You’d ordinarily be well-advised not to hold your breath looking for anything like a defense of President Trump or any of his ideas in The Atlantic, but yesterday the site posted a piece by a former Trump administration official, Nadia Schadlow, who in 2017 served briefly as a deputy national-security adviser for strategy.
Okay, okay, this is Schadlow speaking, not the editorial voice of The Atlantic. But usually that center-left institution is strongly allergic to associating itself with Trumpism. Perhaps we are on the verge of a broadly shared consensus that it’s time to stop putting up with everything China does without demanding anything like greater transparency or more respect for human rights in return.
Trump’s National Security Strategy had identified early on: that “contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of others.” Instead of becoming a “responsible stakeholder”—a term George W. Bush’s administration used to describe the role it hoped Beijing would play following China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001—the Chinese Communist Party used the advantages of WTO membership to advance a political and economic system at odds with America’s free and open society. Previous National Security Strategy documents had tiptoed around China’s adversarial conduct, as if calling out that country as a competitor—as the 2017 document unequivocally did—was somehow impolite.
Just so; being amenable to the point of obsequiousness to China has been pretty much a bipartisan tendency for nearly 30 years. Schadlow adds: “Dependence on China for crucial medical equipment throughout the pandemic has illuminated the dangers of a hyper-globalized economy.” Do we really want to place our critical medical needs in hands of the Chinese Communist Party? In the future, do we want our communications and personal data to be routed through Beijing? Do we want to allow China to lead the world into imitating its use of facial-recognition and surveillance technologies? China’s behavior throughout the coronavirus crisis has been, of course, an abomination. A reassessment is overdue.