Over the past two weeks, the streets of Hong Kong have been racked with protests on a scale rarely seen. By some accounts, more than 2 million people participated, over a quarter of Hong Kong’s population of 7 million.
The cause of the massive unrest was a proposed law that would allow accused criminals to be extradited to China. Protesters knew what that meant. Anyone in Hong Kong who was critical of the Chinese regime would end up in Chinese prison camps, instead of having a chance at what remains of due process within Hong Kong.
On the surface, China’s response to the protests in Hong Kong has been mild. This should come as no surprise. The regime knows that sending in the tanks, the way it did after losing patience with the occupiers of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, would not work in Hong Kong. Over 150 years of British rule gave Hong Kong residents a familiarity with democracy and respect for individual rights—and an intolerance for tyranny. When Hong Kong was turned back over to China in 1997, the expectation was that these rights would be preserved under the concept of “one nation, two systems.” But as ever, the Chinese are playing the long game.
Beijing has operatives embedded in Hong Kong’s police and security services. They have control over local gangsters. They have installed pervasive surveillance technology. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, is a puppet of the Chinese regime, and while her political career may not survive the current unrest, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is full of Chinese puppets. Slowly but relentlessly, China’s regime will identify and silence dissidents in Hong Kong. It may take decades, but China has implacable resolve. The goal is to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city.
So what does it mean to be Chinese in the 21st century?
For most of the second half of the 20th century, China was asleep. Under Maoist Communism, the people were enslaved and the Chinese economy was stagnant. But starting in the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese Communist Party slowly introduced economic reforms. “Special economic zones” were authorized, starting in 1980 in the southern city of Shenzhen, where the regime could experiment with more flexible market policies. In 1990, the Shanghai Stock Exchange was opened. In 1996, China allowed the Yuan (Renminbi) to be convertible with foreign currency, enabling the growth of its export industry. In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization. The rest is history.
Today, China’s potential is being realized. To be Chinese today is to be part of an irresistible collective, a rising hyperpower, destined to rule the earth and the heavens. China’s population has soared to more than 1.4 billion; it is the world’s second-largest economy, and the world’s top exporter. In 2017, China’s exports totaled $2.4 trillion, and its trade surplus was $873 billion.
China is wide awake, and moving the world. But is China ready to move the world?
In a word, no.
For all its demographic clout and economic dynamism, China fails to meet basic standards of international civility and internal stability. It is a rogue mercantile nation, an expansionist superpower, a racist ethnostate, and a human rights hellhole. The United States does not face a cold war with China, it is already in a cold war with China. How that cold war ends—hot like 1939, or peacefully like 1989—and who wins, may define the destiny of humanity for centuries to come.
China is no longer Communist, nor have the Chinese become capitalists. They are fascists. Capitalist financial incentives now motivate their entrepreneurs, but the Chinese regime exercises top-down absolute power.
The virtue of fascism, if you want to call it that, is the elimination of gridlock. In less than 10 years, the Chinese regime built the Three Gorges Dam, which now turns the hydropower of the fabled Yangtze River into 22 gigawatts of electricity. For a large dam to be built in America today, 10 years wouldn’t be enough time to do a feasibility study, much less acquire permits, settle lawsuits, and begin construction.
But is gridlock the price of America’s freedom? Is tyranny the prerequisite for China’s national resolve? And which system will prove stronger; which will attract the rest of the world?
From the safe haven of liberty and prosperity that America remains despite the wails of its excitable Left, it is easy to forget just how different life is in police state China. To put the comparison into stark perspective, imagine if one of China’s biggest movie stars, say, Deng Chao, in his first remarks to the audience at the Golden Rooster Awards (mainland China’s equivalent of the Oscars), were to say “f— Xi,” and then, after a brief pause, were to say “it’s no longer ‘down with Xi,’ it’s f— Xi.” Or imagine if the news anchors on CCTV (mainland China’s preeminent news network) were to engage in news coverage of President Xi that was “93 percent negative.”
In China, how long would that last? Yet American superstar actor Robert De Niro, along with dozens of his counterparts, can fearlessly taunt the American president with obscenities, and it’s just another publicity stunt doubling as a political statement. Cable news juggernaut CNN, along with nearly every other major media property, can spend years spewing nonstop slander about the American president, and it’s just business as usual.
The fact that such behavior is the norm in the United States is rightly condemned by Americans who don’t agree with Hollywood group-think, or leftist media bias. But it is vastly preferable to the reality in China, where if Deng Chao, or any other Chinese celebrity, or news anchors on CCTV, or commentators on any other Chinese media property, were to engage in criticism so caustic, or so relentlessly biased against the regime, they would be silenced immediately and forever.
American tolerance for dissent, and capacity to absorb polarized opinions, is utterly foreign to China. This fundamental weakness is one big reason that the more China attempts to spread its growing influence, the more the nations of the world will resist.
China may be a burgeoning superpower, but nobody wants to live under its political system. And at the same time as China’s soft power is ineffective, due to their intolerant culture and tyrannical regime, China is actively using its financial and military power to alienate virtually every nation on earth. A quick gallop around the globe offers evidence aplenty.
Tension with Neighboring Nations
Among China’s neighbors, their only reliable ally is North Korea, a 46,540-square-mile dungeon housing 25 million slaves. North Korea, as a client state of China, only serves to make China’s problematic relationship with other Asian nations even worse, as its military lobs missiles into the Sea of Japan and digs tunnels under the demilitarized zone.
Someday, with or without regime change, North Korea may break away from China and embrace South Korea and the West. In the meantime, whatever enlightened wishes its ruling thugocracy might harbor are suppressed beneath the shadow of Chinese hegemony.
Every nation on China’s perimeter has had to cope with Chinese territorial aggression. A giant chunk of northeast Kashmir has been lopped off and annexed by China, as the Indian and Chinese military face-off across the glaciers. Across India’s northeast frontier, in the Indian state of Assam, China has crossed over the Himalayan peaks supposedly dividing the territories of the two nations to lop off the northern region of Arunachal Pradesh. The tensions from the war India fought in 1962 with China to defend its territory still simmer. China has even recently begun calling Arunachal Pradesh “South Tibet.”
Vietnam has also had to contend with Chinese aggression, most recently in the war the Vietnamese fought against China in 1979 to defend their northern border. If anyone thinks tensions between Vietnam and China have calmed down, consider the situation today in the South China Sea, where both nations claim the Spratly Islands. The South China Sea is an expanse of ocean over 1.4 million square miles in area, bordered by the mainland nations of China to the north and Vietnam to the west, and at sea, surrounded by the island nations (clockwise from north) of Taiwan, the Philippines, the portion of Malaysia on the northern shore of the island of Borneo, and Indonesia. Every one of these nations objects to China’s claim that nearly the entire South China Sea is Chinese territorial waters. A glance at the map illustrates the preposterous nature of China’s claim.
Despite being overruled in international courts for the past 20 years, China has moved steadily to occupy and militarize the South China Sea. The Chinese have blasted apart coral reefs and dredged the relatively shallow waters around them to build island fortresses, where they are now positioning military assets including ships, planes, and missile batteries. They have also deployed thousands of paramilitary “fishermen” that patrol and intimidate the commercial and naval forces of all these nations. China’s actions in the South China Sea have alienated every bordering nation, with no end in sight.
What about Japan? First of all, the Japanese harbor no illusions regarding China’s memory of the Japanese occupation of their territory that began in 1931 and didn’t end until Japan’s defeat in 1945. But China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone over expanses of the East China Sea that include Japanese territory in the Senkaku Islands didn’t send a message of reconciliation. Neither did North Korea’s 2017 test launches of missiles that ended up splashing down in the Sea of Japan; in two cases, the flight path took the missiles directly over Japanese territory, landing in the ocean just east of their northern island of Hokkaido.
Even if China were to behave itself today, its history of conflict with its neighbors would put it at a disadvantage. In the battle between China and the West for Asian hearts and minds, it’s interesting what language is overwhelmingly accepted as the lingua franca for dialogue between these nations: English.
Ah, but what about Russia, that colossal nation to the north that even in its post-Soviet truncated state still covers 6.6 million square miles, or one-eighth of the world’s land surface? Russia has aligned itself with China these days, but simmering border disputes linger. In 1969, these border tensions exploded into war, with a formal treaty not signed until 1991. But another conflict may be inevitable.
Between 1840 and 1911, during what China still calls its “century of humiliation,” China lost control over vast chunks of territory along its northern border. From Central Asia to outer Mongolia, to outer Manchuria, lands controlled by China that were neither indigenous to the Chinese nor to the Russians were annexed by Russia. With this dubious claim to ownership, the Russian Far East is particularly vulnerable today, with only 7 million Russian inhabitants, facing hundreds of millions of Chinese immediately to the south.
For now, the partnership between the Russians and the Chinese in the Far East seems to be working. By some estimates, nearly a half-million Chinese now live in Russia, leasing farms, laboring in mines and lumber operations, or building infrastructure—largely with Chinese financing. Russia exports primarily natural resources to China, while China exports to Russia manufactured goods.
But is this sustainable? At what point will Russians become alarmed by growing Chinese influence in their eastern provinces? At what point will the Chinese drop the pretense of respecting Russian sovereignty in lands they deem were taken from them during a time of weakness, then scarcely populated by Russians? One telling anecdote is the ascendance of Chinese Triads in Vladivostok, seizing the reins of organized crime from the Russians.
Erasing Other Nations Within China
Within China’s borders, entire separate and independent nations ought to exist, but don’t. Most notably, Tibet, East Turkestan, and Inner Mongolia. Together, these three occupied nations cover nearly 1.6 million square miles of northern and eastern China. Their story offers the world ample evidence of how China would behave were it ever to become a global hegemon.
What is today known as Xinjiang in China’s northeast, used to be the Uyghur Kingdom of East Turkestan. This 642,000-square-mile nation was independent until the Chinese Empire conquered it in 1884 after eight years of brutal conflict. According to the Uyghur American Association, since 1949 when the Communists took control of mainland China, the deliberate transmigration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang has reduced the proportion of native Uyghurs from 94 percent of the population to barely 60 percent. At the same time, there has been increasingly harsh “repression of political dissent and any expression, however peaceful, of their distinct identity.”
You can say that again. Xinjiang, a land of rivers, grasslands, forests, deserts, and high mountains, is now used by the Chinese for nuclear testing, military bases, and prison labor camps. Very little information about human rights abuses makes its way out of Xinjiang. The suppression of the Uyghur language, culture, and religion has provoked a predictable backlash, but the Chinese regime has no qualms about upping the ante.
An April 2019 New York Times “interactive” article headlined, “How China Turned a City Into a Prison” describes the pervasive repression imposed on the Uyghurs. The authors toured Kashgar, an oasis city of more than 500,000 residents in the far western part of Xinjiang. Located on the ancient Silk Road, and integral to China’s new “Belt and Road Initiative,” the Chinese regime has implemented pervasive surveillance. The Times reports:
Every hundred yards or so, the police stand at checkpoints with guns, shields, and clubs. At big checkpoints, they lift their chins while a machine takes their photos, and wait to be notified if they can go on. The police sometimes take Uyghur’s phones and check to make sure they have installed compulsory software that monitors calls and messages. Neighborhood monitors are assigned to watch over groups of families. And army of millions of police and official monitors can question Uyghurs and search their homes. They grade residents for reliability. A low grade brings more visits, maybe detention. Surveillance cameras are everywhere.
This same Times report claimed there are 13 “indoctrination camps” just in the city of Kashgar, covering over 1 million square meters (about 250 acres). Just one of these camps houses more than 20,000 people. Incarceration can occur for offenses that Americans would not consider remotely criminal, such as reading the Koran.
The situation in Kashgar is not unique. According to Radio Free Asia, the Chinese have now sent more than 1.5 million Uyghurs—over 10 percent of the population—to re-education camps in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. Most of these inmates have committed no crime, but have been accused of harboring “strong religious views” or “politically incorrect” ideas. An October 2018 report by the BBC provides satellite photos of this burgeoning network of prisons. China is building concentration camps; its own gulag archipelago.
Estimates of the number of Uyghurs imprisoned in China range as high as 2 million. According to Business Insider, to further their control over the population, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, blood types, and voice samples from every Xinjiang resident between 12 and 65. Xinjiang is a testing ground for surveillance technologies being introduced throughout China.
Tibet’s story is better known than Xinjiang’s (or East Turkestan), and just as tragic. Tibet’s existence as a unified nation dates back to the 7th century, maintaining its culture and independence despite encroachments by Mongols, Chinese, Nepalese, and Europeans. In 1949, the same year the Chinese Communists took control of China (and Xinjiang), Mao Zedong threatened Tibet with “liberation.” Over the next 10 years, China slowly increased its control over Tibet, eventually provoking an uprising by the Tibetans in 1959. Following the Chinese suppression of the revolt, the Dalai Lama fled to India along with around 80,000 other Tibetans.
China’s strategy in Tibet is the same as in Xinjiang, flooding the nation with Han Chinese. Tibetan exiles allege the population of native Tibetans has fallen to 50 percent, and accuse the Chinese regime of understating the figure because the migrants are not officially registered residents. The Dalai Lama has said China’s migration policy is “demographic aggression,” and will result in “cultural genocide” in Tibet.
Tibet may be the rooftop of the world, a stunning wonderland of Himalayan peaks and magical plateaus covering nearly a half-million square miles, but how the Chinese are treating the Tibetans today is ugly. A 2017 report by Human Rights Watch included a “glossary of repression,” that “explains and illustrates a dozen terms that appear benign or even positive but are in fact used to ensure total compliance and surveillance by officials of ordinary Tibetan people. The glossary includes terms that relate to political and social control, such as ‘comprehensive rectification,’ ‘no cracks, no shadows, no gaps left,’ and ‘every village a fortress, everyone a watchman.’ ‘Orwell himself would be hard-pressed to invent a better vocabulary of totalitarian management,’ said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. ‘But ultimately the message of the Chinese authorities’ terms for Tibetans is clear: political nonconformity will be punished, severely.’”
The U.S. State Department issued a human rights report on Tibet in 2017 that claimed the situation is deteriorating. The report notes that “ethnic Chinese CCP members hold the overwhelming majority of top party, government, police, and military positions” in Tibet, and goes on to describe “disappearances; torture by government authorities; arbitrary detentions, including political prisoners; and government curtailment of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement.”
If the would-be nations of Tibet and East Turkestan are the primary and well-publicized victims of Chinese repression, that doesn’t mean Inner Mongolia doesn’t belong on the list. Denied in 1949 the right to unify with their northern neighbor, the independent nation of (outer) Mongolia, the southern Mongolians have begun to clamor for the rights of “autonomy” that the Chinese regime supposedly grants to their province.
Inner Mongolia, like Xinjiang and Tibet, is big. Over 450,000 square miles, it contains an estimated 25 percent of the world’s coal reserves, and nearly 80 percent of the world’s total reserves of rare earth metals. China isn’t about to loosen its control over this rich province, and the development of its resources is fueling rising resentment. As reported by CBS in 2015, “Over the last decade, many Mongolian-language schools have been shuttered; nomadic herders have been driven off their land; and government policies have continued to encourage Han Chinese immigration. Rampant mining has ravaged the grassland environment.”
Unlike Xinjiang and Tibet, Mongolians are already a minority in their homeland, now numbering only 20 percent of the population of 23 million. One Mongolian activist, a writer named Hada who was imprisoned by the Chinese for 15 years and is now under house arrest, has accused the Chinese of decades of ethnic cleansing. According to Radio Free Asia, earlier this year, one of the few remaining Mongolian language schools in Inner Mongolia raised a stir when it hung up the national flag of Mongolia.
Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet consume 1.6 million square miles but have a combined population of only 50 million people. They represent only 3.7 percent of China’s population, yet they occupy a whopping 42 percent of China’s land. China’s claim to govern these three provinces is of questionable legitimacy, based on events within the living memory of millions of people. In response to the aspirations of these distinct peoples for self-governance, the Chinese regime has cracked down. They have employed the tactics used by invaders since the beginning of history—ethnic cleansing and mass incarceration—married with the most invasive surveillance techniques modern technology can deliver.
The 1.3 Billion-Man Prison Camp
China’s expansionist tensions with neighboring nations and Borglike assimilation of the occupied nations within its borders should provide clues to how it treats all its citizens. China’s population is 92 percent comprised of the Han ethnic group, and they are probably the most surveilled, micromanaged population on earth. Any dissent that deviates from the collective is suppressed immediately.
For a while, there was reason to hope that with increasing prosperity, human rights and press freedom would also expand in China. In 2007, a CIA report titled “The Chinese Media: More Autonomous and Diverse–Within Limits,” described how during the previous two decades China’s print and broadcast media had expanded, diversified, and commercialized. The report listed “a general decline in the influence of political ideologies and systems of belief; growing Chinese popular skepticism toward authority; increased contact with the West; greater competition in the media market; ebbing government resources; improved professional training for journalists; and new communication technologies.”
Today, hopes for a free press in China have been dashed. As reported in China Journal, “China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the media, online speech, religious groups, and civil society associations while undermining already modest rule-of-law reforms. The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, is consolidating personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades.”
The consequences of China’s government-controlled press extend well beyond suppression of dissident journalists covering the independence movements in Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang), and Inner Mongolia. China’s abysmal fouling of its land, air and water, devastated wildlife, and poisoned citizens are also forbidden topics. As are any unsanctioned criticisms of its internal or foreign policies—any of them. Radio Free Asia reports, “News and information providers who don’t toe the official line are increasingly subjected to censorship, surveillance, arrest, and arbitrary detention. Many detainees are mistreated and some are tortured.”
The intensifying crackdown on religion offers examples of just how pervasive and intolerant China’s police state has become. A recent and wide-ranging interview in the Daily Signal with China scholar Olivia Enos characterized China’s new policy towards religion as “sinicization,” or making religion serve the Chinese Communist Party’s ends. This policy expresses itself in ways unimaginable to a Westerner. Christian churches are being closed down, Bibles are burned, pastors are imprisoned. For China’s Tibetan Buddhists and East Turkestan’s Muslims, in addition to these tactics, there is a “grid-style” social management, with surveillance everywhere, extending to the point where Chinese Communist Party officials are moving into the homes of individual families.
Even China’s homegrown Falun Gong, a variant of Buddhism with Taoist influences, became the target of repression after it grew to attract over 70 million adherents. China’s persecution of the Falun Gong has reached the point where critics not only allege that thousands of practitioners have been executed, but as reported by CNN and others in 2014, internal organs have been harvested from the victims and sold for transplants.
Whether or not the Chinese still harvest organs from their executed criminals and dissidents, China’s government executes more people each year than every other nation in the world combined. Estimates range from 2,000 official executions in 2016 to more than 12,000 people killed in 2002. According to Amnesty International, the “true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret.”
The regime of Xi Jinping has turned China into the world’s biggest prison camp, with nearly 1.4 billion inmates. Law enforcement extends well beyond criminal behavior to “social behavior,” where not just what you do, but what you say, what you think, and how you worship are strictly regulated. By now, most anyone watching China has heard of the “social credit score” the government tracks for all citizens. To create these scores, as reported in Forbes, “In China, government agencies and private companies are collecting enormous amounts of data about e.g. an individual’s finances, social media activities, credit history, health records, online purchases, tax payments, legal matters, and people you associate with in, addition to images gathered from China’s 200 million surveillance cameras and facial recognition software.”
Supposedly, China’s rollout of a social credit score for all citizens is a way to “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step,” as if that weren’t bad enough. In practice, it represents astonishing intrusions on individual freedom and dignity. According to the New York Times, “In some cities, billboard-size displays show the faces of jaywalkers and list the names of people who don’t pay their debts. Facial recognition scanners guard the entrances to housing complexes. Such efforts supplement other systems that track internet use and communications, hotel stays, train and plane trips and even car travel in some places.”
Behind the scenes, developing the enabling artificial intelligence technologies is a top priority for the Chinese government, either through state-funded “start-ups” within China, or via whatever they can purchase or steal from the West. Bitter Winter, a magazine covering religious liberty and human rights in China, summed up China’s high-tech surveillance state accurately, calling it “digital despotism.”
Economic Aggression: China vs. the World
The escalating trade war between China and the United States has been a prominent news story over the past year or so, but this trade war has been going on for decades, and is just one part of China’s undeclared war against America.
An excellent summary of how China has engaged in economic aggression against the United States was provided by none other than Steve Bannon in a Washington Post op-ed on May 6. Bannon correctly asserts that China has been “waging economic war against industrial democracies ever since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.” Bannon explains how this economic war is being waged, taking the form of “forced technology transfers; intellectual property theft; cyber-intrusions into business networks; currency manipulation; high tariff and nontariff barriers; and unfair subsidies to state-owned enterprises.”
China’s economic war with the United States has been unrelenting. Over the past 25 years, the cumulative U.S. trade deficit with China is a staggering $4.9 trillion. China retains some of its trade surplus with the U.S. in the form of T-Bills, to the tune of $1.2 trillion. The other $3.7 trillion? That’s been used to purchase American assets.
Changing China’s state-sponsored mercantilism is probably impossible. Options are limited. America’s manufacturers compete domestically with Chinese imports that are cheaper because of state subsidies, an artificially low value for China’s currency, and in the case of high-tech products, less amortized costs for research and development because the technology was stolen or even just given away. U.S. exporters are required to turn over their intellectual property to the Chinese in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
This economic aggression is well documented and points to an unavoidable conclusion; China is not going to play by the rules that govern members of the World Trade Organization and as a result, nations that do business with China are systematically going to be robbed of their technological edge and their financial stability. China is simply too big not to constitute such a threat. According to Fortune, one in five corporations say China has stolen their intellectual property in the past year. Estimates of how much this costs the U.S. economy range as high as $600 billion annually.
A recent report describes how the Chinese steal American industrial secrets: In some cases, China bribes engineers working for American companies to turn over proprietary data. In other cases, Chinese nationals (that is, spies) have broken into American manufacturing plants and stolen material. Sometimes, Chinese agents steal industrial secrets during legitimate visits to American labs. Chinese agents are continuously attempting to steal American technology via cyberhacking.
Another way China is expanding its economic reach and influence in the world is through the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a modern version of the ancient Silk Road connecting East to West. In theory, this is a laudable series of infrastructure projects linking China with trading partners across Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond with a series of highways, railroads, and modernized seaports. But participating nations are realizing that Chinese investment carries a high price.
The motivations for China promoting a 21st-century Silk Road are logical enough. It provides additional avenues for them to export products, including cement and steel for the infrastructure projects, which their factories are now overproducing. It channels the excess savings generated by China’s trade surplus. The land-based road and rail connections bypass maritime routes over which American and other Western navies might potentially hinder traffic. Finally, these physical connections, controlled by China, will further China’s eventual goal to see global trade conducted using the Chinese renminbi, instead of the American dollar.
The way China intends to control the railroads and seaports being built across this new Silk Road is by using the so-called debt trap. This is a practice whereby China lends billions of dollars to an economically weaker country to build vital infrastructure. Chinese firms then pour in materials and labor to build the project, which means the Chinese loan funds are repatriated right back into Chinese hands. Then when the debtor nation can’t afford to pay back the loan, the Chinese seize ownership of the project as collateral. Voilà! Strategic railroads and seaports, owned by China, are established around the world.
The Washington Post recently published an extensive list of nations already victimized by China’s infrastructure debt trap. They include Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Some of these projects involve debt nearly equal to the entire GDP of the host nations. In many cases, Chinese-only gated communities are constructed, sometimes entire cities, swarming with Chinese security forces.
China’s economic imperialism is also reflected in its global buying binge. Using the savings generated from its huge trade surplus, China is buying companies and real estate all over the world. The United States is one of the only nations in the world that allows foreign companies to purchase controlling interests in U.S. companies, and China has taken full advantage of that. Michele Nash-Hoff, writing on this topic last year for Industry Week, posed this question: “Did we let the USSR buy our companies during the Cold War? No, we didn’t! We realized that we would be helping our enemy. This was pretty simple, common sense, but we don’t seem to have this same common sense when dealing with China.”
Probably the most dramatic manifestation of China’s global buying binge is its drive to acquire and exploit natural resources, anywhere on earth, and do so in a manner heedless of its environmental impact. China has an insatiable appetite for iron, manganese, gold, aluminum, copper, other minerals, along with fish, cattle, soybeans, and other farm commodities, along with oil, gas, and coal. To secure a supply for these vital commodities, China is scouring the globe to identify sources and buy them, investing hundreds of billions in these strategic investments, and, quoting from Mining.com, “assuming a position of world dominance in the commodities markets.”
China’s economic aggression is characterized by a strategic focus that eludes its competitors, unparalleled access to cash because of its trade surplus, combined with an unrelenting determination to ignore the rules that have governed international trade for more than 70 years.
Military Aggression: The Long March to World Domination
Sanguine observers are fond of pointing out that the U.S. military budget, $649 billion, is more than the next seven countries combined, $609 billion. This ignores currency disparities and the cost of labor. A more sobering assessment conducted by Breaking Defense uses purchasing power parity analysis to peg China’s defense spending at $434 billion, more than two-thirds that of the United States. By this measure, China’s military spending approaches parity with the U.S.
There’s more. The U.S. defense budget currently supports the permanent deployment of over 150,000 service personnel on over 800 overseas military bases in more than 70 countries. In addition, the United States is involved in ongoing, costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria/Iraq, along with expensive counter-terrorism and containment missions all over the world. To be sure, China’s military is no match at this time for the United States, but our military is spread thin across the entire planet, whereas China’s military, land-based and behind interior lines, can be fully utilized to achieve specific regional objectives.
Their objective, above all others, is to conquer the island of Taiwan, the “breakaway province” that China’s nationalist armies retreated to after the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949. Taiwan, with 24 million people living on a relatively small island of 14,000 square miles, is one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, with a vibrant democracy and thriving economy. But China considers Taiwan its own, and “reunification” is one of the top priorities of the Chinese regime.
The Taiwanese, however, are well aware of how China’s “one country, two systems” promise to the people of Hong Kong 22 years ago is being slowly, systematically broken. They are not inclined to “reunify.” As reported by the New York Times, an August 2018 poll found that only 3 percent of the Taiwanese wanted unification with China. Nonetheless, in a January 2019 speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the people of Taiwan have to accept that their nation “must and will be” reunited with China.
Taiwan will not make reunification easy for the Chinese. An excellent summary of how a Chinese invasion attempt could fail is found in Foreign Policy, arguing that it would be virtually impossible for the Chinese to mount a surprise attack, which means the Taiwanese would have time to “move much of their command and control infrastructure into hardened mountain tunnels, move their fleet out of vulnerable ports, detain suspected agents and intelligence operatives, litter the ocean with sea mines, disperse and camouflage army units across the country, put the economy on war footing, and distribute weapons to Taiwan’s 2.5 million reservists.”
The challenges China would face if it invaded Taiwan underscore many disadvantages they face as they attempt to become the regional hegemon. Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea all possess modern, high-tech militaries. Presumably, in a conflict with China they would be playing defense, which requires fewer resources than offense. And it is extremely unlikely Taiwan would face China alone. The United States would support Taiwan, and other likely allies would include Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
This same challenge faces the Chinese everywhere they operate. The island fortresses the Chinese have constructed in the South China Sea have offended every nation it borders. And the paramilitary aggression it has conducted with Chinese “fishermen” harassing, for example, their Vietnamese, Filipino, and Indonesian counterparts has increased tensions with those nations.
Despite being outgunned, for now, and despite tensions with most of their neighbors which could create a united front against them, the Chinese are undaunted. They are playing the long game. China is able to focus its military spending on cutting edge technologies, without the tremendous costs of labor, worldwide deployments, and ongoing conflicts that drain U.S. resources.
Confrontation Is Inevitable
In every area—trade, competition for resources, human rights, territorial disputes—China challenges the United States. Areas of concern are so numerous as to defy description. The battle for 5G leadership, where China’s state-supported Huawei competes against America’s Qualcomm. The scourge of Fentanyl, where Chinese labs continue to ship this deadly drug to criminal distributors in America despite government promises to crack down. The undermining of the academic independence of universities throughout the West, as China funds these institutions in exchange for their quiescence. China’s even got its sights on the moon.
Not content with occupying the 1.3-million-square-mile South China Sea, or calling itself a “near-Arctic nation” in order to claim a share of mineral rights on the top of the world, China is in the thick of the race to establish the first permanent moon base. The moon is now aptly called “the eighth continent,” and it’s more accessible than the continents of the New World were 500 years ago. Those paying attention know that the Moon now offers humanity 14.6 million square miles of resource-rich high ground.
In January, China landed an unmanned craft on the moon’s far side. It is possible the Chinese will send astronauts to the moon before the United States manages to return. With only around a half-million acre-feet of frozen water discovered so far on the lunar surface, mass colonization may never occur. But these water-rich craters in the polar regions of the moon are now strategic targets because they could support military bases and mining colonies.
When you’re playing the long game, the mineral wealth of the near-earth terrestrial objects—the moon, Mars, and the asteroids—is tantalizing beyond description. Within the lifetime of people born today, they will be commercially exploited. The nation to win that race could win the world. The Chinese see this clearly. Most Americans do not.
Some of those who diminish the threat of China do so on the basis of its demographics. They point out that the “population pyramid” of China is inverted as a result of its “one-child” policy, which lasted from 1979 until 2015. This argument ignores important factors, starting with the fact that China, with a population of 1.4 billion, will always have plenty of working-age citizens despite having a higher percentage of older people. It ignores the rising irrelevance of human labor in favor of robots and artificial intelligence, a trend China will embrace without ethical constraints. It ignores the possibility that in a crisis, China would sacrifice its nonproductive citizens, certainly including the aged, without batting an eye.
Most chilling, it ignores the fact that China is a nation that will, without any ethical inhibitions whatsoever, develop and implement transhuman technology as part of its drive to dominate the world. Wars of the future will not be fought by humans. They will be fought by robots and drones running on AI, they will be fought in cyberspace and outer space, and to the extent humans are involved, they will probably be enhanced. China will not hesitate to genetically engineer humans to have superior intelligence, nor will it hesitate to use cyborg technology to augment them physically.
The Clash of Civilizations
Chinese fascism, fully realized and ruthlessly applied, provides more than a reality check to the “anti-fascist” ideologues who claim America is under an imminent threat of itself becoming a fascist regime. Because not only is America’s mainstream, traditional culture the precise opposite of fascist, but it is the anti-fascists themselves, and their broader community of American leftists, who are the ones becoming fascist. Across almost every segment of American life, this reality plays out.
The fascist essence of the American Left finds expression in the proliferation of rules throughout society regarding what topics are acceptable for debate, what subjects are permitted to be humorous, and what terms must be used or avoided when describing race or gender. The scope of their ambition is terrifying. For the American Left, every significant issue of our time has a correct position and a forbidden one—from climate change and energy policies to immigration and affirmative action. Despite the seismic consequences of getting these policies wrong, debate is not only stifled, but dissenters are despised, silenced and banished.
If the American Left were a fringe element, its agenda would be laughable. But America’s sleek and smiling equivalent of China’s surveillance state is a cartel of communications corporations—Google, Disney, Comcast, Fox, Facebook, Viacom, CBS—who control virtually all public dialogue. The ability of these corporations, online and offline, to mold public opinion—and silence public dissent—is stronger today than it ever has been. And on the toughest challenges facing America, these corporations are firmly aligned with the Left.
This weakens America at a critical time. The Left’s inexplicable embrace of “free trade” has damaged the American economy while it furthered the globalist, and very short-term, profit-taking on the part of multinational corporations. The Left’s moral insistence on mass immigration of unskilled workers has stressed our social welfare system, but it has furthered the profit-taking ambitions of multinational corporations who want to drive down the cost of labor. The foreign investment stimulated by trade deficits, combined with the mass migration of additional millions of new residents pushes property values into bubble territory, furthering the profit-taking goals of wealthy investors.
Whether it’s a cynical, eyes wide open symbiosis, or an unwitting, catastrophic error, America’s Left today is firmly allied with America’s wealthiest multinational corporate elites. The result is a hollowing out of America’s middle class, its manufacturing base, its technological edge, its financial strength, and its cultural unity. At a time when Americans need to unite and confront a genuine clash of civilizations, which is China’s long march towards global domination, America’s left has manufactured a clash of civilizations within America itself. Some have called it a cold civil war. If so, the timing could not be much worse.
What the American Left offers, if it weren’t so extreme, is a vision of a world where all peoples, wherever they’re from, are able to achieve whatever dream they’re willing to work for, free of discrimination based on their national, ethnic, gender, or religious identity. The Left’s vision also includes a world where the environment is protected no matter what the cost, where people and wildlife are free from harmful pollution, and ecosystems are healthy and managed sustainably. While the American Left has gone too far in its policies and its rhetoric, the Left’s loudly proclaimed good intentions are attractive to the peoples of the world.
What the American Right offers, notwithstanding the handful of extremists the American Left uses to discredit traditional America’s entire historical legacy and contemporary society, is a vision of the world where every person is judged on their individual merit. A world where, notwithstanding the unavoidable hazards and rewards of luck and caprice, any person with sufficient talent and resolve can achieve their dreams and a decent life is possible for all. While the American Right is as concerned about the environment as anyone, they understand that cheap energy remains the surest path to global peace and prosperity. This vision is equally appealing to everyone in the world.
One of America’s greatest strengths and greatest appeals is its capacity peacefully to process the tension between Left and Right, and tolerate diverse viewpoints and political agendas. The growing political intolerance in America, coming mostly from the Left, may eventually undermine that appeal. But conversely, China’s inability to tolerate diverse viewpoints and political agendas is its greatest weakness. It alienates the world.
Americans today are more polarized than usual, but from afar America remains a place with an irresistible culture—music, food, fashion, art, sports, television, movies—from lowbrow to highbrow, that captivates the world. The American people are not seen as Right or Left by the people of the world. They’re seen as Americans: fearless, honest, spontaneous, almost childlike in their enthusiasms, likable, fair-minded, gregarious, accessible, down-to-earth, optimistic; dreamers, inventors, eccentrics, leaders, creators. This is the American soft power that is undiminished and indescribably potent. It is a power that China cannot hope to match; not today, not a hundred years from now.
Nonetheless, the danger is great. The Chinese people have not yet experienced the suicidal paroxysms of nationalism that, for example, caused Germany to turn out the lights in Europe twice in the 20th century. What if over the next few decades they succumb en masse and without reservations to the tribal, racist, expansionist exhortations of their despotic leaders and become a unified, fanatical collective? What if at the same time, the segregationist, divisive tribalism of America’s Left succeeds in completely fragmenting our culture?
What if other powerful nations join China in a drive to break American power, out of fear, pragmatism, or because their people are experiencing a similar tribal frenzy? Because China’s soft power is as tone-deaf as its foreign policy is alienating, a global populist alliance of nations favoring China is unlikely. But in the face of American external weakness and internal conflict, it is not unthinkable.
For this reason, even the most high-minded pacifism of the American Left, which didn’t stop the USSR in the 1980s, will not stop China in this century. In 1991, it wasn’t the leftist mantra of fewer weapons, more welfare, and a “nuclear freeze” that dismantled the USSR. It was the fact that during those waning years of the Cold War, America’s navy was too powerful to be challenged in the open ocean. It was because our F-18s could shoot anything out of the sky. It was because Pershing II missiles and a few squadrons of A-10 Warthogs could have turned Soviet Armor in the Fulda Gap into smoldering piles of scrap metal. The Chinese know those stories and are investing accordingly. Are we?
Today’s cold war pits us against a stronger adversary, and America’s extreme Left is far more powerful than it was during the last Cold War. To effectively cope, American nationalism, patriotism, whatever you want to call it, requires an attenuated version of Leftist idealism to merge with an uncompromising but compassionate version of right-wing realism. That synthesis already exists in the cooler heads in Washington, as does a growing consensus that China could become the most significant threat America has ever faced. To contain China, America—most definitely including its corporate elites—must support and adapt to a permanent trade war, redouble investments in strategic military technology, pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and restrict most immigration to new arrivals who will add valuable technical and scientific skills to the workforce.
The good news: Today, the Chinese regime is feared and distrusted by virtually everyone on earth. The nations they’ve exploited economically, the neighboring nations whose land and maritime borders they’ve encroached upon, the nations within their borders they’ve illegitimately occupied, and their own restive, captive people.
China is big. China is awake. But China is not bigger than the rest of the world. It is most likely that in the ongoing battle to contain China, apart from a handful of rogue nations ruled by despots, the entire world is on America’s side.
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