John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Bowing to the Chinese

Posted on November 18, 2009

Bowing to the Chinese




The President’s bow to the Japanese Emperor caused great concern among conservative pundits and politicians.   Even Dick Cheney, a noteworthy friend of the Japanese, said that it was inappropriate for an American President to show such exaggerated respect to any foreign leader.

I didn’t have much of a problem with the bow, because the Japanese aren’t the economic or military threat that they once were.  I thought the bow was nice, and showed that we still value a relationship that is not nearly as important as it once was.

It was the President’s metaphorical bow to the Chinese that really bothered me.  As was reported in almost every major daily, Mr. Obama went to China and went out of his way to be deferential to the Chinese Communist government.  He promised to respect their territorial integrity (sorry to the Tibetans and the Taiwanese).  He addressed a hand-picked group of little Chinese Communists.  His complaints about Chinese human-rights was cloaked in apologies, as if he were saying, “we know we have our own problems, and we won’t complain about yours until we clean up our own act.”

This exaggerated bow to the power of the Chinese is silly.  We don’t have to be overly hostile to the Chinese, but we certainly don’t have to be treating them like they are some sort of big brother either.  Sure, the Chinese hold a lot of our debt, but there is a reason for that.  We are a good economic bet for them. They aren’t holding our debt because they want to do us any favors. They are holding our debt because they want to make money with their investments.  Smart for them.

But China still can’t hold a candle to us.  Their economy is growing fast, but it had to grow fast.  It couldn’t go anywhere but up.  And ours is still much bigger.  Their military is also growing fast, but let’s not kid ourselves.  If push came to shove, the Chinese wouldn’t be much of a match for our military might.

The Chinese have been smartly strategic when it comes to their investments.  And that is a good thing.  But notice that most of their investments are being made outside of their country.  That is because China, like Russia, is still largely a kleptocracy.   They don’t believe in intellectual property for the most part.  They don’t have much rule of law, except for the dictates of the local Communist apparatchiks.

And China still has some huge structural problems beyond the rule of law.  It is torn internally by ethnic conflict.  Its one child policy means it won’t have enough young people to take care of all the old people in the next 20 years.   Its rural peasantry still hasn’t made the transition to the 20th century, let alone the 21st century.

Outside the 800 billion of debt the Chinese hold of ours, the biggest problem that faces our relationship with the Chinese is the trade imbalance.  And that is big problem.  But I hate to be radical here, but the trade imbalance is easily fixable for us.   We can put up some nice trade barriers that we will bring greater balance to our relationship.  It might hurt some of our industries, but it will help a lot of others.  And because the trade imbalance is so large, it might be worth it for us to explore this option.

Putting up the same kind of trade barriers to Chinese products that they have put up for ours would hurt the Chinese more than it would hurt us.  Sure, some consumer prices would sharply increase, but domestic manufacturing would also sharply increase, putting more of our people to work.

I tend to be a free-trader, but I am not religious about it.  And if this relationship with China is not working out, we should change it.  We have the power.

And that brings me to Obama’s kowtow to the Chinese Communists.  He is our first Asian President.  He misnamed himself the first Pacific President, which, of course, is not accurate.  Reagan and Nixon, who both came from California, were Pacific Presidents.  But Obama, who was born in Hawaii (our most Asian state) and raised in Indonesia, has Asian sensibilities.  He is overly deferential.  He is seemingly unflappable.  And he has the Asian disdain for the Western individualism.

Obama’s Presidency represents a clear break from the rest of America’s leaders.  He doesn’t necessarily believe in American exceptionalism.  He believes that America is not the first among equals, but just another country.  He tends to look not at America’s moral strengths, but its moral failings.  He sees himself not as a booster but as a judge.

This is not meant as a critique of President Obama.  He has not suddenly changed his stripes.  He pretty much campaigned to be the first Asian-American President.   He sharply criticized the free-market system during the campaign.  He hinted that his predecessor was too aggressive and that America was not humble enough.  He promised to be more deferential to the concerns of the rest of the world.  He promised to bow, metaphorically.

And now, that is what America has as it leader.

Who’s to blame for this state of affairs?  Not Barack Obama.  He is governing as he campaigned (with of course, some noteworthy exceptions.  For example, you can kiss that middle class tax cut good-bye).

You shouldn’t blame liberals.  They may only make up 20% of the country, but this is the kind of leader they want.  They want somebody who hates the free-market and is very deferential to the rest of the world.

You can blame independents.  They voted against the most truly independent Presidential candidate from a major party in our nation’s history.  John McCain has spent his career charting an independent course.  But independent voters were seduced by Obama’s life-story and his fraudulent centrist messaging.  They voted for Obama the message instead of Obama the man.

And you can blame conservatives.  They didn’t like McCain’s position on campaign finance reform, overlooking the fact that the guy was pro-life, a war hero, a deficit hawk, and a true fiscal conservative.  Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson did their level best to destroy McCain during the primary, and did little to get conservatives excited to stop Barack Obama.   Conservatives failed to come out for a pro-life, pro-defense, anti-earmark, fiscal conservative, because they didn’t like some of his friends.  They themselves will say that.  And now, because they didn’t come out to vote for McCain, we have Barack Obama as our President.

And he is not only bowing low to the Japanese emperor.  He is kowtowing to the Chinese.

The good news is that conservatives and independent voters have started to wake up.  Conservatives are fired up and independents are turning quickly away from the Democrats and the first Asian President.

Obama better start cutting deals with the liberals.  The window on more spending and higher taxes is going to start closing next year.