The 2016 US presidential race is further proof that the current model of globalization is changing. For Russia and China, this means that neither Moscow nor Beijing can build their strategies based on integration into the American World.

America will keep moving in the direction of greater protectionism, which means the end of the globalization model of the late 20th-early 21st centuries and the beginning of something entirely new. Photo: AP

The article was edited and adjusted from Russian into English. The original version of this article was published in the magazine Russia in Global Affairs.

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has serious implications for the world. After billionaire Donald Trump won the Republican primary in Indiana, his remaining rivals for the nomination finally dropped out of the race, clearing the path for him to run as the undisputed candidate of the “Grand Old Party.”

Regardless of the outcome of the presidential race (one should keep in mind that the chances of the Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton to win the presidential race are very high indeed), a major political upheaval is in the wind. This could mean a shift in American public opinion.

Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama published an op-ed piece in The Washington Post. One more time, but with more emphasis than ever before, he said that it was America, together with its allies, that should write the rules of world trade, and not allow anyone else to do this, and especially not China.

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In this article, Obama made a direct reference to the election campaign, in which the Chinese agenda plays a significant role. The real goal is to achieve early ratification by the U.S. Congress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), an economic and trade agreement signed in November of last year by 12 Asia-Pacific countries in Washington.

Meanwhile, French officials have announced their reluctance to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the U.S.-European counterpart of the TTP. The Obama administration expects to complete negotiations on the TTP before it leaves the political scene in January, 2017.

This French announcement had its reverberations in other West European countries, especially in Germany. Moreover, it was preceded by a leak of classified materials concerning the secret negotiations.

This might indicate that the United States was exerting strong pressure on the EU, forcing it to accept conditions that would be unfavorable to a united Europe. All this seems to show the real direction of the U.S. foreign policy, which usually determines global trends.

Trump really shook up the old political establishment with his campaign strategy. No one could imagine, let alone predict, that his provocative manner would sweep aside dozens of much more experienced rivals with extensive political connections (including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush).

The Trump phenomenon is the ability to attract a previously passive part of the population, the middle class, which is growing poorer year after year, those people who are concerned with a slide down the social ladder.

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Trump, a construction magnate from Queens, the largest district in New York, offers a clear answer as to who is to blame for the current problems: the corrupt ruling class, which has forgotten about the ordinary people. These elites, instead of taking care of Americans and their own national economy, are opening up the country to cheap labor from Mexico and cheap goods from China.

Trump is playing on real and growing controversies: Globalized elites are preoccupied with concerns that are wholly alien to the majority of the people who are still tied to their national economies.

This is happening everywhere, not only in the United States. The emergence of European right-wing protest parties is the result of the same contradictions, which brought about the recent scandal around the Panama Papers, which revealed possible fraud and corruption within the highest ranks of the world ’s political elites – including the Kremlin’s inner circle.

Although the Russian authorities saw the Panama scandal as an anti-Russian provocation, it is a more ambitious investigation targeting political elites elsewhere. There seems no better confirmation of how all global elites (including those in non-Western countries) are living in their financial world, avoiding the payment of taxes even to their own state budgets.

The phenomenon of Trump and Bernie Sanders (the Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency who was once a Socialist, another new sign in this campaign) clearly demonstrates that the common people are alienated from the “authorities.” And it’s just now when those at the helm understand this.

Obama’s article serves as an example of a “counterattack.” The U.S. president is trying to persuade American citizens and Congress that the new free trade agreement (TPP) could deal with this problem to prevent other countries from imposing their own trade and economic dominance. Thus, the American president shifts to an open anti-Chinese rhetoric, clearly showing the target of these agreements. This phenomenon is quite unprecedented.

Liberal globalization has always had one advantage: It claimed that it was not playing the “zero-sum game.” It was based on the belief that the proposed rules were universal and fair in their nature. These rules were not supposed to be directed against any particular country, and thus they were beneficial to all.

Leaving behind this fundamental principle will lead to serious changes. The United States, as the leader of globalization since the end of the 1980s, has actually admitted that it has changed its approach. Instead of managing a single world economy, as it was proposed in the past, the U.S. has shifted to fragmentation: creating an America-centric core that is opposed to all the others.

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Therefore, countries have to to make a choice – either integrate with the much stronger Western institutions (a partnership under U.S. control), or seek new ways to ensure their own growth and development under previous interdependent conditions, but already not in a fully integrated global economy.

In Europe, this has led to increased wavering. In China, this has led to the painful understanding that the development model, which has given the country more than three decades of continuous growth, is now a matter of the past. Unlike Russia, which likes to shoot from the hip, especially with words, Beijing’s reaction was cautious, not wanting to take any irreversible steps. That is why the reaction to Obama’s attack was so very low-key. This, however, does not mean that China is ready to assume any role that the United States can offer Beijing.

In contrast, recent Chinese actions – from the “One Belt, One Road” strategy (an ambitious plan to tightly connect Asian, European, and African continents through transport and infrastructure development in Eurasia) and support for a comprehensive regional economic partnership, to its extensive military buildup – point to the fact that Beijing is seeking ways to bypass the U.S. model, and to resist it in the worst-case scenario.

China did not wish to do any of this. It was more than happy with the situation of the past few decades (from the 1980s to the 2000s), when the country, without declaring any great ambitions, skillfully took advantage of the opportunities provided by American-style liberal globalization. Now it is very difficult for China to abandon this familiar and quite comfortable system.

However, American policy leaves no avenues for returning to the past. In the election campaign, many candidates called for total restrictions on free trade or for putting global trade entirely at the service of America.

Elections, of course, will end one day, and then the U.S. president-elect will have to implement a more subtle policy towards its foreign partners. However, the public mood will not disappear, and America will continue moving in the direction of greater protectionism. And this means the end of the globalization model of the late 20th-early 21st centuries and the beginning of something entirely new.

For Russia and China, this means that their development strategies can no longer be based on the idea of integration into the American World. They are no longer invited, with Washington offering tough conditions, which discourage even its closest allies.

The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.

The article was edited and adjusted from Russian into English. The original version of this article was published in the magazine Russia in Global Affairs.