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Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing

Beijing.

Time for the odd word out. Erudite. Witty. Empathetic. Trump.

Many words have been written, and many more will be, to describe the Republican hopeful as he strives to attract support through pandering to the lowest common denominator.  And not for the first time, he overstepped the mark with his crudeness.

Describing China as “raping” the US economy embraces inaccuracy and distaste. This has not bothered him before and it is unlikely that he will lose any sleep over it. But shrugging our shoulders and rolling our eyes upward at yet another example of his crassness seems a totally inadequate response.

Within living memory, China has experienced the mass rape of the residents of a major city by a foreign power. Accusing China of “raping’’ an economy with which it has close, and increasingly closer, ties is hurtful, insulting in the extreme and touches a nerve that is still raw.  Currency manipulator? Since the turn of the century, the renminbi has strengthened against the US dollar. There is actually an Asian economic power that has seen its currency, as a matter of policy, weaken against the US dollar. Shinzo Abe made no secret that this was his intention for the yen when he assumed office in 2012. Downturn Abe has been true to his word. December 2012, the month Abe regained power, saw the yen at 86 to the dollar. Today it is about 106. Economies, like the weather, can fluctuate but the general direction in both cases is clear. What is also clear is the muted response from Washington. Can you imagine the screaming headlines in the US if Beijing had followed a similar path?

Freedom of navigation? To the best of my knowledge China has never impeded freedom of navigation on the high seas. But there is an irony here that screams to be acknowledged. The first US cruise ship in nearly four decades docked in Havana in early May.  It’s good to see freedom of navigation restored just 90 miles from Florida’s shores (to use the phrase so often uttered in October 1962). Of course there are issues. Steel, for one. But China too has experienced a decline in its steel sector. The Silk Road Initiative has in its vision and scope the potential to be one of the major economic programs since wartime debris littered the cities of Europe.  Of course the Trump campaign will not take any of these factors into account. Make America Great Again? America is great and it achieved its status by reaching out, not by building walls. Maybe in a way we should be thankful for Trump. He has raised a specter that is deeply unappealing. Those who disagree have an opportunity to present a case to advance rather than retreat.

The world is changing, sorry for the cliché but it is becoming increasingly evident. A common sense approach on the street level, (literally) is taking shape in Rome and Milan where Chinese police officers are helping tourists. The Silk Road Initiative? It’s already working in the land of Marco Polo.

Tom Clifford, now in China, worked in Qatar with Gulf Times from 1989-1992 and covered the Gulf War for Irish and Canadian newspapers as well as for other media organizations.

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