How the GOP Stopped Loving China
To the now-standard foundation of democratic transformation, the 2004 platform reemphasized the benefits of mutual trade and the wariness of China’s military power originally sketched in 2000. Unlike the United States, which remained committed to maintaining its worldwide network of military bases and unquestioned military supremacy, the U.S. defense platform declared, “In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness.” In other words, do as we say, not as we do. As for trade, China’s entry into the WTO was promoting openness and the rule of law, while providing export opportunities for Americans. A good deal all in all. The platform, finally, emphasized the importance of cooperation with China on issues ranging from the war on terror to preventing proliferation in North Korea and stopping the spread of infectious diseases.
The 2008 platform was perfunctory in comparison to its predecessor four years earlier, repeating the mantra of welcoming a “peaceful and prosperous China” and “even more the development of a democratic China.” National greatness, it declared, cannot be achieved “while the government in Beijing pursues advanced military capabilities without any apparent need.” Alongside these supposedly unreasonable military expenditures, the platform condemned the “one-child” policy, the suppression of “basic human rights in Tibet and elsewhere” and the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. Bilateral trade between the United States and China, however, was still held out as positive, and the GOP committed itself to ensuring China fulfilled its WTO obligations. The 2012 platform maintained almost precisely the same content, but with a more curt tone. The condemned “one-child” policy became “a barbaric one-child policy involving forced abortion”; China’s “WTO obligations” became “serious trade disputes” requiring a “firm response.” China’s “destabilizing claims in the South China Sea,” finally, were mentioned for the first time.
This background brings us to the just-announced 2016 GOP platform. No longer is China’s rise welcomed or even offered the “democratic conditional.” The language has taken a sharp turn. “China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China. The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived.”
To add to this “Chinese reversal,” the platform condemns China for asserting “a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea,” reclaiming islands, building “landing fields in contested waters” and “building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes.” All of these transgressions are said to be a result of “the complacency of the Obama regime” and its “unilateral approach to disarmament.” The platform finds particularly offensive China’s 2015 Victory Day parade, which celebrated the seventieth anniversary of China’s defeat of Japan in WWII, its first such celebration. To add to it all, “cultural genocide continues in Tibet and Xinjiang, the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is eroded, the currency is manipulated, our technology is stolen, and intellectual property and copyrights are mocked in an economy based on piracy.”