24 October 2016
Rand Paul managed to work a reference to China into his  speech announcing his candidacy. Photo: Reuters
Rand Paul managed to work a reference to China into his speech announcing his candidacy. Photo: Reuters

US presidential race marks open season on China bashing

By the time American voters go to the polls next year to elect their next president, one thing’s for certain: China will have been put through the wringer.

US presidential candidates, you see — whether they’ve announced they’re running, say they’re thinking about running or vehemently deny they’re running — have a long-standing tradition of blaming America’s problems on the “China menace”.

Heaping vitriol on such targets as infringement of intellectual property rights, currency manipulation, “unfair” trade practices, counterfeit products, corruption, hacking and China’s military expansion is so commonplace that it’s become clichéd.

Take, for example, some craziness from Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential frontrunner who plans on running but hasn’t even officially announced his candidacy for 2016 yet.

Complaining that American wages have been stagnant since Chinese trade agreements went into effect over the past few decades, the former governor of Arkansas told Politico last month: “People are working hard, and they have less to show for it.

“We need to quit apologizing for being America, and we need to start making it so that Americans can prosper and not just so that the Chinese can buy Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags.”

Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky who has already announced his candidacy, chose to mislead his supporters right out of the block in his announcement speech.

“We must realize we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan,” he said.

Paul reinforces a myth here — that the United States borrows most (if not all) of its money from China, the Washington Post said.

That’s simply wrong. China is the biggest single holder of Treasury debt, owning US$1.25 trillion in October last year, but that amounts to less than 10 percent of all US debt held by the public.

You can bet other candidates who have already launched their bids for the Republican nomination –Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — are honing their China-bashing rhetoric.

It’s de rigeur, after all, especially for Tea Party nut jobs who have been known to say things like “We have to prepare for the next enemy. It’s not Afghanistan. It’s the PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA.”

Hillary Clinton, the only officially declared Democratic candidate so far, has long been a thorn in China’s underpants.

Just days before announcing her presidential run Sunday, the former secretary of state upset China via social media.

“The detention of women’s activists in China must end,” Clinton tweeted. “This is inexcusable.”

The Chinese government wasn’t thrilled by the message, Reuters reported.

“China is a country ruled by law. Relevant departments will handle the relevant case according to law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

“We hope that public figures in other countries can respect China’s judicial sovereignty and independence.”

(The women activists have since been released on bail.)

Perhaps to forestall the impending cacophony of scapegoat hyperbole, state-owned China Daily has already come out with a story titled “‘No room’ for election China-bashing”.

“There’s no room for it — and there should not be room for it — in the democratic process,” the newspaper wrote.

After the final presidential debate in 2012, in which China was mentioned 35 times, Xinhua lashed out in an op-ed: “Such blaming-China-on-everything remarks are as false as they are foolish.”

At around the same time, Wang Guan, a correspondent in CCTV’s Washington bureau, told Bloomberg he felt it was his job to remind his audience back home to take US politicians’ attacks on China with a grain of salt.

“We know that the US presidential candidates often say one thing during the campaign and do another when they become presidents,” Guan told CCTV viewers.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

EJI Weekly Newsletter