“SINGAPORE — One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?
But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.
Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.
This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.”
Archive for Writers of Opinion and News Journalists
Opinion | Let’s Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times
“What happens when China’s enforcers come after Winnie-the-Pooh?
Will we reluctantly hand over Pooh Bear? Really sorry about this, Winnie, but China’s an important market!
Winnie-the-Pooh has been banned in China online and at movie theaters because snarky commentators have suggested that he resembles the portly President Xi Jinping. But these days Xi doesn’t want to censor information just in his own country; he also wants to censor our own discussions in the West.
That’s the backdrop to China’s hysterical reaction to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ general manager, sympathizing with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations.
When the N.B.A. moved into China in the early 2000s, it made a plausible argument that engagement would help extend our values to China. Instead, the Communist Party is exploiting N.B.A. greed to extend its values to the United States.
China is also forcing American Airlines to treat Taiwan as part of China, and it bullied Mercedes-Benz into apologizing for quoting the Dalai Lama. It made Marriott fire an employee for “wrongfully liking” a tweet by an organization that favors Tibetan independence.
There’s not much we can do about a dictator like Xi bullying his own citizens, but we should not let him stifle debate in our country.
Let me interrupt this diatribe, however, for important context. Those of us who criticize Xi must also have the humility to acknowledge that child mortality is now lower in Beijing than in Washington, D.C., that China has established new universities at a rate of one a week and that Shanghai’s public schools put our own school systems to shame.
So, yes, let’s stand up to Chinese bullying — and speak up when China detains at least one million Muslims, in what may be the biggest internment of people based on religion since the Holocaust. But let’s also note that China has helped lift more people out of poverty more quickly than any nation in history. With China, it’s always helpful to hold at least two contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time.”
Xi’s anxiety about the internet, religion, Hong Kong protesters, even Winnie-the-Pooh underscores his own insecurities. Xi seems terrified that real information will infiltrate the Chinese echo chamber, undermining his propaganda department’s personality cult around a benign “Uncle Xi.”
“A U.S. businessman friend of mine who works in China remarked to me recently that Donald Trump is not the American president America deserves, but he sure is the American president China deserves.
Trump’s instinct that America needs to rebalance its trade relationship with Beijing — before China gets too big to compromise — is correct. And it took a human wrecking ball like Trump to get China’s attention. But now that we have it, both countries need to recognize just how pivotal this moment is.
The original U.S.-China opening back in the 1970s defined our restored trade ties, which were limited. When we let China join the World Trade Organization in 2001, it propelled China into a trading powerhouse under rules that still gave China lots of concessions as a developing economy.
This new negotiation will define how the U.S. and China relate as economic peers, competing for the same 21st-century industries, at a time when our markets are totally intertwined. So this is no ordinary trade dispute. This is the big one.”
“President Trump was right to walk away from his summit with Kim Jong-un rather than accept a bad nuclear agreement, but the outcome underscores that he was bamboozled last year at his first summit with Kim. Whatever genius Trump sees in the mirror, “the art of the deal” is not his thing.
At this meeting, Kim apparently sought a full end to sanctions on North Korea in exchange for closing only some nuclear sites. That was not a good deal, and Trump was right to walk rather than accept it.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that,” Trump said, adding: “Sometimes you have to walk.”
President Reagan famously marched out of a 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, rather than accept an arms control agreement with Russia that he regarded as flawed. A year later the Russians returned with better terms and a deal was made — and we can all hope that something similar will happen this time.”
“Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are a bit alike, and that presents a danger to the global order.
The American and Chinese leaders are both impetuous, authoritarian and overconfident nationalists, and each appears to underestimate the other side’s capacity to inflict pain. This dangerous symmetry leaves the two sides hurtling toward each other.
The 10 percent tariffs already imposed in the trade war are scheduled to rise to 25 percent in January, but there’s also a broader confrontation emerging.
Trump and Xi may well be able to reach a cease-fire in their trade war when they meet for the Group of 20 in two weeks. Even if a deal is reached, though, it may be only a temporary respite that doesn’t alter the dynamic of two great nations increasingly on a collision course.”
David Lindsay: Thank you Nicholas Kristof. Yes, and here are the top comments, which I endorsed:
“HONG KONG — I’ve been in Tokyo and Hong Kong this week, and if I were to distill what echoed in all my conversations, it would sound something like this:
From Chinese business and government types, some real anxiety — “Can you please tell me what is President Trump’s bottom line in this trade war? Is this about rebalancing trade or containing China’s rise?” — combined with some real bravado — “You realize that you Americans are too late? We’re too big to be pushed around anymore. You should have done this a decade ago.”
From the Japanese it was gratitude — “Thank God for Donald Trump. Finally we have a U.S. president who understands what a threat China is!” — combined with real anxiety — “Please, please be careful. Don’t go too far with Beijing and break the global trading system.”
And from a smart European consultant it was bewilderment — “Boy did the Chinese have a failure of intelligence. They had no clue just how much both Democrats and Republicans, and Europeans, all want to see Trump hammer China in these trade talks. But please, please don’t start a cold war with China that will force us to choose sides.”
And from me to both my Chinese and Japanese interlocutors: I’m glad Trump is confronting China on its market access barriers. Those are the real issue — not the bilateral trade imbalance. This is long overdue. But trade is not a zero-sum game. China can thrive and rise, and we can, too, at the same time. That’s what’s been happening for the past 40 years. But we’d be even better off if China offered the kind of easy access to its market for U.S. manufacturers that it enjoys in America. It’s time to recalibrate U.S.-China economic ties before it really is too late.”
Thank you Thomas Friedman. Here is a comment I support.
It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore.
Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.
Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.
In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.
“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.
This writer loves Nicholas Kristof, and this is another thoughtful piece by him. However, I have more to add to it. I agree with the NYT commenter, that it was nothing to Trump to give up the war games with South Korea, this was one of his promises to his base. I’m not sure he lost anything he cares about, since what he actually won, was the taking over and dominating of the American and world press. He successfully made himself the center of attention. That he shredded our relations with our NATO allies, and praised won of the most brutal dictators in the world, is a small price to pay for so much attention.
I do like another comment, that this is just a tempest in a teapot. We are not out of danger, if Trump gets wind that he has been perceived as the weaker negotiator, in front of the whole world, he might get belligerent. Kudos to the president of South Korea for bringing this thawing about.
An expert on NPR made the astute comment, that North Korea is subtly re-balancing their position in East Asia, moving slightly towards the west, and making themselves less reliant on China, the hungry elephant in the room. Or is China a Chimera: “(in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.”
It is also important that Kim Jung-un has declared, his nuclear deterrent is in place, and he promises to his people he will improve the North Korean economy. So as long as we are patient, there is opportunity for peaceful improvement.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
“Shock! Horror! President Trump is actually doing something right.
Sadly, Democrats in Congress are responding in a quite Trumpian way: They seem more concerned with undermining him than supporting a peace process with North Korea. They are on the same side as National Security Adviser John Bolton, quietly subverting attempts to pursue peace.
While international security is complicated, here’s a rule of thumb: When you find yourself on the same side as Bolton, go back and re-examine your position.
Sure, we all wish that Trump treated Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel with the respect that he now shows Kim Jong-un. Yes, it seems that Trump has been played by Kim. Yet another way of putting it is that Trump is finally investing in the kind of diplomatic engagement that he used to denounce, and that we should all applaud.
Trump’s newfound pragmatism is infinitely preferable to the threat of nuclear war that used to hang over all of us, so it’s mystifying to see Democrats carping about any possible North Korea deal.”
“. . . . . Now a similar partisan petulance seems to be turning some Democrats into spoilers. Trump’s engagement with North Korea has been chaotic and should have begun with working-level talks, but it’s still better for leaders to exchange handshakes than missiles.
Granted, there’s plenty of reason to be nervous about Trump’s deal making with North Korea, and plans can still collapse. How will Trump manage Kim when he can’t even manage a summit with the Philadelphia Eagles?
Still, even if North Korea won’t hand over nuclear weapons in the next few years, I can imagine it committing in coming months to a sustained moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, on production of plutonium and uranium fuel, on transfer of nuclear technology to other countries, such as Syria. North Korea might also destroy an ICBM or two and accept inspectors at its nuclear sites in Yongbyon. Trump and Kim might agree to exchange liaison offices and to declare peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea might well cheat, and these are half-steps, not rapid denuclearization. But half-steps toward peace are better than full strides toward war.”
Great writing, thank you Nicholas Kristof. The comments are mostly so negative. As my father liked to say, Don’t let the bastards get you down.
It is ethnocentric to expect North Korea to denuclearize now, but not naive, to think that peace would serve both Koreas and the world. Trump really needs to be contained, since he is so untrustworthy. The real work of peace will be by North and South Korea and their real neighbors.
Here is a comment that I found pleasantly optimistic and could recommend:
“The assumption was that as China grew, and the W.T.O. moved to a new regime, China would quickly cut its tariffs — like its 25 percent tax on car imports, compared with the 2.5 percent tariff imposed by the U.S. But the W.T.O. still has not completed a new trade round and China has refused to voluntarily lower its tariffs.
Moreover, China developed an industrial policy that often bent W.T.O. rules. The government gave away cheap land, and state-guided banks granted cheap loans for new industries, but foreign companies that wanted access to China’s market were forced to pay to play — to have a Chinese partner and be willing to transfer their advanced technology to them.
As a result, over time, Beijing was able to force multinationals to shift more and more of their supply chains to China, and grow Chinese competitors to Western companies in its protected market, and then, once they were big enough, unleash them on the world as giants.
Even when the U.S. protested to the W.T.O. — as in the case of how China unfairly kept U.S. credit card companies out, then lost the arbitration case at the W.T.O. — China still dragged its feet before following through on promises made 17 years earlier to open up. By then, Chinese companies, like UnionPay, so dominated China’s credit card market that U.S. companies, like Visa, were left with the crumbs.
Meanwhile, Chinese government-guided companies and investment funds went abroad and began to buy up strategic industries to bring their technology back to China — like Germany’s biggest and best robotics company, Kuka.”
Thank you Thomas Friedman. Yes. And here are some of the top comments at the NYT I recommended.