Forty years ago, during the final decade of the Cold War, nobody had any illusions about America being perfect. Without wallowing in the topic, we all knew our nation had ongoing social and economic problems, and that our history was filled with examples of oppression. But for most Americans, understanding the grim reality of life for people living in the Soviet Union provided clarity. It was understood that no country is perfect, and compared to the USSR, living in America was paradise.
The argument that America, by a wide margin, is the lesser of two evils, does not get the traction today that it got during the Cold War. But there is no justification for its diminished relevance. Despite alarming new challenges to the rights and freedoms of American citizens, the gap between America and its contemporary rivals, Russia and China, is as wide as it’s ever been. And in the case of China, the magnitude of the threat they now pose to American global leadership is far more than anything the USSR could have once posed.
These considerations give rise to a pair of sobering questions: First, is China an expansionist nation, committed to growing powerful enough to dominate the world and impose its vision of human rights onto all of humanity? Second, before we level well deserved criticisms on American foreign and domestic policies, shouldn’t we compare these policies to those practiced by the Chinese government? Forty years ago, those questions mattered. Today, we need to revisit these questions.
Does China Intend to Dominate the World?
China is committed to an expansionist strategy. In just the last century, an era during which Western powers were relinquishing their claims to foreign colonies, China has annexed Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. The Chinese have absorbed Hong Kong, cracking down on human rights they had pledged to uphold. They have lopped off chunks of Indian Kashmir as well as the northern portion of Indian state of Assam. The Chinese openly declare their intention to absorb the independent nation of Taiwan. They’re even claiming virtually all of the South China Sea, in defiance of every other bordering nation.
China’s expansionist tensions with neighboring nations and Borg like assimilation of the occupied nations within its borders should provide clues to how it treats all its citizens. China’s population is more than 90 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 immediately suppressed.
One may go on endlessly about allegedly parallel encroachments on the rights of Americans to express dissent, but it isn’t remotely comparable to what Chinese people go through. 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 all strictly regulated.
China’s economic aggression is well documented and points to an unavoidable conclusion; nations that do business with China are going to be systematically robbed of their technological edge and their financial stability. 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 per year.
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 nearly $6 trillion. China retains some of its trade surplus with the U.S. in the form of debt, currently an estimated $1.6 trillion.
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 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 for them to construct 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.
An article published by the Washington Post provides 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 their 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 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.”
American Globalism – The Alternative to China
The evidence that China is an expansionist nation is overwhelming. In addition to China’s territorial aggression and predatory economic policies, there are the precedents of history. Throughout recorded history, expansionist empires have risen and fallen. Across all continents and through the millennia, regardless of geography or ethnicity, empires have fought wars of conquest. Today is no different. America will rise to the challenge of China, or China will dominate the world. And this gives rise to the second question: How do America’s foreign and domestic policies compare to China’s, and how can they be better calibrated to unite Americans and set an attractive example for people in the rest of the world?
Only in this context can the American government’s current cultural priorities and globalist ambitions be fairly evaluated. Most American conservatives will agree that a month-long display of gay pride flags in front of every government building in America and every embassy America has in foreign nations, is pushing the woke narrative to ridiculous extremes. But compared to what? Compared to the Iranian regime hanging homosexuals from construction cranes? The Ugandans making homosexual acts subject to the death penalty?
Conservative Americans have ample reason to criticize the way establishment institutions, certainly including the federal government, have pandered to the extremist wing of the LGBTQ+ lobby. That the cultural pendulum will swing back to some more universally tolerable position is quite likely, and soon would be better. But which is worse? Nations where homosexuals are executed, or nations where activist gender extremists are overly indulged?
America’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, meeting with Chinese diplomats in Alaska two years ago, was criticized for acknowledging American imperfections, saying “we have the humility to know that we are a country eternally striving to become a more perfect union.”
Blinken, and his boss, Joe Biden, may be leading America down a perilous path. But Blinken was right to acknowledge that America is “eternally striving to become a more perfect union.” The debates we are having in America over identity and equity may be tedious and threatening, and with good reason, but it’s a process at work in American society today that is unthinkable in China. America’s rival in the world is a fascist police state. For all of its flaws, and for all of its dangerous drift into decadence, America is a better place to live than China. The existential importance of that fact should not be lost on anyone, whether they are woke malcontents or appalled conservatives.
Moving towards a more perfect union will not be easy. Restoring colorblind meritocracy and reestablishing reasonable gender norms will take time, but is probably inevitable. The woke have simply gone too far. An even greater threat to a desirable Pax Americana, however, concerns how America’s establishment is responding to the “climate crisis.” Current policies, designed to stifle development of hydroelectric, nuclear, and natural gas sources of energy, are guaranteed to weaken America and alienate the world. They will impose a tyranny of surveillance and rationing in developed nations, and they will cause chaos, poverty, and endless war in developing nations. They are outrageous and will drive nonaligned nations into alliances with China.
It may be that the greatest test of American democracy in the 21st century will be whether or not the cabal of oligarchs that have hijacked America’s energy policy can be overcome by a media that has finally come to its senses and a population that awakens from its brainwashed stupor. Without adequate supplies of energy, civilization will falter and individual freedom will die. Claiming that adequate energy can be delivered worldwide exclusively via wind and solar power, without also relying on hydro, nuclear, and natural gas is a blatant, misanthropic, opportunistic lie. This lie, unchallenged, will fatally undermine the credibility of American leadership in the world.
Answering the question “should America dominate the world” requires recognition of an immutable prerequisite: If America does not, someone else will. And for all of its many flaws, some of them horrifically and even murderously misguided, when compared to empires of the past and rivals in the present, America’s empire is remarkably benevolent. That fact used to matter, and it still does. We would do well to embrace it, even as we work towards something better.