U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a joint press conference at the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Beijing. Trump is on a five-country trip through Asia traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
As tensions with China and the NBA boil over, we’ve seen a remarkable showing of unity among all corners of American life. It seems we’ve finally reached a point where people recognize what China truly is and that the long term dangers of continuing to shovel cash and influence their way outweighs the short term gains.
At the same time, I find myself frustrated by some of the double talk I’m seeing on the issue because my fear is this new, widespread epiphany may not last.
Let’s remember, it was just five minutes ago that many Republicans within the beltway and their subsequent media circles were vehemently stumping for unfettered free trade with China. I can’t count how many “Trump is an idiot and will destroy the economy” tweets I’ve seen over the past few years. The consistent message has been to call for a total normalization of trade relations with China, absent any additional tariffs or leverage being used to press them.
Take this example of contradiction at play.
No, NBA. Just no.
Chinese communist oppression isn't a "cultural divide." It's an act of tyranny against Chinese men and women who seek freedom. https://t.co/IZi62OMUTN
— David French (@DavidAFrench) October 7, 2019
I actually agree with French on that point. But here’s the thing, none of this is new.
We’ve known for a long time that China is a human rights violator. We’ve known they cheat and steal when it comes to trade. It’s well documented that they put people in concentration camps and that they’ve killed minority groups via genocide. Heck, there are stories of them harvesting organs of prisoners.
— Matt Yurus (@MattYurus) October 9, 2019
No offense to Guy, because he’s right to point out what China is doing with Muslim minorities, but at the same time, he and many others like him have found Trump’s trade war with China highly objectionable on economic grounds. But if the Chinese are evil and reprehensible, why would anyone support China being such a large trade partner in the first place? These are questions many Republicans haven’t properly grappled with, instead choosing to illogical compartmentalize them.
Getting back to French, since he knows everything about China’s history of atrocities, why has he spent so much of his time levying critiques such as this?
When you hear Donald Trump claim that he can magically negotiate “winning” trade deals with China or Japan, here’s what it means in the real world: more expensive goods at home as tariffs drive up prices, and less opportunity for exports abroad as trading partners retaliate with import restrictions of their own. We won’t see textile mills spring open across the land — we’ll just pay more for shirts and socks.
Again, French isn’t necessarily wrong in a vacuum, although he was wrong about manufacturing not coming back. It actually has increased over Trump’s presidency, but tariffs do hurt American companies in the short term (they also hurt the Chinese). Yet, if he truly believes China is a tyrannical dictatorship and is a dangerous threat, why exactly would he be stumping for the status quo of enriching them and expanding their influence?
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t stump for unlimited trade with China, allowing them exponential growth to challenge us and our ideals, while at the same time proclaiming how terrible they are and how they are destroying democratic freedoms.
It’s time to choose a side and stick to it, even if there’s a cost.
It’s really jarring to see so many conservatives who’ve rabidly defended limitless trade with China (despite much bad behavior) suddenly realize there are major long-term downsides to enriching a dangerous communist regime that seeks world domination. Welcome to the club I guess.
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) October 8, 2019
<nerd voice> “My free market principles say that we shouldn’t tariff Chinese goods. What’s that? The NBA won’t condemn China?!!! No way!!! They’re commies!!!” -far too many people on the Right
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) October 10, 2019
American elites promised that liberalizing trade with China would allow us to export our democratic ideals, but they were wrong in precisely the opposite direction: we imported their values along with their cheap consumer goods. https://t.co/uLOiOwwBy5
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) October 9, 2019
I’m not writing this to call anyone out. I’m writing this to challenge Republicans to come up with a message on China that’s not a convoluted mess. When Trump started hitting China early in his tenure, the Republican response should have been to steer him into doing it for the right reasons (to blunt Chinese aggression and influence), not castigating him for not retreating and letting China do whatever they want just because it may benefit us financially.
You can’t demand unfettered free trade with China out of one side your mouth and then proclaim the vast, dangerous evils of China out of the other. That is a contradiction that can not be squared and Republicans should stop trying.
It’s good to see some are finally getting the message but they need to keep their eye on the ball going forward. China will be far, far more dangerous 20-30 years from now if we continue to heavily rely on them, passing mountains of cash in their direction along the way. It’s fair to say that I even part ways with the President on this matter. I don’t think we need a “better deal” with China (as Trump wants). I think we need to push American businesses to ween themselves off the communist teat completely. The long term gain and security will far outweigh the short term pain. China is not the only country on earth that can make cheap cloths and electronics, among other things.
In the end, the historic normalization of China was a mistake. I understand the purpose was to blunt the Soviet Union, but all we ended up doing was creating a monster. We’ve got precious little opportunity left to cut them down to size. Right now, the U.S. still holds tremendous financial leverage over them and we should use it.
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