The Trump–Biden Debate: Why Weren’t They Asked About China?

Commentary The first presidential debate of 2024 between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump was an exciting affair. It grabbed not only America’s attention but the world’s. Presidential debates bring us together as a democracy because they clarify differences and help us make choices.This debate, like all real debates, was messy. Despite the fact that Americans see communist China, more than any other country, as our top threat, not a single question was asked about the country. The hosts asked about Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and Hamas, but they didn’t ask about China.The Chinese regime is America’s biggest national security threat because it is the world’s most powerful and underhanded dictatorship. The International Monetary Fund expects China’s gross domestic product (GDP) to reach $18.53 trillion in 2024, making it the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. This could understate China’s economic strength, considering that the dollar stretches further in China than in the United States.Beijing is not using all that money for good, unfortunately. Rather than focus on improving the lives of its consumers, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) diverts as much of that GDP as possible for its immediate military goal of invading Taiwan. It also seeks to undermine countries around the world—including the United States, Israel, Japan, and the European Union—through underhanded support of countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea that attack us. China’s military budget is officially 7.2 percent of its GDP, which is about double the rate of the United States. Even this, though, understates the threat. U.S. intelligence agencies and analysts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) estimate that the CCP’s real military budget is more than $700 billion, or three times what it admits.As noted by one of the AEI authors, China “now boasts the largest navy in the world, alongside the biggest coast guard and maritime militia. It has the globe’s biggest army and sub-strategic missile force to boot. It continues to make peer-level leaps in advanced military fields of hypersonic missiles and quantum computing technologies.”The Chinese regime is simultaneously trying to beat us and our allies without firing a shot. Its strategy of “elite capture” was actually referenced by one of the candidates in the debate. It is not the purpose here to name names or take sides—only to warn that the regime in Beijing is, in fact, attempting to buy politicians at all levels as well as America’s other elites, such as corporate CEOs. The CCP can do this through many means, from campaign donations to blackmail, based on making the wrong choices. The CCP attempts to convert people to its communist ideology and buys or influences U.S. media outlets without readers even realizing what happened.Related StoriesThere was some good news about China from the debate. President Biden correctly noted that the United States now has the lowest trade deficit with China than at any time since 2010.Former President Trump raised the topic of China frequently. In his response to a question about his proposed 10 percent general tariffs, which would apply to all countries, the former president said the tariffs would not raise prices but rather “cause countries that have been ripping us off for years, like China and many others ... to pay us a lot of money, reduce our deficit tremendously, and give us a lot of power for other things.”According to Goldman Sachs and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, former President Trump’s 2018 tariffs on China only increased inflation by about a quarter of 1 percent, or 25 cents on a $100 purchase.Now, former President Trump wants to raise general tariffs on China to 60 percent. President Biden has raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles to 102.5 percent. Both candidates are going in the right direction.Sometimes, the conversation in a debate brings out all the issues and can unite America if we focus on the key themes rather than the most heated parts of the rhetoric. President Biden brought up that “the only existential threat to humanity is climate change,” for example, while former President Trump pointed out that we need to be smart about it, saying that the Paris accord “was going to cost us a trillion dollars, and China nothing, and Russia nothing, and India nothing. It was a ripoff of the United States.” This is exactly the kind of conversation that we as a nation must have and that, over time, should bring us closer together.In the debate over illegal fentanyl, which caused more than 70,000 U.S. deaths in 2023 alone, the central role of China as a supplier of precursors was not raised. However, both candidates have in the past raised the need for improved border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs. Former President Trump focused on trafficking at the border during the debate, including of humans, and President Biden called for more border agents and lar

The Trump–Biden Debate: Why Weren’t They Asked About China?
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Commentary The first presidential debate of 2024 between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump was an exciting affair. It grabbed not only America’s attention but the world’s. Presidential debates bring us together as a democracy because they clarify differences and help us make choices.

This debate, like all real debates, was messy. Despite the fact that Americans see communist China, more than any other country, as our top threat, not a single question was asked about the country. The hosts asked about Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and Hamas, but they didn’t ask about China.

The Chinese regime is America’s biggest national security threat because it is the world’s most powerful and underhanded dictatorship. The International Monetary Fund expects China’s gross domestic product (GDP) to reach $18.53 trillion in 2024, making it the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. This could understate China’s economic strength, considering that the dollar stretches further in China than in the United States.
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Beijing is not using all that money for good, unfortunately. Rather than focus on improving the lives of its consumers, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) diverts as much of that GDP as possible for its immediate military goal of invading Taiwan. It also seeks to undermine countries around the world—including the United States, Israel, Japan, and the European Union—through underhanded support of countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea that attack us. China’s military budget is officially 7.2 percent of its GDP, which is about double the rate of the United States. Even this, though, understates the threat. U.S. intelligence agencies and analysts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) estimate that the CCP’s real military budget is more than $700 billion, or three times what it admits.
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As noted by one of the AEI authors, China “now boasts the largest navy in the world, alongside the biggest coast guard and maritime militia. It has the globe’s biggest army and sub-strategic missile force to boot. It continues to make peer-level leaps in advanced military fields of hypersonic missiles and quantum computing technologies.”

The Chinese regime is simultaneously trying to beat us and our allies without firing a shot. Its strategy of “elite capture” was actually referenced by one of the candidates in the debate. It is not the purpose here to name names or take sides—only to warn that the regime in Beijing is, in fact, attempting to buy politicians at all levels as well as America’s other elites, such as corporate CEOs. The CCP can do this through many means, from campaign donations to blackmail, based on making the wrong choices. The CCP attempts to convert people to its communist ideology and buys or influences U.S. media outlets without readers even realizing what happened.

There was some good news about China from the debate. President Biden correctly noted that the United States now has the lowest trade deficit with China than at any time since 2010.

Former President Trump raised the topic of China frequently. In his response to a question about his proposed 10 percent general tariffs, which would apply to all countries, the former president said the tariffs would not raise prices but rather “cause countries that have been ripping us off for years, like China and many others ... to pay us a lot of money, reduce our deficit tremendously, and give us a lot of power for other things.”

According to Goldman Sachs and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, former President Trump’s 2018 tariffs on China only increased inflation by about a quarter of 1 percent, or 25 cents on a $100 purchase.

Now, former President Trump wants to raise general tariffs on China to 60 percent. President Biden has raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles to 102.5 percent. Both candidates are going in the right direction.

Sometimes, the conversation in a debate brings out all the issues and can unite America if we focus on the key themes rather than the most heated parts of the rhetoric. President Biden brought up that “the only existential threat to humanity is climate change,” for example, while former President Trump pointed out that we need to be smart about it, saying that the Paris accord “was going to cost us a trillion dollars, and China nothing, and Russia nothing, and India nothing. It was a ripoff of the United States.” This is exactly the kind of conversation that we as a nation must have and that, over time, should bring us closer together.

In the debate over illegal fentanyl, which caused more than 70,000 U.S. deaths in 2023 alone, the central role of China as a supplier of precursors was not raised. However, both candidates have in the past raised the need for improved border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs. Former President Trump focused on trafficking at the border during the debate, including of humans, and President Biden called for more border agents and large scanning machines for everything that comes across.
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An officer from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Trade and Cargo Division finds Oxycodone pills in a parcel at John F. Kennedy Airport's U.S. Postal Service facility in New York on June 24, 2019. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)
An officer from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Trade and Cargo Division finds Oxycodone pills in a parcel at John F. Kennedy Airport's U.S. Postal Service facility in New York on June 24, 2019. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

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Both candidates expressed concern about the possibility of World War III on the issue of China and its axis of evil countries—Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Taking some of the points from both candidates, avoiding World War III requires showing strength so that the axis countries respect the United States. We must set limits as to what these countries can do and show commitment to our allies.

At the same time, the United States must demand that our allies pay their fair share of defense costs. Many NATO countries—including Canada, Italy, Germany, and France—do not spend the agreed minimum 2 percent of GDP on defense. The United States spends much more—approximately 3.5 percent, much of which goes to defending allies. Even this amount is arguably not enough, given China’s rate of 7.2 percent and Russia’s similarly high spending of 6 percent of GDP on defense.

There are many threats arrayed against us, including too much political polarization in our own country. Our unity is our strength. Conversely, authoritarian leaders in places such as China and Russia only maintain a superficial unity through force—that is their weakness.

In the United States, we maintain some unity through debate. Sometimes, it gets more heated than it should. But democracy is messy. It is through that messy debate that we reveal the hard truths we need to know to make the right choices and move forward as a nation.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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