‘No. 1 Weapon’ To Redefine US Relations With China is Human Rights, Expert Says
As President Donald Trump appoints increasingly hawkish foreign policy hands to assert U.S. trade interests and strengthen its strategic posture, a veteran China expert whose views closely mirror that of the new national security adviser suggests that human rights is the best U.S. foreign policy tool to redefine relations with an aggressive China.
Dan Blumenthal is director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and previously served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade. He said that while the United States is locked deep in a strategic competition with China around the world, an effective pushback will not be a purely military endeavor, but will include an organized effort to expose human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party regime.
“The Number. 1 weapon we should never give up is human rights,” said Blumenthal, who delivered a keynote speech at the “SAIS Asia Conference” on March 30. “[Human rights] is a powerful tool for the United States to stay in the center in China and to stand with those who are oppressed.”
Blumenthal pointed to the Chinese regime’s heavy persecution of Uyghurs, the Muslim ethnic people in China’s Xinjiang region, as an example of a topic that should be targeted by U.S. human rights efforts. Doing so could help decouple China’s strategic relations with Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Gulf States, all of which are at the frontier of China’s global expansion of power.
“China’s policies in Xinjiang are one of the most oppressive toward the Muslims in the world, yet few people know about them,” Blumenthal said, arguing that the U.S. State Department needs to “step up to the competition” and set up an information office similar to the ones established in the Cold War to highlight bad behavior by China.
Blumenthal’s comments follow upon President Donald Trump’s announcement on March 22 that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton will replace H.R. McMaster as the national security adviser starting April 9.
Bolton serves as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and his views resonate strongly with those of Blumenthal on a variety of issues, but especially with regard to U.S.-China policy. The two hardline foreign policy hands And AEI scholars have reportedly shared a close working relationship, and Blumenthal has firmly applauded Trump’s decision to nominate Bolton.
“Our key goal is to keep China on the defensive… to force China—whose economic growth is slowing down, to choose between using resources on suppressing domestic concerns or to go out and compete with the United States in East Asia,” said Blumenthal.
When asked about the specific steps he would like the administration to pursue, Blumenthal said that the United States should directly confront and expose human rights abuses in China. In addition, support should be increased for existing information platforms such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, which have been providing the Chinese audience with information they would not otherwise receive from the Chinese regime’s media.
U.S. platforms could also launch an organized “information cyber campaign” to expose corruption within the Chinese regime, said Blumenthal.
Both Blumenthal and Bolton share the view that China is the driving force behind North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons. Like Bolton, Blumenthal advocates a hardline policy to confront the perceived Chinese support for North Korean aggression.
“What we need to do, and what we have done effectively, is to scare China,” said Blumenthal in a Sept. 5, 2017 discussion. “The policy adopted by the Trump administration right now is to tie North Korea as a liability for China, to make China feel so much pain for its relations with North Korea, at some point China would say, enough is enough.”
By Paul Huang