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  • Writer's pictureXiaodong Fang

How could the China-bashing by presidential candidates change China, effectively

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

When bashing China in his or her campaign rhetoric, the U.S. presidential candidate is, whether intentionally or consequently, proposing a change on the U.S. foreign policy towards China. Though the campaign message or promise involving China is not necessarily going to realize as a formal law in the future, it immediately raises the attention of many audiences including the public, the media, the White House, which put a strong pressure on China to make changes in response to the candidate's rhetoric.

Directly, China may respond to the issues involved in the China-bashing by a U.S. presidential candidate. The Chinese government attached considerable importance to protocol, ceremony, form, and appearances.[1] Therefore, the statements by U.S. President, as well as by the potential future president, would merit serious consideration. To mollify the U.S. anger and avoid potential punishment, the Chinese government is likely to improve its practices related anti-China rhetoric by presidential candidates.

Indirectly, China-bashing will shape the U.S. President’s China policy, which in turn, influence the behaviors of China. The pressure from presidential candidates, especially from an opposite candidate’s anti-China rhetoric, in the campaign might contribute to a policy change of the White House on certain China issues. The Figure below tracks the monthly amount of President’s tough statements on China and the New York Times articles of Anti-China Rhetoric in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Apparently, the President’s foreign policy statements on China generally stuck to candidates’ anti-China rhetoric during the presidential campaign period.

My recent publication on Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign explains how the current U.S.-China trade war and the harsh stance by U.S. President towards China are originated by the China-bashing during the 2016 campaign. Thus, bashing China by U.S. presidential candidates is an effective way to urge China improve its practices in economy, human rights, and security.

[1] Bader, Jeffrey A. 2012. Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account Of American’s Asia Strategy. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.


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