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US politicians misleading public with China bashing

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-17 07:18

US politicians misleading public with China bashing

Former US president Barack Obama listens as the then UN Ambassador Susan Rice, his newly appointed national security adviser, speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday in Washington, where the president made the announcement. Samantha Power, his nominee to be the next UN ambassador, is at left. [Photo / Agencies]

At a recent China town hall held by the New York-based National Committee on US-China Relations, Susan Rice, the former US national security advisor, said China remains the most reliable whipping boy-after probably Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice herself.

She expressed that US policymakers and leaders need to be more judicious on how they deploy China in US domestic politics, adding that a lot of heated rhetoric applied to China makes US policymaking difficult.

She might be just joking comparing herself and Clinton with China, but the admission by a former senior White House official about China bashing is quite telling.

For years, many Chinese have watched with great frustration how US politicians, often with scant knowledge of the outside world, used China as a bogeyman in order to score in US domestic politics, or simply to win votes.

Some Chinese have tried to view this in a positive light, saying such fear-mongering about China reflects their country's fast rise and success.

China has made tremendous strides forward over the last four decades. Its economy, which was smaller than California's in the late 1970s, has become the world's second-largest, or the largest, according to the International Monetary Fund using purchasing-power parity.

China bashing is politically fashionable in a large part of the Washington establishment. Basically, you can accuse China of any unsubstantiated allegations, or just plain lies, and not be held responsible. No US news media would bother to fact check.

Such nasty US politics do not just reflect on China. Politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties attack each other virtually every day in order to score personally, ignoring the real issues that matter to the American people who elected them.

The partisan politics has made Washington more dysfunctional. The China bashing has had an impact on people's perception and even policymaking, as Rice admitted.

The result is a knee-jerk reaction that anything relating to China is bad, just like when the Obama administration rallied US allies in 2015 in what turned out to be a failed mission to reject the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiated by China.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has been portrayed as a China-led, low-standard trade agreement that is bad for the region, despite the fact that it was proposed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and does represent a step forward in regional economic integration and liberalization.

Even in her China town hall talk, Rice's criticism of Chinese investment in Africa and the Belt and Road Initiative is best described as nitpicking, overlooking the huge bright side of the stories.

It's quite possible that the public was misled by the rhetoric of their politicians and news media in various polls about China. For example, a Nov 9 Pew survey showed that 46 percent of Americans see China's power and influence as a major threat to the well-being of the United States; 40 percent said it's a minor threat, and only 11 percent said it's not a threat.

What's most troubling is that many pundits look increasingly like politicians and hold only one-sided views of China, thereby damaging their own credibility as scholars or researchers.

China, like any country in the world, does good things and makes mistakes. China deserves credit when it does good things, and it's absolutely all right to point it out when China makes errors.

That should be the right approach for pundits and news media, as well as US politicians, to keep their citizens well informed and to formulate good policies. China bashing hurts not only China but also the United States.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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