By D.J. McGuire
For those of us who look with a wary eye across the Pacific Ocean to the Chinese Communist regime, Donald Trump was something of a wild card in the presidential campaign of last year. His rank protectionism included harsh words against the Beijing cadres, but he also ripped the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal involving nearly all the democracies in Eastern Asia that would have been a geopolitical bulwark against Zhongnanhai (Beijing’s equivalent of the Kremlin). Add in his mixed bag on military and geopolitical policies (stronger defense countering his threats to withdraw from Japanese bases), and no one was really sure what we’d get.
Four months in, we have a better idea of Trump’s deviations from the standard “engagement” policy of that is a favorite of the establishment wings of both major parties. If anything, Trump is more willing to appease the “ChiComs” than any of his post-Tiananmen-massacre predecessors. Zhongnanhai is taking advantage, to the peril of the democratic world.
The first sign something was amiss in Washington was, well, missed by most. It came when Trump reversed course on Taiwan and promised to ask Beijing’s permission before contacting the freely elected president of the island democracy again (CNN). Ostensibly, this was all about North Korea, or so Trump said:
Since coming to office, Trump’s rhetoric on China has improved dramatically as he seeks the country’s help in putting pressure on North Korea to stop its missile and nuclear tests.“Well, my problem is that I’ve established a very good personal relationship with President Xi. And I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation, so I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him,” he said, referring to the increasingly tense standoff with Pyongyang.
How does Trump define “everything in his power”? Well, he did make a big deal about Zhongnanhai reducing its coal imports from the North Korean regime…but as CNN noted, “that didn’t stop overall imports from rising 18%.” Whoopsie.
Of course, Trump never mentioned – or probably even noticed – that little problem.
Making matters worse, recent reports (also CNN) now have Trump pulling back from the disputed South China Sea (which the CCP insists is its own lake) – reversing his predecessor’s policy in the area.
While most Americans didn’t notice, Barack Obama – especially in his second term – became arguably the most assertive president in Eastern Asia since the Vietnam War. Trump has quietly, and alarmingly, reversed all of that in some vain quest to get “help” from Zhongnanhai in reeling in its military and geopolitical ally. Never mind that the CCP has spent over two decades using the northern Korean regime to extract concessions from the American presidents (with Obama being the lone exception).
As if that wasn’t enough, the Trump Administration further intertwined us with this anti-American tyranny with new trade deals that, among other things, “treat Chinese financial institutions in the same way as other foreign banks that wanted to open up activities in the US” (BBC). The only trouble is that “Chinese financial institutions” are nothing like “other foreign banks.” The largest ones are still state owned, and most are hiding bad loans from massive infrastructure overinvestment. Now they have a new lease on life: namely unwitting American customers.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is reaching out to the rest of the tyrants of the world to establish itself as the lead anti-American economic and geopolitical superpower (CNN).
For democracies around the world, this is highly alarming. For Democrats here at home, though, that alarm comes with an opportunity. By building on Obama’s work and showing the American people how Trump has abandoned it, the Democrats can establish themselves as the 21st Century anti-Communist, pro-democracy party in America.
The question is, will we?
D.J. McGuire is the conservative Democrat on More Perfect Union podcast – and sometimes feels like he is the lone conservative Democrat in the country.