President Obama's ambassador to China and former Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said President Trump's rhetoric is so "over the top" against China. In an interview with CNN, Baucus accused the president of "red-baiting" like Joe McCarthy and lamented that if anyone says "anything reasonable about China" they feel that their head is going to be chopped off. The former ambassador went on to liken Trump's anti-China rhetoric to Hitler in the 1930s.
"The administration's rhetoric is so strong against China," Baucus said. "It's over the top. We're entering a kind of an era which is similar to Joe McCarthy back when he was red-baiting the State Department, attacking communists."
"A little bit like Hitler in the '30s. A lot of people knew what was going on was wrong. They knew it was wrong, but they didn't stand up and say anything about it. They felt intimidated. Now in the United States, if anyone says anything reasonable about China, he or she feels intimidated, afraid his head is going to be chopped off," Baucus stated.
Baucus called "China bashing" irresponsible and if it continues "we're going to pay a price."
"There are a lot of very responsible people in America who know that this China bashing is irresponsible, and we're going to pay a price, the more it continues," he warned. "That's what I'm saying. But they're afraid to speak up."
"I worry that some of that's happening now, and it's very dangerous," Baucus said. "And I think it's in part because the Republican administration, Donald Trump, realizes that the economy is not doing well, probably because of the coronavirus and therefore they have to pivot, they have to blame somebody and they're blaming China. And it is very difficult to get back on track after the election, whoever's elected."
FMR. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA, FMR. SENATOR MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): The United States has been ad hoc reactive in its relations with China. China does something we react. We have to be very strategic, they think long term, we have to be strategic and think long term.
So, we put a plan together and privately say, okay, China, you could do this, but you can't do that. If you do that, there will be repercussions, and they have to know that we mean it when we say there will be repercussions.
It's basically -- it's dealing with a kind of a bully mentality. China will just keep moving forward, forward, forward, forward until they're checked, and we have to check them working together with allies, get on a strategic plan, one that is solid, not one that in turn, tries to bully them.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Do you think this is the Trump administration's mistake alone? Or does this predate the Trump administration -- this sort of approach to China in your opinion?
BAUCUS: Well, I think previous administrations has been a little bit asleep at the switch, both Republican and Democrat. We really have focused on developing a strategic plan toward China during the time that China has grown so much.
And we just -- right now, we're caught a bit flatfooted. Donald Trump has been trying to be tough with China, but he's been tough with China in my judgment, the wrong way.
We slapped those tariffs on, frankly, that hurt Americans more than it hurt the Chinese, because that's essentially a tax on products that Americans buy and the Chinese, they did react to buy more American products and they said they would deal with intellectual property and transfer of technology and so forth.
They hadn't really done very much there. But if we keep pushing in a way that's solid, we're going to make progress. You know, this is not rocket science. Here is what really concerns me. The administration -- the rhetoric is so strong against China. It's over the top. We're entering a kind of an era, which is similar to Joe McCarthy back when he was red baiting in the State Department, attacking communism.
A little bit like Hitler in the 30s that a lot of people knew what was going on was wrong. They knew it was wrong, but they didn't stand up and say anything about it. They felt intimidated.
And now, in the United States, if anybody says anything reasonable about China, he or she feels intimidated. Right? His head is going to be chopped off and back in the 30s in Germany, it is very similar. People who were responsible in the U.S. and especially responsible in Germany couldn't speak up.
And I worry that some of that is happening now and it was very dangerous. And I think I am happy in part because the Republican administration and Donald Trump realizes that the economy is not doing well, partly because of the corona virus, and they therefore have to pivot. They have to blame somebody, and they're blaming China, and it's going to be very difficult to get back on track after the election, whoever is elected.
GORANI: Okay, before I go, I mean, the comparison you're making here between the current U.S. atmosphere in Washington and Germany in the 30s. I mean, that that's a very -- that's a very, you know, kind of, is it -- are you being provocative or do you really believe that there are parallels?
BAUCUS: I think we're moving in that direction. And I am not saying we are there yet, but there are a lot of very responsible people in America who know that this China bashing is irresponsible, and we're going to pay a price, the more it continues. That's what I'm saying. But they're afraid to speak up.