Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and an internationally recognized authority on China and population issues joined American Greatness publisher, Chris Buskirk, and contributing editor, Seth Leibsohn on The Seth and Chris Show to discuss his new book, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. Listen to the audio below or read the transcript that follows.
Seth Leibsohn: Welcome back to the Seth and Chris Show. I’m Seth Leibsohn. He is Chris Buskirk. It is a delight to welcome to the show Steven W. Mosher. He is the author of a brand new book just out, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. Welcome to the show, Steven.
Steven Mosher: Thanks for having me, Seth.
Seth Leibsohn: You betcha. I told the audience just before you came on I was interested in having you on not simply because of your new book, though congratulations and wonderful that you do have it, but because too few people I think have been addressing China the way you have. I’m not going to ask you to agree or disagree, but just as a springboard point to this conversation, one of the things I have found most interesting about the interviews that Stephen Bannon has been giving is that he is one of the few people I have heard talking about China the way a lot of conservatives used to but haven’t in a long time.
In your book, you go into a lot of this, that China basically at this point in time is the only country in the world that truly poses a mortal challenge to the United States. I’ll let you take it from there.
Steven Mosher: I think if you look around the world, we live in a brutal world with many, many challenges. Islamic terrorism is a real threat and will cost us many lives, I’m afraid, before it comes to an end, but it doesn’t pose an existential threat to the very existence of America. I think Russia is an openly declining power. It has a population crisis. It’s population is shrinking rapidly and aging, and its aims will be limited by that over time, but China is growing.
China’s growing in economic might. It’s growing in military might, and even more to the point, China has the idea that it needs to recover its traditional place in the world. People need to understand that China for 2,000 years had the largest economy, the largest population of any empire on the planet. That ended around 1820, when the Chinese economy was surpassed by that of the United States, but by Chinese reckoning, that was yesterday. The Chinese leadership think long-term, and have in place a plan over the next few years to replace the United States as the world’s dominant power.
If China were a free market democracy, Seth, we would welcome that. If the Chinese people enjoyed freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, we would celebrate their rise. We would work together. We would all be more prosperous as a result, but China doesn’t do those things. China is a one-party dictatorship, and if the world is in five or ten years, or a little further down the road, dominated by China, that world will be less free, less democratic, less safe, not only for Americans but for other Asian peoples and of course for the Chinese people themselves.
That’s not a future I would welcome. That’s a future I’m doing everything I can, including writing Bully of Asia, to forestall.
Seth Leibsohn: Steve, the research I’ve done, the reports I go to, human rights organizations, even some of what our government organizations will say, comport with everything you say. I agree with you, so I’d like to play the devil’s advocate when I have these discussions with people. They will say, “What the heck are you talking about? We have a tremendous business investment in China. Their economy has liberated. Since normal trade relations have taken place, we send our students there, and they seem to be very welcoming of our dollars and our students. They send them here. They want their students at Harvard, Yale, Stanford.” You’ve heard this argument before. Is this simply a Potemkin village that the Chinese government puts up?
Steven Mosher: It is a Potemkin village in one sense, that the Chinese government has been flooding the Chinese economy with cheap money for the last 20 years to keep the economy bustling along. There are ghost cities in China. There are toll roads in China that no cars use. There are buildings in China, condominiums and business office buildings, that are largely empty because they were funded by one party hack giving a big construction loan to another party hack who pocketed some of the money and then built a building where there was no market demand for it.
The Chinese debt … We talk about the American debt at $20 trillion, which is a serious problem that hopefully with tax cuts and economic growth we can address over time, but China’s debt may be as much as 300% of GDP.
Seth Leibsohn: That’s interesting. Steve, this was a short segment. We have a longer one coming up. You good for one more segment on the other side of this break? I want to pursue that point with you.
Steven Mosher: Be happy to.
Seth Leibsohn: Great. We will, folks, be right back with Steven W. Mosher. Bully of Asia is his book, Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. By the way, if you have a question for Steve, he is happy to take your calls at (602) 508-0960. Chris and I will be right back.
Welcome back to the Seth and Chris Show. I am Seth Leibsohn. He is Chris Buskirk. Delighted to have as our guest Steven W. Mosher. He is the author of the brand new book Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. Steven, I apologize. I might have done this interview a little bit backwards, but I well know, as Chris well knows, your biography. I think our audience would like to know it, too. I think it’s such an interesting story how you got into the study of all this. We’ll get back to your book in just a moment, but would you mind doing a moment of autobiography? It’s a fascinating story to me. Always has been.
Steven Mosher: I was at Stanford University doing my dissertation on Taiwan. I had done field research in Taiwan when all of a sudden in 1979 China opened up. Because I can speak, read, and write Chinese and Cantonese, I was delighted to be the first American social scientist allowed to do field research in China. I found myself in the middle of the collapse of the communist system, which was a terrible disaster that led to the loss, years before, of tens of millions of Chinese lives.
I witnessed the beginning of what became known as the one child policy, where women were arrested for the crime of being pregnant and forcibly aborted. Some of these women were eight months pregnant, nine months pregnant. They were being aborted by Cesarean section abortions. I was in the operating room. A horrible experience for me, of course, but devastating for them. Some of these women took their lives after that experience. They were suicidal.
Came back to the United States to report on these atrocities, these human rights violations. China of course was incensed. The long arm of the Chinese Communist Party reached across the Pacific and demanded of Stanford University that I be fired. The threat was, that’s a threat that’s still made today, that all communication with Stanford would be cut off. No Stanford scholars or students would be allowed to go to China unless I was punished in this way. And Stanford complied. I was asked to leave the university.
We still see the same thing happened today, of course, with Chinese students being watched by their peers when they’re studying at American universities. Any “anti-China activity” is reported to the Ministry of State Security, the secret police in China. We see American academics being watched. You write a book like Bully of Asia, which I have, I guarantee you I will not get a visa to China for the next 10 years. I have friends who have been active on the human rights front, Chinese academics who study Chinese history, who speak China’s language, who haven’t been to China for 20 years because they’re critics of the regime. This government, this one-party dictatorship, does not want criticism.
Seth Leibsohn: Steve, thank you for that. I appreciate that brief sketch. When we were going to the break, we were talking about the economics of China. We’re told, I’m told, friends tell me that China is indeed liberalizing in its economics. It is lifting its state control of the economy. People are thriving there in a way they never have before, some of it due to trade, some of it due to being more open, some of it having to do with normal trade relations and a better relationship vis-a-vis the United States over the past several decades.
To this, you say, “Not so fast.”
Steven Mosher: I say look under the surface of the U.S.-China relationship. What happened in the year 2000, 17 years ago, was that we let China join the World Trade Organization on the understanding that they would abide by international law and by the laws that would require them to open their markets to American products, allow investment in all sectors of the Chinese economy, allow America insurance companies and banks, for example, to operate in China.
None of that has materialized. Before the ink was even dry on the agreement, China was violating it. They took full advantage of the World Trade Organization membership to flood the U.S. market with Chinese-made goods, manufactured by the way by workers who are not allowed to strike for higher wages, who are not allowed to even engage in an assembly line slowdown lest the police be called out to bring them back into line. These are not free. This is not a free labor market in China by any means.
What happened as a result of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, and the ongoing theft of intellectual property, and the cyber war that’s been carried out against us, the theft of intellectual property from private companies and government entities, we have seen over the last 15 years the biggest transfer of wealth in human history from the United States to China. Of course, that benefited the Chinese people, but it hasn’t benefited the United States. We’ve seen factories close. We’ve seen jobs lost as a result of China’s clear violation of international agreements.
I call China “the bully of Asia” because China doesn’t abide by the rules that govern the current international order. They want to dominate that order. They want to change that order. When China was rebuked by the International Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, about its claim to the South China Sea, and the International Court said, “You don’t own the South China Sea. It’s owned jointly. Its resources are owned jointly by six countries.” The president of China, Xi Jinping, said, “That ruling is nothing more than waste paper.” I think that that view of international law, as nothing more than waste paper or toilet paper, is a very dangerous view. It gives us a hint of how China will behave in the future as it grows more powerful. It will ignore the rules. It will make their own rules and impose them on the rest of us. That’s not a world that I welcome.
Chris Buskirk: Steve, it’s Chris. A question for you. In your view, why is it that the American right made up with China?
Steven Mosher: Interesting question. I was part of that making-up process back in the 1980s. A lot of us were convinced that China was going our way. We believed that the economic freedom that was introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the late 70s before modernization would cause economic growth, would lead to the rise of a middle class, people would become better educated, their basic needs would be fulfilled for food, and shelter, and so forth, and they would begin to demand increasing freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and so forth.
That ended. That dream ended in Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989, when China’s Communist Party, led by Deng Xiaoping, met the legitimate demands of millions and millions of Chinese students and workers for increasing freedom with a hail of bullets and with the treads of tanks. They ran down unarmed students in the streets of Beijing with tanks, crushing their bodies. They shot them down in the streets, the soldiers did, on orders from Deng Xiaoping.
Then we saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Chinese Communist Party has studied the collapse of the Soviet Union and is determined not to repeat it. What it did then was it put in place a patriotic education program, which begins in kindergarten and continues through college. Everybody in China has to go through this program, and it basically teaches Chinese students that all of China’s woes are caused by the West, specifically by America, that China was historically a great country, it is culturally superior, ethnically superior to all others, and it has a natural right to dominate the rest of the world. That’s the education that this generation of students is getting by a Communist Party that is determined to stay in power, and I’m afraid that it’s taking.
Chris Buskirk: I’m interested. Tiananmen Square is almost 30 years ago now, and yet so much of the American right still sees China as just a good free-trading partner, but that’s just not the reality. What does it take to wake them up?
I’m going to leave you on that. We’ve got to run to a break, so maybe think about it during the break. We’ll be right back with Steve Mosher.
Welcome back to the Seth and Chris Show. We’re joined by Steve Mosher. He is the author most recently of The Bully of Asia, a really good explanation of what we’re dealing with when we’re talking about the People’s Republic of China. Steve, just before the break, I was asking you, the historical question is how did the right start cozying up to China. What keeps the right cozied up to China? I understand the desire to think there was an opening 30 years ago. That’s a generation ago now, and yet we still see the American right, where we should expect some sense, slumbering.
Steven Mosher: I think it goes back to the Reagan era. The opening up to China was greeted by a lot of us with the hope that China would realize the folly of communism and would become a free market democracy, as 24 million free Chinese have on Taiwan. For the first time in 5,000 years of Chinese history, we have a fully functioning democracy practiced by 24 million people. So democracy is possible in China, but there’s a huge organization; 90 million members of the Chinese Communist Party stand in the way of that, and they are determined not to relinquish their grip on power.
What they did was they came up with the solution to the threat posed by economic advance, economic development, the rise of a middle class, because as the Chinese people became more wealthy, the Communist Party tightened the ideological screws. The patriotic education program we’ve already talked about. They set up an Intranet. They built a Great Wall around China’s Internet, and Internet censorship in China is practiced to the Nth degree. If you put something online, if you tweet something that’s read by more than 10 people, and the state considers it to be subversive, you will be arrested and put in jail. The very means that we thought, namely the Internet and easy communication, that people would use to organize and start a resistance against dictatorial rule has been co-opted and is being tightly controlled by the one-party dictatorship that rules China.
China calls itself, describes its ideology now not so much as communist. It says it is socialism with Chinese characteristics. What Chinese characteristics is a reference to is this hypernationalism, this super-patriotism that is being force-fed the Chinese. What we really have is socialism and nationalism. Reversing that, that becomes national socialism, and I think you know now what I’m talking about. China is not so much a communist country. It is a national socialist country, and that’s a danger. We had a real problem with a national socialist country a few decades ago, didn’t we?
Chris Buskirk: Steven Mosher, well put. Thank you. The book Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. Steven, I hope you’ll come back.
Steven Mosher: I would be happy to.
Chris Buskirk: Thank you very much, and thank you for this book.