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It's Time for America to Break with Beijing

Gordon G. Chang
Reuters

Gordon G. Chang

Security, Asia

Xi Jinping has rejected the concept of comparative advantage, the very notion underpinning the system of international commerce. Why should America sign a trade agreement with a country that does not believe in trade?

It's Time for America to Break with Beijing

SOME MISTAKES are repeated over the course of generations. For more than four decades, American presidents sought a closer relationship with China, working to “engage” that country so as to “enmesh” it into the international system. Richard Nixon, in his landmark Foreign Affairs article in 1967, provided the rationale for engagement, arguing the Chinese state could not be isolated. “Taking the long view,” he famously wrote then, “we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.”

Since the early 1970s, American policymakers believed they could avoid such nurturing, cherishing and threatening by making the success of the Communist Party of China a goal of U.S. foreign policy. With interests defined this way, American presidents helped China’s communists at crucial moments.

The first of those moments came in 1972, during the latter stages of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Years of internal fighting and chaos—essentially civil war—had weakened China’s ruling organization, but Nixon’s visit that year signaled support for Mao’s tottering regime. “We’re damned,” said Shanghai banker Wu Yaonan at the time, as recounted by democracy activist Chin Jin. “The United States is coming to the rescue of the Communist Party.”

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