Although it got overshadowed by the U.S. missile attack on Syria, the meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week is the most significant thing which has occurred thus far in the Trump Administration. And don’t underestimate the message that was sent when President Trump was able to meet with the leader of the world’s most populous nation, and our principal rival on the world scene on the one hand, and at the same time order a strike on a despot who targets innocent women and children with deadly weapons. Not only did that despot, Bashar al-Assad, receive that message directly in Syria, but other trouble makers around the globe indirectly got the message as well, loud and clear.
That being said, what I’d really like to focus on this week, is what President Trump needs to do about China. Because after all, China has been on the march in recent years, and the previous Obama Administration was doing little or nothing about it. For example, as China has been increasing its military budget by double digits every year for the last 25 years, Barack Obama was doing everything in his power to CUT our military spending. As a result, we have the smallest Army since WWII, the smallest Air Force ever, and the U.S. Navy which President Reagan was trying to get up to 600 ships, is down to fewer than 260. Sad, and dangerous.
Okay, let’s make a comprehensive list of what China is doing that we don’t like. Here goes. They’ve been building islands in international waters, and putting military bases on them. They’ve been carrying out cyber attacks against U.S. businesses, and against the U.S. government itself. They’ve failed to restrain North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. They’ve been stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies. They’ve been requiring U.S. companies to transfer intellectual property and secrets to them in exchange for opening a facility in China, or for even selling in China. And they’ve been manipulating their currency to give them an unfair advantage over American businesses.
So what can the U.S. do about it? First, you have to recognize that we have a problem. Barack Obama either didn’t recognize the problem, or more likely, didn’t want to risk confrontation with China. So China pushed us around. Donald Trump has been highly critical of China since even before he began running for the presidency. And as we just saw with the U.S. missile attack on Syria, President Trump is a man of action when it’s warranted. Now I doubt Trump will be sending missiles China’s way (maybe to North Korea), but I think he will take action with respect to China when it is warranted. Here’s the action I would suggest.
I’d organize a coalition of nations, all across the globe, who are being unfairly treated by China, especially with respect to trade, and act as a unit. I’d urge U.S. companies, and other companies around the world, to refuse to turn over intellectual property to the Chinese. For every U.S. product China tries to keep out of Chinese markets by slapping tariffs on them, I would put an equal tariff on Chinese products. And I would warn China in no uncertain terms, that unless they end their policy of currency manipulation, that their unrestricted access to U.S. markets is in jeopardy.
Further, I would immediately commit the resources necessary to rebuild the Navy assets diminished by the Obama Administration, and commit whatever’s necessary to once again establish a U.S. presence in the East and South China seas. I would begin immediate discussion with Japan and South Korea, encouraging them to consider nuclear programs of their own, unless China finally puts the necessary pressure on North Korea to abandon their nuclear aggression. And I would make clear to China that unless they cease cyber attacks on the United States and our allies, that we will unleash far worse on their economy.
Any one of these actions is long overdue, and would put the U.S. in a far better position than it currently is vis-a-vis China. If all these actions were taken, we would reverse the perception that was allowed to become engrained during the Obama Administration, that China was a nation on the rise, and the United States, after peaking, was in decline.
And Donald Trump might just be the right president to make it happen.