The final presidential debate, on foreign policy, is scheduled for Monday, October 22. Moderator Bob Schieffer announced that the topics will be: “America’s Role in the World,” “Our Longest War—Afghanistan and Pakistan,” “Red Lines—Israel and Iran,” “The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism,” and “The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World.” Heritage’s foreign policy experts have written a series of tipsheets for prepping on each of these issues. You can watch the live stream of the debate with us on Monday here.
The Issue: “The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World”
The Reality: Over the last several years, the Chinese have become increasingly aggressive in pressing territorial claims against their neighbors, threatening to upend peace, security, and the free flow of commerce in the region. It is in the national interest to make clear that the U.S. will stand by its friends and allies and that Beijing will derive no benefit from any attempt to alter current or disputed borders by coercion.
To this end, both American military and diplomatic policies play essential roles. The Administration’s “pivot” to Asia is good to the extent it is an expression of American commitment to safeguarding its interests there. But the pivot lacks necessary resources. The U.S. needs to have a military second to none, with sufficient ships, planes, and troops to maintain the peace and preserve order throughout Asia.
Japan is among America’s most important allies anywhere in the world. The U.S. maintains tens of thousands of troops there, home ports a carrier there, and cooperates closely with the Japanese Self Defense Forces. Over the past two years, relations between China and Japan have deteriorated, most notably involving territorial disputes.
The Reality: The U.S.–Japan alliance is the cornerstone of the U.S. position in the western Pacific. It, along with the U.S.–South Korean Alliance, is a democratic coalition that has served as the basis for prosperity across Northeast Asia. The U.S. remains firmly committed to these security relationships and its treaty and other legal obligations in order to deter aggression, maintain stability, and foster the conditions for regional economic growth.
A growing area of concern is Chinese cyber warfare capabilities, with growing evidence of massive Chinese penetration of American computer systems and regular reports of Chinese cyber espionage. Congress, meanwhile, has recently issued a report on the problems associated with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications corporation.
The Reality: Information systems undergird not only American security but the American economy. The U.S. needs to devote the resources to countering those governments and other entities that seek to exploit this vulnerability without imposing restrictions that will jeopardize the easy access and freedom of information flow that have made the Internet such a powerful global tool.
Many governments, not just in Asia, see the Internet as an instrument to press centrally conceived arguments and official differences long pressed on other fronts. Worse, they seek to push the limits of national borders into cyberspace and thereby prevent the free flow of ideas and free interaction between people. No American Administration should ever countenance a stepping away from American principles, and that extends to the realm of cyberspace.
Chinese companies, in particular, have a track record of violating intellectual property rights and engaging in outright economic espionage. Chinese investment benefits the U.S. when American laws are respected.
Both campaigns have made it a point to show how tough they are on China trade issues. However, the U.S. has been the champion of global free trade for more than 60 years.
The Reality: The world is much bigger than China. Yes, there are problems in Chinese economic policy that we should work hard to solve, but trade is so much more than that. We should expand our trade and investment with friends in Asia under the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade initiatives. We should reach out to our longstanding allies in Europe to negotiate a free trade agreement, and we should remain open to progress in global trade talks.
One of the reasons we haven’t pursued free trade with the vigor it deserves is a mistaken belief that exports are good, while imports are bad trade. As long as we don’t have to use taxpayer money to subsidize them, exports do benefit our country. But imports do, too. Imports not only give us more and better choices, saving money and improving our lives, but they also help create jobs. From longshoremen to truckers to warehouse builders to retailers, imports help employ millions of Americans. With all that going for it, trade can’t just be about China.
One place where the rise of China is obvious is energy. From massive coal consumption to growing oil imports to high investment in green energy, China’s energy footprint seems to get bigger every day.
The Reality: China’s need for energy is an opportunity, but it is one we have to handle carefully. China is seeking energy all over the world to feed its economy. But it has generally followed market rules while doing so, just as the U.S. does. China has also invested in American energy and would like to buy more, sharing in our shale exploration and importing our natural gas and coal. As long as they are above board, these are welcome opportunities.
Other Chinese energy policies, though, are more like a flashing red light. China has wasted billions on subsidies for alternative energy. We’ve had some questions about Chinese solar companies, for example, but the truth is that most Chinese solar companies are failing even with all those subsidies. Chinese policies on alternative energy aren’t an opportunity; they’re a dead end.