U.S. senator swings, misses in effort to criticize China
Anthony Moretti
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. /CFP

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. /CFP

Editor's note: Anthony Moretti is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The old saying "never let a good crisis go to waste" is on full display in the United States. Many within the political elite are doing their best to convince the public that China bears some responsibility for the events taking place in Ukraine. Never mind that China continues to remind Russia, Ukraine and the world that there is only one way to solve the crisis: negotiations that bring about a lasting, peaceful and stable situation.

The most recent example of this let's-find-a-way-to-blame-China nonsense comes from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who will always take delight in bashing China in any way he can. Unfortunately, and to borrow a baseball phrase, Rubio took a big swing and missed in his criticism of Beijing. 

Rubio wrote an editorial that appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago where he claimed the Communist Party of China was guilty of "a long list of sins" and its "complicity in the atrocities Russia is committing in Ukraine can be added to that list."

Rubio also could not resist taking a swipe at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who, according to Rubio, wishes to "dismantle democracies and replace them with authoritarian regimes to undermine and eventually supplant, the U.S.-led world order." 

Next, he argued that China was well aware that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, but the Chinese government was content to say and do nothing about it. 

His diatribe was an effort to call attention to himself. Remember, Rubio – already a failed presidential candidate – very much wants to seek the White House again. Rubio informed Washington Post readers that he had introduced legislation to "impose sanctions on any Chinese bank that attempts to help [Russian President Vladimir] Putin escape the penalties for waging war on Ukraine."

A cloud of smoke after an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, March 18, 2022. /CFP

A cloud of smoke after an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, March 18, 2022. /CFP

By now you are well aware that the White House has authorized far-ranging sanctions against Russian politicians, banks and more because of the country's military operations inside Ukraine. Western nations have quickly joined in the sanctions effort. The stated goal of the sanctions is to starve Russia of the finances and other necessary mechanisms to make the country run effectively. The unstated goal is perhaps to give Russian so much grief that they rise up and overthrow Putin. 

Returning to Rubio, we must acknowledge that in attempting to validate his bona fides as an anti-Communist, he is ignoring reality. Any sanctions the U.S. would issue against China would be met with a response by the Chinese people. U.S. businesses and private citizens would be quickly reminded that the Chinese will not take kindly to efforts to embarrass their nation on the global stage. For example, only a year ago, a boycott of the Swedish company H&M rapidly unfolded in China after the brand questioned whether forced labor was being used in Xinjiang. The New York Times reported that within days of a boycott of H&M, the company had issued a statement saying, "We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China."

Americans are already angry about increasing gas prices because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. No one wants to seriously consider what would happen if China responded to sanctions by treating American brands like it did H&M. 

Finally, there are a few questions that Senator Rubio also must address – although we know that will not happen. Where is his outrage when certain American allies commit crimes against humanity? Where was his moral compass when European nations joined with the United States in deeming Muslims unworthy of political asylum? Does he feel no discomfort when he sees Republicans and Democrats labeling people from Mexico and Central America as evil as they seek a better life in the United States? 

Rubio would be wise to do more than simply seek which way the political winds are blowing before he opens his mouth. Criticizing China in the United States is not an indicator of courage or strength. It is required of any politician who wishes to maintain their current office while aspiring to climb the next rung on the ladder. 

Rubio has much work to do to make himself a viable leader within the Republican Party. A recent report from the Washington Post identified the 10 most likely Republican presidential candidates in 2024, and Rubio's name was nowhere to be found.

I doubt empty threats against China will change that reality. 

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