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Bolton: China Has Played WTO 'Like a Fiddle'

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Washington, D.C. - National Security Advisor John Bolton severely criticized China in an address at the National Conservatism Conference earlier this month.


Bolton is the 27th National Security Adviser to the United States. He is regarded as a foreign policy hawk, a "neoconservative" and an advocate for regime change and military interventionism, most notably in Syria, Libya, and Iran. 

In his keynote address at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, Bolton spoke about his approach to American foreign policy.

“[We’re] looking to build foreign policy based on American national interest,” the ambassador said. “[We don’t] seek hostility with anybody. We are a trading nation; we’ve been an oceanic nation from our outset. We would like a peaceful world to engage in peaceful intercourse.” 

Bolton brought up the fact that some nations do not agree with that outlook, and as a result, America has to confront them. This was a perfect segue into China. 

“We see very hostile activity by China on a range of military fronts on the East China Sea and South China Sea,” the ambassador said. “We see a tremendous buildup of their nuclear and ballistic missile and blue water navy capabilities, and we see a very determined form of mercantilistic economic policy internationally.”

To counter Chinese aggression, Bolton introduced his strategy of using economic pressure. 


"Ultimately, national and political military power and its projection around the world rests on economic power," he said. "So, the negotiations that have followed the imposition of tariffs have concentrated on what we would call structural issues: massive, persistent theft of American intellectual property by China, forced technology transfers, discrimination against American businesses and investors." 

Bolton then argued that accepting China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade between nations, has done more harm than good. 

"We agreed China should come into the WTO 20 years ago, and I remember the arguments very well and I accepted the arguments: that China would come into the WTO, and the pressure of international norms would force them to change their system; that they would behave, they would become more like us, and by the way, they would become more democratic, too. Neither of those things have happened." 

Bolton continued.

"The Chinese have played the WTO like a fiddle for 20 years, they’ve taken advantage of us and everybody else in it," the ambassador said. 

The result of China's entrance in the WTO has made the country even more autocratic, Bolton maintained. 


"You’ll notice that contrary to the argument that a more prosperous China would become a more democratic China, the opposite has happened," Bolton said. "We now have Xi Jinping, the most authoritarian Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong--that is what President Trump is challenging."

Next, in light of billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel's comments calling the U.S. government to investigate Google for its alleged infiltration by China, Bolton changed subjects to the security risk of American companies working with foreign governments. 

"I think that we are entitled as a country to look after our national interest by precluding companies that want to take advantage of America’s opportunities," Bolton said. "We are entitled to preclude them from engaging in activity that is harmful to the country, and if that means telling somebody that you’re not going to trade with Iran because we believe they are illicitly pursuing nuclear weapons, I believe that is perfectly legitimate for us to do."

Bolton then brought up Chinese-owned telecommunications company Huawei, which in May was banned from U.S. networks due to national security concerns. 

"We’re entitled to look at Chinese companies like Huawei and say, 'You’re not selling in the United States. We don’t want your malign intentions to gain control and access to all of our telecommunications and information technology systems. We’re not going to pretend you’re a real private company engaged in real competition; you’re a state owned enterprise doing what your masters in Beijing want you to do.'" 


Bolton finished his remarks on China by doubling down against American telecommunication and social media companies who will do anything for market share, including compromising American national security.

"It calls to mind a remark often attributed to Lenin: 'the capitalists will sell us the rope we hang them with.' And I say to that not on our watch, by God."  

Following Bolton's comments, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in an interview with MSNBC last Wednesday that "we’re not aware of any areas where Google is working with the Chinese government in any way that raises concerns." 

Watch Bolton's keynote address here:


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