Thursday, April 30, 2020

China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic

The U.S. and China relationship is in one of its most confrontational stances since President Nixon visited the People’s Republic in 1972. China and its handling of the coronavirus may be a key issue in the November presidential campaign. A propaganda war is being waged by both sides and both parties in the U.S. It is accompanied by a growing standoff in the South China Sea, a fierce economic competition with retaliatory tariffs, and accusations of spying and secrets thefts.

Professors Suisheng (Sam) Zhao and Floyd Ciruli will host a discussion on the impact COVID-19 is having on China and U.S. relations, how it appears to be effecting each country’s domestic policies, and the lack of global leadership on the pandemic.

Join Us
Thursday, May 14, 2020
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm MST

Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 926-3541-6507

Click on the link below to join the conversation on Thursday,
May 14 at 3:00 pm from PC, Mac, Linus, iOS or Android:

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and Center for China-U.S. Cooperation

China and U.S.: Moving from Cooperation, to Competition, to Confrontation

The U.S. and China relationship is in one of its most confrontational stances since President Nixon visited the People’s Republic in 1972. China and its handling of the coronavirus may be a key issue in the November presidential campaign. A propaganda war is being waged by both sides and both parties in the U.S. It is accompanied by a growing standoff in the South China Sea, a fierce economic competition with retaliatory tariffs, and accusations of spying and secrets thefts.

The relationship, improved after Nixon’s visit, has had warm and cold periods. But in this century, it has become much more fraught with conflict. The rise of China’s economic and military power and the presidency of Xi Jinping have led to a shift from competition to confrontation, especially after the election of Donald Trump.

Americans have increasingly negative views of China. A recent Pew Research poll shows the dramatic recent surge of unfavorable ratings to a historic high since data has been collected in 2005. It reflects a host of issues and the views of Democratic and Republican adherents.

In follow-up questions, Pew identifies, along with the pandemic, job loss and the trade deficit as key concerns, along with environment factors and human rights abuses. Although Republicans have more negative views of China (72% negative), Democrats also have an unfavorable view (62%).

Friday, April 24, 2020

Politics and Foreign Policy in the Pandemic

The University of Denver is continuing its programs to provide community conversations and information.

Ambassador Christopher Hill and I will reprise our regular politics and foreign policy discussion. Our topic is the pandemic’s impact on our politics and foreign policy. I will discuss blogs I’ve done on the topic:

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm MST

Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 921-0870-9263

Click on the link below to join the conversation from PC, Mac, Linus, iOS or Android:


President Trump has decided to politicize public health policies surrounding the containing of the coronavirus. His tweets to “liberate” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia – all likely battleground states in the November election – are clearly an effort to seek political advantage from voters’ frustrations with shelter-in-place orders.

Although most voters are supporting social distancing rules and are more concerned about restrictions being lifted too soon (66%), there is a significant group of voters (32%) that is and can be activated against the rules. The latest Pew Research poll reports that Republicans are divided on lifting restrictions (48% lift quicker and 51% don’t lift too quickly), but that 53 percent of conservative Republicans are concerned restrictions will not be “lifted quickly enough.”

The following chart shows the party distribution among conservative and more moderate voters among Republicans and liberals and more moderate to conservative Democrats and restrictions being lifted “too quickly” or “not quickly enough.”

Colorado Politics: RNC Defends Trump in Colorado, But Still Lagging Behind

Joey Bunch, writer and editor at Colorado Politics, reports on the Republican National Committee (RNC) blitz to defend President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus in the states. The media outreach is responding to polls showing Trump and the administration seen as ill-managing the early outbreak and too quick to end the restrictions for the economy.

My contribution was to observe that there is no evidence Trump has improved his Colorado position since his 2016 defeat by Hillary Clinton and Republican losses in general in 2018. The RNC’s primary argument was that Democrats were undermining national unity by playing the “blame game.”

No recent polls are available, but a large national online poll conducted the end of February by Morning Consult for Politico showed Trump with a negative 13 percent approval in Colorado (42% to 55% disapproval, on the low side among the states). The current national polling average for Trump is 45 percent to 46 percent. I stated:

"He has his base maybe by 90%," said pollster Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center on Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver. "But the base and 40% of unaffiliated (voters) is not nearly enough in Colorado."

President Trump holding a press briefing | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Who’s Best Reviving the Economy?

President Trump has mostly lost control of the narrative over competence on managing the response to the COVID-19 crisis. He’s now fighting to control what he considers an even bigger issue – any and all good news that can be produced concerning the economy. Some elements of his strategy:

  • Bad news, like shutdowns, belongs to governors. Good news, like start-up, is his.
  • He and his entourage argue scientists and some governors and mayors have overreacted in shutdown. He’s been a consistent advocate for opening it up.
  • He will be best qualified to super charge a recovery. He got the U.S. to 3.5 percent unemployment. He can do it again.

Although he may be on the defense for his early response, he feels he can reset with the economy to save himself on November 3. It will be a challenge, but Trump is a relentless marketer.

Some findings from a new national survey from Pew Research show Trump has lost the narrative of competence by being seen as slow to respond and they express concern about his advocacy of a quick opening. He has much lower credibility than medical authorities and state governors. But, he still is seen as credible on the economy (a 52% economic performance approval in if primarily for business, not the general public, and his overall approval remains about the same at 44 percent positive and 53 percent negative.

  • Most Americans say Trump was too slow in initial response to coronavirus threat – 65% too slow, 34% too quick (Pew Research reported 4/18, conducted 4/8-12)
  • The greater concern is state governments opening too quickly – 66% too quickly, 32% not quickly enough (Pew, 478)
  • Less than two-fifths say Trump’s public comments on outbreak are accurate – 39% accurate, 52% better than really is
  • Over half say he does a good job addressing business needs, but less say he’s done well on financial needs of ordinary people – 51% needs of businesses, 46% needs of ordinary people
  • Approval of job performance – 44% positive, 53% negative

Monday, April 20, 2020

Democrats Unifying as Close Race Begins

With the endorsements of Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden now has a unified Democratic Party in terms of top leadership, many of whom campaigned against him. The disparate constituent groups in the party are not necessarily unified and many are lacking enthusiasm, so Biden and the party still have much work ahead.

Although national polls give Biden a lead in head-to-head tests, many remember Hillary Clinton’s national lead of 4 points or more throughout the 2016 campaign. Indeed, the current consensus is that the election will be closely battled in ten or less states. Today’s polling averages show the race in key states in the Electoral College is tight.

The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Two

Since Easter, almost 12,000 more victims of COVID-19 have been recorded for a total of 33,903 in the U.S. (first bar chart). It represents a 54 percent increase in five days. The U.S. is now a quarter (24%) of the world total of 140,000. The Crossley Center blog (see The Twin Towers of Pain, 4-14-20) earlier this week highlighted the “speed and intensity of the onslaught.”

Unemployment, the other Twin Tower, also had a massive increase since last week – up 31 percent with 5.2 million new claims. The total now is 21.8 million (second bar chart). Unemployment now exceeds the 15 million reached in the Great Recession of August 2009. In fact, as the Washington Post headlined, the 22 million approaches Great Depression levels (25 million) of the 1930s.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Twin Towers of Pain

What’s unique in the pandemic crisis of 2020 is the speed and intensity of the onslaught. From the first reported death in the U.S. on January 29 in Washington State, to 3,800 at the end of March, to 22,000 recorded Easter weekend, the U.S. now has the highest numbers of deaths, going past Italy, which has just under 20,000. Represented in the bar chart below, the tower dramatizes the more than 500 percent increase in deaths since April 1.

Unemployment, as measured by claims, shows a similar speed and impact. From a recent historic low of 3.5 percent and about 200,000 new claims per weekly reporting period, to 3 million on March 21 as many states and cities implemented lock downs, to 6.8 million the next week ending March 25, to 6.6 million more the following week, for a total of 16.6 million claims (second bar chart). The largest number of claims in a single reporting period in the Great Recession was 695,000, which was after a year into the crisis. Total unemployment reached 10 percent and 15 million. The expectation for pain is greater for the coronavirus pandemic.

Sanders Makes Best of Harsh Reality

Bernie Sanders, 25 points behind Joe Biden and with no real chance of winning the Democratic nomination since March 3, Super Tuesday, gives it up on April 8. Sanders will stay in the race through the remaining primaries to take his thousand or so delegates to the Democratic Convention (virtual?) to lobby the platform and remain a player. Biden and the party will continue to give Sanders a wide berth, hoping to get a unified party by early September. However, they must guard against appearing too close to his more rigid ideas and supporters.

Biden starts the race against President Trump about 7 points ahead in the RealClearPolitics average, but the contest is closer in key states, such as Pennsylvania (up 3 points) and Florida (up 1 point). Most national projections see a close electoral vote fought, especially in 10 to 12 battleground states.

Biden’s challenge is to lead a party that is primarily unified by a desire to defeat Trump, but divided over some of the basic approaches to governing and specific policies.

Former VP Joe Biden (L) and Sen. Bernie Sanders greet one another
by bumping elbows before they participate in a Democratic
presidential primary debate, March 15, 2020 | Evan Vucci/AP

Read The Buzz:
Biden Moving Toward Delegate Majority. Does Sanders Stay In?
The Resurrection of Joe Biden. What Happened?

Friday, April 10, 2020

Flood of Colorado Ballot Initiatives Now on Hold: Coronavirus Changes Politics

After an all-time high number of citizen initiatives were filed with the Secretary of State to gain access to the 2020 ballot, the coronavirus has stopped most of them, many before they even attempted to gather signatures. Already on the ballot are propositions to negate the Democrats effort to remove Colorado from the Electoral College, the reintroduction of wolves and a citizenship requirement to vote. But dozens more, including limits on abortions, a progressive income tax, a preschool funding tobacco tax, the perennial limits on oil and gas drilling, paid leave and a plethora of mostly liberal initiatives, are in limbo.

Ballot advocates and the signature industry saw 2020 as a perfect year for high voter turnout to back new proposals. The virus is a blow to their ambitions. All states with citizen initiative access to the ballot are dealing with the same issues and, of course, advocates are arguing for online petitioning and extended deadlines. However, Coloradans have not been anxious to crowd the ballot with initiatives. In 2016, Colorado voted by 57 percent to make it more difficult to get to the ballot or pass constitutional initiatives (Proposition 71).

In comparison, California, which requires 623,212 valid signatures, allows a mail-back petitioning, but soliciting them is a huge, expensive process that has not been fully implemented, tested and perfected. Coronavirus has also tied up a host of California proposals that may not make it, such as $5.5 billion for stem cell research, increasing medical negligence damages, and regulations for dialysis clinics.

From Brokered to Virtual Convention, Coronavirus Changes Politics

As 2020 began and early caucuses and primaries showed a closely divided Democratic Party, the political buzz focused on how a brokered convention would work. It was scheduled for mid-July, early to get ahead of the Olympics. That conversation ended on March 3, Super Tuesday, as Joe Biden swept through 11 out of 15 states as the frontrunner and potential nominee. It was confirmed in several mid-March follow-up primaries.

But, as of today, coronavirus has made June 2 the historically end of the primary session and its own Super Tuesday as eleven states hold events, including six that moved earlier events. The Democratic convention has already been moved from July 13-16 to August 17-20, and now contingency plans are being discussed on shifting to a virtual convention where delegates may hear the speeches on television and vote online and by phone. Conventions tend to be staged ceremonial events, and this one was effectively over after Michigan on March 10 and Florida and Illinois on March 17, which Bernie Sanders confirmed today.

Sen. Bernie Sanders | Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Former VP Joe Biden | Photo: CNN

Democratic Primary: Is it Over?

John Hickenlooper | Photo: Getty
The coronavirus emergency has shut down the public aspects of American politics at the moment it was reaching its peak activity. Just as the presidential primary campaigns have become dormant, the Colorado primary race for senate is now frozen in place with virtual county assemblies and state conventions. All to the benefit of frontrunner John Hickenlooper, who is already on the ballot by petition and just announced he would not participate in the party process. He already has avoided candidate forums as much as possible. Any remaining events before the June primary will likely be virtual and mostly devoid of a real clash. Rivals are now denied a live audience and the dynamics needed to show grassroots support.

Cory Gardner
But, along with freezing the primary process just as rivals needed visibility from rallies and party activities, the issues have shifted from the Democrats’ left-center divide to competence. Hickenlooper, who had been on the defense with the party’s far left, is the winner on the issue of executive experience and competence. One of his most salient images in his eight-year term as governor was dealing with crises from fires, floods and horrendous shootings.

It’s hard to imagine Hickenlooper’s final three months until the June primary on more favorable territory.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Visiting Japanese Professors and Officials Highlight Successful Crossley Center Winter Program

The Crossley Center and the Korbel School hosted a program of visiting Japanese professors and government officials in early 2020. The timing of this program was fortunate. Had it occurred even a week later in March, most events would likely have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. The final presentation with Professor Koji Murata was held on March 3, 2020 with an audience of more than 130. It was one of the last large events at the Korbel School campus, which is now entirely online.

The events with Professor Murata and Foreign Ministry official, Noriyuki Shikata, were scheduled in early February and early March and were well attended by a total of more than 300, including Korbel School students and community opinion leaders. Extensive online promotion was conducted by the sponsor organizations, reaching more than 5,000 online by email and via Facebook and Twitter. Panel participants, experts on Asia and U.S. foreign policy, U.S. domestic politics and U.S. and world public opinion were Ambassador Christopher Hill, Office of Global Engagement; Professor Suisheng Zhao, Center for China-U.S. Cooperation; and Dina Smeltz, Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

One of the important features of the program was the collaboration with the Crossley Center, the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation and the Office of Global Engagement. Another unique aspect was the support of the Japanese Consulate of Denver and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs alongside the Korbel School and the University of Denver.

The program met its goals by facilitating an informed conversation among Japanese and Colorado experts on the primary factors that influence the Japan-U.S. alliance. The dialogues dispelled some misperceptions and clarified Japan’s foreign policy for American audiences.

The following are a few of the most salient topics discussed in the three presentations.

  • There are many opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and Japan, and Asia in general. Japan has been working diligently to improve relations and reduce miscommunications with China.
  • Japan advocates an Asian policy that supports democracy, human rights and freedom of navigation. It works with the EU countries to enhance peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The Japan-U.S. alliance is strong and stable, and the relationship between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump is sound. Abe is one of his few friends on the international stage.
  • The American public supports the alliance with Japan and the bases in Japan, and has a very favorable view of Japan.
  • This is a period of tremendous change and disruption of long-established norms in the West concerning America’s leadership role, the promotion of democracy, free trade and alliances. Some of the change reflects deep worldwide trends and others are based on recent Western leaders and parties. 

In general, the program provided thought leaders an opportunity to share ideas and opinions, and provided considerable information to students and the public.

Prepared by Floyd Ciruli, Director, Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

Authoritarians Use Virus to Extend Power

Populist demagogues and authoritarians are using the pandemic as an excuse to increase their power and silence critics. The most high-profile head of state seizing dictatorial power due to the coronavirus is Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary and head of nationalist Fidesz Party. The grant of near absolute authority to rule by decree has no clear procedure for relinquishing the power and draconian punishment for anyone who “distorts the truth” about the government’s effort to fight the pandemic or save the economy.

But Orbán is hardly alone as Russia, Turkey, Israel and India are among the countries led by nationalist populists adding to their control. Simultaneously, China and Russia are spreading fake news on social media, especially in Europe, to undermine the unity of the EU. The mostly ominous posts extol the effectiveness of the authoritarians in dealing with the pandemic and claim democratic countries and the EU are failing.

What the authoritarians know and contribute to by their propaganda is the public’s dissatisfaction with democracy and elected officials. In a 2019 Pew poll in 34 of the most significant countries with democratic process, 52 percent of the world’s public said they were dissatisfied with democracy versus 44 percent satisfied. Elected officials did even worse with 64 percent saying officials didn’t care what people like themselves think and half didn’t believe the state was run for the benefit of all. For democracy to survive, it must address these attitudes immediately. Unfortunately, the U.S., which was the world leading advocate for democracy, has relinquished that role.

Peak China – Xi Defense

In 2017, Xi Jinping was labeled China’s paramount leader with no specific limit on his term of office. Since then, he has implemented an aggressive plan to position China as the preeminent Asian power with global aspirations. However, a number of recent events point to Xi’s strategy as having hit a peak.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made his first visit to Wuhan since
the coronavirus outbreak began more than two months ago | Photo via CNN

The picture of Xi in Wuhan, his mouth and nose covered with a virus mask, is part of a massive propaganda effort to shore up his and the Communist Party’s highly damaged image of competence and candor. But, it can’t distract from a host of problems the third year of Xi’s leadership has run into.

The country’s authoritarian excesses are being exposed and criticized around the world. Xi’s and China’s reputation have suffered blow after blow from his aggressive policies ruthlessly implemented. After Hong Kong, to Taiwan, to Uighurs, to new COVID-19, China hit a peak and it is now playing defense.

Read The Buzz
Xi: “Paramount” and “Permanent” Leader
The New Chinese Politburo