Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for the US presidential elections, became the latest to go after China as a target to galvanize support against four private schools in Florida, funded by investment firm Primavera for “direct ties to the Chinese Communist party”. China expert Victor Shih explains in the Guardian why China is the wrong target.
It was a desperately needed moment of grandeur for Ron DeSantis: the Florida governor’s strongman act over China briefly lifting his stuttering presidential campaign during last week’s Republican primary debate in California.
But what DeSantis left unsaid as he railed against China’s growing global influence, while promising a “hard power” approach to Beijing should he win the White House, was how his posturing was hurting students and families back in his home state.
While their governor was speaking thousands of miles away, hundreds of distressed and bewildered parents in Florida were trying to figure out their next move after DeSantis stripped four private schools of state scholarship money, alleging without evidence they had “direct ties to the Chinese Communist party”.
Without state funding, many families face having to withdraw their children and find alternative educational arrangements barely a month into the school year…
Victor Shih, associate director of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California at San Diego’s school of global strategy and policy, said: “For the Republican side, also to some extent on the Democratic side, China has become this sort of boogeyman, a catch-all opponent of the US in a way that does not take into account a lot of economic and social realities.
“Primavera is not the Chinese communist party. They do manage money for China’s sovereign wealth fund, that’s well-documented, but so does BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, and I don’t see Ron DeSantis going after others who have managed money for China. You cannot say that anyone who does business with the investment arm of the Chinese government is acting on its behalf.
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