- The Houston consulate closure just invites Chinese tit-for-tat in a race to the bottom. The Trump administration may see China as a threat, but it is a critical nation for any global response on issues from climate change to pandemics
- Effective US policy on China requires genuine alliances, and must not alienate the Chinese people
US President Donald Trump’s decision to close the Houston consulate appears to be another step in his administration’s plan to paint China as an existential threat to bolster his re-election prospects.
The move is in keeping with his tendency to justify a Cold War-like global posture towards Beijing accompanied by crude, zero-sum policies supposedly needed to distract Americans from their mounting troubles at home and to justify ever larger defence budgets. I hope the American people do not fall for these gambits, but there are signs that they might be doing so.
There is no question that China is undermining US interests and contributing to this genuine free fall in relations. Beijing is stealing intellectual property (although this is less of an issue than it used to be), limiting foreign investment and trade in ways non-compliant with the World Trade Organisation, and bullying and intimidating neighbours while building a military designed in part to counter US military capabilities, especially in Asia.
And, of course, the Chinese government is engaged in a level of domestic repression that is completely anathema to democratic states.
All that said, China also remains a critical, indeed increasingly important, nation for addressing a host of serious transnational threats, from climate change to pandemics. And while Beijing excessively props up its domestic firms with state support, its trade and investment practices have contributed hugely to global growth and benefited many countries, including the United States, while also producing some job losses in declining manufacturing sectors.