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China in Democratic Party Platforms, 1968-2016

Excerpts from the platforms adopted at Democratic Party presidential nominating conventions from 1968 to 2016. A pdf version of the excerpts is also available.

February 10, 2020

2016 | 2012 | 2008 | 2004 | 2000 | 1996 | 1992 | 1988 | 1984 | 1980 | 1976 | 1972 | 1968


2016, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was the Democratic Party candidate

  • Democrats' priority is to significantly strengthen enforcement of existing trade rules and the tools we have, including by holding countries accountable on currency manipulation and significantly expanding enforcement resources. China and other countries are using unfair trade practices to tilt the playing field against American workers and businesses. When they dump cheap products into our markets, subsidize state-owned enterprises, devalue currencies, and discriminate against American companies, our middle class pays the price. That has to stop. Democrats will use all our trade enforcement tools to hold China and other trading partners accountable—because no country should be able to manipulate their currencies to gain a competitive advantage. While we believe that openness to the world economy is an important source of American leadership and dynamism, we will oppose trade agreements that do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. We believe any new trade agreements must include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards in their core text with streamlined and effective enforcement mechanisms. Trade agreements should crack down on the unfair and illegal subsidies other countries grant their businesses at the expense of ours. It should promote innovation of and access to lifesaving medicines. And it should protect a free and open internet. We should never enter into a trade agreement that prevents our government, or other governments, from putting in place rules that protect the environment, food safety, or the health of American citizens or others around the world. These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • From the Asia Pacific to the Indian Ocean, we will deepen our relationships in the region with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. We will honor our historic commitment to Japan. We will continue to invest in a long-term strategic partnership with India—the world's largest democracy, a nation of great diversity, and an important Pacific power. We will build on the historic opening with Burma and advocate for greater human rights protections and national reconciliation among Burma's many different ethnic groups. We will help Pakistan stabilize its polity and build an effective relationship with the predominantly young population of this strategically located, nuclear-armed country. We will also work with our allies and partners to fortify regional institutions and norms as well as protect freedom of the seas in the South China Sea. 

    ​Democrats will push back against North Korean aggression and press China to play by the rules. We will stand up to Beijing on unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, censorship of the internet, piracy, and cyberattacks. And we will look for areas of cooperation, including on combatting climate change and nuclear proliferation. We will promote greater respect for human rights, including the rights of Tibetans. We are committed to a "One China" policy and the Taiwan Relations Act and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of Cross-Strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.

2012, President Barack Obama sought re-election

  • Working with our European allies and with Russia and China, the administration gained unprecedented agreement for the toughest ever UN sanctions against Iran, laying the foundation for additional national financial and energy sanctions imposed by the United States and other nations. As a result, Iran is now increasingly isolated and the regime faces crippling economic pressure - pressure that will only build over time.
  • Our goal is an effective, international effort in which all major economies commit to reduce their emissions, nations meet their commitments in a transparent manner, and the necessary financing is mobilized so that developing countries can mitigate the effects of climate change and invest in clean energy technologies. That is why the Obama administration has taken a leadership role in ongoing climate negotiations, working to ensure that other major economies like China and India commit to taking meaningful action. It is also why we have worked regionally to build clean energy partnerships in Asia, the Americas, and Africa.
  • President Obama has made modernizing America's defense posture across the Asia-Pacific a top priority. We remain committed to defending and deepening our partnerships with our allies in the region: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. We will maintain a strong presence in Japan and on the Korean Peninsula to deter and defend against provocations by states like North Korea, while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and in Australia. We will also expand our networks of security cooperation with other emerging partners throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea. And we will continue to invest in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.

    Meanwhile, the President is committed to continuing efforts to build a cooperative relationship with China, while being clear and candid when we have differences. The world has a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, but China must also understand that it must abide by clear international standards and rules of the road. China can be a partner in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, countering proliferation in Iran, confronting climate change, increasing trade, and resolving other global challenges. President Obama will continue to seek additional opportunities for cooperation with China, including greater communication between our militaries. We will do this even as we continue to be clear about the importance of the Chinese government upholding international economic rules regarding currency, export financing, intellectual property, indigenous innovation, and workers' rights. We will consistently speak out for the importance of respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people, including the right of the Tibetan people to preserve their cultural and religious identity. And we remain committed to a one China policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.

  • We have also sought to promote free and fair trade. Because of the economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region, which is already home to more than half the global economy, expanding trade with that region is critical to creating jobs and opportunities for the American people.

    We have also worked to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on an even footing with our international competitors, and we have not hesitated to take action. That's why the Obama administration has brought trade cases against China at twice the rate of the previous administration and recently set up a new Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, which substantially expands our ability to investigate and take action against unfair trade practices around the world.


2008, Senator Barack Obama (Illinois) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • We are committed to U.S. engagement in Asia. This begins with maintaining strong relationships with allies like Japan, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, and deepening our ties to vital democratic partners, like India, in order to create a stable and prosperous Asia. We must also forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc diplomatic arrangements.

    We need an open and inclusive infrastructure with the countries in Asia that can promote stability, prosperity, and human rights, and help confront transnational threats, from terrorist cells in the Philippines to avian flu in Indonesia. We will encourage China to play a responsible role as a growing power—to help lead in addressing the common problems of the 21st century. We are committed to a "One China" policy and the Taiwan Relations Act, and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross- Straits issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan. It's time to engage China on common interests like climate change, trade, and energy, even as we continue to encourage its shift to a more open society and a market-based economy, and promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, uncensored use of the internet, and Chinese workers' right to freedom of association, as well as the rights of Tibetans.

  • We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. China has replaced America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.


2004, Senator John Kerry (Massachusetts) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • In Asia, we must better engage with China to secure Chinese adherence to international trade, non-proliferation and human rights standards. We are committed to a "One China" policy, and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-Straits issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the Taiwanese people. We must maintain our strong relationship with Japan, and explore new ways to cooperate further.
  • We will stand up for American workers and consumers by building on President Clinton's progress in including enforceable, internationally recognized labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. We will aggressively enforce our trade agreements with a real plan that includes a complete review of all existing agreements; immediate investigation into China's workers' rights abuses and currency manipulation; increased funding for efforts to protect workers' rights and stop child labor abuse; new reforms to protect the innovations of high-tech companies; and vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws. We will use all the tools we have to create new opportunities for American workers, farmers, and businesses, and break down barriers in key export markets, like the Japanese auto market and the Chinese high-technology market. We will effectively enforce our trade laws protecting against dumping, illegal subsidies, and import surges that threaten American jobs.

    New trade agreements must protect internationally recognized workers' rights and environmental standards as vigorously as they now protect commercial concerns. We will build on and strengthen the progress made in the Jordan agreement to include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards in the core of new free trade agreements. And no trade agreement should stop government from protecting the environment, food safety or the health of its citizens. Nor should an agreement give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors, require the privatization of our vital public services, or limit our government's ability to create good jobs in our communities.


2000, Vice President Al Gore (Tennessee) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • We continue to work with China and Taiwan to resolve their differences by peaceful means.
  • Democrats understand that we must engage former enemies. This Administration's efforts to design new relationships with the Russian Federation and China have been continuously subjected to every form of harassment and attack by the Republicans - but they have been in America's national interest and they have been the right thing to do.
  • Similarly, we must continue to engage China - a nation with 1.3 billion people, a nuclear arsenal, and a role in the 21st Century that is destined to be one of the basic facts of international life. We must search out ways to cooperate across a broad range of issues, such as the environment and trade, while at the same time, insisting on adherence to international standards on human rights, freedom, the persecution of religions, the suppression of Tibet, and bellicose threats directed at Taiwan. China cannot be ignored, and these issues cannot - and must not - be marginalized. A deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship would harm, not help, American national security interests and the promotion of our values. A Gore Administration will fulfill its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act. A Gore Administration will also remain committed to a "One China" policy. We support a resolution of cross-Straits issues that is both peaceful and consistent with the wishes of the people of Taiwan.
  • In Asia, we are working to promote fair trade with Japan and China.


1996, President Bill Clinton sought re-election

  • We know that many of America's most pressing security challenges and most promising commercial opportunities lie in the Asia Pacific region. The Democratic Party applauds the important new security charter with Japan, the Administration's close cooperation with the Republic of Korea toward the goal of a unified and non-nuclear peninsula, and the deployment of an American naval task force to the Taiwan Straits to ensure that China's military exercises did not imperil the security of the region. The Party supports the Administration's policy of steady engagement to encourage a stable, secure, open and prosperous China -- a China that respects human rights throughout its land and in Tibet, that joins international efforts against weapons proliferation, and that plays by the rules of free and fair trade. Today's Democratic Party strongly supports continued American troop presence in East Asia and efforts to promote increased regional security. And we are committed to building long-term relationships with India, Pakistan, and others in South Asia in order to advance America's diverse interests in that region, from democracy and commerce to nuclear non-proliferation.


1992, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas was the Democratic Party candidate

  • Brave men and women—like the hero who stood in front of a tank in Beijing and the leader who stood on a tank in Moscow—are putting their lives on the line for democracy around the world. But as the tide of democracy rose in the former Soviet Union and in China, in the Baltics and South Africa, only reluctantly did this Administration abandon the status quo and embrace the fight for freedom.
  • Conditioning of favorable trade terms for China on respect for human rights in China and Tibet, greater market access for U.S. goods, and responsible conduct on weapons proliferation.


1988, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was the Democratic Party candidate

  • WE BELIEVE in a clear-headed, tough-minded, decisive American foreign policy that will reflect the changing nature of threats to our security and respond to them in a way that reflects our values and the support of our people, a foreign policy that will respect our Constitution, our Congress and our traditional democratic principles and will in turn be respected for its quiet strength, its bipartisan goals, and its steadfast attention to the concerns and contributions of our allies and international organizations. We believe that we must reassume a role of responsible active international leadership based upon our commitment to democracy, human rights and a more secure world; that this nation, as the world power with the broadest global interests and concerns, has a greater stake than any in building a world at peace and governed by law; that we can neither police the world nor retreat from it; and that to have reliable allies we must be a reliable ally.


1984, Former Vice President Walter Mondale (of Minnesota) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • Our relationship with Japan is a key to the maintenance of peace, security, and development in Asia and the Pacific region. Mutual respect, enhanced cooperation, and steady diplomacy must guide our dealings with Japan. At the same time, as allies and friends, we must work to resolve areas of disagreement. A Democratic President, therefore, will press for increased access to Japanese as well as other Asian markets for American firms and their produces. Finally, a Democratic President will expect Japan to continue moving toward assuming its fair share of the burden of collective security—in self-defense as well as in foreign assistance and democratic development.

    Our security in the Pacific region is also closely tied to the well-being of our long-time allies. Australia and New Zealand. A Democratic President will honor and strengthen our security commitment to ANZUS as well as to other Southeast Asian friends.

    Our relationship with the People's Republic of China must also be nurtured and strengthened. The Democratic Party believes that our developing relations with the PRC offer a historic opportunity to bring one quarter of the world's population into the community of nations, to strengthen a counterweight to Soviet expansionism, and to enhance economic relations that offer great potential for mutual advantage. At the same time, we recognize our historic ties to the people on Taiwan and we will continue to honor our commitments to them, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.

    Our own principles and interests demand that we work with those in Asia, as well as elsewhere, who can encourage democratic institutions and support greater respect for human rights. A Democratic President will work closely with the world's largest democracy, India, and maintain mutually beneficial ties. A Democratic President will press for the restoration of full democracy in the Philippines, further democratization and the elimination of martial law in Taiwan, the return to freedom of speech and press in South Korea, and restoration of human rights for the people of East Timor. Recognizing the strategic importance of Pakistan and the close relationship which has existed between our two countries, a Democratic President would press to restore democracy and terminate its nuclear weapons program. Finally, a Democratic President would press for the fullest possible accounting of Americans still missing in Indochina.


1980, President Jimmy Carter sought re-election

  • Today, thanks to a number of steps that have been taken—strengthening the international aid institutions, the Panama Canal treaties, the Zimbabwe settlement, the normalization of relations with China—the United States has a healthier and more productive relationship with these countries.
  • The establishment of normal diplomatic and economic relations with China is an historic foreign policy achievement.

    Progress in U.S.-China relations was stalled in 1977, but with patience, political courage and historic vision, the deadlock was broken by this Democratic Administration.

    In the fifteen months since normalization, the benefits of normalization have already become clear: trade, travel, cultural exchange, and, most important of all, the security and stability of the Pacific region is greater now than in any time in this century.

    The Democratic Party commits itself to a broadening and deepening of our relationship with China in a way that will benefit both our peoples and the peace and security of the world. We will continue to seek new areas where the United States and China can cooperate in support of common interests. We have not and will not play "China cards" or other dangerous games; nor will we allow our relationship with any other country to impede our efforts to continue the process of normalization of relations with China. 

    In our relationships with the Philippines, Taiwan and others in the region, we will also press for political liberalization and human rights.

1976, Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia was the Democratic Party candidate

  • No foreign policy that reflects traditional American humanitarian concerns can be indifferent to the plight of the peoples of the Asian subcontinent.

    The recent improvement in relations with China, which has received bipartisan support, is a welcome recognition that there are few areas in which our vital interests clash with those of China. Our relations with China should continue to develop on peaceful lines, including early movement toward normalizing diplomatic relations in the context of a peaceful resolution of the future of Taiwan.


1972, Senator George McGovern (South Dakota) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • A new foreign policy must be adequate for a rapidly changing world. We welcome the opportunity this brings for improved relations with the U.S.S.R. and China. But we value even more America's relations with our friends and allies in the Hemisphere, in Western Europe, Japan and other industrialized countries, Israel and the Middle East, and in the developing nations of Asia and Africa. With them, our relations must be conducted on a basis of mutual trust and consultation, seeking to strengthen our ties and to resolve differences on a basis of mutual advantage. Throughout the world, the focus of our policy should be a commitment to peace, self-determination, development, liberty and international cooperation, without distortion in favor of military points of view.
  • The beginnings of a new U.S.-China relationship are welcome and important. However, so far, little of substance has changed, and the exaggerated secrecy and rhetoric of the Nixon Administration have produced unnecessary complications in our relationship with our allies and friends in Asia and with the U.S.S.R.

    What is needed now is serious negotiation on trade, travel exchanges and progress on more basic issues. The U.S. should take the steps necessary to establish regular diplomatic relations with China.


1968, Vice President Herbert Humphrey (of Minnesota) was the Democratic Party candidate

  • An economically strong and democratic Japan has assumed a more active role in the development of the region. Indonesia has a nationalist, non-communist government seeking to live at peace with its neighbors. Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Republic of Korea have more stable governments and steadily growing economies. They have been aided by American economic assistance and by the American military presence in the Pacific. They have also been encouraged by a confidence reflecting successive Presidential decisions to assist nations to live in peace and freedom.
  • Communist China is providing political and military support for so-called wars of national liberation. A growing nuclear power, Peking has disdained all arms control efforts.
  • Japan, India, Indonesia, and most of the smaller Asian nations are understandably apprehensive about Red China because of its nuclear weapons, its support of subversive efforts abroad, and its militant rhetoric. They have been appalled by the barbaric behavior of the Red Guards toward the Chinese people, their callous disregard for human life and their mistreatment of foreign diplomats.

    The immediate prospect that China will emerge from its self-imposed isolation is dim. But both Asians and Americans will have to coexist with the 750 million Chinese on the mainland. We shall continue to make it clear that we are prepared to cooperate with China whenever it is ready to become a responsible member of the international community. We would actively encourage economic, social and cultural exchange with mainland China as a means of freeing that nation and her people from their narrow isolation.




August 5, 2020 - 4:00pm

During this digital report launch, PEN America and our panelists will discuss the pressures filmmakers confront and the choices they make in order to have their films be shown in China. 

August 20, 2020 - 4:00pm

The USC U.S.-China Institute presents a webinar with Han Li to examine how Chinese are rediscovering the rural China and idealizing rural life in the social media age. She'll also look at the social and political forces driving this trend.