Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Uyghurs

A new book details Trump’s lack of concern for the China threat:

Former President Donald Trump once dismissed the possibility of U.S. intervention in case Beijing invades Taiwan, according to a new book.

“Taiwan is like two feet from China,” Trump was quoted as saying to an unnamed Republican senator in 2019, according to the book by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. “We are eight thousand miles away. If they invade, there isn’t a fucking thing we can do about it.”

Let’s hope Biden is not so spineless.

Yes, Trump’s first official call was from Taiwan, but it was a mistake:

According to the book, Trump took the call from President Tsai without being aware of its significance, and later promised Xi Jinping he would accept no more such phone calls.

For example, Trump got furious after a deputy assistant secretary of state, Alex Wong, visited Taipei and angered Beijing. Trump screamed, “Who the fuck is Alex Wong” and asked to “get him out of there,” according to the book. It also quoted then national security adviser John Bolton as saying in 2019, “Trump once told me, I never want to hear from you about Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the Uyghurs.”

And just as Trump voters in America often wrongly assumed that Trump was “on their side”, the same was true of Trump’s deluded supporters in East Asia:

Taiwan and Hong Kong were the most pro-Trump places in Asia ahead of the 2020 presidential election, according to a YouGov poll. Many people in Taiwan have credited Trump for the stronger U.S.-Taiwan relations. Some democracy activists in Hong Kong also hoped that Trump could advance their cause.


And human rights? Who cares about it?

According to John Bolton’s 2020 memoir, Trump refused to issue a statement on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in 2019, saying “who cares about it?” At a G20 meeting the same year, Trump told Xi he should go ahead with building internment camps in Xinjiang, since Trump thought it was “exactly the right thing to do,” Bolton wrote.

PS. How long will I keep talking about Trump? At least until I stop seeing supposedly respectable reporters saying, “At least he was tough on China.”

PPS. Why don’t I post on something more important? I like Matt Yglesias’s response:

BTW, China’s economic growth since 1980 is the best thing that ever happened to the human race.

There! I talked about something important.



52 Responses to “Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Uyghurs”

  1. Gravatar of Robert Simmons Robert Simmons
    10. March 2021 at 11:45

    Do we trust Bolton? I mean, his track record is terrible, just in different ways than Trump’s

  2. Gravatar of Trent McBride Trent McBride
    10. March 2021 at 11:57

    “We are eight thousand miles away. If they invade, there isn’t a fucking thing we can do about it.”

    Sincere question: is he wrong about this?

  3. Gravatar of Tom Hickey Tom Hickey
    10. March 2021 at 12:10

    While I applaud human rights, national security is trumps. For China, Taiwan, HK, Tibet and Xinjiang are strategically vital. The Chinese will do what it takes, including going to war, to protect what it perceives as vital strategic interests. These are red lines. The US can badger China all it wants on this, to no avail.

    Conversely, it is in the interest of the US to pry these strategic points away from China and one wonders if human rights is a way of veiling the real agenda.

    This has been the basis of liberal internationalism (Wilsonianism) that is the foundation of liberal interventionism and foreign policy idealism (which has become a pillar of neo-imperialism and neocolonialism). Conversely the Jacksonian stance on foreign policy is “America First.” This is the basis of foreign policy realism.

    That is to say, it is complicated. And the history of the region is deeply involved.

    I am an idealist aspirationally and a realist practically. It is never good to conflate wishful thiking with reality. This conflation leads to magical thinking.

  4. Gravatar of Tom Hickey Tom Hickey
    10. March 2021 at 12:19

    @Trent McBride

    It comes down to calculating real costs versus real benefits, in addition to other significant factors such as allies.

    The DOD and intelligence services would inform the political decision makers of their assessment.

    The political authority has to balance this with political costs and benefits. This is where the rubber meets the road.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. March 2021 at 13:12

    Robert, Hmmm, who’s more likely to lie about something like that? Bolton or Trump? Decisions, decisions . . .

    Trent, Yeah, he’s wrong. There are things we could do.

    (Whether we should is another question.)

  6. Gravatar of David S David S
    10. March 2021 at 13:16

    A quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing.

    Or, did we learn that lesson and that’s why we build fantastic weapons like the F-35.

  7. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. March 2021 at 13:16

    If this reporting on perspectives on Trump in Asia is true, it’s tempting to conclude that posturing is very important for politicians, which is something Obama and many Democrats underestimate. Many voters are extraordinarily ignorant and claiming to be tough on China seems to be more important than actual policy.

  8. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    10. March 2021 at 14:17

    @Michael S:

    Agreed, for so much of the electorate, the details are incomprehensible or don’t matter to them. They get an impression of what the candidate/pol is “about” and that’s pretty much as far as it goes. To Trumpies, he was “standing up” to China, and “fighting for” the less educated flyover types who we coastal elites look down on. That’s all that matters to them.

    I was reading in 538 about future Republican presidential candidates and a line struck me, something about how Trumpism as the party seems to be absorbing it isn’t about policies, or even the man himself, but about a “posture” of fighting against Democrats and China and globalization and wokeness. The details are irrelevant, just give that impression and you’ve got the base.

  9. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    10. March 2021 at 14:48

    Isaac Newton was the best thing that ever happened to the human race.

  10. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    10. March 2021 at 21:47

    Scott, Bolton knowingly lied to support the Iraq War and maintained (as far as we know maintains to this day) that it was worth it to ‘get Saddam.’ He’s also a militant hawk on China. Would Bolton use dishonesty further his insane foreign policy goals? Clearly he would, because he has. When a known liar says something about someone, noting that the object of the lie is also a liar doesn’t increase the subject-liar’s credibility. It seems though that your trying to convince us that Trump was actually more dovish on China than many think, so that’s good right?

  11. Gravatar of Mike M. Mike M.
    10. March 2021 at 22:42

    I too suspect Trump wasn’t wrong in saying “if they invade, there’s not much we can do to repel it or reverse it.” A person playing a strategy game would be prepared to launch a surprise invasion of North Korea at the same instant (one country lost for the democratic sphere, one country gained), but life is not a game and South Korea will have its own thoughts. If they decided to invade, there’s not a fucking thing we could do to reverse it, any more than we can compel Russia to cede Crimea back to Ukraine. It’s China’s decision, not ours.

  12. Gravatar of Ankh Ankh
    10. March 2021 at 22:45

    I do know believe Bolton is a reliable source. He’s a war hawk, and earns a living advocating on behalf of special interest groups.

    Trump has also turned down many special interest groups, such as Karl Rove who tried to lobby for a stake in 5G. Trump turned him down because he wasn’t qualified.

    And it is really not a matter of believing Trump or Bolton, it is a matter of believing the administration or Bolton.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a genius. He graduated first in his class at West Point, and he bleeds red white and blue. He loves the United States, and sincerely wants to help the people of the country.

    Wilbur Ross is a very honorable man, and very great businessman. A hero all Americans should aspire to be.

    Their policies were very tough on China, to the extent that China finally revealed itself for what it really is through its wolf warrior response.

    I don’t believe Chinese rise in economic power is a good thing for the world. China has a long history of aggression which is not often told in the US. They are a people that are singularly focused on destroying the Western race, but even more specifically, the philosophy that is rooted in the federalist papers. They believe in totalitarianism and one world govt, and they believe that Chinese are superior to everyone else. They often call foreigners “dogs”. The worst tourists to Thailand are Chinese. They engage in the most crime, and vandalism.

    Historically, the Chinese tried to invade Vietnam and Laos many times, but failed because the mountains were simply too difficult to traverse. They were warring with each other for two thousands years, which also weakened them.

    Now that their society has achieved some coherency, they are once again at the borders. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, PH, India, are all targets. TH, MYN, Cambodia, and VN are all targets too, but via commercial domination.

    They do not dare even think about Mongolia, because that would raise the ire of President Putin, and President Putin is not a man to be trifled with. The Russian people are tough, very educated to the ways of the Chinese, and know the racket and verbal games the Chinese like to play. Putin is too wise to fall for such a trap. It is the Europeans and US who have been convinced of CCP goodness, not RU and TH. The CCP should always be called for what it is. A criminal organization.

  13. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    11. March 2021 at 05:38

    “Let’s hope Biden is not so spineless.”
    “By the time you got to the first Bush administration, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they came out with a national defense policy and strategic policy. What they basically said is that we’re going to have wars against what they called much weaker enemies and these have to be carried out quickly and decisively or else there will be embarrassment—a way of saying that popular reaction is going to set in. And that’s the way it’s been. It’s not pretty, but it’s some kind of constraint.”

  14. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    11. March 2021 at 05:50

    So Trump was honest about how the US will respond to China on Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang? Functionally, the US is going to do nothing, and it doesn’t matter who is President, they would do nothing as well. The US will not fight a war with the PRC if it tries to gain control of the island, though the US will continue its policy of arming Taiwan to the teeth, which probably is enough to the PRC from trying to win control of the island. Probably, but you never know if there are enough (or any) veto points if a leader decides to roll the dice to see what happens.

  15. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    11. March 2021 at 05:54

    We may finally have an effective malaria vaccine! Also, when do solar panels get so cheap that every villager in the world has a few?

  16. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. March 2021 at 06:08

    So,Trump,did not know Xi would dislike him taking a call from Taiwan? Or did not care? Or should have cared? Or all 3? You know even less than I do on this topic. What is your view? We have tried walking a tightrope on this issue forever. Didn’t our UN ambassador meet with Taiwan in NY last summer? Didn’t we troll Taiwanese waters against China’s objections? The Pentagon wanted and still wants to sell more military equipment to Taiwan.

    Are they the next HK? What is your point? Do you think that saying if China really wanted to take over a Taiwan it would not be a “fucking” thing we could do? Except Nukes. It is a game of chess—-but in the end someone has to commit to all out war if it comes down to protecting Taiwan. Are you for that?

    I am for making Xi thinks that could happen. I have no idea what the next President thinks as I have never heard her views. One thing about DEMs, despite their rhetoric, they don’t mind wars.

    But saying Trump was not aware of these issues is idiotic. But, for whatever it is worth—-I would like your views—-not your views on Trumps views. Or even your views on Harris’ views. What should we do?

    My view is we keep our mouth quiet—-but let CCP know, it will be a very costly move—-and never be specific.But if they made a move——full out defend. What is your view?

  17. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. March 2021 at 06:25

    I agree about China’s growth being good—and not just for China. Same with India—-I wish they would up their game—-but better than nothing. And rest of Asia too. All growth is good. Adam Smith implied it and said how to best do it. As it relates to nice straight forward economics, the only ones who seem to be hesitant on this issue generally are the left. They rather tax what Bezos owns, than make sure sure the world can create more Bezos. And I don much like him——but my view does not matter to me—-I.e.on whether I “like him”. I dislike him for other reasons. But I don’t want his wealth taxes. Why? So some guy who “only” makes 200k will feel better.?

  18. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    11. March 2021 at 09:34

    “All growth is good.”
    IF the negative externalities are ignored?

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. March 2021 at 10:08

    Everyone, LOL at all these Trumpistas who used to tell us Trump was tough on China, now telling us he was correct to be weak on China.

    Mark, So are you saying that Trump is more trustworthy than Bolton? Get serious.

    And no, it doesn’t boost Bolton’s foreign policy claims to make up a story that Trump encouraged Xi to use concentration camps, a claim that perfectly fits with everything else we already know about Trump. Trump supports authoritarians all over the world, and hates when people tell him he needs to criticize their human rights violations. He praised the Philippine policy of mass murder of drug users, why would his views on the Uighurs be different?

    Mike. Of course there are things we could do. Whether we should do them is another issue. We put sanctions on Russia after it invaded Crimea. You can debate whether the sanctions were wise or how well they work, but you can’t deny they exist.

    If your claim is that Trump was wise to be weak on China, that’s fine. But my post merely pointed out that Trump was weak, not that we should go to war with China.

    Ankh, You said:

    “China has a long history of aggression which is not often told in the US. They are a people that are singularly focused on destroying the Western race”

    LOL, politics is a helluva drug.

    Michael, You said:

    “So,Trump,did not know Xi would dislike him taking a call from Taiwan?”

    Um, yes.

    You asked:

    “My view is we keep our mouth quiet—-but let CCP know, it will be a very costly move—-and never be specific.But if they made a move——full out defend. What is your view?”

    I have no idea what the optimal policy is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not “doing nothing” regarding Taiwan, which is Trump’s preference. And it’s not encouraging the Chinese to use concentration camps. And it’s not refusing to condemn Chinese human rights violations.

  20. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    11. March 2021 at 10:40


    If Obama had showed more gusto in attacking ISIS, for example, he wouldn’t have taken the hit in the polls he took during that war. I’m referring only to his style, not his substance. The war was prosecuted well.

    Democrats have a huge style problem.

  21. Gravatar of bb bb
    11. March 2021 at 14:32

    I remember my kids asking me what’s the worst thing that could happen after Trump got elected. I said he could accidentally start a war. They asked me how, and I told them he might be stupid enough to break the one china policy without realizing it. It was less than a week later that he took the call from Taiwan. I’ll never understand how we elected someone that stupid.
    “BTW, China’s economic growth since 1980 is the best thing that ever happened to the human race.”
    You are 100% right, and we should never forget this fact. Xi is a monster though.

  22. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    12. March 2021 at 01:06

    ‘Your kids’ ‘dodged the bullet’?

    During the election campaign H.R.C., three times, {stupidly?} threatened to impose a ‘no fly zone’ in Syria – confronting a nuclear armed country.

    ‘”One of many truths lost within this discourse is the reality that the creation of a no-fly zone would, in the words of the most senior general in the US Armed Forces, {probably?} mean the US going to war “against Syria and Russia”. ‘

  23. Gravatar of BC BC
    12. March 2021 at 02:02

    Trump *personally* may not have been pro-Taiwan nor tough on China, but his *administration* was, especially compared to his predecessor. That’s because his foreign policy team was stacked with China hawks, especially at the beginning of his term. Bolton would not have been part of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy team nor will he be part of Biden’s team. Even at the end, a China hawk (Pompeo) was Sec of State.

    Consider judges. If left to his own devices, Trump probably would have appointed terrible judges. But, Trump wasn’t left to his own devices. Conservatives managed to maneuver Trump into appointing judges that no Democratic president would have appointed. Similarly, China hawks and pro-Taiwan officials managed to maneuver Trump into adopting tough-on-China and pro-Taiwan policies that past presidents had been too timid to adopt (just as they had been too timid to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, btw). Now that those policies have been adopted successfully, even the Biden administration does not seem likely to reverse them (nor to cancel the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem). So, Trump’s main and lasting contributions, both in foreign and domestic policy, was that he was easy for policy-wonk Republicans to manipulate.

    On whether the US can do anything to keep China out of Taiwan, obviously we can and have done so for 70+ years. If the self-defeatist commentators were right, then why hasn’t China invaded Taiwan already? I’m glad that these commentators weren’t in charge of keeping the Communists out of West Berlin. After all, West Berlin was surrounded on all sides by the East Germans by “like two feet” while America was thousands of miles away.

  24. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    12. March 2021 at 03:25


    I agree with BC. I don’t quite understand what you are trying to tell us with this blog post. You said yourself that Trump can’t be taken at his word. In the case of Iran or China, or on any topic for that matter, you will find statements from him that are very “tough” and then other statements that are incredibly “soft”.

    That a hawk like Bolden will only pick the soft statements is obvious. In reality, these are generally the wrong standards. “Tough” and “soft” are kind of the wrong terms, and he is obviously not concerned with human rights either.

    One can only deduce from Trump’s statements that he is narcissistic, self-absorbed, with a serious attention deficit disorder. Everything serves only his good, he is racist to fascist minded, he can easily stumble into a war with China.

    He is also unpredictable for China, CCP China preferred to have Biden. All in all, this is Trump’s obviously “tough” fascistoid side, which can hardly be seriously negated, and which kind of dominates. Not to forget that the whole Trump administration consisted of hawks who used and channeled this side of Trump accordingly.

    Biden is more rational and much easier to predict. However, like everything in life, this also has a very dangerous side. If CCP China can easily calculate how the opponent will behave, for example, if they can easily calculate that the US would never come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of an invasion by CCP China, then it becomes really dangerous for Taiwan.

    We definitely have this situation currently in parts. Uncertainty and ambiguity have important, valuable functions. So it was very important that Biden, for example, immediately sent an aircraft carrier to this maritime region. He has to make it clear that there is ambiguity. Once CCP China is convinced that an invasion is worthwhile, Taiwan is doomed.

  25. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    12. March 2021 at 04:29

    @Christian List

    It would be very foolish for any Chinese leader to try to capture Taiwan unless the odds of victory were overwhelmingly in their failure. Trying to take the island and then failing is something that could so damage the reputation of the party that it might put their continued rule at risk. Even winning the island at great cost might do the same, as ordinary Chinese people may get upset at a regime that spends enormous amounts of money and lives on something that does nothing to improve the lives of the populace. And every soldier who days will, on average, have two living parents iand three to four living grandparents to mourn the end of their bloodline.

    All that the US and Taiwan need to do to deter an attack from a rational and secure leader/regime is to make sure that the costs to the PRC are high.

  26. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    12. March 2021 at 06:41

    Trump and China is an interesting problem. Like some other areas of Trump’s presidency, his administration was often closer to what I think was correct policy most of the time, apparently as much in spite of Trump as because of him.

    I think Covid was a solid piece of evidence that having a feckless random number generator as President is not worth whatever benefits it brings, but disturbingly, a feckless random number generator seems to be better than “top men” more often than I’d like.

  27. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    12. March 2021 at 08:43


    yes, one must take externalities into account

  28. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    12. March 2021 at 11:05

    War games show us losing to China in a battle over Taiwan. We can make it hurt, but we will end up losing. Both Taiwan and China have leverage economically over the other. China will try to build redundancy before moving on Taiwan the way they built redundancy into their financial system before moving on Hong Kong. Taiwan is trying to decouple to lessen China’s leverage, but that is a double-edged sword.
    On both the economic and the military front the key to our strategy will be to widen the scope of engagement without triggering a conflict. On the military front that means building strong alliances with partners who will be cool-headed and non-provocative. On the economic front that means diversifying supply lines and building strong trade agreements. In both cases, it requires that we act according to international agreements, becoming a strong, reliable partner.
    And, all the while, we want to keep in mind that our long term goal is not to confront China, but to live peacefully with China. If they end up deciding to play by the international rules we have to honor that and take our lumps when the rules hurt us.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. March 2021 at 11:32

    bb and Carl, Good comments.

    BC and Christian, That’s a defensible argument, but my response is that these “China hawks” didn’t actually do anything very hawkish against China. Perhaps Huawei is an exception, but I couldn’t care less about Huawei.

    Everyone, Right now the Chinese rely on Taiwanese investment, and also computer chips. I suspect that they’ll wait until they are less reliant, then try to win an economic war with Taiwan. Embargo them into surrender. Obviously I hope this doesn’t happen, but I suppose it would be less bad than a military invasion.

  30. Gravatar of B. Jonson B. Jonson
    12. March 2021 at 12:44

    On the Uighur issue, here from his autobiography is Obama considering solving the terrorism problem by “reeducation camps”, ending up deciding it’s much simpler to kill them off instead: “They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. I wanted somehow to save them – send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads. And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead.”

    Biden is quite right that the difference in Chinese and American approaches to terrorism stems from a cultural difference.

  31. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    12. March 2021 at 19:51

    Not only has Trump emboldened Xi to brutally suppress political dissent in Hong Kong, Trump’s January 6 coup attempt emboldened the military regime in Myanmar and has resulted in the February 1 coup d’etat. A recent report says 60 civilians have been murdered and more than a third of them teenagers.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. March 2021 at 10:47

    Jonson, Just to be clear, the Uighur re-education camps have nothing to do with terrorism. The people being interned are not suspected terrorists. They are trying to stamp out Uighur culture.

    Brian, You said:

    “Trump’s January 6 coup attempt emboldened the military regime in Myanmar”

    I’m not surprised. I did a post on that a few weeks ago.

  33. Gravatar of B. Jonson B. Jonson
    13. March 2021 at 15:06

    Scott, the NYT’s own “Xinjiang Papers” leak of CCP internal documents refutes that claim. Read the final sentence of this quoted paragraph:


    > These developments appear to have gotten the CCP’s attention. Leaked documents published in November 2019 by the New York Times quote President Xi as saying, “East Turkestan’s terrorists who have received real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan could at any time launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.” Thus even if the Chinese party-state uses the rhetoric of terrorism to deflect or reduce international pressure and justify repressive actions (which we believe they do), **internal documents appear to confirm that senior party leaders, including Xi himself, do fear terrorist threats from abroad destabilizing their rule at home.**

    Also, this is from AP’s report of the 5,000 Uighur fighters in Syria. One of them said this:

    > But the end of Syria’s war may be the beginning of China’s worst fears.
    > “We didn’t care how the fighting went or who Assad was,” said Ali, who would only give his first name out of a fear of reprisals against his family back home. “We just wanted to learn how to use the weapons and then go back to China.”

    I also recommend watching this recent keynote by one of the most respected Asia hands, ambassador Stapleton Roy. The link to the video and a transcript is here.


  34. Gravatar of Lin Lin
    14. March 2021 at 05:06

    I worry that some folks, of a nefarious sort, are using the term “Human Rights” to pursue homogeneity. While much of the modern world was created upon the shoulders of Grotius and Locke, Augustine and Publius, it’s also true that these men saw universals existing within communities and cultures, not beyond the confines of the human condition – well, maybe Augustine did.

    At any rate, there is nothing more menacing to a community, then a social activist from afar (foreign or domestic) telling one how to live, and what to believe.

    That type of thinking seems to be rooted in some sort of cosmic heroic hubris; and as communities and cultures seek to hold onto their universals it brings us ever closer to another world war.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. March 2021 at 09:21

    Jonson, The CCP says they jailed 1 million Uighur terrorists? Then I stand corrected.

    Lin, You said:

    “At any rate, there is nothing more menacing to a community, then a social activist from afar (foreign or domestic) telling one how to live, and what to believe.”

    I gather that you are not a fan of the CCP imposing Han culture on Xinjiang. I agree.

  36. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    14. March 2021 at 09:32

    That’s a good point and the sentiment underlying a lot of successful diplomacy. The counter argument is expressed well by Garry Kasparov in his book”Winter is Coming” which I happen to be reading. In it, he points out how Putin used Western acquiescence in the face of his authoritarian actions as evidence that the West didn’t believe in its own stated principles.

  37. Gravatar of B. Jonson B. Jonson
    14. March 2021 at 12:20

    Scott, no, the CCP didn’t say they are terrorists. But then, neither did they “jail” them in the conventional sense.

    If we had 5,000 American citizens training in Syria alone, training with ISIS and planning on coming back and attacking us one day, how many more people do you think are already being radicalized at home?

    The Chinese is of course extremely heavy-handed and paternalistic. They did reeducation camps with Falungong too, and there was no racial element to it.

    Think of it this way. How do you propose to solve a problem like the homelessness crisis in SF? What do we do with these people who are throwing their lives away? We can either turn a blind eye and let them rot, or we can presume what we know what’s best for them, forcefully take them away to somewhere where they can be educated, taught a trade, etc, and become a stable contributing member of society.

    The first solution is of course the easier and safer one, because it doesn’t involve taking away someone’s freedom, but is it really obvious that it is also the more humane?

  38. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    14. March 2021 at 16:05

    If Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris were giving some talks to Uighurs in order to turn them atheist I would have no problem with that. To be consistent I have no problem with the China taxpayer doing the same through some bureaucratic teacher workforce. The loss of freedom, temporarily, if that is in fact what is happening is bad. If it truly is industrial skills training that is happening with a side course in epistemology it still cannot be justified to use force. I haven’t seen any reporting as to why skills training is especially needed by Uighurs but journalists often don’t ask all the relevant questions. Presumably China doesn’t have a generous welfare state so the Uighurs already had some skills and jobs. It was strange to see it reported that people who did not carry smartphones were considered suspicious. I seldom carry a smartphone and I like to walk about 5.4 km (round trip) to get groceries so I better stay away from China’s smartphone enforcers and try not to be mistaken for a Uighur.

    Now if you won’t believe what Sam Harris is saying you have to stay in the training camp (forever?). That is terrible.

    I suspect we really don’t know what is happening to the Uighurs because information flow is being controlled and dissents are gonna say scary things some of which are true.

  39. Gravatar of B. Jonson B. Jonson
    14. March 2021 at 22:19

    Brian, I agree with much of what you say, but very often, “it still cannot be justified to use force” is just an excuse for not doing anything.

    Let me quote President Obama again: “They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. I wanted somehow to save them – ▛ send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads ▟ . And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead.”

    Pay attention to these words: “draining them of the hate that had been filling their heads”.

    Do you think this can be done in a way substantially different from reeducation camps? Without any use of force?

    Maybe this is precisely the reason Obama ended up “killing them instead”. *Reforming* a problem person is a heck lot of work, with no guarantee of success. I can see how it takes a lot of willpower to resist the temptation to make the problem disappear instantly, by killing the person posing the problem.

  40. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    15. March 2021 at 08:40

    Did ‘someone’ mention Syria?

    “In fact, Britain has engaged in a covert operation with allies to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad for more than six years, and this policy has helped prolong and radicalise the terrible war. It is British action, not inaction, that is the biggest problem with government policy towards Syria. The full story of this covert operation may take years to emerge, but some elements of it can already be pieced together.”

  41. Gravatar of Trying to Learn Trying to Learn
    15. March 2021 at 11:38


    With the clarification that support for those in need is sound policy, is it fair to say that the “stimulus check”, unemployment increase, and child tax credit increase portion of the recently passed $1.9T package is mostly a form a wealth redistribution rather than stimulus/inflation due to monetary offset?

  42. Gravatar of gofx gofx
    15. March 2021 at 20:24

    I would not trust Bolton to tell the truth of the whole story on anything. Regardless, anyone familiar with foreign policy and strategy knows that it’s a mix of threats, perceptions, capabilities and will. Sometimes you want the opponent to be uncertain of your actions/reactions and sometimes you want them to be very certain.
    Here’s a few headlines/ excerpts to think about:
    Trump Admin Gives Green Light for Major Arms Sale to Taiwan (CNN 8/26/2019)
    “China is viewed as being much more hostile to this deal than any other US arms sale to Taiwan. The Obama administration avoided completing this particular sale of 66 F-16 jets, opting to upgrade existing Taiwanese jets instead. Now, President Donald Trump is in the position of signing off on a move that will undoubtedly roil Beijing while he is engaged in trade negotiations with China — and working to formulate a response to the crisis in Hong Kong.”. . .”Last month, the Trump administration approved selling 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and portable Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan, an arms package valued at $2.2 billion.”

    Trump Administration Approves $2.37B Arms Sale to Taiwan (The Hill 10/26/2020)
    “The new package — which the State Department notified Congress of on Monday — includes up to 100 Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and 400 Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles, according to a notice from the Pentagon. The formal notification of approval comes on the heels of three additional weapons deals worth a combined $1.8 billion announced on Wednesday. That package includes 135 Boeing-made air-to-ground cruise missiles, 11 Lockheed Martin-made truck-mounted rocket launchers and six MS-110 reconnaissance pods that can be attached to Taiwan’s fighter jets. “

    REPORT: US Signs Massive $62 Billion Weapons Deal With Taiwan (Daily Caller 8/18/2020)
    “The United States has made a 10-year, $62 billion weapons deal with Taiwan for the sale of 90 F-16 fighters, the Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.”
    The Trump Administration has done multiple eight arms deals in four years with Taiwan and for the first time in decades included OFFENSIVE weapons. I don’t think the Chinese considered this a sign of weak-willed policy.

    And what do the people with their asses on the line, the Taiwanese, think?
    Taiwan President Urges Calm As Pro-Trump Citizens Panic Amid Biden Vote Surge (Newsweek11/5/2020)
    “In a rare statement addressing directly the topic of U.S.-Taiwan relations, Tsai called America an “important ally” and sought to reassure the public that her administration maintained close ties with both the Republican and Democratic parties. Faced with escalating military pressure from China since her election, Tsai has been bolstered by unusually strong support from the Trump administration, which has followed through on its anti-China policy by approving 10 weapons deals with Taipei since 2017. As a result, President Trump enjoys overwhelming popular support among Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants, especially the youth.”

    I think when Trump was having dinner with Xi at Mara Lago, got up, excused himself, and stepped away to start a huge bombing attack on ISIS—that made somewhat of an impression on Xi.

    Trump is actually smarter than us intellectuals. I bet none of you saw the middle east peace strategy of bypassing the Palestinians, leveraging the Arabs hatred of Iran to generate individual peace deals with Israel. Admit it, you were surprised. The Biden administration has no idea what to do with that gift.

    In any event, if I were Taiwan, I would be worried now. Very worried. In his brief moments of coherence, China Joe is unlikely to confront China seriously over Taiwan. Look for some of the weapons deals to be rescinded directly or indirectly.

  43. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. March 2021 at 02:35

    Let’s put permanently to rest the idea that Trump’s unpredictability in some respects was any sort of advantage for the US or our allies. Trump is not some sort of Bismarck. He’s a complete idiot who’s mentally ill and who only cares about the domestic political implications of foreign policy within his very limited ability to perceive them. All he did was set us back years, if not worse, in terms of trade policy, our standing in the middle east, credibility in dealing with North Korea, China, Russia, and Turkey, etc. He was a friend to every dictator or wannabe dictator on earth, and his term “fake news” is now used by anti-democratic forces around the world. Trump sent the world the message that we’re not a serious country, except in the sense that we have serious problems and are in decline, like a fish rotting from the head-down.

    The moment someone praises Trump, really for anything, the vast majority of people in the world know that person is some combination of idiot and liar. Unfortunately, the US is full of such idiots who are far worse than the elites who failed us.

  44. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. March 2021 at 04:01


    have you commented on Yellen yet? Her career is pretty amazing after all, when Hillary was almost elected she stressed the supposed urgent need for fiscal stimulus. Then, a few weeks later, when Trump was just elected, she told the opposite. Interesting how she found out the truth so fast, just after Hillary was gone.

    And now in recent weeks, she keeps emphasizing how important fiscal stimulus is again. It’s urgent, Scott, it’s so urgent. 4 to 6 trillion in 2020/21 is not enough.

    Even some journalists in left-wing media do not feel comfortable anymore, but Biden and Yellen have already announced the next $4 trillion program. “Go big, go bigger, go Yellen.”

    Apparently she has never really been a monetarist, what do you think? The worst thing is: She is presented as a politically independent voice all the time, but in reality she seems to be pretty partisan, or not?

    I wonder if the voters knew what they will get when they voted Biden. Did they know and most of all did they think it through?


    And what about Lagarde’s recent comments on yield curve control and that European government bond yields must not be allowed to rise, no matter what? How do you assess these statements from your perspective? Are these really the goals Lagarde should be looking for?! I may understand what she means, but her wording seems weird to me, or am I wrong?

  45. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. March 2021 at 10:31

    Jonson, Not sure if you are being a troll, but I’m not going to waste time debating the merits of concentration camps.

    Trying, Yes, and very inefficient redistribution. Some of the money will go to me, and I’m rich.

    gofx, You said:

    “Trump is actually smarter than us intellectuals.”

    Speak for yourself.

    Christian, I’ve done many posts criticizing the Biden stimulus. And I’ve always opposed YCC.

  46. Gravatar of Trying to Learn Trying to Learn
    16. March 2021 at 10:58

    Thanks for answering my question! I have another if you don’t mind. Curious what you think of this? Link: https://www.ft.com/content/c8959502-7dae-43b1-b993-3bf85fb4325a

    If can’t access, key quote: “Today, a new scourge — asset price inflation — looms. And New Zealand has launched another counterattack. While consumer prices have been held in check by globalisation and automation, easy money pouring out of central banks has been driving up the price of assets from stocks to bonds and housing. As homes are generally not counted as consumer goods, even sharp price spikes carry relatively little weight in central bank deliberations.”

    Are asset prices rising because of central bank money “printing”, or just due to lower natural rates of interest? And if the former, can they effectively combat the excess increases with monetary policy? Should they?

  47. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2021 at 06:14

    @Christian L:

    Voters knew exactly what they were getting when they voted Biden…not Trump. That’s it. Trumpies like you and the rest keep attacking Biden for his flaws like that matters. He isn’t Trump, that’s it.

    It was a big reason Trump won in 2016, he simply wasn’t Hillary.

    Worst two choices ever offered this country in 2016 and 2020 (note the commonality between those years)

  48. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. March 2021 at 09:49


    Thank you for answering!

    I didn’t know you oppose YCC but I’m kind relieved that you do.

    Your argument would make a lot more sense if there were really big differences between Biden and Hillary. But these differences do not exist. Their policy ideas are basically the same.

    And I’m not even saying that their policy ideas are that bad, I’m just saying that one would have to see huge differences if your theory really made sense.

    I’m also not saying your theory doesn’t make any sense, it sure does make some sense, but their really seems to be a flaw in your Biden-Hillary connection.

    I assume the final results overshadow everything, under certain viewpoints Hillary lost quite “narrowly” and Biden won quite “narrowly”, it could have gone either way in both cases, and that would really screw your theory.

  49. Gravatar of msgkings` msgkings`
    17. March 2021 at 16:24


    You are trying too hard not to see the obvious. Trump beat Hillary because she was terrible, and he was a wild card that maybe kinda sorta could turn out to be a useful way to shake up Washington.

    And his presidency was very polarizing but his team loved him and he was cruising on a good economy to re-election. Then Covid happened and he was a total shitshow as a leader in a crisis. So he was going to lose to just about anyone. No one likes Biden. But he was the other guy.

    There’s no Biden-Hillary connection. Trump proved to be a shitty leader when he needed to at least try to give a shit, and they voted him out. And his behavior after losing the election was actually the worst part of his presidency, I went from thinking he needed to go to realizing he was by far the worst president ever. Because of what happened after he lost.

  50. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2021 at 16:26


    I forgot to add, as Robin Hanson said, politics is not about policy. With Trump, doubly so. The policies are not why he won, and not why he lost.

  51. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2021 at 16:33


    The longer post I forgot to add to was just to say there is no Hillary-Biden connection. Voters took a chance on Trump in 2016, and he was cruising to re-election, then he screwed up the Covid crisis (by basically not giving a shit) as a chance to show leadership, and then he lost to a doddering cipher.

    You are trying too hard not to see the obvious.

  52. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2021 at 10:41

    Your last post, if you put it like that, it makes more sense, yes.

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