One would think that the peak of a pandemic from China would not be a good time for a requiem of the failed policies that left us exposed and vulnerable to that country. But for globalists clinging to a mythical world as it slips away, irony and shame are elusive.
On April 3, as deaths from Wuhan coronavirus outside of China neared 100,000, just under 100 luminaries from our pre-Trump foreign policy elite published an open letter. After tritely noting, “the United States will be judged both by the effectiveness of its domestic response and the seriousness of its international engagement,” the letter continues:
“We, the undersigned, support efforts to craft an agenda with China to address the current crisis. Washington and Beijing should share relevant scientific data; compare best medical practices; coordinate fiscal stimuli; align efforts to step up production and distribution of medical supplies…”
Of course China and America should do some of those things, but in reality, China won’t do any of them, at least not with “seriousness.” The lesson of the past two decades is that wishful thinking about China’s government acting responsibly in any given matter is foolhardy.
What better example is there than the current health crisis? The Chinese government concealed the outbreak of the disease, both to its own people and the world, thus preventing any chance of containment. Beijing also co-opted the World Health Organization in its duplicity.
Impressively, the media and policymakers mostly ignored the policy poohbahs’ letter, despite its anti-Trump tone. With their combination of irrelevance and self-reference, the authors may have answered the old Japanese riddle: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
But not all apologists for dead China policy must toil in obscurity. Bob Zoellick was George W. Bush’s trade kingpin, deputy secretary of State, and head of the World Bank. Naturally this gives him access to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page whenever he wants it, which is often.
In January, Zoellick dismissed Trump’s Phase 1 trade deal with China and the tariffs that made it possible, complaining that U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer “failed to build an international coalition to work with Chinese reformers…” In March, Zoellick lamented, “After President Trump hit Chinese medical suppliers with a 25% tariff in 2018, China’s exports to the U.S. dropped by 16%.” In April, he one-upped Beijing’s own talking points: “China has decided to combine recovery at home with advocating for a world ‘community of shared interests,’” and decried that, “the Trump administration, which has conducted narrow transactional diplomacy, has not conveyed an impression of international leadership.”
In fact there are no Chinese “reformers” in positions of power in Xi Jinping’s government, as evidenced by his tenure. The only unfortunate thing about the tariffs Trump enacted was that they didn’t fully free us from dependence on China for pharmaceutical ingredients and medical protective equipment. And anyone who isn’t a foreign policy “expert” knows that the Chinese government, not the USA, is the villain of the coronavirus outbreak and foremost global manufacturer of corruption, ill health and tyranny.
In 2005, Zoellick, then leading China policy at Bush’s State Department, summed up the great naive hope for Beijing: “For the United States and the world, the essential question is – how will China use its influence? To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system.”
In the ensuing fifteen years, we know how well this urging worked. China broke explicit promises to America not to militarize the South China Sea or target U.S. government agencies and corporations with cyber-attacks. It has sought to ensnare the world digitally by stealing technology and slinking its way to telecommunications dominance. Beijing has also reneged on international promises to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy, acted aggressively toward Taiwan and Japan and incarcerated two million Muslims in concentration camps.
The myth of China’s peaceful rise is dead, but its proponents remain committed. Bill Clinton’s leading trade official, Mickey Kantor, observed last year, “There are folks in the White House who are anti-China, literally and historically anti-China…”
Heaven forbid. Thankfully he is right, at least in the sense they oppose the Chinese government.
Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade and manufacturing advisor, summed up the toll of the experts’ failure: “The unfair China trade shock that hit so many of America’s communities in the 2000s not only destroyed over five million manufacturing jobs and 70,000 factories; it killed tens of thousands of Americans,” adding that such shocks “can increase mortality rates associated with suicide, drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, liver disease, lung cancer, poor diet and cigarettes, while destroying families through higher rates of single-parent households, child poverty, and divorce and lower rates of fertility and marriage.”
And yet the globalists persist, undaunted by reality, unhindered by shame.
Christian Whiton (@ChristianWhiton) was a State Department senior adviser in the Donald J. Trump and George W. Bush administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest and is the author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.”