While serving what was then called the House International Relations Committee during the first decade or so of this century, I used my position to warn of communist China’s threat to the free world. I also warned of Russian revanchism under the rule of a certain KGB officer. While the public largely agreed with the need to be cautious, their elected officials—surprise, surprise—usually did not.
In the instance of Russia, its barbarous aggression against its neighbors has proven the folly of both the Bush and Obama Administrations’ attempts to forge a new détente with a rabid bear. One can hope that once Vladimir Putin, inevitably, leaves the international stage, a strategic conciliation of the West and a sane Russian government becomes possible—as once seemed to be the case during the government of President Boris Yeltsin. Further, one can hope that the excesses of Western leaders and their corporate community will avoid the mistakes born of hubris and greed that unwittingly abetted the rise of comrade Putin and his siloviki cronies to forge their revanchist kleptocracy.
But this is not necessarily to decry the kernel of wisdom spurring former—though failed—strategic initiatives by both Republican and Democratic administrations to engage and woo Russia away from the arms of Communist China. This is, in fact, the proper course of action within the new Cold War in which we find ourselves. The problem then was the West wanted its cake and Communist China, too. Now we have bitter lessons to swallow.
Once the Soviet Union entered the dustbin of history, Communist China was on the ropes. Tragically, the lesson the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took from its fellow communist regime’s demise was that Mikhail Gorbachev and his comrades’ liberalization policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were key contributors to that empire’s collapse. As they observed it, these policies didn’t provide a safe outlet for the public’s demands, but rather fueled mounting discontent. Conversely, when confronted by their populace’s demands for more freedoms, their response was to ruthlessly crush those pushing the demands and to preserve the party’s rule. Those bitter fruits were reaped in Tiananmen Square.
It was at this point the West had the chance to facilitate the end of its other communist threat. But the first Bush Administration provided a lifeline, not to the students who had survived the CCP’s slaughter in Tiananmen Square and the millions of other freedom seekers, but to the regime that murdered, imprisoned, and repressed them. The rationale (or more aptly “pretext”) was that the West would use its economic prowess to guide the peaceful, ineluctable exit of this murderous communist regime into a blossoming democracy. Oh, and these Western corporations would make a nice profit by investing and selling in the literally captive Chinese market.
This was the future promised at “The End of History,” where all other ideologies were made obsolete by the victory of capitalism and democracy.
But communist tyrants are less malleable than Western policy makers rationalized; and the latter’s belief in the “The End of History” was tantamount to the “The End of Sanity.”
In the real world of international relations, it remains wise to divide and, if not conquer, then at least co-opt one’s enemies. Former President Richard Nixon’s earlier Cold War initiative to divide the Soviet Union from the People’s Republic of China was partially successful. The alliance of convenience with Mao’s PRC was meant to isolate the Soviet Union, so the free world could focus its efforts on deterring and defeating Moscow. The unspoken second phase, which the first Bush and the subsequent Clinton Administration botched, was to then free China from the CCP. Not that they didn’t pretend to try.
The critical factor—that got between the post-Soviet policy that should have been implemented regarding Communist China and the one that was actually implemented—is elementary: Western corporate interests wanted to get rich in China and didn’t care how the regime repressed its people.
Hideously, many of these corporate titans considered the CCP’s totalitarian tactics as factors that led to “stability,” and thus calculated them as key reasons for engaging in its market. So, instead of duplicating the West’s successful containment and “rollback” policies toward the Soviet Union which helped to bankrupt and thereby implode that evil regime, the Bush-Clinton policies toward Communist China involved enriching that regime to implode it. Sheer genius.
Today, these corporate entities and the “sophisticated” Western diplomats who are more than happy to accommodate their interests have fecklessly restored and strengthened the strategic alliance between Putin’s revanchist Russia and Xi Jinping’s Communist China. President Nixon’s strategic vision has been undone; and the present foreign policy establishment’s policy that a “rain of riches” will transform Communist China into a democracy is as injuriously illusory as is Putin’s revanchist Russia apologizing to Ukraine and asking to join NATO.
If you liked “Back to the Future,” you’ll just love “Cold War II.” PLAYING NOW in strategic theaters across the globe!