It’s What Didn’t Come Up During the First Presidential Debate That Caught Our Ear

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Sep 29 2020 |
Via @thehill on Twitter

China wasn’t discussed all that much on Tuesday. But China’s government was paying attention.

President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden went head-to-head in their first debate on Tuesday night, and… it wasn’t the most civilized discussion our nation has witnessed.

Seasons 3-9 of The Simpsons are the best. This isn’t up for debate.

The debate wasn’t great, we aren’t going to lie. Trump went Full Trump, and moderator Chris Wallace didn’t have any control. As CNN’s Jake Tapper said just after the debate ended, “the American people lost tonight.”

He tells it like it is, folks.

But hey, some manufacturing issues came up! Biden brought up his Buy America plans! Then the former vice president said manufacturing “went in the hole” before the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump said he “brought manufacturing back.”

We tweeted about that!

But honestly, it was something that happened on the trash fire that is Twitter dot com that really caught our eye more than anything Biden or Trump said during the actual debate. Here’s a tweet from Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin (host of our May webinar, natch):

China barely came up on Tuesday.

America’s relationship with China was briefly discussed during a discussion of COVID-19, when Biden accused Trump of not sending experts to Wuhan at the start of the pandemic and instead saying that the U.S. owes China’s leader Xi Jinping “a debt of gratitude.” Otherwise, the two candidates argued about other issues.

But as China’s state-sponsored tweets show, it is paying attention to what is happening in the United States, and let’s be frank: An economically weak America is good for China.

Trade remains a big political issue, of course. Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we’ve been highly critical of the offshoring of manufacturing and jobs to China, and we’ve been sounding the alarm for years regarding the participation and growth of China’s state-owned enterprises and aggressively unfair Chinese trade practices, which pose an economic and national security risk to the United States.

But China is also really ambitious on the global stage, and its authoritarian government would like nothing else than to overtake the United States as the world’s superpower. And, quite frankly, it’s also counting on the United States to stay distracted with our own issues so it can continue its genocide of the Uyghur people. We’ve blogged about efforts in Congress to bar goods manufactured or produced in Xinjiang from entering the United States.

Whether it’s Trump or Biden who wins in November, China will remain Washington’s No. 1 foreign policy issue. So we hope that the candidates will actually explain their thoughts on how they will respond to China’s oppressive regime in the two remaining debates.