Mitt Romney says Trump’s missteps help China convert old foes to friends

(Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, during a Senate hearing on Sept. 16, 2020. On Thursday, he said some Trump administration missteps are allowing China to turn old foes into friends.

Sen. Mitt Romney says some missteps and inaction by President Donald Trump are allowing China to gather something it never had before: friends.

“People in the past who have not supported them are now coming to their side,” Romney said during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Thursday about China. “Geopolitically, they are rising, and we are not. They’re lining up people to support them.”

The Utah Republican said that comes because countries see China’s rising economic power, and want assistance from it or to establish trade.

“As China becomes stronger, we may find that they are able to collect something which they’ve never had before, which is friends,” Romney said.

The Utah Republican praised Trump for pushing back against its trade policies but said the presidentmade a mistake by not doing so in collaboration with our allies and being able to have much more clout pushing against them.”

Romney previously criticized Trump for offending allies instead of rallying them into a coalition against Russia and China. He said that included Trump threatening tariffs on aluminum and steel against such counties as Canada and withdrawing thousands of troops from Germany as Trump complained it was not spending enough on NATO defense.

Romney said he believes China will not stop trade abuses, mistreatment of religious minorities and jailing critics until it feels some economic pain from the outside world.

He asked David Stillwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, if other countries that “follow the rule of law,” such as the European Union, India, Japan and South Korea, are willing to develop a collaborative trade policy against China.

Stillwell said they are — and are bristling against such things as China punishing dissidents and for using its “economic clout as a cudgel” to force countries to do things that are not in its own interest.

“All these things work against that juggernaut that you described, senator, of this inevitability of Chinese domination of the global economy,” Stillwell said.

Romney called for more effort toward “combining with these other nations on a collaborative basis to confront China.”

Romney’s continuous criticism of Trump’s foreign policy and the president’s inflammatory tweets — plus being the only Republican senator to vote for his impeachment — led Trump earlier this month to call Romney “our worst senator.”

Trump also asserted at a political rally, “Romney couldn’t be elected dogcatcher in Utah right now.”