Why won’t American politicians talk about Chinese authoritarianism?

Rhetorically, President Trump has been far harsher on Canada and Mexico than he has been on China. He refused to offer even pro forma support for the protesters in Hong Kong beyond saying the protests were having a “big impact.”

One needn’t be blindly moralistic about all of this. China is big, powerful, and dangerous. But so was the Soviet Union, and we still managed to tell the truth about it. China is also more integrated into the global economy than the USSR ever was, and that brings important considerations as well.

The ongoing confrontation with China highlights the moral blind spot of economic nationalism — on the right and the left. The new fad of nationalism on the right has brought many conservatives into agreement with the left on non-interventionism and realism. The Trump administration as well as Democratic supporters of a tough trade policy with China (such as Senator Chuck Schumer) have made it clear that all we expect of Beijing is more cooperation on trade, intellectual-property, and currency policies. Fix that stuff, our messaging signals, and everything you do to your own people is your business.