Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Conversation: How Should the Republican Party Approach China Policy?

President Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai toast in Beijing (February 25, 1972)

ChinaFile hosted a conversation during the Republican National Convention on Trump's China Policy. It was kicked off with comments from his advisor Peter Navarro, a business professor at University of California Irvine. Along with others, I took part in the conversation. My comment is copied below. The conversation can be found here

For starters, Republicans should stop seeking out the next war. Historically, Bush II was good at war-making—though maybe not war-winning. The fear and simplistic narrative of war, splitting the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ can be an effective tool to mislead and corral the public. Such a tool is especially potent in a national campaign during a time when people are struggling economically and told to dread impending, random violence. Donald Trump now looks to formulate another war, a trade war with China. The narrative is custom-made to evoke fear and nationalism: A far-off country with an authoritarian government and a bone to pick is maliciously stealing your livelihood and weakening your country.

There is considerable imprecision, narrowness, and risk in Trump’s China narrative.

First, an examination of history will teach us that manufacturing began declining in the U.S. in the 1970s, long before China came on the scene as an industrial powerhouse. Huge structural shifts were caused by our North American allies via N.A.F.T.A., but we are not declaring “war” (i.e., needlessly demonizing) Canada and Mexico because of their economic impact on the U.S. (But based on Trump’s wall and immigration rhetoric, we cannot seriously doubt that he would not escalate conflict with America’s southern neighbor.)