Donald Trump loves to talk about China. He loves to talk about China to the point that one can cobble together a compilation of the times he said "China" -- and let it run for three minutes.
China China China. China China China China China? China. China China.
Trump talks about China for two reasons. First, because it allows him to argue, as he did during his campaign announcement, that China constantly beats the United States in trade deals. And, second, that he'd beat China -- and everyone else -- given the opportunity. The largest bank in the world has offices in Trump Tower, he exclaims, repeatedly! He's China's landlord!
As is so often the case with Trump's campaign rhetoric, there's an important and mostly untapped thread running underneath his bravado.
Pew Research unveiled data on Wednesday demonstrating the extent to which Americans are nervous about the strength of China as a political and economic power. We see China generally negatively, with just more than half of our country viewing it negatively and only 38 percent viewing it positively. That's been the case since 2012, when attitudes toward China were evenly split, 40/40.
The China-related issue of most concern to Americans, according to Pew? The amount of American debt it holds. Two-thirds of Americans say that's a very serious problem, and another 22 percent say it's somewhat serious. (Earlier this year, Japan passed China as the top holder of U.S. debt.) Also on the list of concerns: loss of jobs to China, cyberattacks, China's human rights record and our trade deficit.
Not included on the list is the issue that might make Hillary Rodham Clinton and her party most nervous. On Tuesday, Citigroup warned that it saw a global recession within the next few years as more likely than not -- a recession spurred by decreased demand from emerging countries including China. China's booming economy has recently shown public signs of struggling -- prompting, among other things, a precipitous two-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If Chinese trade slows or the country starts getting rid of American debt, Citigroup said, there could be large effects on international markets.
Why might this make Democrats nervous? Because there's a strong link between how the economy does and the fate of the incumbent party in presidential elections. If the economy slows significantly, Americans will be more likely to vote for a Republican in 2016.
That said, Democrats view China more favorably than do Republicans. Half of Democrats view the country unfavorably, compared to 63 percent of the GOP. The GOP is also more likely to be worried about nearly all of the issues Pew asked about -- they're more worried about the debt, about cyberattacks and about the trade deficit.
Meaning that, once again, Trump's rhetoric is reinforced by after-the-fact polling. What's more, 59 percent of Republicans think that the trade deficit is a serious problem, compared to 46 percent of Democrats. That's 59 percent of Republicans who probably think we're getting beaten by China all the time.
No wonder Trump talks about China so much.