Jim Webb wanted to talk China.
The rest of the candidates? Not so much.
In a Democratic presidential debate that focused primarily on domestic issues, China warranted just a handful of mentions — mostly from Webb, a former Virginia senator.
Webb mentioned the “pivot to Asia” in his opener and (twice!) called China America’s greatest “strategic threat.” He also blasted Beijing over the South China Sea and called out China’s record on pollution, casting doubt on the efficacy of U.S.-China climate deals.
His initial comments came in response to a question about Libya — which he answered by mentioning Syria and then this:
WEBB: But if you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, a focus, the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China. And we need to do this because of their aggression in the region. We need to do it because of the way they treat their own people.
WEBB: … to the unelected, authoritarian government of China: You do not own the South China Sea. You do not have the right to conduct cyber warfare against tens of millions of American citizens. And in a Webb administration, we will do something about that.
And later, responding to a question about climate change:
WEBB: We’ve done a good job in this country since 1970. If you look at China and India, they’re the greatest polluters in the world. Fifteen out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in one of those two countries. We need to solve this in a global way. It’s a global problem and I have been very strong on — on doing that. The — the agreements — the so-called agreements that we have had with China are illusory in terms of the immediate requirements of the — of the Chinese government itself.
The comment was picked up by Bernie Sanders, who said the United States must be “extremely aggressive” working with China, India and Russia — a remark that led Clinton to relate just how aggressive she’d been, saying she and President Obama were “hunting for the Chinese” at the 2009Copenhagen climate conference.
CLINTON: Well, that — that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. When we met in Copenhagen in 2009 and, literally, President Obama and I were hunting for the Chinese, going throughout this huge convention center, because we knew we had to get them to agree to something. Because there will be no effective efforts against climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world.
They told us they’d left for the airport; we found out they were having a secret meeting. We marched up, we broke in, we said, “We’ve been looking all over for you. Let’s sit down and talk about what we need to do.” And we did come up with the first international agreement that China has signed.
“Hunting for the Chinese” was not, perhaps, the best turn of phrase — and it was quickly mocked online. “Literally?” tweeted the Daily Show. TheObserver, a Chinese news Web site, also picked up some of the best “hunting” memes.
The Copenhagen story was, in some ways, vintage Clinton: Unlike many other Democratic and Republic hopefuls, she has a long and complicated historywith China and is known for telling China exactly how she really feels. (Last month, she made headlines by calling President Xi Jinping’s speech at a U.N. conference “shameless.”)
Given that Webb is a relative unknown in China — his remarks were mostly ignored on Chinese social media — it is Clinton’s comments on the climate deal that are most likely to matter to the Chinese. They, after all, would much prefer American peer, to American prey.
By EMILY RAUHALA, October 15, 2015 in the Washington Post