In the second piece at The Atlantic Peter Beinart is concerned that the Democratic presidential candidates are essentially standing mute on the subject of China:
Trump and Xi Jinping may be leading the world into an era in which money, goods, information, and people flow less freely across national borders than they have for the past quarter century. The headline of a recent op-ed by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer calls this “The End of the World as We Know It.”
How do the major Democratic presidential candidates feel about this potentially epic shift? We don’t really know. They rarely bring it up on their own. Bernie Sanders says nothing about China on his website. Neither do Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, or Kirsten Gillibrand. All Joe Biden says about China on his website is that it’s “rising.” On hers, Amy Klobuchar pledges to “invest in diplomacy and rebuild the State Department and modernize our military to stay one step ahead of China.” Kamala Harris’s website says the United States should “work in lockstep with our partners” to confront “China’s unfair trade practices.” That’s about as substantive as it gets.
The reason they don’t talk about it is obvious—Democratic voters aren’t interested in it:
To be fair, presidential candidates tend to talk about what voters want them to talk about. And despite Trump’s trade war, Democratic voters are most concerned about health care, education, the environment, and abortion.
The office of the presidency has essentially four responsibilities: chief diplomat, command in chief of the military, managing director of the federal government, and signing bills into law. Democratic voters are primarily interested in that last role, an effective trompe-l’œil on the part of the Congress and the media. It is the least important role of the president, the area in which he or, potentially, she is least powerful. The reason for Congressional inaction isn’t mostly the president. It’s bitter factionalization and that the Congress likes it that way.
I was dissatisfied with Donald Trump’s filling of all of the roles of president including as diplomat in chief. So far I think he’s been pursuing the right goals but the results aren’t in yet. Maybe his maximalist, threaten and bluster approach will work. The Democrats need to take stands. It isn’t enough just to do everything the opposite of what your predecessor did.