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Zhao Minghao: Domestic political infighting takes a toll on Washington’s foreign policy


By Zhao Minghao    Source: Global Times   Published: 2019-12-10

Nancy Pelosi, US House of Representatives speaker, said Thursday the House was proceeding with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as he leaves US lawmakers "no choice but to act." House Democrats are reportedly considering articles of impeachment against Trump that include obstruction and bribery. Obviously, impeachment of Trump will become a key topic that dominates US politics in the coming days.

Drafting the impeachment clauses is of key significance. It's the fourth time in US history that Congress has tried to remove a president. The House's decision announced by Pelosi, to a great extent, is based on a report newly released by the House Intelligence Committee. According to the report, Democrats obtained phone records of several major players in the Ukraine scandal, including Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Devin Nunes, the intelligence committee's top Republican, showing how they coordinated in the case. It also accused Trump of obstructing the impeachment investigation by preventing witnesses from testifying and refusing to turn over documents requested by Congress.

The impeachment is not only about wrangling between Democrats and Republicans, but also about how the latter would treat Trump. This has made US domestic political struggle more complicated.

The 2020 US presidential election campaign is in full swing. Although a number of candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for Democratic nomination, the policies they propose are either bland or controversial.

So far, it's hard for Democrats to charge Trump with treason. The Republican-controlled Senate would not easily approve the impeachment. Such being the case, Democrats' current strategy is to label Trump as "impeached president" before the 2020 general election. But it remains to be seen how much the Democratic Party would benefit from such a practice in the run-up to the election.

A study released in late November found 40 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin, an important swing state, support impeaching Trump, down from 44 percent in October while 53 percent oppose the impeachment, up from 51 percent.  It seems that the impeachment inquiry will hardly stop Republican voters from voting for Trump.

Intensified domestic political squabbling has overshadowed China-US relations. The Trump administration plans to hit China-made products with a new round of tariffs on December 15. There is still a lot of uncertainty about whether Beijing and Washington could reach a phase one deal before the date. From the perspective of electoral politics, Democrats have reasons to hinder the Trump administration from reaching any agreement with China that can be touted as a "victory." They want the US public to focus on the impeachment, and would pour scorn on any compromise the Trump government could make in trade negotiations with China. However, no deal will be reached without compromises.

It seems that Democratic politicians have begun to show greater interest in competing with Republicans over being tough on China. A group of senators, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in a signed letter to Trump in late November, urged the US Department of Commerce to suspend issuing licenses to US firms that conduct business with Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Republican lawmakers play a more negative role in China-US relations, many of whom are more ideology-driven than their Democratic counterparts. In November, Republican Senator Rick Scott said in an interview with CNBC that a phase one trade deal isn't going to solve the long-standing bilateral issues. "Communist China wants to control the entire world, including Americans. They're not our partner. They're never going to be our partner under these existing leadership teams," he said.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio is pushing a cold war against China in the financial sector, asking for delisting Chinese companies from US stock exchanges. US financial insiders are worried that if the US begins to restrict global capital flows, other countries will follow suit. Once the trade war escalates into a financial war, the global financial system will be severely jeopardized, which will deal a body blow to the global market.

US lawmakers have continuously taken steps to deal with the perceived "China threats." As US China policy adjustments have been intertwined with the country's domestic political fights, "being tough on China" has become Washington's new political correctness. This is definitely not good to the formulation of US policy on China and the effective management of relations between Beijing and Washington.

Zhao Minghao is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: US   foreign policy   RDCY   Zhao Minghao  

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