China’s rise from a backward nation to a global power has many Americans shaking in their boots. The American who might be shaking the hardest is Donald Trump.
If one listens closely enough, the echoes of the Cold War can be heard in the China bashing emanating from the White House. (Those big, bad Commies are out to get us.) The echoes of anti-Japanese sentiment from the 1980s can be heard. (You can’t trust those Asians!) The echoes about Muslims as terrorists from the 2000s can be heard. (Don’t get too close; they might blow you up.)
America must have a paramount enemy; this country at times seems almost desperate to know where the next potential threat to our “exceptionalism” can be found. (If we can meet ‘em, we can beat ‘em.) With Trump at the controls of America’s ever more wobbly government, China is the new monster lurking in the shadows, hiding under our beds, stealing our secrets and attempting to brainwash our people.
To be fair, the president seems interested more in hammering the Chinese government than the Chinese people. But he’s done little to show respect for the more than 1-billion citizens of the country.
Trump hasn’t succeeded at much as president of the United States. But he has succeeded in setting up the new existential threat to the country. We have a new boogie man!
That threat lives in Beijing, Shanghai, and most definitely Wuhan. His “Wuhan virus” rhetoric reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of pandemics; of course, we shouldn’t be surprised because Trump must simplify everything and abandon all reality in the process. In his often monosyllabic diatribes, someone or something is either “good” or “bad.” He lacks complexity, common sense and compassion.
So convinced is he today that the Chinese menace is everywhere (Joseph McCarthy must be smiling from his grave) he’s prepared to expel Chinese students from the U.S. Don’t ask Trump to provide any evidence to validate his claims; he’ll tell you that his unmatched intellect is enough to prove he’s right.
Meanwhile, China’s leader Xi Jinping slowly and steadily works to make international deals that will advance China’s growth prospects and goodwill in the short and long term. Question his integrity. Question his intent. Don’t question his results.
Trump swept into power with an otherwise unclear but easy-to-swallow promise that he’d Make America Great Again. The longer he remains in the White House, the more difficult a time his successor will have in actually doing that.
And one of the most important Trumpian disasters that will need to be fixed is the collapse in the U.S.-China relationship.