Why Trump’s ‘get tough on China’ policy is counterproductive | Michael F Fuchs

Tackling the China challenge requires a strategic response. Trumps scattershot policy will be counterproductive, writes Michael F Fuchs


In recent months, Donald Trump has launched Americas new buckshot approach to China hit China everywhere and see what works. On Wednesday, Vice-President Mike Pence gave a speech to articulate this new get tough policy. The strategy includes starting a trade war and shining a spotlight on Chinas propaganda in the United States, with presumably more to come.

Faced with real threats from China that require a strategic response, this scattershot policy will be counterproductive. The trade war is the perfect example of the drawbacks: using indiscriminate tariffs in an unlikely attempt to change Chinas economy will only hurt America and its allies without solving the real problems American businesses face in China.

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Its become fashionable in Washington to be tough on China. As Chinas assertiveness in maritime disputes with neighbors has increased, and as its economic influence around the world has grown, so too have the calls for a tougher policy on China.

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Without a doubt, we need to push back on China in certain realms. But as America contends with the growing debate over China policy, the challenge is to be specific and realistic without succumbing to an all-encompassing, self-defeating anti-China approach akin to a new cold war.

There are more than enough areas of concern to focus on. Chinas assertiveness at sea evidenced by a recent dangerous close encounter between US and Chinese vessels threatens to destabilize Asia. Chinas outright theft of American intellectual property rights threatens American prosperity.

But not every single thing that China does is threatening. Its commitment to curb emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement is positive, and the world will not tackle climate change without China.

There are murkier areas too. Chinas Belt and Road initiative to invest hundreds of billions in infrastructure abroad could be both good and bad: good when investing in infrastructure that benefits all; bad when used to foster debt trap diplomacy that China uses to secure strategic real estate for military purposes, as it did in Sri Lanka.

US policy must also be informed by realistic assessments of what we can achieve. For instance, the Chinese Communist party (CCP) is unlikely to respond to tariffs by changing the entire Chinese economic model; a more targeted strategy to prevent IPR theft from American firms is more likely to succeed.

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Police armed with wooden clubs patrol a Uighur neighbourhood in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Another important factor in US policymaking is the nature of the CCP, which can be seen in the internment camps housing upwards of 1 million Uighurs, the Muslim ethnic minority population that mostly resides in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Even for a country as repressive as China, what is happening today in Xinjiang is shocking: the CCP is attempting to strip an entire ethnic and religious minority group of their culture and identity by treating expressions of that identity as crimes to be punished with extrajudicial detention and torture. It may be difficult to stop this, but as a start the United States should sanction the CCP chief in Xinjiang, shine a bright spotlight around the world on the detention camps, and take a hard look at US companies doing business in Xinjiang.

It is easy to be justifiably enraged by CCP actions like this. And the threats are very real. That is why it is all the more important to have a sober, effective policy towards China.

As the scales in Washington tilt towards a tougher line on China, we must be wary of a new who lost China debate and the potential for a new McCarthyism. Those advocating principled diplomacy with China are not weak or appeasers. Susan Thornton a former career foreign service officer was singled out first by Steve Bannon, and then by Senator Marco Rubio, as too soft on China, and it sank her nomination to be the state departments top Asia official (for full disclosure, Susan is a friend and former colleague).

In his speech, Pence conflated Chinas targeting tariffs at states represented by allies of Trump and CCP propaganda in the Des Moines Register newspaper with interference in US elections, seeding exactly the sort of innuendo that could spark fears of all Chinese interactions in the United States. As an illustration of the types of harmful policies that could result from this feverish approach, one report claimed that Trump discussed with his team a proposal to ban all Chinese students, which could do profound damage to Americas economy, our relationship with the Chinese people, our standing in the world and the very values we hold dear.

The reality is that the US-China relationship is complicated and is likely to stay that way, and so US policy will be complicated as well.

As the US approach evolves, the constants are clear. America must strengthen its own democracy to ensure that it maintains the prosperity, capabilities and most of all the values required to confront the challenges ahead. The United States must work together with other democracies to uphold universal values, international rules and norms, and push back against those like Russia and China that would undermine democratic values around the world.

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While Pence claimed that President Trumps leadership is working; and China wants a different American president, the truth is that Trump is perhaps the biggest obstacle we face in equipping America to compete in the long-run. Its hard to imagine tackling the most crucial tasks America faces in this challenge getting our house in order, reclaiming Americas respect on the world stage as long as Trump is president.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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