Bernie Sanders on China

China is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. As such, America’s foreign policy towards China is immensely important. One of Bernie’s key goals is to end our disastrous trade policies with China which force American workers to compete against low-wage labor, which serves largely to benefit already wealthy corporations. Because Bernie respects national sovereignty and believes strongly in the universality of human rights, he has a strong record of supporting Tibet as well as both political and religious freedoms in China. Bernie also strongly supports efforts to prevent foreign sales of weapons to China to prevent them from building up their military.

Trade Policy With China

Bernie firmly believes that current trade relations with China are detrimental to job growth and wealth equality in the United States. Referring specifically to the 2015 Trans-Pacific Partnership, Bernie has decried trade deals with China as being “designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”

A growing trade deficit with China has led to the loss of over 2 million U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2001.

What does Bernie’s track record look like with regard to Chinese trade policy?

Time and time again, Bernie has voted against free trade deals with China. In 1999, Bernie voted in the House against granting China “Most Favored Nation” status. In 2000, Bernie voted against Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China which aimed to create jobs, but instead lead to the loss of more than 3 million jobs for Americans. Bernie has also opposed other trade agreements, such as NAFTA and CAFTA, that he argues may benefit American corporations, but will hurt American people:

“Let’s be clear: one of the major reasons that the middle class in America is disappearing, poverty is increasing and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider is due to our disastrous unfettered free trade policy.”

Most recently, Bernie has been a vocal opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which he argues “have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world.” Bernie outlined ten specific objections leading him to join other progressives such as Elizabeth Warren in voting against the TPP, three of which are listed below:

  • The TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.
  • Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.
  • The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.

Bernie also opposed the secrecy surrounding the TPP:

“If TPP was such a good deal for America, the administration should have the courage to show the American people exactly what is in this deal, instead of keeping the content of the TPP a secret.”

Maybe these trade agreements aren’t all great for Americans, but don’t they provide millions of jobs for Chinese workers?

Bernie firmly rejects the idea that America’s standard of living must drop in order to see a raise in the standard of living in China. When asked about the impact of these trade agreements for Chinese workers in a July 2015 interview, Bernie said:

“I want to see the people in China live in a democratic society with a higher standard of living. I want to see that, but I don’t think that has to take place at the expense of the American worker. I don’t think decent-paying jobs in this country have got to be lost as companies shut down here and move to China. I want to see the Chinese people do as well, but I do not want to see the collapse of the American middle class take place, and I will fight against that as hard as I can.”

So what does Bernie propose we do?

Point number-seven of Bernie’s Presidential agenda is ending such trade policies. Instead of passing such trade deals again and again, Bernie argues we must “develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.”

In addition, Bernie is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and has at times adopted the CPC’s position papers regarding trade deals. The CPC’s principles on trade highlight a commitment to put workers first, stop currency manipulation, and respecting human rights.

Watch Bernie discuss these topics on MSBNC:

Military Build-up

Bernie believes we must deter China’s military build-up.

Even as the mayor of Burlington, Vt., in the early 1980s, Bernie sent letters to China and the Soviet Union urging them to work in conjunction with the United Nations’ international disarmament efforts. In 2005, Bernie voted for a bill that aimed deter foreign arms transfers to China.

What policies does Bernie support around this?

Bernie supports granting the White House the ability to place sanctions on any individual or country that violates an arms embargo with China, including:

  • The denial of participation in cooperative research and development
  • The prohibition of ownership and control of any business registered as a manufacturer or exporter of defense articles or services
  • The removal of all licenses relative to dual-use goods or technology
  • The prohibition of participation of any foreign military sales

Human Rights

All countries must respect fundamental human rights, including China.

As a senator, Bernie’s co-sponsored legislation condemning the violence by Chinese government in Tibet. Bernie has also co-sponsored a congressional resolution condemning China for its poor human rights record, and is a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

Which policy proposals does Bernie support in this regard?

Bernie has pushed for China to:

  • Stop the persecution of all religious practitioners and safeguard fundamental human rights.
  • Release from detention all religious practitioners, Falun Gong members, and prisoners of conscience and end torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
  • Allow the Chinese people to pursue their personal beliefs.
  • Adhere to the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
  • Respect the right of the people of Tibet to speak of the Dalai Lama and possess his photograph.
  • Allow international journalists free access to China.
  • Provide a full accounting of the March 2008 protests in Tibet.

Bernie also supports a dialogue between the government of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama on religious and cultural autonomy for Tibet within China and believes any agreement permitting the People’s Republic of China to open further diplomatic missions in the United States should be contingent upon establishment of a U.S. government office in Lhasa, Tibet.