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Scott Walker’s nonsensical China statement reveals one of his biggest weaknesses

Scott Walker (L). Also meat.
Scott Walker (L). Also meat.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Candidates say a lot of silly things when they're trying to be relevant during campaigns. But Scott Walker's Monday statement on the Chinese economy ... well, it's a special level of bad. And it's bad in a way that underlines one of Walker's fundamental weaknesses as a candidate.

Walker calls on President Obama to cancel an upcoming state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping — as punishment for, among other things, the fact that Chinese GDP growth is slowing down. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, here's the full statement:

Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today's markets driven in part by China's slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy. Rather than honoring Chinese President Xi Jinping with an official state visit next month, President Obama should focus on holding China accountable over its increasing attempts to undermine US interests.

Given China's massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit. There's serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama in the US-China relationship.

In a nutshell, Walker's three-step plan for fixing the US-China relationship seems to be:

  1. Cancel Xi's state visit.
  2. Do unspecified "serious work." Make sure not to hold any formal meetings with Chinese leaders, as that is not serious.
  3. China stops manipulating its currency, threatening its neighbors in the South China Sea, and persecuting dissidents. The Chinese stock market soars, and economic growth heats up. America wins.

Walker is trying to engage in a little Trump-style China bashing and show that, like any good neoconservative, he isn't afraid of standing up to dictators. But his plan doesn't make any sense, and leaves him looking a bit ridiculous. Powerful countries like China aren't going to change their policies because an American president snubs them. If the Chinese are going to change their policies, it'll be because of some combination of pressure and diplomacy — including the kind of diplomacy that happens at state visits.

This isn't just a one-off for Walker. He has no experience on foreign policy, and it shows. He once said that taking on unions qualified him to fight ISIS. He called Ronald Reagan taking on striking air traffic controllers "the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime." The gaffes got to the point that there were reports of Republican donors and intellectuals questioning whether Walker was fit to be president.

The Walker campaign has made a big push to address this problem, enlisting the help of a number of advisers to help improve their foreign policy message. But statements like this make it look like it isn't working.

VIDEO: President Obama on his foreign policy

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