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Tuesday’s State of the Union address could easily be summarized as President Obama making one last rhetorical defense of his presidency to an unconvinced American people who possess no tangible signs of his success. We have to be constantly reminded of the things President Obama has “accomplished” because they have simply created little to no immediate value for the American people. The Affordable Care Act, for example, is increasing health insurance premiums and decreasing the quality of coverage. Defenders of the president will quickly point out that many of his signature policies, like the Iranian Nuclear Deal with the major powers including China or the climate agreement with China specifically, likely won’t bear fruit for many years and are simply investments for the future. This may be the case and it would be naive to expect immediate positive results from these major policy changes.
The only thing more naive is to trust that the Chinese government will adhere to the terms of long-term international agreements.
Obama’s signature achievements, to be polite, on foreign policy and climate/energy run through Beijing. First, the Chinese must be willing to punish their not too distant neighbor and soon-to-be major trading partner, including oil supplier, should the Iranians decide to build a nuclear weapon. This would be a tall order regardless of Beijing’s reputation. China is currently bordered by four known nuclear-armed states, including North Korea and Pakistan, and has a major weapons program itself. It’s hard to imagine they care as deeply about nutjobs with nukes as much as we do given the circumstances. China is also supposedly committed to begin reducing its carbon emissions by, according to official White House language, “around 2030.”