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June 17, 2021
EDITORIAL

D. Trump on Twitter: A new diplomacy?

It’s known that Donald Trump, the president-elect of the U.S., who will be sworn in on January 21, uses Twitter very often. He did it in the presidential campaign too, which was an unusual but beneficial way to hike its number of supporters, with views numbering in the hundreds of thousands and, if we count the retweets too, some brief and memorable messages reached millions of views, hence having a remarkable impact among the electorate. He continued to do it after he won the highest office of the U.S. too, this being a new, surprising through its effects, form of political communication, especially in D. Trump’s particular case, so from the U.S. President to the public opinion – media, institutions, global diplomacy, simple citizens, not just Americans but citizens from all over the globe.

From the standpoint of political and diplomatic tradition, D. Trump sets himself up as his own spokesperson, a novel position for a president, especially for the president of the most powerful state of the planet, a position that can also hide dangers – some of them of significance – apart from the benefits of transparency, electoral effect etc. Among the dangers that this frequent use of Twitter from the height of the American presidential office entails – but others yet unsuspected are numerous – there is also the major influence on the international capital market, on the evolution of large multinational companies’ stocks, so on global economic developments.

It can be said that the user – in this case the U.S. president-elect, maybe the most important decisional office on the globe – risks being overwhelmed by the effect of the technology used to make his own opinions known. And it’s understandable why. Any Twitter user immediately reacts to breaking news, without stopping to fathom the consequences of the opinion he/she expresses on an impulse, a fact that, in the case of an office such as the one at the White House, Kremlin or Champs Elisee, hides unsuspected consequences. A recent case speaks volumes.

On 5 January 2017, Donald Trump posted the following tweet:

Donald J. TrumpVerified account ‏@realDonaldTrump /realDonaldTrump/status/817071792711942145

“Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”

The tweet was re-tweeted 32,507 times (9 January 2017) and garnered 107,262 likes. It’s easy to imagine, in figures, the message’s impact on the public opinion. The immediate replies were either the expression of negative reactions:

Mark Pellegrino ‏@MarkRPellegrino Jan 5

@realDonaldTrump before you bully more companies maybe you should read Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. Oh yeah. You don’t read.”

Or

Irony ‏@Thirty24 Jan 5

@ChrisLDnL @MarkRPellegrino @realDonaldTrump will be the known as “The lying” president”

Or of positive reactions:

Chris ‏@ChrisLDnL Jan 5

@MarkRPellegrino @realDonaldTrump He’s not bullying businesses. He is actually doing something to try to get us work. No other political…” or

McEntire ‏@McEntireL1775 Jan 5

@ImDylanKohl @realDonaldTrump no…we support him. He’s already done more for jobs than Obama did in 8 years”

But the tweet posted by D. Trump also had another effect that we find out from a posting on this social media network. Its author posted the following:

“Aaron Heslehurst ‏@bbcaaron Jan 6

The power of the #trump tweet – President elect #DonaldTrump threatens #Toyota & in 5 minutes shares fall 3% wiping off $1.2bn off its market value”

The information was considered very important and picked up by the international affairs commentator of the prestigious “The Financial Times.”

The recipients of this message can be put into several categories. The ones who appreciate the “force” of Donald Trump’s tweet in influencing not just the global public opinion but the global economic fabric, so that in just a few minutes’ time the shares of a large company of international breadth registered an unexpected drop. The second category are those who suspect it is a premeditated action on the part of one of Trump’s collaborators, to be able to secure large financial gains from the variation in the shares’ quotation (some are wondering whether this type of communication used by the president-elect is legal).

The third category are those worried, for one reason or another (opposition toward the president, fear of terrorist actions, basically of such a method of communication getting out of control), about huge negative consequences. One of the respondents included in this category imagines an apocalyptic scenario: “What if someone hacked into Trump’s Twitter account and announced a nuke strike on Russia?” Last but not least, another category consists of those who deny the possibility of a tweet posted by someone of Trump’s stature having such an impact, at least in Toyota’s case: “true but nothing is ‘wiped off’ unless you sell, otherwise just volatility… but yes, makes a good headline.”

But this aspect of Donald Trump’s use of Twitter and of the effects seen does not put an end to the entire file thus established in the case of the future U.S. president. Trump’s tweets have provoked veritable political ripples, for reasons easy to understand. The political calibre of the future president has numerous diplomatic chancelleries on guard, scrupulously registering the opinions expressed and the intents presented on his Twitter account.

Some chancelleries have even become worried in what concerns Donald Trump’s public transparency and have reacted, more or less officially, to the chosen manner of expressing public opinions, from such height of office, in what regards the evolution of bilateral ties. The most recent example is that of China, whose official news agency, Xinhua, pointed out in an article published on 3 January 2017 that “Twitter shouldn’t become an instrument of foreign policy.” The reference was to a D. Trump tweet in which China was criticised for lack of action in restraining North Korea from its path toward acquiring a nuclear arsenal, despite beneficial trade with the U.S. “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen! China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” the future president wrote on 2 January 2017.

The Chinese press agency emphasised in its comments that “Everyone recognises the common sense that foreign policy isn’t child’s play, and even less is it like doing business deals.” The sarcasm can hardly be hidden in this phrase, the entire plea of the comment outlining the preference for traditional diplomacy and the avoidance of innovations, especially the likes of those inaugurated by D. Trump’s “obsession” for Twitter. China’s official position in this regard offered more ammunition to President Trump’s domestic opponents, especially since, in parallel, in the U.S. there is an ample scandal concerning his intentions in the relationship with Russia.

So, we are probably facing a new manner of engaging in global diplomacy, one which D. Trump is promoting. It is certain he will not give it up easily, if he does, and, on the other hand, apart from some of his counterparts who will probably embrace the method, others are its determined opponents. International relations are entering a new era, to match technological gains, an era in which huge changes will be not just of a geopolitical character but will also entail the leaving behind of a traditional manner of conducting international diplomacy.

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