the Foreign Policy Opinion Leaders on the Korean Peninsula 2019

Chicago Council Survey 2019

Security Threat

2016

2019

Nuclear Threats of North Korea

 

 

Not important

7.4

13.3

Important

54.8

59.5

Vital

37.7

27.1

Threats of China

 

 

Not important

4.4

6.2

Important

60.7

46.2

Vital

34.8

47.5

 

 

 In 2018, 27.1 percent of the U.S. elites described North Korea’s nuclear threat as vital. This is a 13 percent decrease from 37.7

   percent in 2016. The U.S.-North Korea summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un must have had an impact.

   In conclusion, the data shows that the U.S.-North Korea summit has let the opinion leaders in the U.S. think that the threat from

   North Korea is not vital.

 

 

For a full article in Korean, please follow the link:

    http://www.sejong.org/boad/1/egoread.php?bd=3&itm=&txt=&pg=1&seq=5720

 

This article is written based on the author’s personal opinions and does not reflect the views of the Sejong Institute.

Translator’s note: This is a summarized unofficial translation of the original paper which was written in Korean. 

    All references should be made to the original paper.