Presidential debate exposes decaying US democracy

By Zhao Minghao Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/28 21:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The first televised US presidential debate on Monday night left people with a clear impression that the US has become a drifting superpower. Be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, both failed to come up with solutions to internal and external challenges the US is grappling with. Trump in particular has exposed his faulty world views and the fact that he is far from being sophisticated in policymaking.

Under the US electoral system, presidential candidates depend more on their characteristics rather than policy to win support in the primaries. But after that, voters would expect the contenders to treat policymaking more seriously instead of touting irresponsible remarks.

Trump said in the debate that China is using the US as a "piggy bank to rebuild" itself, so Americans are losing their jobs. His ignorance on global trade is astonishing.

According to the US-China Business Council, total US exports to China have increased by 468 percent from 2000 to 2010, while the country's exports to the rest of the world grew only by 55 percent in the same period. Besides, some 4 million to 8 million jobs created in the US are directly related to China-US trade.

Trump previously has proposed a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports once he is elected. As a matter of fact, "made in China" products over the past years have brought enormous benefits to the US public. Considering inflation, the income of Americans has been stagnant in the past 15 years. If there were no cheap imports from China, the standard of living of ordinary Americans would have suffered even more. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has shown that of every one dollar spent by Americans on Chinese products, about 55 cents get into the hands of Americans involved in the shipping and sales of the products.

In the presidential debate, responding to Clinton's accusations that "Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC," Trump groundlessly accused China of launching the hack. He bluntly slandered China without any solid proof in front of hundreds of millions of Americans. Edward Snowden should be invited into the debate so that he could tell Trump how the US National Security Agency carried out widespread surveillance of citizens across the globe including Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

With a total of 670 million net users and over 4.13 million websites, the Internet has permeated every aspect of societal and economic development in China. It has made increasing contributions to Chinese economic development, and e-commerce accounted for 7 percent of the country's GDP in 2014. Therefore, Chinese have reason to be more worried about hacks than their US counterparts. In 2015, the US and Chinese governments decided to put forward law-enforcement cooperation in dealing with cybercrime.

Trump's stance over climate change is also ironic. In response to Clinton's questions, Trump said in the debate that he didn't say climate change is a hoax created by China. But he is obviously dishonest. On November 7, 2012, Trump tweeted, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive."

China and the US have made breakthroughs in climate change cooperation over the past few years. The Paris Agreement, jointly promoted by the two countries, defines a clear roadmap on global climate change governance after 2020. In addition, both countries are making reforms on energy and developing a green economy. If Washington moves backward on the climate change issue, it will be catastrophic.

Niall Ferguson, a Harvard University professor, depicts institutional challenges facing Western countries including democracy's decay as "the Great Degeneration." Democracy could enable a country to elect a well-informed and competent leader in a merit-based way. But now the relative decline of the US is embodied in the low quality of presidential candidates.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lambasted Trump as a "phony" and "fraud." Strategist Robert Kagan believes Trump is the GOP's "Frankenstein's monster." In March, in an open letter about Donald Trump from GOP's national security leaders, Trump was called a "racketeer." But what perplexes people is that why candidates like Trump could get on the ticket to election and where the US democratic system has gone wrong. It seems that now more people are hoping Clinton's health condition gets better.

The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute in Beijing and an adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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