A vote for Trump is a vote for China

Removing some or all U.S. troops from Japan and South Korea and weakening the security alliance would reduce the stature of the United States in the region and “satisfy Chinese aims,” said Ryo Sahashi, an associate professor of international relations at Kanagawa University in Yokohama, Japan. Among the many consequences, it would strongly reduce Washington’s ability to talk Beijing down from its aggressive island-building in contested regions of the nearby South China Sea. “China would be laughing loudly” if Trump downgraded the alliance, said a Japanese diplomat, who asked to speak anonymously. And a Trump victory would mean that “China would do whatever it wants” in the region, Tsuneo Watanabe, the policy research director at the Tokyo Foundation, told the Japan Times.

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Trump also seems unwilling to push Beijing on its human rights violations. He is probably the only U.S. presidential candidate in history to have publicly applauded Beijing’s massacre of protestors in June 1989 following pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” he said, in a 1990 interview with Playboy. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.” Pressed to explain during the March 10 Republican presidential debate, Trump said he wasn’t “endorsing” Beijing’s behavior but called the demonstrations a “riot” — mirroring the language that the Communist Party used to tar the peaceful Tiananmen protests. After the debate, Wang Dan, a student leader during the 1989 protests, wrote that Trump “is already qualified to become a member” of the Communist Party. Some human rights advocates believe that Trump would be an easy target for Chinese critics. “An ignorant and intolerant leader like Trump, who appeals to violence and racism, would benefit the Chinese leaders by providing political fodder for their accusations that the U.S. is hypocritical and racist and violates human rights,” said Sharon Hom, the executive director of Human Rights in China.

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While Trump’s unwillingness to criticize Beijing’s human rights abuses could burnish the party’s reputation domestically, some worry his desire to untangle the United States from some prominent international organizations could create a power vacuum that China may decide to fill.

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