Politically, United States is a much divided country, at least since the arrival of Trump in the country’s political landscape. There are very few issues on which the politicians from both major parties – Democratic and Republican- have consensus. However, in the last few years, taming China has become one such issue with a bipartisan consensus.
After the outbreak of Coronavirus disease, which devastated the United States with more than 6 lakh infected 22,000 dead and yet counting, Trump went all out after China. He not just referred to the Coronavirus as a “Chinese virus” but also blamed the country for suppression of real data and information on the issue. And, surprisingly, many Democrats supported him for putting a large part of the blame on the Communist country.
As per an article in Washington Post, which quoted Harris Poll, “71 percent of Republicans responded that China should pay other countries in some way for the damage done because of the outbreak, only 41 percent of Democrats felt that way.”
“It’s as much of a consensus issue as you can get in today’s divided world,” said Mark Penn, chairman of the Harris Poll. “Overall, there’s very little trust for anything that the Chinese government says or does, especially its premier. Xi Jinping has less than half the credibility of President Trump in this poll.”
It is not like that the consensus on taming China came only after the outbreak of the virus. Last year, in January, The Diplomat, highly influential magazine of International Relations published an article titled “An American Consensus: Time to Confront China” written by Zoe Leung and Michael Depp, argued that the average American voter, as well as the influential politicians from both parties, agree to a large extent that China’s revisionist ambitions must be put in place.
Till a few years ago, there was a bipartisan consensus in the United States on free trade. The country kept minimizing the tariffs and signed many free trade agreements with many developing as well as developed countries.
China capitalized on the consensus largely in favour of free trade and became the ‘factory of the world’. Today, the United States alone has a trade deficit of around 400 billion dollars with China, despite Trump’s repeated tariff increase.
China colonized the markets of United States, Australia and Africa with its cheap goods, and ran a trade surplus of billions of dollars. Riding on trade surplus, the Communist country accumulated foreign exchange reserves of more than 3 trillion dollars- equal to GDP of India for 2019, which it uses for the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. To sum up the argument, China’s rise was based on the pillars of Globalization and Free trade.
But today, there is consensus among the Republican and Democratic voters that heavy tariffs needs to be imposed on all Chinese goods. Irrespective of economists sitting in Ivory Towers tell you, the Trump Tariffs on China were well-received by Americans.
The bipartisan consensus in United States on taming China is not good for the Communist country because, the United States, without any apprehensions, remains the most powerful country in the world. Its strength comes from 21 trillion dollars economy- almost double of China, modern weapons, hegemonic companies in the Internet and software space, and allies across Europe and Pacific.
China became rich by supply goods to US and other countries around the world, and given the resentment against China after the outbreak of the virus, the situation is going to change drastically once the pandemic is over. Therefore, China is all set to suffer a huge setback, not just economically but diplomatically as well.