The Corner

World

Our On-Again, Off-Again Tough Stance on China

President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

If you’re an American and you look across the Pacific Ocean at China, you see a lot of reasons for concern. The country’s regime continues to expand its military and make it way more technologically advanced, often using stolen intellectual property. China’s man-made islands are now hosting full-fledged military operations, despite previous pledges to the Obama administration. The Pentagon has concluded Beijing “is going forward with a plan to dominate the world in AI [artificial intelligence] in the 2025 to 2030 time frame.”

China wants to control the world’s 5G network and sell technology that they can use to collect data and feed it to their intelligence apparatus. Basically, if your phone or computer or tablet is made in China, there’s a good chance there’s some sort of backdoor that allows the Chinese government to poke around. And America’s pension funds are investing in Chinese companies that help the government build, refine, and fine-tune their vast and Orwellian surveillance state. A few years ago, China hacked just about all of the records in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

China has at least a million — perhaps two million! — religious and ethnic minorities rounded up in concentration camps. They’re strip-mining human organs from ethnic minorities and political prisoners. And now there are fears of a China-driven crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, with police now using live ammunition.

President Trump’s view on China has some strange contradictions. He sees the Chinese regime with a great deal of animosity and suspicion, but this view is driven almost entirely by his thoughts on the country’s trade policies. Judging from Trump’s public comments, this is the only aspect of China policy that really interests him. At the United Nations last month, Trump’s address spent eight paragraphs discussing China’s unfair trade practices and the one paragraph warning against a Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong.

This morning, Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”

Why? 

Trump may well be pursuing the right approach in his brinksmanship on trade. There are some indications that the U.S. trade tariffs on China are indeed starting to hurt them. Status as one of our biggest trading partners turned into a get-out-of-consequences-free card for the regime. But Trump plays both good cop and bad cop himself depending upon the day, and he picks some really random and odd moments to play “good cop” with the Chinese.

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