At Thursday night’s internationally televised Democratic President debate, held on the gorgeous and sprawling west side Los Angeles campus of Loyola Marymount University, the largest historically Catholic university on America’s West Coast, the crucial topic of U.S. relations with China surfaced mid-debate.

Two of the more interesting comments from the podium of seven lively candidates took strikingly different perspectives. As recorded by a pair of very alert NBC running blogs in real time last night (Dec. 18):

  1. “The candidates are talking tough on China, but it’s Steyer who offers the most memorable answer. After Buttigieg’s response, Steyer pushes against the idea of isolation of China and ties his answer to the need to work together on climate change. We have to work with them as a frenemy, people who disturb us, who we disagree with, but who in effect we are linked with in a world that is ever getting closer,” Steyer says.

    2. Buttigieg said he would leave open the option of boycotting Olympics in China as a sanction, but that wasn’t his biggest threat. He said that if the Chinese were to repeat the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Hong Kong, “they will be isolated from the free world and we will lead that isolation economically and diplomatically.”

One astute NBC blogger had to add his own comment – and we don’t blame him at all: “China’s hardly the kind of country that can be isolated easily — it’s no North Korea or Libya. It’s not even Iran. China has the second-largest economy in the world. It has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and it has a lot of nuclear weapons. That is, China’s got a lot of economic and diplomatic leverage.”

As is almost always the case, the most important and fraught international relationship gets pathetically short shrift in U.S. presidential discourse. But at least Tom Steyer’s comment wasn’t remotely absurd. It was at least pragmatic, thoughtful and informed – in what, on the whole, was by far the best in this series of ‘debates’ to date.  It made us happy to have seen it held at rising LMU.




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