Charles Lane’s March 1 op-ed, “We got China wrong. Now what?,” assessed the United States’ failed engagement with China. He cited belated admissions from “two self-critical ex-Obama administration Asia hands” that they and their foreign policy colleagues have refused to recognize that China has remained on a dangerous path.
But Mr. Lane reached an astonishing conclusion on what four decades of China threat denial have wrought: “If there had been more such candor earlier, we might not have President Trump.”
The real price of misguided China policy can be found in the words of presidential aspirant Richard Nixon when he foretold his foreign policy: “We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.”
Nixon and seven succeeding administrations lavished aid, trade, investment, civilian and military technology, intellectual property, economic and military advice, and access to international institutions to help China re-create itself. The West would also gain access to the huge Chinese market. But profit and professional glory soon overwhelmed the larger goal.
Mr. Lane berated Mr. Trump’s attempt to “beat China at its own games — raw geopolitics and mercantilist economics” but suggested no policy changes, just the “shoring up” of alliances and domestic institutions. More of the same.
Joseph A. Bosco, Washington
The writer served as China country director in the office of the secretary of defense in 2005 and 2006.