Much has been said about Hillary Clinton’s hostility towards Russia. The Democratic candidate attacks her Republican rival Donald Trump, accusing him of harboring sympathy for Moscow. But Russia is not the only country Mrs. Clinton is hostile to. China policy ranks very high in the presidential race. Neither Trump nor Clinton treats China as a friend in this campaign.
The Republican presidential candidate has no experience in foreign policy and it’s almost impossible to predict if his words will become deeds. Anyway, if Trump says he is ready for constructive relationship with Russia, it would be logical to surmise he could adopt the same policy towards Beijing. As a businessman, he is easier to negotiatewith. Besides, Trump may also be less tough on China over human rights than Clinton, who has frequently clashed with Beijing on the issue. In a 1990 interview Trump referred to the “strength” of the Chinese government in its putting down student-led protests in Tiananmen Square a year earlier. He has recently confirmed this view, calling the students’ protests “a riot”.
Now what about Clinton? She boasts more than two decades of high-profile engagement as first lady, senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential candidate. That is something to look back at. Suppose she wins in November, what will her China policy look like?
The Democratic runner has a long history of engagement with Beijing. Clinton has travelled to China many times in different capacities. She and the Chinese leadership know each other pretty well. The Democratic candidate has done enough to spoil the US relations with the emerging Asian giant. A dialogue with Beijing has never been on her priorities’ list. During her visit to Hanoi in 2010, she declared the South China Sea a “vital national interest” and asserted that the US would mediate talks on questions of sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction.
China saw it as an open challenge as it had been pursuing the policy of bilateral settlements with the neighbors. The speech was seen as a victory of those in America who called for confrontation with Beijing rather than accommodating its rise. Since that time, the South China Sea has been raised at all ASEAN meetings with China insisting it was not a proper venue for tackling the issue.
The Democratic candidate has many times publicly blasted China for alleged freedom and human rights violations.
Even being the top diplomat, Clinton never shied away from caustic remarks to irk China.
As a State Secretary she was the architect of the new “pivot to Asia” policy, which evolved into a gambit to “contain” China, including a military stand-off in the western Pacific and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to pointedly exclude Beijing.
When the Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was over, the Chinese state-run China Dailywrote, “Clinton always spoke with a unipolar voice and never appeared interested in the answers she got.”
During the current presidential race, Clinton has many times sounded hostile to China, blaming it for many wrong doings, including unfair trade practices and stealing vital government information.
In her tweet last year, she described President Xi as “shameless” for hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN in New York at the time five young feminists were detained in China for staging a peaceful performance art demonstration before International Women’s Day.
On the campaign trail recently she has vowed to toughen American trade policy towards China, including the imposition of targeted tariffs.
Hillary Clinton has privately said the US would “ring China with missile defence” if the Chinese government failed to curb the North Korea’s nuclear program. Her remarks were revealed by WikiLeaks referring to the hacked personal account of John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman.
The emails include a document excerpting Clinton’s private speech transcripts, which she has refused to release.
“We’re going to ring China with missile defense. We’re going to put more of our fleet in the area,” Clinton said in a 2013 speech accusing Beijing of not doing enough to make North Korea stop nuclear tests. “So China, come on. You either control them or we’re going to have to defend against them,” she warned. Back then she was still secretary of state.
Her views on the South China Sea dispute have also been revealed in the hacked emails. In private remarks, she apparently criticized Beijing’s position and said that after World War Two the US had“as much right” to call the Pacific Ocean the “American Sea.”
“I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim the entire Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it. We have as much claim to the entire Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines“, Clinton was quoted as telling her audience in 2013.
The North Korean nuclear program is used as a pretext for boosting US military presence in the Asia Pacific region to confront China, the same way the Iran’s nuclear and missile programs are used to justify the need for missile defense in Europe, which is aimed at Russia. China opposed the US plans to deploy THAAD missile defense systems in South Korea. Beijing saw it as a step aimed at curbing its nuclear retaliatory strike potential. The Wikileaks revelations prove it right. Hilary Clinton confirmed it. China has condemned North Korea but it has no leverage to make Pyongyang abandon the program or missile tests. Nobody can because North Korea sees nuclear capability as the only way to deter a US-led intervention.
With Hillary Clinton as US commander-in –chief, the relationship will most certainly deteriorate. In its annual Blue Book of the United States, released in the middle of this year, the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s Institute of American Studies said Sino-American frictions could escalate if she is elected president.
It will probably take place against the background of rising tensions with Moscow.
Russia is also a Pacific power with vested interests in the region. The US growing military presence in the Asia Pacific is a common threat for China, as well as Russia. The THAAD sites in South Korea pose a threat to Russian nuclear retaliatory strike capability too. Clinton attacks both countries.
It’s only natural for Russia and China to join efforts countering the common threat. This process has started. This September the two states held joint military exercises in a demonstration of readiness to conduct joint operations.
Hillary Clinton has done her best to make Russia and China get closer to each other. There will be another consequence of the foreign policy Clinton is likely to implement. Old allies will gradually leave the US orbit. Some of them, like the Philippines, for instance, are already on the way to suspend the cooperation with the United States in favor of China and Russia.
By Alex Gorka
Re-posted from Strategic Culture on-line journal www.strategic-culture.org.