Foreign policy and human rights issues generally get short shrift in a presidential campaign, unless the domestic security of the United States is potentially under attack. As such the problem of China won’t get a lot of attention. But it deserves to, because how the winner of the 2012 presidential sweepstakes deals with the Middle Kingdom has profound implications for not just national security and human rights, but the long-term future of the U.S. economy.
China has built up its economy by using slave labor on a large scale to produce products and then ship them back to the United States, the most lucrative consumer market in the world. If you remember the 1994 movie Shawshank Redemption, think of the prison warden and how he built a small fortune using inmates as employees in a contracting firm and then undercutting all the legitimate businesses. Then imagine that economic model spread across the most populated-country on earth.
The growing wealth of China is used to strengthen a regime that persecutes religious believers of all stripes and continues to enforce its barbaric child-control policy. The book Bowing To Beijing, written by Washington Times reporter Brett Decker, documents this, as well as China’s array of threats to the international order.
The Times is the Republican paper in the Beltway, so President Obama is singled for his kowtowing to the regime. The criticisms are accurate enough, but it has to be said that Obama is following in the tradition of presidents of either party. Since Richard Nixon’s diplomatic opening to China, there’s been a bipartisan commitment in Washington to appeasing Beijing. Apparently people on opposite sides of the aisle can agree on something in D.C. And apparently the current incumbent’s commitment to radical breaks with tradition involve only his infringements upon the Catholic Church in the United States.
Mitt Romney has said the right things about China on the campaign trail, but here too, a cautionary note in order. The dishonorable tradition in American politics is that challengers talk tough on China and when they morph into presidents they act weak. If Romney does win, it’s imperative he be pressured to keep his word. If Obama wins, he should be reminded of what his word was in 2008.
And no one should be fooled about the difficult policy changes that will have to take place in order to allow all future Commander-in-Chiefs to do what’s right in regards to China.
The Left cannot ignore the need to rein in the national debt. It’s China who buys up more of our debt than anyone and as long as that’s the case standing up to them is no more realistic than you or I talking tough to the bank that holds the lien on the car.
And the Right ought to accept that the social safety net programs will need to be strengthened. It’s lower-class families who benefit the most from cheap Chinese goods—e.g., a single parent getting school clothes for three kids–and it’s entirely unreasonable to ask them to bear the burden of a tougher stance that would start removing these from the market. We can reasonably debate whether the safety net should be strengthened at the state or federal level, but people scrimping to make ends meet shouldn’t bear a disproportionate cost in the push for human rights or national security.
For those that might understandably see an inconsistency in the two prerequisites outlined, let me point out that all changes are going to take time to effect and giving them time to merge together is necessary. China represents the world’s greatest long-term threat to religious freedom, human rights and international order. The sooner the steps are taking to start standing up to their barbaric, atheistic, corrupt regime, the better.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com