Let’s hope not, if his performance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight is anything to go by. Of course, business tycoon Donald Trump hasn’t thrown his hat in the ring yet. In fact, no one has officially so far, although as I’ve mentioned before here, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is looking like he might have a go after announcing he’s stepping down and returning to the United States.
So why do I mention Trump now? Because I have a feeling that his interview is a rather depressing sign of the kind of China bashing we’ll be hearing a lot of on the campaign trail as the US presidential race heats up later this year.
Trump used the word ‘enemy’ or ‘enemies’ to describe the Chinese seven times by my count, and insisted on doing what so many rabble-rousers do in not differentiating between policymakers and the people they lead. Lumping Chinese (or any nation’s people) in together as if they’re one homogenous lump is a dehumanizing approach meant to instill a sense of fear in listeners. But it’s also simplistic, unhelpful and certainly not in the best interests of the American people.
The United States has some legitimate concerns over currency manipulation, human rights and the bullying of US allies in Asia. But sensible US policymakers also know they have to find ways to live and work with a rising China. There isn’t any choice for either side. So dismissing the other as the ‘enemy’ and ‘cheats’ might succeed in whipping up a few votes, but it only makes negotiations more difficult and deflects the need for any self-reflection. After all, if the only reason you’re losing ground is because the other side is a ‘cheater’, why look at how you can improve yourself?
Of course even if he did decide to run, he’d still be a long shot to secure the Republican nomination, never mind the presidency. But in a system where Sarah Palin can be selected to run for the vice presidency, I guess there’s just no telling.
Among Trump’s other pledges was one to, what sounded like, turn US diplomacy over to Wall Street. He suggested:
‘The other thing I'd do is I'd get our best business leaders. I wouldn't use the diplomats. I'd use the killers on Wall Street of which I know every one of them. I would put this one in charge of negotiating with China. I'd put this one in charge of negotiating with India. We would do very well. We have the greatest business people in the world but we're not using them.’
Presumably he wouldn’t be using any of the ‘killers’ who almost managed to kill the global financial system 18 months ago…