Thanks to the president’s “hot mic” incident in Russia, more Americans are paying attention to foreign policy – reviewing not just the president’s record, but the views of his would-be Republican opponents. Mitt Romney has come under particular scrutiny, which led yours truly to notice a Wall Street Journal piece he wrote on the Chinese Communist Party last month. My shame at missing this for six weeks aside, Romney’s op-ed makes it abundantly clear: if nominated, he would be the most anti-Communist major party nominee for president in over 20 years.

Romney’s column is an anti-CCP tour de force (to the extent that a pile of words can ever be). Unlike most presidential challengers, Romney does not just simply complain about the Communists’ deliberate cheapening of their currency for export. In fact, the currency devaluation isn’t even his first indictment of the regime. Instead, Romney perfectly distils the situation we face in the second paragraph (emphasis added):

One much bruited these days is that of a Chinese century. With China’s billion-plus population, its 10% annual average growth rates, and its burgeoning military power, a China that comes to dominate Asia and much of the globe is increasingly becoming thinkable. The character of the Chinese government—one that marries aspects of the free market with suppression of political and personal freedom—would become a widespread and disquieting norm.

The verbiage is critical here, in particular, “aspects of the free market.” Far too often, lazy pundits and politicians have assumed China already has a free market. Romney, whose business experience has given him a far better idea of what a free market is – and isn’t – is more circumspect than nearly all of Washington on this score. More to the point, he also sees the regime as the anti-American threat it really is.

As one would expect, Romney is critical of the president. Readers would note that while I have issues with Barack Obama, his East Asia policy has had its high points. Much to my surprise, Romney actually noticed, too, albeit dismissively: “Now, three years into his term, the president has belatedly responded with a much-ballyhooed ‘pivot’ to Asia . . . ”

More importantly, Romney also noted where the president has contradicted himself:

The pivot is also vastly under-resourced. Despite his big talk about bolstering our military position in Asia, President Obama’s actions will inevitably weaken it. He plans to cut back on naval shipbuilding, shrink our Air Force, and slash our ground forces. Because of his policies and failed leadership, our military is facing nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

Simply put, this is head and shoulders over everyone else running and nearly everyone else who even thought of running for president. Romney’s understanding of the connections between military strength and geopolitics is disappointingly rare among politicians today, but that makes his willingness to connect the dots all the more valuable.

Even in the matter of bilateral trade, Romney is about more than just the depreciated currency. He has been the only candidate for president (for two cycles now) to talk about intellectual property theft, and he mentions it again in this column. No one else has even bothered with this issue.

Romney concludes with the fundamental point about the CCP that I’ve been making for a dozen years now:

We have much to gain from close relations with a China that is prosperous and free. But we should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, for its neighbors, and for the entire world.

That such a statement would come from a leading candidate for President of the United States was a laughable dream just a few years ago. Now, a president who could argue to having the most anti-Communist East Asia policy since the Tiananmen massacre will (if trends continue) go up against a Republican who has presented the most detailed, nuanced, and intelligent anti-Communist policy for any candidate (current incumbent included) since that same dark day in June.

In short, Mitt Romney, should he be nominated as is increasingly expected, will become thecandidate for anti-Communists in 2012. That is a dramatic and exhilirating departure from just about every other presidential cycle from 1992 onward.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal and Bearing Drift