Zakaria argues instead that while China’s internal behavior is bad and getting worse—horrifying attacks on religious minorities; violent repression of Hong Kong protesters—its external behavior remains much more responsible than Trump, Pence, and others acknowledge.
Nor are China’s trade practices anywhere near as bad as Trump, Pence, and Rubio allege them to be. “In a recent survey of such companies conducted by the U.S.-China Business Council,” Zakaria reports, “intellectual property protection ranked sixth on a list of pressing concerns, down from number two in 2014.” The improvements date to the creation by China of new judicial proceedings to protect intellectual property. Foreign companies have filed 68 complaints in the new courts and, Zakaria says, won all 68.
Zakaria contends that China is inward-looking, concerned above all with protecting its wobbly regime against dissent. As the world’s second strongest economic power, China’s weight will inevitably be felt beyond its borders, as America’s is. Yet China’s power is most often exercised in ways that are defensive and reactive, not offensive and aggressive.