France is no better. The country is now in one of its recurring cycles of street demonstrations and paralyzing public transport strikes to protest labor reforms and social policies. With nearly 60 percent of the French voters holding negative views of President Emmanuel Macron, it is difficult to see how he can hang tough on reforms no French government has ever won against debilitating strikes and massive street protests.
In the middle of that, Macron is attacked from his own center-right ranks with claims that he wants to score easy wins with reforms while leaving aside the growing anti-Semitic violence and terrorism perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalism.
President Donald Trump will therefore be talking with two strongly challenged allies when he hosts the French and German leaders later this month.
Problems with East Asia are much more serious. Trade issues should be the easier part — they will probably be solved with South Korea and Japan in a relatively friendly manner.
Trade problems with China are more difficult because they have been mixed up with intractable security considerations. Chances are, however, that Beijing could relent — if the trade agreement is reached in a way that would not cause a humiliating retreat.
But there is a whole spectrum of other problems Washington is facing with its "strategic competitor" on the Korean Peninsula, in the Indo-Pacific area and beyond. An unnecessary hostility about trade issues appears to have seriously compromised Washington's quest for "transactional cooperation" with Beijing on issues where that might be feasible.
It now seems, for example, that the planned U.S.-North Korea summit may never take place.
Last week, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Moscow as a special emissary of President Xi Jinping to organize, among other things, the Russia-China summit next June. On that occasion, Yi talked about a "step-by-step approach" that would "address the North Korean security concerns during the process of denuclearization."
Fresh from a China-North Korea summit on March 25-28, 2018, it is reasonable to assume that Yi was presenting that process as something that Beijing and Pyongyang had agreed upon. But that process is totally at odds with the U.S. policy of maximum military and economic pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal as a condition to initiate peace negotiations.
China's support for an inter-Korean summit on April 27 also signals a determination to intensify the contacts between Seoul and Pyongyang that would be very difficult to stop or throw off track. In time, Beijing apparently hopes, these contacts are expected to create economic, social, cultural and family exchanges that would set in place peace dynamics irrespective of any outside pressure.
China is also working, presumably with some success, with East Asian neighbors to settle the problems of contested maritime borders, while strengthening its military positions throughout the South and East China Seas.