The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 1:00 am

Self-serving spin

Banks' 'Make China Pay' crusade irrelevant - and congressman knows it

Chip Coldiron

“Make China pay” has been a frequent message from Rep. Jim Banks the past several weeks as the world continues to struggle amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the phrase makes for a quick sound bite and may satisfy those desperately searching for a villain to blame in our current chaos, representing your district in Congress is about putting the needs of your constituents first, not irrelevant saber-rattling.

So that begs the question – why is Banks broadcasting “Make China Pay” to anyone who will listen? Even if it were possible to make China pay, would it be prudent? Even if it were appropriate, what is the cost, not only for the governments involved, but for the citizens of these two nations?

Does Banks truly believe China will simply hand over the stash of cash they have been hoarding to finance American debt? Will he ask the United Nations to force China into some type of payment program? And if so, to what nations would China pay? All of them? Exactly what type of compensation would the U.S. be asking for? Medical expenses? Retirement savings lost? A value for every life lost?

Banks surely knows the fraught, infamous history of international reparations in the aftermath of global disasters, such as the end of World War I. He also knows his ask is never going to be fulfilled. So then why, in the midst of a global pandemic when Congress has so many pressing matters on their hands, does the congressman insist on pushing such an absurd talking point?

The answer is simple: It is easier, and more politically beneficial, for Banks to build a brand around “Make China Pay” than it is to do the hard work of responding to this crisis.

Scapegoating nations or people in times of global crisis is as dangerous as it is complex. It is understandable, however, that in the midst of the global pandemic chaos, that emotions – or misinformation – could get the better of us.

Representatives of both parties initially jumped on the “Make China Pay” bandwagon in the early days of the crisis. But responsible leaders – such as fellow veteran Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts – recognized their mistake and discontinued support when it was clear the slogan had unintended consequences for Asian-Americans facing violence and vigilante retribution.

Banks, however, continues to march onward, just as he towed the line of President Trump's claim that Mexico would pay for his border wall. If Mexico wasn't intimidated by this rhetoric, China most certainly won't be either. And, again, Banks knows this.

Instead of using the pandemic to build bridges internationally, Banks is trying to burn them down between fellow nations, and not because it is in the best interest of our country but because it is in the best interest for himself. This is  a brazen attempt to bolster his political career.

To make it clear: There is nothing to be gained by the constituents of northeast Indiana, the United States or the world by continuing to send the message “Make China Pay.” There is no way to measure the value of lives lost and no way to enforce it internationally.

Banks may respond that we can simply use tariffs to claim the reparations, but we've been down that road, with many Hoosiers coming up on the short end.

As a congressman in a time of global crisis, it is one's duty to protect the constituents he represents, not inflame the situation in an attempt to bolster his career. As a constituent, a U.S. citizen and a fellow veteran, I am urging Banks to stop with all of the “Make China Pay” rhetoric. The world needs his service, not his spin. 

Chip Coldiron is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for 3rd District Congress.

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