Asian leaders trying to decipher U.S. President Donald Trump's inaugural address might benefit from the insight of Salena Zito, a journalist who wrote about Trump's election campaign in The Atlantic magazine. "The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally," Zito observed last September when Trump's chances of being elected looked slim. Now that he is officially the 45th U.S. president, Trump's utterings -- whatever response they deserve -- must be taken both literally and seriously.
If that is the case, few Asian leaders would agree with Trump that his predecessors' policies have wrought an "American carnage." Most would take umbrage at his thinly veiled accusations that their hard-earned prosperity has come at the expense of America's middle-class whose wealth, Trump asserts, "has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world." Few would have any enthusiasm for Trump's "new decree" of "America first."