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Stock Market Drop Leads Trump And Walker To Say Dumb Things About China

Chinese and U.S. flags fly along Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House in Washington

Yesterday’s stock market plunge, which capped off several days of declines that started with uncertainty in Chinese markets amid signs that their economy there is weakening in a way that hasn’t been seen before, has had its inevitable political consequences, with many Republican candidates for President using it as an opportunity to bash China. At the head of the parade, of course, was the frontrunner Donald Trump, who blamed the entire downturn in the market on China and offered the nonsensical advice that the United States should somehow disassociate itself from the second largest economy on the planet. Scott Walker meanwhile, decided that the best response to the market volatility was to call on the President to cancel the upcoming state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump and Walker weren’t alone, of course, as other candidates for President jumped on the story to score political points, or at the very least get their names in the news:

Republican presidential candidates began shifting their focus on Monday from the dangers posed by illegal immigrants to a new target:China, whose currency devaluations and stock market plunges are starting to hurt the savings of American investors.

One Republican candidate, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, called on President Obama on Monday to cancel his plans to meet in Washington next month with President Xi Jinping of China on what will be his first state visit to the United States. Mr. Walker accused Beijing of a range of offenses that have harmed American interests, including manipulating its economy and currency, carrying out cyberattacks and persecuting Christians.

His remarks came after another Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, seized on the 1,000-point decline early Monday of the Dow Jones industrial average and took to Twitter and Instagram to warn that China will “bring us down” and that “this could get very messy.”

The criticism comes at a particularly delicate time for relations between the United States and China. Mr. Obama is expected to use the state visit to press Mr. Xi on such nettlesome issues as Beijing’s aggressive military maneuvers in the South China Sea, cybersecurity, the treatment of American companies in China, and now the decline of China’s currency, the renminbi, which is likely to hurt exports.

Republicans are not the only ones criticizing the Chinese government; Hillary Rodham Clinton last month accused China of “trying to hack into everything that doesn’t move in America.”

But for candidates like Mr. Walker and Mr. Trump, the criticism may be less politically costly than focusing on immigration. Mr. Trump, in particular, has faced harsh rebukes from others in the party for potentially alienating Latino voters who could be crucial in swing states in the 2016 general election.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican candidate who is a moderate on immigration, joined the criticism of China on Monday by saying that the federal debt “has been given to us in large measure by the Chinese” and that “as the Chinese markets have a correction” it will have an outsized impact on the United States.

While the Chinese government is in fact the largest holder of United States government debt, its large purchases help hold down the interest payments that American taxpayers must ultimately bear to service that debt.

It’s understandable why politicians in the United States would target the Chinese in their political rhetoric. For many years now, China has occupied that space that Japan once did as the international economic rival that poses a threat to position as the leader of the world’s economy. In China’s case, that perceived threat is magnified by the fact that China itself has seemingly been stretching its military muscles in areas such as the South China Sea as well as taking steps to expand its influence in Africa and elsewhere around the world. Notwithstanding all of that, the fact remains that the United States and China have far more in common than they do differences and that the confrontational approach that people like Trump, Walker, and so many others advocate would do far more harm than good. The Chinese depend on the United States and the rest of the west as a market for the goods that they produce, and the United States and the West depend on Chinese as a source for those goods and, increasingly, as a market all its own as the Chinese middle class becomes larger and larger. The decoupling that Trump and others suggest is not only impossible, but it would cause widespread economic harm throughout the United States and elsewhere.

As for Walker’s contention that we should cancel the upcoming State Visit as some kind of punishing for a market downturn that is likely to be temporary and have no real lasting economic impact outside China, Daniel Larison puts it best:

Walker’s suggestion is a bad one. I understand that he’s engaging in standard China-bashing rhetoric that is common to most presidential candidates, but unsurprisingly he fails to grasp that his preferred course of action is the empty, purely symbolic one that will do nothing to address any of the problems he mentions. If there is “serious work to be done,” it isn’t going to get done by publicly embarrassing China. Snubbing China in such a dramatic fashion as Walker wants wouldn’t make Beijing the least bit more interested in cooperating with the U.S. or in making concessions on contentious issues, and it would likely make relations noticeably worse in the near term. It would also demonstrate to everyone that our government puts empty gestures ahead of the practical work of sustaining one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.

In reality, of course, Walker’s proposal wasn’t meant to be a serious one. Just as was the case with much of the Japan bashing in the 1980s when we were told that the Japanese would be overtaking America and buying up all our commercial real estate, the rhetoric on China that we’re hearing from him, from Trump, and likely from others is just another example of the populism bashing of the last foreign economic rival. It isn’t, and it should not be taken to be, serious policy analysis of any kind. This is especially true when comments like these are made in connection with a stock market downturn that has little to do with the underlying issues facing the relationship between the United States and China. That being said, the fact that candidates like Walker and Trump find it so easy to delve into simplistic populism in response to even the most random event provides at least some clues as to their judgment, or lack thereof. One would hope the voters are paying attention.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    I’m not a student of China by any means but of what I read, it is that China and the Chinese people view themselves as highly civilized and the center of the known universe. They are just as likely to look down on the US as anything else. They take exceptionalism to a higher level than even the US. And don’t forget insults such as cancelling head of state meetings.

    When politicians start bashing other cultures and countries, they need to understand that they are right there listening.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    These comments are completely incoherent. Pro-capitalist Republicans are demanding action against China for having a capitalist crisis; I’m pretty sure they weren’t demanding the world censure the United States for triggering the Global Financial Crash.

    Christie, assuming he really believes what he’s saying, is an enormously fat fool. China did not “give” debt to the United States, the U.S. gave low-risk, interest-bearing securities to China.

    We have:

    1) Capitalists who don’t understand capitalism.

    2) Free-traders who couldn’t describe free-trade for love or money.

    3) Free-marketeers who don’t know what a market looks like.

    Are the Republican candidates that ignorant or is this what they think the dummies want to hear? I’m spoilt for choice.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 52 Thumb down 2

  3. SenyorDave says:

    @Ben Wolf: I think it is a combination of true ignorance and throwing red meat to the base. You really don’t get anywhere in the Republican party these days by being thoughtful. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, the base wants a solution NOW, and the hell with the consequences. Just say something tough, act like a bully, because if you have nuance you are weak and ineffective.

    The party is a complete joke, but they area dangerous joke. Trump does perfectly embody the modern Republican party. Promised solutions without any details, because details would show how ridiculous the solutions are. And make sure to insult as many people along the way as possible, because that shows how tough and serious you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One would hope the voters are paying attention.

    15 months before the election?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. stonetools says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Are the Republican candidates that ignorant or is this what they think the dummies want to hear?

    Both, FTW.

    Remember, too, Republican candidates are simultaneously convinced that they can arbitrarily reject the Iranian deal, and force or coax China into joining with the USA to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. The degree of reality rejection among Republicans is breathtaking.
    I’m also intrigued by a tweet that Doug re-tweeted:

    Richard M. Nixon ‏@dick_nixon 13h13 hours ago
    Richard M. Nixon retweeted Elizabeth Drew
    To alienate the Chinese drives them toward Russia.

    Yup.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    @SenyorDave:

    The party is a complete joke, but they area dangerous joke.

    The Republicans are not a party but ostensibly a proto-fascist insurgent movement; between the extreme nativism, pro-corporate ideology, demands for submission of women and minorities and explicit militarism the differences between Mussolini’s PNF and this outfit are of minimal degree. We’ve got to stop pretending these are normal electoral politics and acknowledge something very ugly has emerged from some very ugly attitudes.

    Yes, they are extremely dangerous.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    We’ve needed a stock market correction for years. Why do politicians need to milk that for …

    … oh right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. Jack says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Promised solutions without any details, because details would show how ridiculous the solutions are.

    Didn’t someone run on never having to back up a vote and a campaign slogan of “Change” without saying what that change would be?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 28

  9. SenyorDave says:

    @Jack: Didn’t someone run on never having to back up a vote and a campaign slogan of “Change” without saying what that change would be?

    I saw numerous interviews with Obama while he was running where he gave specific policy details, starting with identifying the problem and proposing solutions. Of course he never talked about having an opposition that would choose tanking the country rather than ever compromising.

    Did he ever engage in rhetoric – of course, all politicians do on occasion. But the Republicans only engage in rhetoric and actual policies are never discussed except in the vaguest terms.

    “Send them all back”. So what are your plans? Will you build huge detention camps capable of holding millions of people, with the infrastructure to support these camps (security, medical, other logistics). Because 11 million people are not going to self-deport.

    Obama looks Albert Einstein compared to the Republicans.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 2

  10. Franklin says:

    @Jack: No argument? No problem, just change the subject.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  11. slimslowslider says:

    @Jack:

    No.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  12. anjin-san says:

    We might save some time by listing the things GOP candidates have said that are not “dumb”, it should not take long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  13. KM says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Because 11 million people are not going to self-deport.

    One of the all-time stupidest responses I’ve heard in terms of logistics was from a very enthusiastic Trump supporter who screamed out in a debate that we can empty out the prisons and use them as holding centers. Even the other people in the room who agreed with him gave him WTFBrainDamaged looks when he continued to elaborate smugly that this way we can be sure they are secured in the existing infrastructure, minimal guards need to be in place to save on costs and those damn liberals can’t make Nazi camp comparisons. When someone pointed out that means the prisoners already locked up would need to be re-located or released to make space, he got confused as to why that’s a bad thing. When challenged on the inherent stupidity of releasing convicted murders in order to round up illegals (a lesser crime by any stretch of the imagination), he demanded we come up with a better idea “if we’re so smart”.

    This is the level of thought they’re dealing in. It would be hilarious if it was so tragic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  14. KM says:

    Markets go up, markets go down. ‘Tis the nature of the beast. Capitalism, baby – greed is good unless it’s your pocket being picked.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand it can’t be all sunshine, roses and non-stop growth has absolutely no business being near financial decisions of any kind. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know China was going to have problems soon or anything….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    Trump is a snake oil salesman and Walker has proven once again he’s a moron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    We’ve got to stop pretending these are normal electoral politics and acknowledge something very ugly has emerged from some very ugly attitudes.

    Well, be careful there, Ben, I keep hearing that I’m wildly hyperbolic for suggesting that we’re dealing with a clearly fascist impulse here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 4

  17. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, the latest poll from New Hampshire:

    Trump 35, Kasich 11, Bush 7, Walker 7, Carson 6, Christie 4, Fiorina 10, Cruz 4, Paul 3, Rubio 4, Huckabee 0, Perry 2, Jindal 0, Graham 1, Santorum 1.

    Tell me again how the GOP isn’t crazy. Tell me again how this isn’t a racist, nativist, fascist party. The ‘establishment’ candidates are in a state of collapse. Jeb Bush is dead meat. Marco Rubio, dead meat. Walker has joined the crazies, and he’s still dead meat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Are the Republican candidates that ignorant or is this what they think the dummies want to hear?

    As with most such dichotomies, the answer is yes. They’re not liars, they’re bullshitters. They’re saying whatever they think will work without a thought as to whether it’s true or not. They’re only thinking about how to get elected. If they get elected, then they’ll worry about policy. And there will be plenty of time for their lobbyists to tell them what their policy is.

    This is largely a Republican problem. Dem politicians aren’t any better people (well, some are actually) but they don’t have to deal with the same sort of huge disconnect between what their donors want and what their base wants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  19. J-Dub says:

    What nobody knows about the timing of this state visit is that President Xi Jinping’s wife is pregnant and due to give birth in the United States so the child can have US citizenship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @anjin-san: Yep, SSDS (Same Sh!t, Different Subject)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. JohnMcC says:

    I blame all those asian anchor babies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, be careful there, Ben, I keep hearing that I’m wildly hyperbolic for suggesting that we’re dealing with a clearly fascist impulse here.

    Not speaking for anybody else, but I never said that Michael. What I said was that it was absolutely “wildly hyperbolic” (actually, my words were more along the lines of wildly moronic, but you say ‘tomato’ I say tomahto’) to think that what happened in 1930s Germany can happen here. You could start by learning some 19th and early 20th Century German history and then what actually happened in Germany after WW I, and then learn how the German electoral system made it possible for Hitler to take over and how none of that has any real parallel with 21st Century America….

    Well much easier to just say “HITLER IN AMERICA!” (I guess we can add Mussolini to the list too. Wonder when Genghis Khan will come up?)

    None of which is to say that the present xenophobic strain that is finding voice in America isn’t a problem. It is. But it is the same xenophobic strain that tried to assert itself in America in the 1960s, and the 50’s before that, and the 40s before that, and the 1900s before that, and the 1880s before that…. This is nothing new Michael. This is America. Who and what we are. You just now noticed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  23. SKI says:

    @michael reynolds: Kasich keeps scaring me more and more….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san: And here’s the list:

    Nope, got nutthin

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Well, in fairness, nobody seems to be saying Trump’s particular brand of gassy quasi-fascism makes him Hitler reincarnated, or that he has any chance of bringing about 1930s Germany redux.

    Which reminds me of a book that’s a best-seller in Germany, titled “Er ist wieder da” (He’s back), translated into English as “Look Who’s Back.” Hitler wakes up in 2011 in a vacant lot in the middle of Berlin with a headache and no idea what the hell is going on. Nobody believes it’s really him, they all think he’s an actor. He becomes popular on YouTube.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  26. Slugger says:

    Leaving aside the wisdom and sanity of our leadership class for a minute, I wonder if there is anyone out there who knows how the Chinese stock market works. Last year I read a book by Michael Lewis, Flashboys, that describes how high frequency traders are able to take advantage of market moves by getting in a few microseconds ahead of anyone else. In the past there is reason to believe that unethical market manipulation resulted. I know that 30-40% of American stock trades are program trades made by bots, but I believe that our regulators are looking out for nonmarket manipulation of prices. Do the Chinese have protection from bot driven bear raids?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. PJ says:

    @J-Dub:

    What nobody knows about the timing of this state visit is that President Xi Jinping’s wife is pregnant and due to give birth in the United States so the child can have US citizenship.

    And it will be quite a shock to them when they discover that:

    In the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court ruled that a person who
    is born in the United States
    of parents who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of a foreign power
    whose parents have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States
    whose parents are there carrying on business and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity of the foreign power to which they are subject

    becomes, at the time of his birth, a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

    😉

    And on that subject, due to the rumors on this blog that Ted Cruz’ father actually is Fidel Castro and he’s the real Manchurian candidate, I demand that he immediately subjects himself to a DNA test to prove beyond doubt that his father isn’t Fidel, or Raul, Castro.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Find me a single place where I ever suggested this was another Holocaust in the making. That’s a straw man. My comparison is to Serbia. The term I’ve repeatedly used is “ethnic cleansing.” You need to misrepresent me because you want to hide behind Godwin’s.

    We are who we are? You mean the people who transported thousands of Japanese-Americans – American citizens – to desert concentration camps just 70 years ago? Those people? Did our institutions protect them?

    What do you think, evil is limited to Germans? You’re actually watching a major American political party turn increasingly to dreams of ethnic cleansing and going along tra la, tra la, can’t happen here. The same party that just 47 years ago chose to embrace racism rather than reject it. The same party that is still racist.

    And if you want a Hitler analogy, here it is: no one but no one thought for a minute that the most assimilated Jewish population in Europe would be annihilated by the most civilized nation in Europe. You’re watching the GOP push for ethnic cleansing and you’re not getting it because you think yelling “Godwin’s!” is the end of the conversation, and because you don’t care to admit that people we all know, all those banal people around us are capable of evil. Trump is not Hitler, but you are a good, rational man, incapable of accepting the fact that evil doesn’t always wear shiny black boots and announce its intentions clearly.

    This is a proposed ethnic cleansing. Wake up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, be careful there, Ben, I keep hearing that I’m wildly hyperbolic for suggesting that we’re dealing with a clearly fascist impulse here.

    Thank you for that cautionary note, Michael; t’would be devastating were I lumped in with your sort and pray to the gods my comment becomes lost in the aether. 😉

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. Ben Wolf says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The results of Stanley Milgram’s experiments in the 1960s suggest otherwise. They were intended to explore the question of why ordinary Germans complied with the most evil commands and acts of the Nazi’s, conducted in the U.S. and summarized in his 1974 book The Perils of Obedience:

    The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

    Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Tyrell says:

    @Ben Wolf: Right now the markets seem in turmoil. The word “collapse” is in the air. The next month or two will be interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  32. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds:In fairness and if I recall correctly, only the children of Japanese parents were citizens. At that time, foreign-born people from Asia were not eligible to become citizens, only permanent residents.

    That’s bad enough, you understand, but the lack of citizenship was part of the reason that the internment worked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. JohnMcC says:

    Since no one else has used it I will claim dibs on the (possibly) Sinclair Lewis quote: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    It should be required of every schoolchild that they read and discuss “It Can’t Happen Here” before they graduate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  34. grumpy realist says:

    @JohnMcC: And when it does come here to the US, the average US citizen won’t recognize it.

    Damn, I GOTTA get that Space Elevator built…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Mikey says:

    @JohnMcC: @grumpy realist: On the other hand, there’s Tom Wolfe: “…the dark night of fascism is always descending in America but manages to land only in Europe.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: so FAR. Sinclair Lewis was right. We won’t recognize it when it comes, will pretend something totally different is happening, and will stick some form of “defense of Christianity” on to the end of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Tillman says:

    @Mikey: And let’s not forget Orson Welles George Orwell: “Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: Eh. I’d be more inclined to agree if I hadn’t been hearing this for as long as I can remember.

    We may get some far-right loonies but they have nothing like the successes of Greece’s Golden Dawn or France’s National Front or the Sweden Democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0