Luck in the United States was clear: It started with growing global resentment of China allowing the coronavirus. Asian governments have been alarmed by an escalation of Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea; European leaders ranted against the wolf warrior diplomacy of Chinese ambassadors. India has seen 20 of its soldiers killed by Chinese troops in the border skirmish for decades.
True, Trump and the administration’s anti-Beijing faction tried to take advantage of it. Since June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has coordinated four important speeches by senior administration officials complaining against China, accompanied by a wave of punitive American measures, including the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston.
So far, however, the administrative offensive has clearly failed to gain international support, and for good reason. Let’s start with the rhetoric. Rather than focusing on Xi, who for nearly eight years in power crushed his national civil society while escalating foreign aggression from China, Pompeo and his crew peddled an image of the Chinese government as a Communist monolith dedicated to world domination and 40 years of history. of Western engagement with him as a disastrous mistake.
Speeches by Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert C. OBrien, Attorney General William P. Barr, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray are laden with alarmist rhetoric from the start of the Cold War. America, under President Trump’s leadership, has finally awakened to the threat that the actions of the Communist Party … pose to our very way of life, OBrien said in the first speech. Xi, he said, sees himself as Joseph Stalin’s successor. If there’s one thing I learned from the Cold War, says Pompeois that the Communists almost always lie.
Stalin used the genocide to create a socialist command economy in the Soviet Union. Xi presides over one of the most dynamic capitalist economies, home to 373 billionaires. The Chinese leader is a staunch autocrat and a staunch nationalist, but few Chinese experts describe him as a communist ideologue. Regardless: in China, said OBrien, communist ideas remain as fundamental … as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights do to us as Americans.
Describing communism as a defining characteristic of China is fundamental for Pompeos most extreme argument, that is, the West’s error was not its response to the emergence of Xis’ hardline regime but its opening up to China in 1972. Twisting history, Pompeo claimed that the The goal of US diplomatic and economic relations with Beijing was to make it a democracy and that it is time to recognize the failed effort. President Nixon once said that he feared he had created a Frankenstein by opening up the world to the CCP, Pompeo said, using the acronym of the Chinese Communist Party, and here we are.
Many in the West now agree that the Xi regime is a threat. But few will accept Pompeos’ thesis that China’s integration into the world economy should be regretted, let alone reversed. It’s rhetoric designed to win over Republicans in the Red State in an election year, not the public in Europe or major Asian states, like Communist Vietnam. No wonder German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and even Indian leader Narendra Modi have carefully distanced themselves from the Trumpians’ new Cold War. Merkel resisted American pressure boycott Chinese telecommunications champion Huawei; Abe refused to join the American denunciation of Xis’ repression in Hong Kong. Modi responded to the border clash by improving military relations with … Australia.
In truth, Trump has made it nearly impossible for these nations to join Pompeo’s new alliance of democracies. He just pulled 12,000 of the 34,500 American troops stationed in Germany, while falsely claiming that the Merkels government was late in paying NATO fees. He threatens to withdraw US forces from Japan and South Korea unless they significantly increase their subsidies. He threatens tariff wars against the three countries, while banking on his trade deal with Xi to boost Midwestern agricultural exports ahead of the election.
If this election results in a new US administration under Joe Biden, a first foreign policy agenda will be a China reset. Only redress will need to be made not so much with Beijing, but with the potential alliance against it that Trump has done his best to sabotage.
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