China’s actions present several potential debate questions

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In their debate this evening, President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden will be asked about their records of public service, and China is sure to be a major issue of contention. Here are several questions that moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News should consider asking the candidates:

For both

In the first televised presidential debates in 1960, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were asked whether the United States should intervene if Communist China attacked Taiwan’s islands of Quemoy and Matsu.

Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan also was attacked. Nixon said the U.S. should defend all of Taiwan, including its main island and the smaller ones. 

This week, 60 years later, China is again threatening to attack Taiwan, possibly starting with Quemoy and Matsu. What should America’s position be?

For Biden

In 1995, China fired missiles across the Taiwan Strait and asked what the United States would do if it attacked Taiwan. The Clinton administration answered: “We don’t know and you don’t know; it would depend on the circumstances.” That policy of strategic ambiguity has been followed by every subsequent Democratic and Republican administration.  

Should it still be the U.S. approach? Or, since China believes it can successfully pull off a military move against Taiwan, is it time to be clear on U.S. intentions and deter China from the kind of miscalculation that triggered the Korean War?

For Trump 

You told Fox News recently that China knows what the United States will do if it attacks Taiwan, presumably because you or someone in your administration told Chinese officials. But does Taiwan know America’s intentions? Certainly, the American people do not yet know. 

Are you prepared to inform them tonight what U.S. policy is on defending Taiwan? 

For both

A Chinese military official has said that China could teach America a lesson if it helps defend Taiwan by sinking an aircraft carrier or two and killing 5,000 to 10,000 sailors.  

Do you take such a threat seriously — and does it intimidate Washington from helping to defend Taiwan?

For both

In Xinjiang Province, China is committing what international observers describe as genocide against the Muslim Uighur people. Congress passed legislation, which the president signed, to punish Beijing by imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the persecution. 

What more should the United States and the international community do to get China to stop, or to make it pay an unacceptable price? 

For both

In Tibet, China is committing what international experts describe as cultural genocide. Congress passed legislation, which the president signed, to punish Beijing by imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the persecution.  

Is the United States doing all that it can to mobilize the international community against China for its oppression of the Tibetan people and destruction of Tibetan culture?

For both

In Hong Kong, China is unilaterally scrapping the commitment it made to political autonomy for the Hong Kong people under “one country, two systems.” Congress passed legislation, which the president signed, to punish Beijing by cutting off its Hong Kong access to the U.S. and international financial system, but the law has not been fully implemented because some U.S. commercial interests will be damaged.  

Should Washington carry out the full intent of the law and cut Hong Kong off from the international banking system? 

For both

In the South China Sea, Beijing has destroyed environmentally precious coral reefs to build artificial islands, which it then militarized by constructing airfields, missile bases and other combat-ready facilities. It has illegally seized existing natural land features claimed by other countries and emplaced military facilities on them.  

Should the United States organize an international effort to reverse China’s militarization of the South China Sea?

For both

China has protected North Korea from international sanctions for its odious human rights violations, including Soviet-style gulags where millions of North Koreans have been incarcerated and persecuted. China also has supported and enabled North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs while telling the world that it opposes them, and undermined U.S. and international sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime.  

Should the U.S. impose punishing secondary sanctions against China and Chinese officials?

For both

In addition to its oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang and Buddhists in Tibet, China’s communist government is persecuting Christians and other religious and spiritual groups. It has subjected the Falun Gong and political prisoners to murderous atrocities such as the harvesting of human organs for commercial sale.  

Should the United States call upon the United Nations to investigate and publicize China’s human rights violations? 

For Trump 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called upon the international community to help the Chinese people pressure the Chinese Communist Party to change its behavior. That would require an information campaign similar to what was done during the Cold War to get the truth to populations trapped behind the Iron Curtain. But the agencies charged with carrying out that kind of program — Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — recently have been decimated by your new appointee.  

Do you plan to revive and reinvigorate those information programs to encourage peaceful reform in China?

For Biden

Do you support a Cold War approach to peaceful regime change in China?

For both

How should China be punished for its deception that enabled the coronavirus to spread worldwide into a pandemic?

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute.

Tags Chinese sanctions Chris Wallace Donald Trump Hong Kong Joe Biden John Kennedy Kim Jong Un Mike Pompeo Politics of China Taiwan Tibet US-China relations

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