China Policy vs the Democratic Candidates

“China if you’re listening…”

In an age in which no matter what Trump says or does, Democrats feel duty bound to do the opposite, Democrats are now the biggest supporters of “free trade” and are siding with China against the United States in our trade dispute with China. So it’s no surprise that both China and the Democratic candidates must have felt like they achieved some sort of victory when Trump backed down on his threatened China tariffs and postponed them until December.

Online I find numerous posts about how Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing and his trade policy is a disaster, and it does seem uneven, but my sincere question of “what’s the alternative?” go unanswered.  And for good reason; there are no Democratic talking points on dealing with China other than restoring the pre-Trump status quo, in which China had a free hand to do whatever they wanted, and some vague mutterings about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  So rather than have a China policy, Democrats have a China reflex; if Trump wants it, they’re against it.

US China policy is a great example of how rule by experts has brought us to the brink of disaster. In the 1990’s, every pipe smoking academic, State Department East Asia expert, and think tank economist was preaching the gospel of turning China from a poor communist dictatorship into a rich beacon of democracy, all through the magic of trade. For example (from 2000):

“China expert Michael Oksenberg of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University believes, nevertheless, that over the long run the trade deal will help make China a more “humanely governed” land.”

How did that work out?  Is China more “humanely governed” than it was 20 years ago?

So the Clinton administration pushed, and Congress finally approved, granting “Most Favored Nation” status in the World Trade Organization (WTO).  However to be fair, this wasn’t just the Clinton administration supporting this; there was a bipartisan push for this.  Republicans and Democrats alike supported China’s entry in the WTO.

Normalizing trade relations with China counts as one of the major strategic blunders of the United States has committed.  We actually helped create not just an economic giant but a military power that threatens the US interests in the Pacific region.  China’s goal is to become the world’s “number one power,” displacing the United States, and we helped get them on their way.

So what do the Democrats suggest?

Nothing really except they oppose tariffs on China.  American Greatness detailed, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, and Beto O’Rourke all criticized tariffs on China all while the US was trying to engage in negotiations with China. Lefty journalist Peter Beinart observed:

“Bernie Sanders says nothing about China on his website. Neither do Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, or Kirsten Gillibrand. All Joe Biden says about China on his website is that it’s “rising.” On hers, Amy Klobuchar pledges to “invest in diplomacy and rebuild the State Department and modernize our military to stay one step ahead of China.” Kamala Harris’s website says the United States should “work in lockstep with our partners” to confront “China’s unfair trade practices.” That’s about as substantive as it gets.”

Of course the rust belt edge that Trump gained over Hillary was all about China.  I think a nation that has engaged in unfair trade practices since we’ve started trading with them, has engaged in intellectual property theft on the order of $225 billion to $600 billion annually, requires joint ventures in order to control any company that invests in China, and has vowed to replace us as the world’s leading power should be taken seriously as a threat.

Meanwhile the Democrats are resorting to their old habits from the cold war as viewing a Republican President as a greater threat than the Soviet Union and now China.  The Democrats might wise up some day, but my guess is it won’t be soon and will be way to late when they do.