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Fiorina’s Bad Proposal for U.S.-China Relations

Fiorina favors gratuitously insulting the leader of another major power.
carly fiorina

Now that Walker is out of the running, someone has to take up his mantle of endorsing simplistic foreign policy proposals. Fiorina has accepted the role:

Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina joined her GOP rivals Tuesday in saying Chinese President Xi Jinping should not be honored with a state dinner at the White House.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said during a national security forum in South Carolina that she still would meet privately with Xi. But she said she’d cancel the dinner as just one step in a new hard line against Beijing, which she criticized for cybersecurity threats, Xi’s military buildup in the South China Sea and human rights abuses. Fiorina said China, together with Russia and Iran, are aggressors that she would curtail if elected.

This is just as misguided and silly as it was when Walker first suggested it. Does anyone suppose that the Chinese president will become more accommodating or reasonable on outstanding disputes after he has been publicly humiliated with the cancellation of a state dinner? No, of course not. The Chinese government would be insulted, and would almost certainly become more intransigent on any issue that the U.S. wanted to address. Diplomatic snubs can sometimes have their uses, but gratuitously insulting the leader of another major power just to strike a “tough” pose for a domestic audience is not one of them. Fiorina says that she “still would meet privately with Xi,” but why does she assume that he would have any interest in such meetings after being publicly embarrassed? She is demanding that the U.S. engage in exactly the sort of high-handed behavior that the Chinese and many other nations find so objectionable in how the U.S. deals with other governments, but she doesn’t think this will have any adverse consequences for securing Chinese cooperation in the future.

It is a lousy idea, but it is in line with Fiorina’s generally confrontational approach to foreign policy. She declared that she would not “tolerate” Chinese military outposts in the South China Sea. This is a good example of making a rhetorical commitment that she almost certainly wouldn’t be able to keep without risking a major incident. When a politician insists that something is intolerable or unacceptable, that implies a willingness to take aggressive action to stop it, or else it is reckless, empty rhetoric. Either way, it tells us that Fiorina’s ideas for China policy are provocative and potentially quite dangerous.



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