Economics and Trade
It’s in our national interest to have a healthy, fair trading relationship with China (i.e., the People’s Republic of China). It’s in China’s best interest too. You can read about my reciprocal tariff plan, which would apply to China just as much as to any other country. But there are some specific areas of difficulty in our trade relationship with China.
Like other socialist countries, China’s government subsidizes many of their national industries. This gives them an unfair market advantage. China also plays notoriously fast-and-loose with intellectual property laws. Chinese firms produce a disproportionate amount of the world’s counterfeit goods, and the Chinese government has failed to fulfill its obligations under international law in this area.
There is no easy solution to these problems. We can apply various economic sanctions, and we can file protests with the United Nations and the World Trade Organizations, but without the cooperation of the Chinese government we cannot really solve anything.
As president, I will engage in serious negotiations with China in an effort to resolve these issues. All I can promise is that I will try. How successful these negotiations will be depends on the Chinese government’s willingness to give.
As I’ve said elsewhere, socialism is bad. And China is the most powerful socialist nation that remains. Although it has made significant and noteworthy improvements in its respect for human rights over the last four decades or-so, it still falls woefully short.
Ideally, the world would unite in defending the human rights of the Chinese people. In the absence of that unity, we need to consider the role of the United States in the world…which is its own thorny problem. The United Nations is supposed to be defending all people’s human rights — life, liberty, property, defense, and self governance. It fails to do so…not least of which because the People’s Republic of China itself has unlimited veto power on the U.N. Security Council and is unlikely to allow any enforcement action against itself.
Because the U.N. does not (and cannot) properly uphold the responsibilities laid out in its own charter, the U.S. often has to act as the world’s police force…either as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or as part of some ad-hoc coalition. I hate that we have to do this…but better us than nobody at all. But this doesn’t mean that we have the responsibility — or the authority — to go around freeing all the oppressed peoples of the world. The moral imperative to defend human rights for all people is in tension with the principles of national sovereignty, and with the practical concerns of the just war theory (which limits wars to situations where they are less harmful than the wrong they seek to right, and when there is a reasonable chance of success).
So the only thing we can do with regard to China’s human rights abuses is try to nibble away at them wherever we can as part of our trade and other negotiations with them. And even when we fail, more free trade still means more cultural exchange. More cultural exchange means more and more of China’s people will demand more and more freedoms for themselves. And, if and when the time is right, we can step in to assist the people in their own fight for freedom.
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is one of our greatest allies and trade partners. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), on the other hand, is an isolated, retrograde dictatorship led by a psychopath. And the two Koreas maintain a peace even more uneasy than the two Chinas (see below).
The free world — the U.S. included — has tried early every approach to bring about peace and stability in North Korea. War, sanctions, and diplomacy in equal measure have all proved persistently ineffective against the unpredictable madmen that have led the so-called “hermit kingdom.”
It would be tempting to throw up our hands in frustration and give up…but that’s not an acceptable approach when Kim Jong Un is constantly threatening South Korea, our other allies, and us. This is especially true now that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and is rapidly developing ballistic missile technology that would allow it to use those weapons against any nation in the world.
The only way to make any real headway against North Korea is to enlist their only ally — the People’s Republic of China. As long as China stands by quietly supporting the Kim regime, this problem will fester. Only Chinese pressure can bring about a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, and this will be a key part of my negotiations with China on trade and other matters. In the mean time, we will keep working with our South Korean allies to bring about peace.
In 1949, following a bloody civil war, Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to be the legitimate government of China. The defeated nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, escaped to Taiwan. There, the previous government — the Republic of China (ROC) — continued in exile.
Both the PRC and the ROC claim to be the sole legitimate government of both mainland China and Taiwan. Most of the world plays along, maintaining formal diplomatic relations with only one or the other government. This is known as the “One China Policy.” In reality, however, the PRC governs the mainland and the ROC governs Taiwan, and they maintain an uneasy peace with one another that is more like a tense international relation than a domestic one.
The United States, for a time, recognized the ROC as the legitimate government. Later, under President Nixon, we changed our recognition to the PRC and ended official diplomatic relations with the ROC (although, in practice, we still maintain a close relationship with the ROC through less formal channels). This is because ending diplomatic relations with the ROC was a condition of normalizing relations with the PRC, which has a strict policy of demanding that other countries acknowledge them — and only them — as the legitimate government of all of China.
This is all a bunch of antiquated nonsense. Maybe China will someday be reunified, and maybe it won’t, but none of the parties involved is well served by this absurd insistence that the PRC has any remaining claim to Taiwan or the ROC has any remaining claim to the Chinese mainland. It has been about seventy years since the Chinese Civil War ended. It’s time to admit that, for now at least, there are two Chinas, and the “One China Policy” is a useless anachronism.
In the first year of my presidency, I will normalize our relations with the ROC and recognize it as the legitimate government of Taiwan. At the same time, I will reaffirm that the PRC is the legitimate government of mainland China.
I expect that the ROC will accept this arrangement, and that the PRC will reject it. In any case, it is up to those governments to decide how they will handle it. The PRC may choose to terminate its diplomatic and trade relations with us. That would be stupid, but it’s not our job to prevent other governments from being stupid. It would hurt them at least as much as it would hurt us.
In the end, fear of a PRC backlash is not sufficient reason to continue denying reality, or denying our ROC allies — and the people of Taiwan — the dignity of full diplomatic relations with the United States. In my view, the first rule of international relations is to acknowledge reality. Only after doing that can you start working toward making that reality better.