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Special report: Why China scares politicians of all stripes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China, with a series of short and long-term moves on the global stage, is doing something few others can: eliciting similar warnings and worries from Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and nationalist Steve Bannon. 

  • All three say China is a growing threat to America’s workers, economy, technology and national security.
  • All three weighed in after Jim VandeHei and I posted our piece Monday calling China the single greatest threat to the United States. 

In an era where political adversaries seem to agree on nothing, their takes were shockingly similar: 

  • Ryan, a Democrat who represents the classic Rust Belt town of Youngstown, Ohio: "I’m getting more and more worried every day ... China has a grand strategy that includes all of government — economy, military, education and politics — with the goal of elevating China to the number one military and economic power in the world."
  • Rubio, Republican of Florida: "The Chinese know our pressure points. ... Americans benefit every day from the fact that America is the most powerful nation on earth. If that's erased, this won't be the same country. If economic and military power move to China, an authoritarian state, that affects things we take for granted like free speech, equal opportunity and human rights."
  • Bannon, President Trump's former chief strategist: "China has survived intact for 4,000 years because they have perfected 'barbarian management.' They view us as a 'tributary state,' a natural resource and agriculture provider — Jamestown to their Great Britain. ... Trump must keep the hammer down."

Both Ryan and Rubio say the issue is getting increasing resonance with constituents, but they remain frustrated with the lack of urgency among their colleagues, and the mixed signals from Trump.

Trump’s blunt view of the Chinese: They’re ripping us off so hit them hard with tariffs.

  • That mindset may not lend itself to the comprehensive, targeted and strategic response that many believe is required.

Be smart: Experts say the U.S. is falling further behind, and that the nation needs a massive strategic and investment plan similar to the post-World War II mobilization that included the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill and the space race.

Go deeper ... VandeHei's seminal take on Beijing's plans for 2018, 2025 and 2050, "China is the greatest, growing threat to America."

  • Be smart: While America dawdles and bickers, China is thinking long-term — and acting now, everywhere.

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