Presidential contender Bernie Sanders spoke highly about China’s leadership in a new interview, saying that the Chinese government has made great strides in combating extreme poverty despite moving in a more authoritarian direction.
“China is a country that is moving unfortunately in a more authoritarian way in a number of directions,” the Vermont senator said in his interview with The Hill. “But what we have to say about China in fairness to China and its leadership is, if I’m not mistaken, they have made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization, so they’ve done a lot of things for their people.”
Since the 1980s, the number of people living in extreme poverty in China has dropped dramatically. By 2015, the country’s “poverty headcount ratio,” the percentage of its citizens living on less than $1.90 a day, was at 0.7, according to the World Bank. But even so, by the end of 2017, 30.46 million rural people still lived below China’s poverty line, the National Bureau of Statistics reported.
Sanders also said that while he agrees that China looks out for its own interests first, he disagrees with calling the country an “existential threat” to the American worker, as some have warned.
“Their economy now is struggling but I think it is absolutely possible for us to have a positive working relationship with China,” Sanders said.
China and the U.S. have escalated their war of reciprocal tariffs over the past year, as President Trump continues to demand that Beijing change what he says are unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property and manipulating the country’s currency.
China announced Friday that it will retaliate against the Trump administration’s latest tariffs with duties on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. Tariffs of between 5 and 10 percent will be imposed on September 1 and December 15, the same dates the U.S. plans to slap a 10 percent tariff on the $300 billion worth of Chinese exports it has not yet taxed.
Over the weekend, Sanders said that as president he would be open to using tariffs to provide leverage in negotiations with the world’s second-largest economy.
“If it is used in a rational way within the context of a broad, sensible trade policy, it is one tool that’s available,” Sanders told CNN. “We need a rational trade policy today, not what Trump is doing by tweet.”