As we noted a few days ago, Scott Walker's been having a hard time doing this whole "running for president" thing, and people are starting to notice and wonder. What's a Wisconsin governor to do to "turn the page" and "change the conversation"? How about making an empty gesture of some sort?
Ehh, that'll do nicely, I guess! Monday afternoon, Walker decided to call for President Barack Obama to cancel a state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the grounds that the stock market had a bad day today, or something. As the Wisconsin governor said in a statement:
Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today's markets driven in part by China's slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy. Rather than honoring Chinese President Xi Jinping with an official state visit next month, President Obama should focus on holding China accountable over its increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests. Given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit. There's serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.-China relations.
Yes, there's serious work to be done, so let's do it some other time, after you've had time to sit and think about what you've done, China. You can just see how all of the problems Walker enumerates are going to get solved by snubbing China's leadership.
Is this, perhaps, the "Trump effect" (or as the Germans call it, "der Trumpeffekt") messing with Walker's message? Maybe so. After all, it was just two years ago that Walker was making his own flamboyant journey to China, to break bread with that nation's business leaders on a trade mission he gladly self-promoted. Walker palled around with Chinese fans of Milwaukee's own Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and waxed enthusiastically about the fundamentals of the Chinese economy. Per Forbes' Russell Flannery:
China’s slowing economic growth weighed down stock markets in Asia last week but one influential first-time visitor to the country views it as still holding plenty of business promise.
“In a lot of states in America, we’d like to have that kind of slow growth they are projecting” even in some of China’s slower-expanding regions, said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in an interview in Shanghai last week. “We’re still very big on doing business in Shanghai in particular, but throughout the country, “ said Walker, expressing confidence that commerce between China and his state would increase quickly in the future. “I just see it taking off,” he said.
Such backbone! Well, a lot has changed since then. For instance, Walker has fallen into the third tier of polling for the 2016 Republican primary! Also, he's said to be "struggling" in Iowa, a state whose governor, Terry Branstad, has worked hard to establish a good relationship with -- umm...China.
So perhaps this is about keeping up with the Trumpses, and using the reality-teevee mogul's trademarked anti-China rhetoric to do so. Or maybe this is just garden-variety desperation mixed with inexperience. Either way, it boils down to Walker demanding a president he's not running against do something that Walker himself wouldn't dare do if he became president himself -- a prospect that's lately dimming.
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