Whenever China is mentioned in a presidential campaign, the consequences are rarely good. In 2012 residents of Ohio, where anti-Beijing ads proliferated, might have believed that the campaign hinged on China. This time U.S. policy toward the People’s Republic of China might become a broader election issue, leading to serious damage in the relationship.
Unfortunately, political campaigns generally are not well-suited for the thoughtful discussion of complex international issues. Especially today, when many Republican voters are skeptical of any foreign policy message that does not involve pummeling one nation or another.
One of Beijing’s loudest critics is Donald Trump, though so far he has focused on economic issues, as did Barack Obama and Mitt Romney when they battled for Ohio’s votes three years ago.
Carly Fiorina promised to be “more aggressive in helping our allies … push back against new Chinese aggression.” Marco Rubio denounced the PRC’s “increasingly aggressive regional expansionism” and the administration’s alleged “willingness to ignore human rights violations in the hope of appeasing the Chinese leadership.”