THE US Republican Party has come out with guns blazing against China in its latest party platform—a marked contrast from the softer tone of its last charter in 2012.
The 2016 platform, released late Monday, appears to seize on the populist sentiment that catapulted Donald Trump to the Republican Party presidential nomination at the party’s national convention Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio.
Republicans formally tapped Trump as their nominee after a turbulent campaign that saw Trump vanquish 16 rivals and quell intraparty opposition.
Trump said it was time to “go all the way” and beat the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, in November. “This is a movement,” he told the delegates via video link.
The news came just hours after the GOP released its platform, which covers a wide range of foreign and domestic issues and is intended to guide Republican policymaking at every level of government.
In it, the party takes aim at China for behavior that “has negated the optimistic language of our last platform.”
In a section of the platform touting US leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, it rips into Beijing, slamming recent moves by the ruling Communist Party, a likely allusion to President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on dissent and cementing of power.
“The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived,” it says.
Four years ago, the Republican platform took a much more conciliatory tone with the Asian giant.
In the 2012 document, the GOP offered a perfunctory condemnation of Beijing’s record on a number of issues, including human rights and its claims to the South China Sea, but emphasized that it would “welcome the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous China.”
In apparent hopes that bolstered economic ties between Washington and Beijing would lead to a more democratic China, the 2012 paper also noted that “its rulers have discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth.”
“The exposure of the Chinese people to our way of life can be the greatest force for change in their country,” the document said, adding that such a path would lead to “national greatness.”
Those Republican hopes appear to have been dashed in the ensuing four years. Beijing has continued its hardline policies in Tibet and Xinjiang—which the platform equated with “cultural genocide”—and has stalled on Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.
But the GOP’s harshest words were reserved for what it labeled as Beijing’s “preposterous” claims to the flashpoint South China Sea, where US allies the Philippines and Japan have voiced objections to China’s moves.
“To distract the populace from its increasing economic problems and, more importantly, to expand its military might, the government asserts a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea and continues to dredge ports and create landing fields in contested waters where none have existed before, ever nearer to US territories and our allies, while building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes,” the platform says.
A Pentagon report released in May—Washington’s most detailed to date on the subject of China’s island-building program—said that Beijing has added more than 3,200 acres (1,280 hectares) of land to seven features it occupies in the Spratly chain in the South China Sea. The manmade islets there, the report said, give it long-term “civil-military” outposts from where it can project power. The US has conducted what it calls “freedom of navigation” patrols in the area as a means of reassuring allies and deterring further militarization of the outposts. And last week, an international arbitration tribunal ruled against much of China’s claims of “historic rights” to the South China Sea.
Amid the ramped-up defense spending by Beijing, Republicans believe moves that have been authorized by the White House are not enough and have used the platform to take the Obama administration to task on the issue.
“The complacency of the Obama regime has emboldened the Chinese government and military to issue threats of intimidation throughout the South China Sea, not to mention parading their new missile, ‘the Guam Killer,’ down the main streets of Beijing, a direct shot at Guam as America’s first line of defense,” the platform reads.
Regarding Beijing’s much-lauded cyberarmy, Republicans say in the platform that Washington’s response should be firm, one that causes “diplomatic, financial, and legal pain” lest the US be caught in the “cyber-equivalent of Pearl Harbor.”
The charter also addresses contentious economic issues facing the two countries—something Trump has tended to focus on over human rights during his campaign.
It says China cannot be allowed to continue manipulating its currency and that a Republican leader would “stand ready to implement countervailing duties” against countries that trade unfairly.
The platform also calls the Obama administration’s way of dealing with Chinese violations of world trade standards “a virtual surrender.”
“We cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology,” it says.
Although it is not binding and does not necessarily reflect Trump’s thinking, he has at times lashed out at Beijing.
Trump’s has proposed a 45-percent tariff on Chinese imports into the US, a plan that many experts have questioned.
On a softer note, the platform also says that “the return to Maoism by China’s current rulers is not reason to disengage with the Chinese people or their institutions.”
“We welcome students, tourists, and investors, who can see for themselves … how real democracy works,” it says. “We caution, however, against academic or cultural operations under the control of the Chinese government and call upon American colleges to dissociate themselves from this increasing threat to academic freedom and honest research.”
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