Trump Was Wrong About China

Trump’s historic defeat by more than 6 million votes on Nov. 3rd has not stalled an aggressive campaign to continue a backward-looking foreign policy agenda. Establishment opinion-makers, U.S. intelligence apparatchiks, and business elites have gone to work in the editorial pages of the Washington Post to frame the limits of the Biden administration’s China policy.

Frankly obnoxious headlines like “Trump wasn’t wrong about China. But here’s how Biden can do a better job” and “Biden must not fall into China’s smooth relations trap” suggest that Washington’s political class is single-minded: maintain an aggressive, hostile stance toward China.

Trump was wrong about China. In 2016, as a presidential contender and he launched a rhetorical tirade against China accusing that country of “raping” the U.S. economy. In 2018, he added that in addition to rape, it had caused the opioid crisis. These accusations depended on racist stereotypes about China and worked to hide the ineptness of the profit-driven U.S. health system and poor innovation record of the economy.

Trump’s racially-driven rhetoric exposed the U.S. ruling class’s deepening leadership incapacity in a crisis and its frightening inability to offer and implement rational solutions to complex problems.Drug manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma, a manufacturer of oxycontin, sought easy profits by giving kickbacks to doctors to promote their drugs to unsuspecting patients. Other large companies like McKesson, Teva, AmeriSourceBergen, and Cardinal Health exploited a cash-driven political system and corrupt medical practices to drive up their profits and create the opioid crisis.

Hospital companies, pharmaceuticals, medical device companies, and even doctors themselves seem unable to innovate U.S. healthcare with a comprehensive healthy lifestyle and a publicly-funded program. Instead, their power and wealth depend on sick Americans and a corrupt, stagnant system.

Likewise, the hysterical response to Chinese technological developments made for easy political bombast and demagogy for Trump, his allies, and even Democratic opponents. Voices that made thoughtful calls for large-scale investments in education and technological development were drowned out by the shrillness of the political class. American leadership refuses to acknowledge that its paralysis on expanding educational opportunities is a major cause of this larger pattern of the displacement of the U.S. as a global technological leader. This short-sightedness and paralysis is symbolized in one of Trump’s crowning corporate failures, Trump University, which has been rightfully recognized as a criminal scam. 

Trump launched his racist hysteria against China in 2018 with deceitful claims about opioids,  trade, technology, and continued in 2020 with demonstrably false allegations about COVID-19’s origins. (Notably, recent media accounts, including the U.K.-based Independent and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, have reported that COVID-19 cases appeared in Europe far earlier than initially believed.) Trump’s racially-driven rhetoric exposed the U.S. ruling class’s deepening leadership incapacity in a crisis and its frightening inability to offer and implement rational solutions to complex problems.

Evidence for this botched leadership can be seen in the incapacity to adequately meet the COVID-19 danger. The U.S. government proved unable to deliver necessary medical equipment or to define a scientifically-sound national public health policy. It wasted time and resources and still seems incapable of controlling a contagion that has cost more than 263,000 lives.

This leadership incapacity hasn’t vanished with the imminent elimination of Trump from power. Biden’s public health advisers seem resistant to large-scale stay-at-home orders. And, an op-ed in the Washington Post, published barely a week after Trump’s historic defeat, attributes to Biden foreign policy adviser Kurt Campbell the claim that “Trump was right” about China. China’s success in fighting the virus is seldom acknowledged. This anti-China line of thought provides no real insight into Trump’s demented psychology or the validity of the establishment’s China views. Instead, it only further exposes the persistent void in policy ideas on economic development and the ruling class’s helplessness in leading innovation. Blaming China replaces reasonable interrogation of this failure of economic and social innovation.

One egregious example of the general incapacity for efficient leadership can be seen in the bloated military sector. According to a Government Accounting Office report published this month, of “46 types of aircraft [examined by inspectors] … only three met their annual mission capable goals in a majority of the years for fiscal years 2011 through 2019.” Less than 3% of military aircraft types are consistently service-ready, in other words. Meanwhile, the military budget approaches $800 billion annually. 

Massive waste that ties government contracts to political donations (to both major parties), reflects the failure across all sectors to produce sustainability, innovative technology, and necessary infrastructure for a high-level quality of life. If comparisons to the 1970s are permissible, the U.S. is approaching levels of stagnation that required the ruling class to craft neoliberalism as a class strategy for renewing its power and restoring capital accumulation. This time, neoliberalism is in crisis.

Instead of rash and false accusations directed at other countries, the U.S. desperately needs to alter course. It can and should redirect its resources from prisons, policing, and military corruption to education, healthcare infrastructure, and planned, sustainable economic development that draws on the capacities of all of its people. Proven incapable of leading, the current political class should be asked to surrender its role in favor a socially-based working-class power. Short of this necessity, if the Biden administration lulls itself with a mantra of “Trump was right,” it will also prove unable lead.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.