The most important foreign policy issue for the next American president will undoubtedly be relations with China. Unfortunately, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden have an approach grounded in reality, with a clear-eyed view of our national interests.
Ever since economic reforms were launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s, the bipartisan consensus was that the best approach to China was engagement. As China grew more prosperous and less insulated, the thinking went, economic liberalization could lead to political liberalization as well. Or, at a minimum, China could be a non-threatening participant in the world’s economy and affairs.
This was not as naïve an expectation, or at least hope, as sometimes depicted today. There were examples of countries with authoritarian systems of state capitalism evolving into democracies with true market economies. South Korea is the most obvious example.
Indeed, a “peaceful rise” of China was one of Deng’s objectives. And that was the approach taken by his successors until current China strongman Xi Jinping.
Trump is using Biden’s support for China joining the World Trade Organization in 2001 against him. But, at the time, that was a prudent move and consistent with American interests as they were then perceived…Read more>>