Senior Republican Sen. John McCain compared China’s international behavior to that of a “bully” in a speech he made in Australia last Tuesday. McCain is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He ran for president in 2008 as the Republican candidate against Barack Obama, and lost. As an influential person in America, his vicious words about China are over the line.
McCain’s words reminded one of how viciously some people in America see China. Their hostile view toward China might almost never be changed.
Fortunately, while McCain is a big wig in America, he’s just a hard rock at the bottom of the river of time. It’s doubtful how much he really represents America.
McCain is 81 years old this year. Born into a family of American generals, he was in the Vietnam War and was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years. He became well known in America after his release. In 1982, at the height of the Cold War, McCain became a congressman, and has been a senator since 1986. He is a famous hardliner in the Senate, is strongly anti-Russia, and he believes “Putin is a greater threat than ISIS.” Nor is he known for any kind words about China. He is also a firm supporter of the erroneous Iraq War in 2003; even after the war was criticized in Western public opinion, he refused to change his tune.
McCain has been to Ukraine and Syria, and has fought the pro-Russian administration on the front lines in Washington. One of the antigovernment fighters he was photographed with in Syria was actually shown to eat a human heart in a later video.
McCain is representative of the Cold War mentality in the United States. He sees the world only in the context of the Cold War; he is comfortable with strategies and confrontations, and he is unable to navigate the rich and complex world of today. He only knows how to label things in a simplified way while using his old experiences. It’s how he deals with his changing status as one of the American elite.
McCain and Trump do not see eye to eye on many things, but he does support Trump’s “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” strategy. Trump’s large increase in military spending was very controversial, and McCain’s response was actually that it’s “not enough.” McCain didn’t exert a good influence on George W. Bush back then, partially contributing to the misguided launch of the Iraq War, and now, with a Republican president, McCain represents the forces pulling Trump into the wrong direction.
As a jaded member of American politics, McCain is skilled at using the media to get attention. His sound bites are sharp and filled with strong words, he likes to shock with his quotes, and his slandering of China as a “bully” is an original McCain invention.
It is ridiculous that McCain, who is pro-war and pro-American military might, could describe China as a “bully,” since China has not fought in any war for almost 30 years, The South Sea mentioned in McCain’s speech is peaceful; there is both intention and capability to solve conflicts peacefully for China and other involved countries in the area. McCain also critiqued China threatening neighboring countries via economic measures, yet he’s one of the most enthusiastic promoters of American sanctions of other countries. Just how dare he find fault with China?
The rhythms of the Cold War still reverberate in Washington now and then. McCain is like a lead violinist who plays only one song, or a singer who knows just one aria. The world has changed, his audience is shrinking, and many people are simply placating him. He’s bound to lose his influence with his extreme stance.
McCain is likely to drop some verbal bombs at the upcoming IISS Asia Security Summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore.* With a treasure like him, the dialogue organizers are sure to have a lively time.
*Editor’s note: The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue is an important annual gathering of defense professionals in the Asia-Pacific region launched in 2002. IISS stands for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an organization that focuses on global security, political risk and military conflict.