Republicans vs Democrats and the diplomatic war with China

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This year has been a domestic and international challenge for most countries, more so for the United States of America than any other. America has been on damage control mode each passing day.

The worldwide spread of Covid-19 has reminded Americans that the US is not immune. But, crucial foreign policy decisions were taken post the virus outbreak be it with China or the alliances to counter Chinese aggression.

This election, the measure of US foreign policy and America’s standing globally has changed.

A recent report by Chicago Council on Global Affairs says that instead of calling to retreat from international engagement, Americans remain supportive of an active US role in the world, with solid majorities supporting US security alliances and free trade as the best ways to maintain safety and prosperity.

“Majority support for engagement in the world. 68% overall Americans say we must take an active part in world affairs. This is somewhat unexpected for us since we thought many would say we must focus on the problems that exist within the country at the moment, but that has not been the case. Support now is along the highest measures along with the rate of Sept 11 attacks in 2002,” said Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

THE CHINA CHALLENGE

China has been challenging the US for a while. It began with the trade war in the spring of 2018 which spilled over on many issues like mass internment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and the repression of protests in Hong Kong leading to Congressional sanctions on Chinese officials. But, the final nail in the coffin was the spread of the coronavirus which has led to the US entering territorial wars of Beijing in a more aggressive manner, something that has not gone down well with the Communist Party of China.

Recent surveys show that China is the most unfavourable in the eyes of both the Republicans and the Democrats this year.

“The rhetoric from Washington DC was always very focused on China and the threats posed by China from a national security perspective but the American public was very slow to catch up in the past. This year they have caught up. Both Democrats and Republicans have an unfavourable view of China. The most unfavourable this year with only 32 out of 100. Goes for both Democrats and Republicans. Both also say that China is a rival but most Democrats believe we should not limit the growth of China’s power. Only 36% Democrats say that whereas 64% Republicans say that US should work to limit the growth of Chin’s power,” said Dina Smeltz.

The US has challenged China by forging alliances in the Indo-Pacific region. The recent entry of Australia into the Malabar naval exercises has completed the military alliance of the QUAD, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

India, Australia, Japan and the US have come together to secure the Indo-Pacific waters, which has become an impediment for Beijing to create her supremacy in the region.

“I am glad to say that the United States and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party...I know too, happily, that Australia is joining Malabar 2020 Naval Exercise,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during his trip to New Delhi.

The Taiwan factor

America’s aggressive policies towards recognising Taiwan and ensuring it gets all the military support to ward off any threat from China.

Recently, US warships were moved to the waters of the South China Sea to ensure a strong message was sent out to China that the nations around the South, East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait cannot be bullied.

Pompeo’s recent four-nation visit was a campaign trail abroad to secure votes back home, portraying a strong foreign policy.

The move to secure alternative supply chains to China and emphasise on global supply chains was a step in that direction.

In recent months, the two nations have also traded tit-for-tat consulate closures, with the United States shuttering the Chinese consulate in Houston and China closing the American consulate in Chengdu.

The massive diplomatic was has led to students being accused of spying and their visas being cancelled, leading to new lows in political relations.

The US has also upped the ante when it comes to economic sanctions, but the world is yet to see how it would affect the global economy because China continues to remain a key link in the global supply chain.

America’s stand on Taiwan and Tibet has riled Beijing to no end. But relations with China have become an issue on the campaign trail as President Trump seeks re-election. Democrats criticize Trump’s handling of the relationship, but they largely agree that the US should pursue a harder line on China, albeit in different ways.

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