With Anti-China Protectionism, the Left Is Aiding Trump’s Xenophobic Agenda

Because China is increasingly seen as a threat to US global hegemony, anti-China nationalism is on the rise in American politics. Late last summer, Steve Bannon spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and discovered—much to his surprise—that his hawkish approach to China had gone mainstream. Early this year, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is in what passes as the moderate faction in the Donald Trump White House, released the 2018 National Defense Strategy, stating that “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.” China leads the list of “strategic competitors” cited by the Department of Defense. In May, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei warned at Axios that “China is the greatest, growing threat to America” and suggested that “a smart politician could turn China into a unifying villain on virtually every topic.” Earlier this month, the pundit Matt Yglesias appeared to agree, tweeting, “I’m sort of coming around to the view that anti-China politics could be the unifying national project we need.”

This mounting anti-China nationalism is bringing the United States to the brink of a potentially disastrous trade war between the world’s two largest economies, with bipartisan support. The Trump administration, after months of threatening a trade war with China, imposed tariffs on $34 billion of imports from China last Friday, and threatened to extend this to cover all $500 billion of imports.

This emerging trade war with China will lead to job loss in the US agriculture, oil and auto industries that are concentrated in counties that voted for Trump. This is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to attack the tariffs in order to split Trump’s base among business leaders and blue-collar workers, but they show no sign of doing so. To the contrary, Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the top Democrat in the Senate, responded with strong approval when the first round of tariffs were originally…

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