Hillary Clinton has met a formidable opponent in the presidential race. In the New Hampshire primary, on Feb. 9, Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders achieved a huge win over Clinton, with 60 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 38 percent. Sanders is a silver-haired, unconventional senator, and he receives the welcome support of ordinary voters because of his "grassroots" position. So, regarding the issue of U.S.-Sino relations, is his approach better than Clinton’s?
An article in Japan's Diplomat magazine on Feb. 13 stated that during her time as secretary of state, Clinton made it difficult for the U.S. to trade goods that were made in China, and that Beijing would gladly see her defeated in the electoral campaign. In November 2011, Hillary published the article "America's Pacific Century" in Foreign Policy magazine, in which she loudly proclaimed the return of the U.S. to the Asia-Pacific region. The outside world sees this return as a strategic move to contain China, and it has given Beijing reason to loathe Clinton.
Many Chinese netizens hold a favorable opinion of Sanders because, first, compared to other candidates, Sanders discusses China relatively seldom. Second, many of his viewpoints are socialist in nature.
However, the expectations held by these netizens may be dashed. Not playing “the China card” is really just an election tactic. As a former secretary of state, Clinton obviously has more diplomatic experience, whereas Sanders' strengths only lie in U.S. domestic issues. On the other hand, his Democratic Socialism is closer to the ideology of Northern Europe, and not at all close to China's system of values. Looking at his career as senator, Sanders is even more dangerous than Clinton. He has not only voted against China-U.S. trade agreements, but he has also criticized the Chinese government over Tibet. Sanders also feels there should be an extra tariff added to goods made in China, and that free trade with China only leads to increased wealth for Wall Street tycoons, while leading to mass unemployment among ordinary working Americans. He even believes the U.S. should establish a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet. The potentially destructive power of these ideas toward U.S.-Sino relations is self-evident.
This kind of naïve and irresponsible idealism is likewise reflected in Sanders' interpersonal relationships. During the televised debate on Feb. 1, as Clinton noted Henry Kissinger as a mentor, Sanders publicly attacked Kissinger as "one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country," referring to Kissinger’s share of responsibility for the Vietnam War and Cambodian genocide, in which 3 million Cambodians were massacred. Some analysts believe Sanders' loathing of Kissinger's diplomatic ideology is actually a reflection of his opposition toward classified, political diplomacy.
However, the concern on both sides for decreasing friction within U.S.-Sino and U.S.-Russian relations is completely valid and necessary. In July 1971, Henry Kissinger secretly visited China, opening a door for the establishment of U.S.-Sino diplomatic relations. Not long ago, the now 93-year-old Kissinger traveled to Russia in an attempt to mediate U.S.-Russian relations, again initiating cooperation in order to resolve the crisis in Syria. Sanders, however, is seemingly unlikely to pay attention to these proposals, and this indicates that, if Sanders were to take the presidency, he may take an even tougher and more extreme viewpoint than Clinton.