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The Sun's alternative (not funny) outlook on China relations

After days of basking in the flattery of other world leaders, President Trump dished out some of his own Thursday, bestowing kind words and gestures on an unlikely counterpart, China’s Xi Jinping, a communist leader who just tightened his grip on power in a country Trump accused during the campaign of “raping” U.S. workers.

I hereby propose a small change in the latest installment of your ongoing “Alternative Fact of the Week” editorial series (“Alternative Fact of the Week: That Xi Jinping is a great guy,” Nov. 10). “Alternative Spin of the Week” would have been a far more appropriate title.

Your editors take an indisputable fact — namely, that President Donald J. Trump has by and large eschewed the China-bashing rhetoric of Candidate Trump and is now actively pursuing U.S.-China collaboration on a whole range of fronts — and make that into the subject of (rather juvenile) yuk-yukking and smirking.

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I’m wondering: When former South African President F.W. de Klerk, whose entire political career was based on unwavering support of apartheid, relented and recognized that that evil system was as impractical as it was immoral, did your editors point fingers and call him a flip-flopper? When ex-Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Rabin, once among the hardest of hardliners against the Palestinians, came to the realization that only a negotiated settlement based on economic development for both sides had any chance of ending the impasse, did you mock him and accuse him of waffling? And today, would you really prefer that President Trump continue, in the name of upholding some moldy old geo-political dogma, the Obama administration’s policy of seeking out a war-threatening confrontation with China over some uninhabited islands in the South China Sea? Is this your idea of steadfastness?

In truth, what the examples of Messrs. de Klerk, Rabin and yes, Trump, demonstrate is that the capacity to re-evaluate and change old beliefs in the light of new developments is a genuine marker of political courage, not an abandonment of principles — especially if such “principles” lead to devolution and destruction. And directly contrary to your assertion that the president’s manifest turnabout was not warranted by anything particularly new coming out of his trip to China, here are some tiny tidbits of “alternative facts” for you to ponder.

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In the last three-plus decades, China has lifted an astounding 700 million of its own people out of poverty and into middle-class status. This completely dwarfs any comparable achievement ever recorded in the history of Western Civilization, including such genuine near-miracles as the postwar reconstruction of Europe and Japan. In the process, the Chinese are making a very successful transition from an economy based on low-wage factory labor to one based on the most advanced scientific frontiers — magnetic levitation transport systems, controlled thermonuclear fusion research, space exploration and others — leaping ahead of their Western counterparts in many such areas.

But for those unfortunates to whom these very healthy changes conjure up the specter of some “Yellow Peril,” relax. The Chinese are more than willing to share with each and all their good fortune — and by fortune is meant not money, but the scientifically-generated power to uplift humankind. Their Belt and Road Initiative is the largest construction project in the history of our species, some 20 times the size of the Marshall Plan and growing. A small snapshot: the Chinese have mapped out plans to build some 80,000 kilometers of conventional and high-speed rail throughout Asia and Africa — literally twice the circumference of the planet Earth! And while they certainly seek to profit from these endeavors, they’ve taken great pains not to emulate the ugly example of the International Monetary Fund and similar agencies whose conditions have time and again left poor nations with very little development, but huge piles of debt, as a result of their so-called assistance. The contrast between China’s gesture last year to voluntarily write off $60 billion owed to it by various African governments and the truly demented insistence by Puerto Rico’s Western creditors (vulture funds and others) that the beleaguered island pay every cent of its debt despite the devastation of Hurricane Maria could not be more clear.

Not even the faintest hint of these earth-shattering developments makes it anywhere near your editorial. No reader of your newspaper could have possibly gleaned that China has offered to the United States as well the prospect of co-participation in the most exciting and hopeful process of human self-improvement since the (re) discovery and settlement of the New World, based on the Chinese notion of win-win. So if President Trump is quite rightly attracted to this possibility, the only explanation you deign to give is that those wily Chinese are oh-so-clever at stroking, manipulating and flattering his oversized ego, as though nothing else were on the table!

But I have to concede this much: after several of your attempts at Trump-bashing humor fell flat, that last apparently serious assertion of your editorial — that Mr. Trump comes off as “a paper tiger, roaring for the audience back home but quiet and docile when confronted abroad by a canny leader who actually knows what he’s doing” — is the one truly funny thing you wrote.

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Doug Mallouk, Baltimore

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