In a recent article from the Washington Examiner, a conservative-leaning outlet, a top State Department employee made bizarre and disturbing remarks strongly suggesting that that Trump administration's approach toward relations with China is inherently racist.
Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the State Department, compared and contrasted the United States' relationships with the Soviet Union and China.
“The Soviet Union and that competition, in a way it was a fight within the Western family,” said Skinner, according to the report. “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”
First of all, this wildly ignorant statement seems to ignore the U.S. great power conflict with Japan in World War II — a pretty stunning omission. But it is also just bizarrely brings race into the discussion when it is not at all relevant.
The Examiner attempted to provide context to these ideas to make them clearer, but it didn't help. Referencing the Soviet Union's ideology, for example, it credited Skinner with noting "Karl Marx’s indebtedness to Western political ideas." But Chairman Mao Zedong was himself a Marxist — so the idea that the country is somehow disconnected from philosophical thought in the Western tradition is just wrong.
Skinner also went on to say: “It was a really important Western concept that opened the door really to undermine the Soviet Union, a totalitarian state, on human rights principles."
She added: "That's not really possible with China.”
Meghna Rajagopalan, a BuzzFeed News correspondent, noted that this, too, was a distortion of the fact.
"1) Human rights are not specific to the west. 2) Hong Kong and Taiwan are not the west. 2) if this type of uninformed racial dogma is going to inform the US approach to China competition we really have some choppy waters ahead," she said. "Not to mention how this erases the many many people working in China for human rights in their country from gender equality to rule of law to press freedom."
"The whole thing is basically Skinner saying that only white people can care about human rights," noted Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith.
But Smith also argued that something more even more nefarious was going on.
"I mean, part of this is just reflexive racism. But I think a bigger part is the Trump administration trying to argue against the need to improve America's own human rights to provide a contrast with China, as we did in the Cold War with the USSR (and China)," he wrote. "The real game here, I think, is to pre-empt the kinds of nationalistic arguments that helped push the U.S. government to back Civil Rights, refugee admissions, race-blind immigration policy, etc. during the Cold War."