Greatness Agenda

China Might Try to Take Taiwan

Not since the interwar period has the American military position in the Pacific been weaker—and the Chinese know it.

Even though it was the source of the novel coronavirus pandemic, China appears to be the only country benefiting geopolitically from its knock-on effects. China’s No. 1 strategic goal has been to reclaim Taiwan, an island it has long considered merely to be a “breakaway province.” It seems poised to accomplish this task.

Many analysts, such as Ian Easton of Project 2049, have argued that China would try to reclaim Taiwan at some point in the next decade. Yet, reality often presents opportunities. And the pandemic is the strategic opportunity of a lifetime.

The warning indicators are flashing—or they should be in Washington. Not only has the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) been conducting ongoing, aggressive flights into Taiwanese airspace, but last Thursday, the PLAAF performed a detailed reconnaissance mission over southern Taiwan.

Then, on Saturday evening, China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed from China through the Japanese-controlled Strait of Miyako, escorted by two guided-missile destroyers and two additional guided-missile frigates. That move prompted Taiwan to scramble its navy. The Liaoning and its escorts sailed beyond Okinawa, turned south, and kept going—its ultimate destination unknown to all except Beijing.

Of course, we can guess where the carrier is headed. In all likelihood, the carrier is sailing south of Taiwan. It is following a pattern that the Chinese military employed last year during what was, at that time, China’s largest wargame since the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis.

Most of those who are paying attention to China’s military movements both around Taiwan and in the South China Sea believe that China is merely flexing its muscles, albeit in a big way. In response, the Trump Administration ordered a display of force: the B-52 bombers assigned to the U.S. military base at Guam, roughly 1,800 miles away from China, conducted an “elephant walk” wherein the bombers are lined up on the runway, ready to fly.

The implications of this move are clear: should China try any funny business with Taiwan, there is no guarantee that Washington will sit on its hands.

Of course, after this show of force, the Trump Administration ordered all B-52s out of Guam with no replacements being flown in. It is likely that this is because China has a missile they call the “Guam Killer” that could potentially destroy the entire B-52 force on the island should war erupt. Clearly, there are concerns about China’s growing hostilities since the COVID-19 pandemic spread from China.

The Trump Administration is merely replicating the pattern the Clinton Administration began in 1996. At that time, Taiwan’s citizens were set to vote in their presidential elections and a pro-independence candidate was likely to win. In order to prevent a pro-independence leader from gaining traction in a place Beijing views as a rebellious province waiting to be reclaimed, China’s military was deployed to intimidate the Taiwanese people. Salvos of missiles rocketed over the besieged island routinely and the Chinese military conducted mock invasion drills of Taiwan. It all ended when the Clinton Administration sailed two U.S. Navy supercarriers through the Strait of Taiwan, signaling America’s intention to intervene militarily to protect Taiwanese sovereignty. That move stopped the crisis from spilling over into armed conflict. Taiwan’s election proceeded unhindered by China.

China took a key lesson from that episode to heart: To reclaim Taiwan, it needed to divorce the American military from its defense of Taiwan.

In 1996, two supercarriers operating miles away from China’s exposed coastline were more than enough to get Beijing to back down. Today, this is not the case. The Trump Administration’s decision to elephant walk B-52s on the tarmac in Guam is an admirable attempt to deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan. Ultimately, however, it will prove insufficient.

It also highlights American weakness in the Pacific.

Chinese leaders likely wonder why there were no aircraft carriers available. Oh, wait, that’s right: America’s two supercarriers assigned to the Pacific, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt are both out of commission because of COVID-19 outbreaks onboard. Chillingly, China’s carrier, the Liaoning, is now the only operational aircraft carrier in the Indo-Pacific at this time.

Not since the interwar period has the American military position in the Pacific been weaker—and the Chinese know it.

The Liaoning and its escorts likely are sailing south of Taiwan where they will rendezvous with a much larger force of Chinese warships that have been conducting naval drills in the South China Sea. They will practice how to maintain control of the sea during an invasion of Taiwan.

Everything that China does in the South China Sea is about sea control. And China desires sea control in order to better protect what will be their inevitable invasion of Taiwan. This was the purpose of China’s massive wargames last year. What’s more, southern Taiwan is likely to be the landing site of any Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Further, many analysts believe that the invasion force China plans on using against Taiwan will be moved into position under the guise of military exercises. Once in place, that exercise could quickly morph into a real-world invasion of Taiwan.

With both American carriers out of commission, America’s options for effectively deterring China are limited. Taiwan would only be able to hold out against an invasion for a relatively short period of time before they’d need U.S. military support. And as the United States plunges headlong into the worst recession since the Great Depression, Taiwan cannot rely on the Americans to come rushing to their aid to repel a Chinese invasion of their territory.

If President Trump is serious about maintaining deterrence in the Pacific, his best hope is to rapidly increase the size of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force operating there. Submarines would prove decisive in repelling any Chinese seaborne invasion of Taiwan—especially as the U.S. Pacific Command awaits the arrival of another supercarrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, from the Persian Gulf.

Reality has presented Beijing with a strategic opportunity to reclaim Taiwan when the Americans are down. Whether Beijing will take it or not remains to be seen.

President Trump, however, cannot let the Chinese make that decision. Therefore, Washington needs to disabuse China of its belief that the United States is weak. Otherwise, it will be open season on U.S. interests everywhere.

Greatness Agenda

Why the Russian Obsession at State?

In designating the Russian Imperial Movement as a “terrorist organization” without designating the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy has brushed aside all the objections raised over the years for blocking designation of the foreign-based Islamist terrorist support network.

The U.S. State Department has just designated an obscure Russian nationalist group known as the Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization. This same bureaucracy has stubbornly refused to so designate the granddaddy of international jihad—the Muslim Brotherhood—despite repeated congressional pressure.

Those not familiar with the Russian Imperial Movement will be forgiven their ignorance, since the group is a small Russian ultranationalist organization founded by former Russian soldier Denis Gariev that, according to a 2017 write up in the Washington Post, teaches bored Russian white-collar workers to rappel down buildings and shoot AK-47s. The Post notes:

The “cadets” listening to Gariev were largely white-collar and self-employed workers from cities across Russia, men motivated less by an ideology than by the siege mentality that has surged here since the wars in Ukraine and Syria and a conviction that the modern Russian man should be combat-ready. They signed up to train for 12 hours a day or more in a week-long, military-style course that promises to increase one’s chances of survival “in case of a war or total collapse of modern society.”

The group caused a brief stir in August 2017 after Swedish prosecutors noted that three Swedish neo-Nazis had attended the Movement’s training program and later blew up a refugee center, although the perpetrators said they only attended the course “for fun.” The Daily Beast noted that, already, the Russian group’s influence was “dwindling.”

In September of the same year, the left-wing Think Progress noted ties between the RIM and Matthew Heimbach, one of several fringe organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. According to Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, FBI sources said the group had offered various American white supremacist organizations linked to the rally “training.” RIM continued to insist that its “course” was available to all.

By April 2018, Think Progress reported that Russian efforts to impact the American far-right appeared to have “backfired.” Meanwhile, Heimbach was arrested after a domestic violence incident while reportedly having an affair with his mother-in-law.

Despite the fact that RIM was “dwindling” and Russian efforts had “backfired,” left-leaning “terror experts” were continuing to cite the group as a significant threat. Those invoking the specter of Russian terrorism included Michael Carpenter of the Biden Center for Global Diplomacy and Engagement, Ali Soufan, the Qatari-funded former FBI agent who testified about RIM before Congress, and the Soros-funded Just Security blog, which referenced RIM while attacking both the president and presidential advisor Stephen Miller for “white supremacy.” These critics have all restated the same basic case against RIM, without providing any additional examples of ties to terrorism.

Contrast the swift bureaucratic action against RIM with the unwillingness to designate a far more dangerous, better organized, subversive network with documented ties to international terrorism that has claimed thousands of innocent lives.

That network is the Muslim Brotherhood.  Many of the president’s supporters and foreign allies have repeatedly urged a terrorism designation for the Muslim Brotherhood, as it is a far more extensive and serious threat than any entity on the State Department list.

The Brotherhood and its members have spawned multiple terror groups over the years including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda, the Hasm Movement, and Liwa al-Thawra, and they play a dominant role in both financing and recruiting for jihadist terror.

Yet despite multiple reports in the past several years that the Trump Administration was preparing a terrorist designation for the group, the United States still permits the Muslim Brotherhood, its operatives, and its front organizations to operate freely.

In fact, many of the reasons given for why action on the Russian Imperial Movement was necessary have been used as excuses for not designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. These include that the designation could impact foreign political parties that participate in elections (RIM reportedly has forged ties with the ultranationalist Rodina party) and that the designation could impact U.S. persons engaged in otherwise lawful—if odious—political activities.

Designating a foreign terrorist organization under the law requires only a few basic requirements that are not difficult to prove if they exist. These include being a foreign organization, evidence of engaging terrorist activity as defined by statute, and representing a threat to U.S. national security broadly defined. Designations under Executive Order 13224 are simpler to effect but require essentially the same criteria.

Yet the State Department repeatedly has shown a curious intransigence regarding designating rather obvious terrorist threats. Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department repeatedly refused to designate the terror group Boko Haram until action by the U.S. Congress forced its hand. The State Department never designated the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization despite nearly two decades of war.

It is possible classified intelligence exists which justifies the RIM designation beyond the rather flimsy information publicly available. The State Department should be called upon to explain the designation in clear terms. Certainly the United States need not tolerate foreign support for political extremists in the country, regardless of ideology, even if the terrorism designation may be a questionable policy tool for a response.

But in designating the Russian Imperial Movement without designating the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy has brushed aside all the objections raised over the years for blocking designation of the foreign-based Islamist terrorist support network. President Trump needs to reassert his priorities and demand that the State Department immediately act against the threat of radical Islam by designating the Muslim Brotherhood. Otherwise, it may appear that the nation’s “national security” apparatus is serving its own agenda.

Greatness Agenda

Hope Without Change: Why the Ruling Class Will Cling Harder to Globalism in the Wake of COVID-19

It is a dispiriting thought that the legacy of the coronavirus could be a stronger state, a more sheepish and fearful population, and a ruling class even more dedicated to globalism.

Amidst the death and economic devastation, hope is running high that the Coronavirus will be the final nail in the coffin of neoliberalism and globalism. “High neoliberalism already had a preexisting health condition, and this global pandemic may be fatal for it,” Fred Bauer opines in National Review. “Post-corona, the working class will blow a gasket over Chinese trade,” Sohrab Amari predicts in The New York Post. The virus is “a glaring illustration that to preserve true freedom, we need some barriers.”

In this rosy view, the deadly Wuhan virus will conclusively vindicate the central nationalist axiom that borders matter. All will finally see the folly of thinking of the world as a global village—and of China as just a distant neighbor supplying us with cheap goods.

America’s bungled response to the previous great geopolitical crisis of the 21st century, however, should temper our hopes.

After 9/11, any sane nation would have gotten control of its borders, completely overhauled its immigration system, and applied extra scrutiny to Muslim arrivals (a wise nation would have never enacted our immigration policies in the first place). All 19 of the hijackers readily entered the country and five overstayed their visas. All 19 were Muslim. At the time, a whopping two-thirds of Americans wanted to stop all immigration.

What did America do? On immigration, essentially nothing. As a result, Muslim immigration considerably increased after 9/11 (by some accounts, it doubled). As did overall immigration, both legal and illegal. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that more than 650,000 foreigners overstayed their visas in Fiscal Year 2018. Our immigration “system,” if one can call it that, remains a joke.

America did, however, create not one but two bureaucratic behemoths: the aforementioned DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. We vastly expanded the ability of the federal government to spy on U.S. citizens. And we embarked on two multi-trillion-dollar wars to build democracies in tribal countries with no democratic traditions (and, in the process, eliminated the regional counterbalance to Iran).

It wouldn’t be fair to say that we learned nothing from 9/11. Our ruling class did become conscious of just how deep “Islamophobia” runs in America. Muslims were granted coveted victim status in the progressive hierarchy of oppression. It is now only a matter of time before the federal government creates a new artificial identity group for Middle Easterners and North Africans (the Obama administration tried, but Trump nixed it).

None of the subsequent Islamist attacks, some effectively thwarted, did anything to provoke a reconsideration of our policies.

After Nidal Hassan gunned down 13 people at Fort Hood, the Army’s top officer, General George Casey, reminded Americans that “our diversity, not only in our Army but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” A decade later, President Trump’s modest and entirely reasonable travel ban on a handful of dysfunctional countries was enjoined by the courts and denounced by the elites as “Islamophobic.”

In light of this, it’s hard not to think that the current global pandemic will end up simply confirming the prejudices of our ruling class. They are likely to conclude that the uneven national responses to the virus reveal the inherent limitations of sovereign states. They will call for a better-funded World Health Organization to handle the next outbreak. Global problems call for global solutions, as they like to say.

As for holding China accountable, the New York Times is already warning “an international health and economic crisis calls for more cooperation, not confrontation, between Washington and Beijing.” Meanwhile, the conservative establishment worries about a decline in trade between the two nations.

The virus may not put a dent in globalism, but the prolonged shutdown could do lasting damage to America’s already enfeebled civil society. Thousands of small businesses, civic associations, private schools, local churches, and charitable organizations could fold. Institutions that rely on federal money will not.

Many Americans have also shown themselves to be uncharacteristically passive as state and local governments restrict civil liberties, release prisoners, and refuse to prosecute burglaries and other property crimes. It is a dispiriting thought that the legacy of the coronavirus could be a stronger state, a more sheepish and fearful population, and a ruling class even more dedicated to globalism.

Greatness Agenda

Tehran Created its Own Coronavirus Disaster, and Sanctions Relief Won’t Fix It

No serious observer of Iranian affairs thinks sanctions relief would change the regime’s relationship with its people which, in the end, is the cause of Iranian woes surrounding COVID-19.

It is difficult to overstate the extent to which the Iranian regime has mismanaged its own outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The seriousness of the problem goes well beyond the official estimates of the total number of infections and deaths. Those figures are sufficiently dire to make the Islamic Republic far and away the worst outbreak location in the Middle East.

But independent estimates suggest that Iran’s situation could actually be the worst in the world. And even a cursory understanding of those figures should make it clear that granting sanctions relief to Tehran would do little to alleviate the crisis.

This is because the problem doesn’t stem from Tehran’s global isolation or from a lack of access to essential medical resources. In fact, there has never been such a lack of access.

Iranian officials repeatedly have attempted to claim that the United States is cruelly and deliberately barring Iranians from receiving life-saving medical aid. But how could this be, when the White House reached out to Iran in order to offer such aid directly?

And how can Iran’s narrative of victimization be taken seriously when Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei explicitly rejected the U.S. offer, then attempted to justify his decision with a series of frankly insane conspiracy theories?

It might have been possible to excuse this as sincere but overwrought skepticism. But the American offer was not the only one to be rejected by the Iranian regime.

Doctors Without Borders separately made arrangements to build a makeshift hospital and provide medical personnel to assist in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. These plans were canceled on the Iranian side, and the Health Ministry issued public statements insisting that the aid was not needed and that Iranian authorities were managing the crisis perfectly well on their own.

President Hassan Rouhani reframed this narrative with the specific intention of antagonizing the West, stating that Iran was doing much better than the United States and its allies. Rouhani illustrated the point with reference to empty beds in intensive care units, praising the capacity and effectiveness of his country’s health care system. But he did so as official estimates for the number of active cases climbed into the tens of thousands.

At the start of last week, Tehran acknowledged that the country was fast approaching 4,000 coronavirus-related fatalities. But the leading Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, estimates that the actual death toll is roughly five times that number.

In the first week of March, the NCRI determined from hospital admission records and the disease’s likely mortality rate that as many as 1 million Iranians had already contracted it. Given the virtual absence of government countermeasures and the fact that more than 18,000 people have reportedly died since the outbreak began, it is reasonable to conclude that the number of cases has now doubled.

U.S. sanctions cannot explain a catastrophe of this magnitude. The problem has its roots in the Iranian regime’s initial response, and it has been fed since the end of January by a combination of misplaced priorities, inhumane ideology, administrative incompetence, and corruption. At least some of these problems are evident in the gap between when the first cases were recorded in the Islamic Republic and when the first ones were publicly acknowledged by the regime.

The NCRI recently uncovered documents that showed suspected COVID-19 sufferers had arrived from China no later than the end of January. Yet Tehran effectively denied this until February 19.

In the meantime, authorities organized massive celebrations of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Not only that, but they also utilized time-tested strategies for compelling Iranians to gather together where they could be used as props for state propaganda that claimed extensive public support for the theocratic system.

The carefully stage-managed celebrations were especially important this year, as they came in the wake of a nationwide anti-government uprising in November, as well as student protests that spanned at least a dozen provinces in January. In fact, a false symbol of support was so important to the regime that authorities evidently had no qualms about deliberately making their subjects more vulnerable to a looming pandemic.

In the run-up to their disclosure on February 19, it became clear that they were willing to do it all over again. Iran’s parliamentary elections were scheduled for two days later, and officials breathlessly had been urging the people to participate in the largest possible numbers. There’s little doubt that the regime’s obsession with voter turnout would have enforced an even longer silence about coronavirus if not for the fact that activists and dissidents were organizing a boycott of the polls.

When officials finally announced that COVID-19 had breached Iran’s borders, they did so to create a convenient excuse for the lowest voter turnout in the 41-year history of the Islamic Republic.

Yet all the while, authorities continued to urge mass participation and write off pandemic concerns as part of a foreign plot to shatter Iranian morale. Ironically, the small portion of Iran’s population that supports the regime may have actually been made particularly vulnerable to infection, on at least two occasions.

The rest of the country understands that the regime has no serious interest in protecting them against the viral outbreak, or against much of anything else. Groups like the NCRI have repeatedly explained this for the benefit of the international community, noting along the way that no serious observer of Iranian affairs thinks sanctions relief would change the regime’s relationship with its people.

In reality, it would only allow the regime to spend more of someone else’s money on mismanaging each crisis that rocks the country, while also pursuing its own malign ends, to the detriment of the Iranian people.

Greatness Agenda

Rumors of the Death of Hungarian Democracy Are Vastly Overstated

Since COVID-19 affects the entire globe, from China through the Ivory Coast to Argentina, governments all over the world have implemented emergency rules to save as many lives as possible. No one, not even members of parliaments, governments, royal families, football teams, or celebrities are immune to the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. News about new infections and quarantining public figures pop up frequently on the internet. This is the first pandemic for a considerable period of time and it is certainly the cause of the biggest change in our way of life our generation can recall. 

The coronavirus crisis is an enormous challenge—physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically. Fortunately, constitutions include clauses for such crises—and it should no surprise that those clauses should be invoked.

The United States, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom—and several other EU member states—just to mention a few democratic countries, all passed emergency decrees and legislation. Hungary followed in line with a number of these measures: or, to be clear, Hungary was one of the few countries that introduced countermeasures at the right time, fast and effective enough to slow down the spread of the virus.

In Great Britain, legislation will see parliament close for four weeks this month. It also guarantees extraordinary competences to the British government’s cabinet ministers, bypassing parliament, deviating from normal procedure. The government has never passed such measures during peacetime before, and they could be in effect for up to two years.

In France, the government also introduced a state of emergency in mid-March, and President Macron did not limit himself exclusively to taking measures against the pandemic crisis. Moreover, just a short while ago (before the state of emergency measures) he also pushed through his explicitly unpopular pension reforms in a rather “draconian” way, bypassing the parliament in early March. In addition, France also declared a state of emergency in November 2015, following the Bataclan terrorist attacks, with a range of restrictions on civil rights, and the measures lasted more than two years until November 2017.

The “anti-terror law” with which Macron replaced the emergency decree allowed an “[e]xpansion of the executive government’s powers in order to deal with a public disaster or a serious threat to public order” and also allowed “prefects or the Minister of the Interior to limit or prohibit traffic in certain places, to prohibit certain public assemblies, to temporarily close certain public spaces, to requisition private property or services, to prohibit certain persons from staying in French territory, to put people under temporary house arrest, and to issue “administrative” search warrants”—for two whole years.

The mainstream media, incurious about these facts, decided rather to throw dust into the public’s eyes and once again “worrying” voices for the future of democracy are predominantly focused on Hungary. The reasoning behind these allegations—formulated, apparently, without any factual knowledge of the new law—is the same as it has always been when directed at Hungary (e.g., in time of the migration crisis four and a half years ago) with only some details and circumstances altered. “Constitutional coup,” “Sweeping Powers To Hungary’s Orban,“blatant power grab” that “marginalizes the Hungarian Parliament”—these are just a few of the all too common accusations. 

Presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted, “authoritarian leaders have used moments of crisis to seize unchecked power. Hungary’s Orban is the latest example.” “Hungary will be indefinitely ruled by executive fiat,” worries Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho).  And “coronavirus kills its first democracy,” says an alarmist headline in the Washington Post.

All but a few statements echoed the same sentiment and signaled the same scruples. Among those publishing more sober analyses, however, has been Francesco Giubilei, an Italian political scientist writing for the Italian right-wing daily Il Giornale. On his blog, Giubilei writes that the Hungarian coronavirus law doesn’t give unlimited powers to the Hungarian government since it lays down that the Parliament can withdraw the authorization if it intends to do so. Although many tend to ignore this, “measurements of the Fundamental Law cannot be suspended, the work of the Constitutional Court cannot be curtailed” due to the Hungarian laws, not even in a state of emergency, wrote Giubilei. 

England-based Hungarian sociologist Frank Furedi points out the absurdity of how the mainstream Western media draws parallels between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Adolf Hitler, who built his autocratic empire in 1933 when the Reichstag gave him the green light to run amok by passing the “empowerment law.” Today’s Hungarian government simply does not need this kind of extraordinary granting of power, especially when compared to other European countries, as it already has the exceptional democratic legitimacy to tackle the current health crisis.

Even so, the Hungarian executive branch still replies to the parliament. The institutions guaranteeing the rule of law in Hungary have not stopped working. 

We shall not neglect the fact that the Hungarian parliament, in which the governing alliance gained a two-thirds majority in 2018 (for the third time in a row) with free and fair general elections, passed the act to authorize the executive power to continue its job to tackle pandemic and its consequences—amid the opposition’s irresponsible filibuster. The parliament’s move is in line with Hungarian constitutional regulations, which—since 1990—empower the government, and only the government itself to declare and terminate the state of danger, but tie the government’s extraordinary decrees to parliamentary approval after 15 days. This “first the executive, then the legislative” method is known all over Western civilization when it comes to declaring special legal orders, and a very similar procedure was used in France, Spain, and Portugal in the past weeks. 

And of course, as those legal orders—such as the state of emergency—are introduced as a response to abnormal situations endangering the operation of state and society (things like the threat of war, terrorist attacks, or an epidemic) exercise of fundamental rights may be suspended or restricted. Extraordinary times need extraordinary measures: this is true for all restrictions on ordinary rights during the outbreak whether in the United States or France or Italy or Hungary. 

Now, what does the “controversial” bill actually say

The Act on the Protection Against the Coronavirus extends the extraordinary measures of the government under the “state of danger” and authorizes the government to introduce additional ones explicitly and exclusively “to prevent and respond to the human epidemic of COVID-19”—pertinent to the epidemic defense. It does not, however, dissolve the National Assembly as it—according to the constitution—may and can sit during the state of danger. Moreover, the legislation itself was needed as the Hungarian constitution stipulates that in the state of danger the government may adopt extraordinary decrees only and exclusively as provided for by an act approved by the two-thirds majority of the parliament. 

It’s not “without limits,” so clearly it’s not a golden ticket for every political endeavor, nor a shift towards “dictatorship” or “autocracy” as many would have us believe. First of all, its focus on extraordinary measures is very clearly “to prevent, treat, eradicate and remedy harmful consequences” of the ongoing human epidemic that we are fighting against.

Secondly, the law does not allow the government to “rule by decree for an indefinite period of time.” The parliament may revoke its authorization pertaining to the effect of the extraordinary decrees, and—as it will be in session in the forthcoming period—it can withdraw the entire act any time, even before the end of state of emergency. 

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court remains operational, and the government is still obliged to answer to parliament, which has all legal instruments to do the “usual” legislative work itself. Should the parliament not revoke its authorization or not withdraw the act itself, government regulations are only in effect until the end of the state of danger, as it is referred to in the Hungarian constitution. Therefore the legal force of the law depends merely on practicalities and not legalities.

One should also add that domestic and international criticism about introducing a “rule by decree” and “eliminating parliamentary control” seems meaningless as it would be illogical, given the circumstances, for our government to do that. As mentioned before, the governing parties own a stable two-thirds majority in the parliament winning all elections since 2006, including national, local and European ones. Dismantling the parliamentary system with such a strong majority or curfewing the powers of the legislative branch would make no sense at all, especially from a purely partisan point of view. Why on earth would the government seek wilfully to ignore a parliament where it already has a strong influence or try to exclude it from the decision-making process?

Last but not least, the government may exercise its power to the extent necessary and proportionate to secure the objective pursued against the danger it tackles—citizens’ health, life, property, rights, and to maintain the stability of the economy in connection with the virus. Well, are they? According to the vast majority of Hungarians, they sure are. Based on the figures of a recent poll conducted by Hungarian think tank Nézőpont Intézet, “90 percent of all Hungarians” who are actually living in the country, and “94 percent of pro-government and 80 percent of anti-government voters agree that the state of emergency that has introduced the emergency law in Hungary should be prolonged.” On the question of how long, nearly 60 percent of Hungarians “would authorize the cabinet to introduce special measures until the end of the epidemic,” and 72 percent agree with the “specific tightening of the penal code.”

The majority of Hungarian citizens comprehend the gravity of this situation and fully abide and cooperate with government measures. As a result, the growth in the number of new cases in Hungary is still gradual, not exponential.

But will press freedom disappear from Hungary, as our critics have been saying it will every day for the last decade? 

Of course not. It is true, however, that during an epidemic fake news becomes especially dangerous and steps must be taken to prevent its spread. Indeed, several examples of fake news have already appeared on the internet. Therefore, new criminal regulations that apply only for the duration of a special legal order envisions stricter punishments for scaremongering. This does not even apply to misleading opinions, it only applies to those who intentionally spread false or untruthful information which might hinder the efforts to contain the spread of the virus. An article critical of the government isn’t covered. But a false claim that an entire city might be placed under quarantine is. In the end, it is up to the courts to decide what is punishable and what isn’t.

Taking all these into account, it’s quite destructive and cynical to pull out the very same criticisms from the magic hat of liberal populism time and again, and to cry over “the death of democracy in Hungary” when similar measures are taken in other democracies all over the world, in the West and East alike. Such criticisms are full of hot air!

Naturally, no reasonable person prefers a state of emergency. Nevertheless, every constitution takes states of emergency into account. These measures have nothing to do with dictatorship. These are far from normal times—everywhere. We are fighting to “flatten the curve”  and save the lives of thousands of Hungarian men and women endangered by the lethal effects of the virus. At “times of danger,” when human lives or property are at risk, laws are born relatively fast, because fast is our only option to handle this situation in a responsible manner. 

Greatness Agenda

An American Company Under Siege in South Korea

China simply orders companies to hand over their intellectual property. A South Korean conglomerate is abusing the Korean court system to achieve the same end. Why hasn’t the U.S. government intervened?

We are all familiar with China’s predatory trade practices: intellectual property theft, subsidized exports, state-owned businesses masquerading as private enterprise, and counterfeit products just to name a few.

Beijing’s abuses are so numerous and so long-standing we pretty much expect them to cheat. If you’re China, “It’s what you do,” as the ad says.

But it’s worse when our allies use the same playbook to steal American technology and drive American companies into bankruptcy.

And that’s exactly what’s happening in South Korea right now.

In the 1960s, the South Korean government created POSCO (formerly known as Pohang Iron and Steel Company) and lavished it with grants, loans, and other subsidies.

These special favors, not available in a free-market system, helped POSCO grow into a sprawling conglomerate and the world’s largest steel manufacturer.

But the company doesn’t play by the same rules as American companies.

The Commerce Department found POSCO guilty of dumping steel into the United States at prices far below the cost of production—a tactic China uses regularly.

And dumping is not the only underhanded tactic POSCO has borrowed from China.

The South Korean conglomerate is abusing joint venture partnerships to steal intellectual property from an innovative American company, FuelCell Energy, a U.S. manufacturer based in Connecticut.

FuelCell is the first and only American company to produce industrial-scale fuel cell electric platforms—low-emission power generators. It developed its technology in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, benefiting from hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and 50 years of American engineering.

FuelCell entered into a licensing agreement with POSCO in 2007 to expand its reach in Asian markets. South Korea is the biggest market for fuel cell technology.

But in 2016, POSCO suddenly began a series of legal actions in South Korean courts designed to force FuelCell to hand over its intellectual property or go bankrupt.

First, POSCO stopped selling FuelCell’s products, and then sued to freeze all of its American partner’s assets in Korea. That made it impossible for FuelCell to service its generators in South Korea. FuelCell still runs a 20-megawatt, $250 million plant in South Korea, but its assets are frozen.

POSCO then moved to block FuelCell from future business opportunities. In an attempt to keep FuelCell out, POSCO asked the South Korean government to bar foreign manufacturers from participating in clean energy programs.

POSCO is doing all this in an effort to grab the rights to FuelCell Energy’s pioneering clean-power technology, its intellectual property. At a meeting with the South Korean government’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, FuelCell was told it should just give POSCO what it wants.

China simply orders companies to hand over their IP; POSCO is abusing the Korean court system to achieve the same end. The South Korean conglomerate that benefits from Korean government protections is employing the same tactics we condemn China for using.

The U.S. government needs to intervene in this ongoing dispute. We’ve already hit POSCO with penalties for dumping steel. President Trump and his top trade officials should consider further penalties to force POSCO to negotiate an agreement with FuelCell Energy.

Greatness Agenda

Can China Turn the Wuhan Coronavirus To Its Advantage?

Recent experience and the Western mindset may be leading Beijing to reach that conclusion.

Can it be that after systematically lying to the world for months about the Wuhan coronavirus—about its existence, about its transmission, about its lethality—that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) thinks it can turn this worldwide pandemic to its advantage?

Yes. And here’s how.

First, China has to rewrite its role in the virus’s emergence, “[portraying] itself not as the country that allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked for weeks but as the country that has defeated the virus and is now on hand to save the rest of the world.” The Chinese plan to do that by using propaganda and social media to muddy the waters as to the origins of the virus, and then to claim that China made heroic sacrifices early on to buy time for the rest of the world.

In this, they have willing accomplices. The World Health Organization, still taking its multi-generational victory lap for having conquered smallpox, eagerly parroted China’s lies, even as it was denied access to the virus epicenter. It continues to do the party’s bidding on Taiwan.

In the West, our manias and blind spots about race and “othering” help to squash discussion of practices that facilitate viruses jumping from other species to humans, like bat soup and wet markets. And by now, the Chinese government has every incentive to let the markets go on, since shutting them down would be a tacit admission of their culpability.

Now, having allegedly conquered the virus, China stands ready to donate massive quantities of equipment, and to organize the global pharmaceutical effort to create both treatments and a vaccine. As the United States struggles with its own medical supply chain, China will try to fill America’s traditional role in helping other countries during a natural disaster.

Admittedly, all of that would be more persuasive if Czechia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands hadn’t discovered hundreds of thousands of defective masks and tests.

Further, the CCP seems to think that the economics of the Wuhan virus work in its favor. As the rest of the world—except Sweden, it seems—shuts down, China’s recovery has begun. British ad giant WPP reports that organic sales there are down 16 percent, but rebounding, and down less than the 35 percent that had been anticipated.

Rumors of a resurgent virus in other parts of the country aside, if China ends up ahead of the curve on the recovery, it will be in a position to buy up overseas assets while those countries are still selling at distressed prices. China could end up with productive assets, rather than simply flipping distressed real estate, as so many Western investment firms did earlier in the year when the shoe was on the other foot.

The virus and its stress on the hospital system has made us painfully aware of our dependence on China for key supplies such as surgical masks and antibiotics. Such a move might also forestall a move to reposition critical supply chain operations out of China or even back to the United States. Even given that the FDA continues to make production of these items ridiculously difficult at home, there are plenty of countries outside of China that could do that work.

But Chinese ownership of those facilities would nullify that option: the CCP could either prevent the move or end up controlling the production, anyway. Rather than the Wuhan virus circumscribing China, it could end up accelerating its long-game plan to force the rest of the world economy into its orbit.

Even if we were able to move pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing back on-shore, we would quickly be vulnerable again without a massive, Manhattan Project-like in next-generation tech.

As Josef Stalin noted at the Tehran Conference in 1943, World War II was a war of machines; the United States was lucky to have Henry Kaiser producing Liberty Ships and Henry Ford producing bombers. The next war will be a war of computing power—artificial intelligence, quantum communication, and quantum computing. Unless we bring chip manufacturing back to the United States, we’ll rapidly find ourselves dependent on Chinese drug discovery. The same goes for just about every other critical industry. Since China already has a lead on us in those areas, it can afford to tread water on the existing supply chain, if it chooses to.

In a fair world, China’s Communist Party would be shunned by every other country. In a fair world, it would have lost the Mandate of Heaven at home and would be facing an internal crisis. In a fair world, the future of the party’s rule wouldn’t be in doubt—it would have been sealed.

Unfortunately, it won’t be that easy.

Greatness Agenda

Trump Should Use the Pandemic to His, and America’s, Advantage

Does Trump have what it takes to fulfill that which he was called to do, as Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan did for their generations? Or, will he surrender to the democratic-globalist oligarchs who control our dying society?

When Rahm Emanuel told audiences that former President Barack Obama should “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” he was applauded. Emanuel was referring to the Obama Administration’s response to the Great Recession. Clearly, President Obama agreed. Obama ushered in the greatest reorganization of the American socio-economic order under the auspices of resolving the financial crisis (which, of course, Obama never actually did resolve).

Similarly, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China offers President Trump a momentous opportunity to enact his own sweeping agenda—all of which would be far more beneficial to the American people than Obama’s statism. Trump needs to press his advantage with as much vigor and alacrity as Obama pressed his during the financial crisis.

The Disease Is Globalization

The COVID-19 disease is really the disease of globalization. It is also globalization’s inevitable, natural end.

The current pandemic will allow President Trump to do the things his most ardent critics prevented him from doing over the past three years: tighten America’s porous borders (not just along the southwestern United States, but everywhere), end America’s self-destructive trade policies by reclaiming key industrial capacity from abroad, and attack the leftist vision of “socialized” healthcare.

The response to the pandemic is also a chance for the president to advocate some of conservatism’s greatest social policies: a return to a “family-first” national social policy of the sort that defined the United States before the rise of post-World War II liberalism.

Want to finally bring about the death of the Education Department? Are you ready to pop that higher-education bubble before it breaks us? Do you want to encourage policies that will support family formation at earlier ages? Or perhaps simply ensure that those families stick together? How about we finally create programs that ensure homeschooling becomes the norm rather than the exception?

Are any of you interested in rejiggering the economy so that one person can afford to pay for a family of four while a spouse either works part-time or stays at home with the children, as our grandparents did? Maybe you’re a fan of the “go local” movement.

All of these can become a reality, thanks to COVID-19.

A History of Resistance

Without a biological crisis of this magnitude, the “Make America Great Again” agenda would never be enacted the way it should be. Politicians are too lazy and no matter how difficult economic life in this country may have been, people are too comfortable with the familiar.

We’ve already seen how Trump’s policies (other than his participation in more Mideast wars and tax cuts) have been neutered by the democratic-globalist elite who rule us. Three years ago, when Trump declared a travel moratorium upon seven predominantly Muslim countries out of concerns that terrorists were originating from those states, our democratic-globalist elite resisted.

After Trump rightly launched a “trade war” upon the Chinese for their decades-long economic assault through unfair trade practices, “free trade” Republicans chafed. Despite having spent years promising to “build the wall,” Trump found himself dogged by both of the feckless parties in Congress and watched as his every attempt to fulfill that campaign promise was stymied by a corrupt judiciary.

The dynamic has finally changed.

The Paradigm Shift is Here

In response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration issued a partial travel ban for those coming into the United States from China (one could still hop a flight to China from nearby Singapore or South Korea and then fly into the United States, unfortunately).

Still, many have acknowledged that the president’s travel ban likely saved lives. Imagine that: travel bans now save lives when just three years ago, they were “racist.” In fact, Trump’s critics started insinuating that he was a racist for insisting upon a travel ban with China when the disease first spread from Wuhan. They’ve since backed off, given the severity of the disease (no, COVID-19 is not merely the flu).

Suddenly, everyone is asking why the heck we’re so reliant on China for our supply chain. Even six months ago, the free traders in the United States were demanding that Trump surrender to China in the “trade war.” In December, Trump made an initial deal with China. Bet we’re all wishing Trump had never made that “phase one” deal with China last Christmas!

By listening to the Wall Street tycoons and K Street influence peddlers (all of whom benefited from “free trade” with China), when China sneezed, the whole world caught a very bad cold—and few had enough paper products to wipe their noses.

Suppose, instead of making a deal to return to normal, Trump had fought for legislation allowing for America to reclaim even a fraction of its industrial capacity from abroad. We certainly would not have the bottlenecks in our supply chain that we’ve been forced to endure today. Personally, I like having toilet paper.

As the disease spreads throughout our country, our already strained medical system (thanks, Obamacare) is at risk of collapsing. Further, this COVID-19 outbreak gives Trump and his allies one more chance to fix one of their greatest legislative failures: overturning the Affordable Care Act once-and-for-all and fix our ailing healthcare system as well as our dying industrial base.

Whatever the real mortality rate with COVID-19 may be, the fact remains that our hospital system cannot take the load. Already hospitals are stretched to capacity in places like New York City. Should the country return to “normal” prematurely, the disease will soon swamp metropolitan and rural hospitals alike, as people resume their normal rate of travel. That’s why we must “flatten the curve.” And in flattening the curve, we can also squash the scourge of socialism.

As for immigration: Mexico’s government desperately wants the wall built, in order to keep sick Americans out of their country. So, in effect, Mexico may yet pay for the wall!

Natural disasters have a way of reshaping events and fundamentally altering paradigms. Or, rather they force leaders to accept a new paradigm. The COVID-19 pandemic presents Trump with just that opportunity.

All National Crises Are Political—and Only One Side Wins

Fact is, Democrats have never stopped behaving as Emanuel urged in 2009. As Rachel Bovard has heroically detailed, the recent stimulus bill meant to provide relief to Americans during this national emergency is full of candy for Democratic Party special interests. Similarly, congressional Republicans have been all to happy to throw some handouts to their “free trade” cronies at taxpayers’ expense.

Perhaps Trump should do the same for his voters.

President Trump should take a page from his opposition’s book and spend the next five weeks pressing his agenda. Trump should shut the country down—including suspending air travel—to truly “flatten the curve.” Using the military, he should enforce social distancing to slow the spread of the disease.

During that time, Trump should also press his agenda through—by “pen-and-phone” if he must—to get this country back to what it was supposed to be, not continuing to help make it what every “democratic socialist” leader since Woodrow Wilson has made it into. For the last century, progressives from both parties have abused crises to refashion America into the socialist dystopia it has become. Now is the time, possibly the last time, for Trump to return the favor on our behalf.

Does Trump have what it takes to fulfill that which he was called to do, as Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan did for their generations? Or, will he surrender to the democratic-globalist oligarchs who control our dying society?

As Trump might say, “We’ll see.”

Greatness Agenda

Visas for Pottersville

Facing 30 percent unemployment, we’re importing more foreign workers. Why?

In the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is shown an alternate, dystopian version of Bedford Falls. In Pottersville, renamed for the greedy local mogul, the neighborhood bar is instead a raucous saloon, George’s flirty childhood friend has become a prostitute, and his real-world wife, Mary, is instead a spinster librarian.

At one point in Bedford Falls, George and Mary confess their love while on a phone call with a wealthy school friend. In the course of the call, Sam Wainwright announces plans to build a plastics factory in Rochester. George answers:

Why not right here? You remember that old tool and machinery works? You tell your father he can get that for a song. And all the labor he wants, too. Half the town was thrown out of work when they closed down.

If there had been a Pottersville version of that call, Sam, instead of hiring those jobless locals, would have responded, “Hire Americans? Nah, I’ll just import foreign workers on visas. Hee haw!”

Welcome to Pottersville.

Bad Policy Meets Harsh Reality

With 10 million unemployment claims just in the past two weeks and a jobless rate that could reach 32 percent, the Trump Administration is continuing the trend of increasing importation of foreign workers, whose numbers have doubled over the past decade.

The State Department has waived the interview requirement for H-2A visa farmworkers to speed their arrival, while the Department of Homeland Security is going ahead with a lottery for H-1B cheap-labor visas for tech firms and possibly increasing the number of H-2B nonfarm seasonal workers (for landscaping, hotels, carnivals, etc.)

This last is perhaps the most unreal. Following its recent practice, Congress responded to pressure from industry lobbyists to increase the number of H-2B visas by passing the buck to DHS, authorizing—but not requiring—it to increase the number. The administration decided on the largest-ever increase—35,000 additional visas—in the long-ago days of 3 percent unemployment (i.e., March 5).

Rather than retract that increase under today’s radically changed circumstances, DHS last week formally submitted the order for the increase to the White House and was expected to start doling out the visas this week.

But a blistering monologue by Tucker Carlson on Wednesday seems to have given the administration pause. DHS tweeted Thursday that “DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice.” The increase should never have been submitted and should simply be canceled—the only “review” that’s needed is a review of the news headlines—but this is better than nothing.

Whatever happens with this temporarily suspended increase, the very existence of the visa program is contrary to the interests of American workers. Employers who use the H-2B visa—like those who use other low-skill visas or hire illegals—complain that they try to hire locally but that few Americans want the jobs and those who do show up aren’t good workers. Donald Trump himself, when he was running for the nomination, defended his own properties’ use of the H-2B visa by saying that Americans didn’t want the seasonal jobs he had available.

Before the current economic meltdown, employer complaints about worker quality were not entirely without merit. It’s not that foreign workers are generally better than Americans. But when unemployment was at 3 percent, visa workers (and illegals) might well have been better workers than the Americans who didn’t already have jobs. At that time, such American workers could include ex-cons, recovering addicts, clueless teenagers, and people with disabilities who call for more oversight and accommodation. Even under those conditions, there was no excuse for these low-skill visas, since without them employers would have no choice but to get creative in order to draw such harder-to-employ Americans into the world of work—a tight labor market is the best social policy.

But those conditions—when former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was telling people that the U.S. was “desperate” for more foreign workers—no longer exist. With millions suddenly out of work, there’s no excuse for the admission of any foreign visa workers.

And, unlike the numbers in other visa programs that are mandated by statute, the H-2B increase is entirely discretionary. The administration (and this decision was made at the White House, not by some low-level bureaucrat) could simply have told Congress that it would not exercise the option of increasing the cap. Authorizing that increase was one of the swampiest moves the White House could have made, one put on hold only belatedly and grudgingly.

Still Too Many

Even the guestworker programs where DHS does not have discretion should be halted given our new realities.

Even if the above-mentioned increase is actually canceled, the H-2B program is still set to import its base level of 66,000 foreign workers this year. The State Department announcement last week that it was speeding the admission of foreign farm workers claimed they are “a national security priority.” Employers submitted 275,000 applications for the 85,000 H-1B visas for “skilled” workers (many in tech), which will be doled out starting in October. And the Optional Practical Training program, a scheme that gives work visas to foreign graduates of U.S. universities masquerading as students, continues to fill hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs with foreigners despite the fact that it has no basis in law.

The president has the authority to stop the admission of all foreign workers, recently upheld by the Supreme Court in last year’s “travel ban” case. Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is quite clear:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

“Detrimental to the interests of the United States” is practically the motto of our foreign-worker programs even in the best of times, but in today’s conditions, it’s an understatement.

Cheap-labor lobbyists undoubtedly would sue to enjoin any order by the president halting the admission of foreign workers. The administration should welcome such lawsuits; it would be hard to imagine a less sympathetic plaintiff than a company demanding that a judge order the admission of foreign workers in the current economic climate. Even losing such a case would be a political victory for the president and sane public opinion on these questions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste Wuhan virus proposal included, amid all the other nonsense, automatic renewal for all foreigners with work permits. It didn’t end up in the final bill, but at least you could make a case for narrowly tailored measures freezing everything in place until the crisis passes. In fact, I expect USCIS will administratively extend all expiring work-permit deadlines.

But the corollary of such a freeze would be a freeze on the admission of new foreign workers. Unfortunately, even under today’s emergency conditions our borders seem to operate as a ratchet for foreign workers—none of those already here have to leave and those whom employers want to import get to come in.

What does that make jobless American workers? Mr. Potter put it best: “Suckers.”

Greatness Agenda

Payback Time for China

Only by taking strong and unprecedented measures can the United States and the world protect their citizens and counter a delinquent and devious country like The Communist People’s Republic of China.

It is war,” we have been told. The number of casualties will only escalate such a war. Even terrorism might not be a proper comparison. It’s the early days of the epidemic, and as of March 31, 2020, the death toll from the Chinese coronavirus has already surpassed that of the 9/11 attacks.

So, if it’s war, let’s treat it like one.

The Chinese coronavirus very likely emerged from the Wuhan Virology Laboratory, according to medical scientists, inside China. It was an experiment. It got out of control and went unreported and then the Chinese authorities lied about it, covered it up, and spent over a month downplaying it and propagating disinformation.

The Chinese government did not effectively manage to control its spread or eradicate the epidemic. In the meantime, the virus was exported to neighboring countries and subsequently to Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world.

Clearly, Communist China has done unfathomable damage to the United States, the West and the rest of the world with this disease.

Aside from its militaristic and aggressive power plays demonstrated in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other neighboring countries, totalitarian China has overtly attempted to dominate the Asian theatre, steal foreign intellectual property, control global supply lines and important future technologies, and generally, through its state-owned enterprises and government-backed trade policies, to seize the global economy.

While we have all suffered economic harm, our patience has expired now seeing the human casualties.

No more.

The world has had enough. President Trump and the United States Congress, along with other world leaders, must now take the lead in a firm and rapid response.

It is called retribution: payback.

The cost of the Chinese pandemic is estimated at around $5.3 trillion and growing. This is tallied by the economic dislocation, unemployment, bankruptcy, medical costs, and deaths that have ensued since the virus was lied about and let loose in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located.

That number is escalating by the day and could come closer to $10 trillion when this pandemic is finally controlled and abated around the world.

The damages are devastating, widespread, and on-going. Oxford Economics, the world’s leading econometric forecaster has stated, “In recent weeks we have revised down our baseline forecasts as more countries announced draconian policy measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in a deep worldwide recession.”

Nevertheless, one thing is certain, lives are being lost. Human lives are priceless. Unfortunately, the death toll is now projected to be in the tens, and probably hundreds, of thousands worldwide.

The United States alone has already passed the largest emergency aid in history, an unprecedented $2.2 trillion stimulus package. The stock markets in the United States and other countries have lost significant value, indicating massive wealth destruction.

What should be done about it?

The Chinese must pay. The best way to effect that payment is to charge them under international criminal law with intentional and real harm and damages.

Here are the measures we, as economists, suggest be taken immediately to redress the wrong, even as we work in unison to mitigate the loss of life, severe illness, and far-reaching deep and lasting economic impacts.

President Trump and other world leaders should make a unilateral proclamation along these lines.

The United States, along with its allies and other partnering nations should take the following actions:

1) The United States and all other signatory countries will repatriate all critical supply chains, decoupling them from China. This will start with all pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and instruments, protective equipment and extend over time to any material or goods deemed necessary to critical infrastructure and national security.

2) Significant investment will be channeled toward strengthening the resilience and capacity of healthcare and public health, as well as other critical infrastructure during COVID-19.

3) We will expand the provisions of the USA Freedom Act to assess, mitigate, and counter all biological threats. Better intelligence leads to better economic policies and decisions. NATO should advance its chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) and operational capabilities.

4)  The United States, allies, and partners will also strengthen critical information infrastructure so as to ensure information integrity for the fight against COVID-19. Chinese companies, most particularly Huawei and ZTE, should be barred permanently from any and all 5G and related networks for national security reasons.

5) Since the total debt owed by the United States and other countries to China coincidentally totals approximately $5.2 trillion, that entire debt is hereby canceled. Neither the principal nor any interest on it will be repaid. This is the charge for damages incurred.

In total, the Chinese state and its subsidiaries have lent about $1.5 trillion in direct loans and trade credits to more than 150 countries around the globe. This has turned China into the world’s largest official creditor—surpassing traditional, official lenders such as the World Bank, the IMF, or all OECD creditor governments combined. Hidden loans far exceed this official amount which accounts for the discrepancy.

6) The roughly 500 Chinese companies listed on the U.S. and other stock exchanges will comply with international standards and regulations and specifically adhere to strict GAAP accounting and reporting guidelines, as well as national security policies, or otherwise face severe sanctions, including delisting. United States investment and pension funds and those in other signatory countries would be prohibited from buying Chinese securities from companies that do not comply.

7) We will freeze the accounts of all Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Mainland China itself, and any person(s) involved in or related to instigating or prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only by taking strong and unprecedented measures can the United States and the world protect their citizens and counter a delinquent and devious country like Communist China. They must pay the price for their malignant behavior and spreading COVID-19 and causing vast international harm and deaths.

Greatness Agenda

Wuhan Coronavirus Must Be Our Sputnik Moment With China

Now will we take the threat China poses seriously?

Back then, it seemed to make sense. We were in a Cold War that easily could have turned hot and taken all our lives. Of course, it’s easy to forget that we had 25,000 nuclear warheads aimed at each other across the East-West divide. So if America could cultivate dissension and sow division between the two biggest Communist dictatorships, and so weaken the “Second World,” so much the better. 

That was how Henry Kissinger sold President Nixon the idea of cozying up to the Chinese Communists. After 25 years of nonrecognition and isolation, an American president wasn’t simply going to reestablish perfunctory ties with Beijing, but instead, he spent a whole week in China as a part of normalizing relations with the dictatorship. 

At a time when the main threat to us was the continued global spread of Communism and nuclear war with the dictatorship in Moscow, such a move had a quality of intuitive seduction. 

Yet Kissinger’s idea of weakening the “Socialist International” by driving a wedge between Beijing and Moscow broke one of the cardinal rules of good strategy: it is never wise to empower one enemy simply for the sake of weakening another, more proximate one. 

Nixon’s fatal acquiescence to the plan to lure China away from Moscow led to Beijing’s playing America—and the West—like a cheap fiddle in the decades that followed. 

With the geopolitical door opened by a president who had earned his anti-Communist credentials after World War II on the House Un-American Activities Committee, Beijing realized a dream come true. With America on its side, the Chinese Communist Party could skillfully engineer post-Kuomintang China’s reception back into global political life and international trade. 

And they were unbelievably successful.

Whether the administration was run by Republicans or Democrats, China would move inexorably closer to the position it craved: the maintenance of an ironclad dictatorship within its borders, while also having the freedom to trade with the whole world and influence international affairs as “just another country.” And we let it happen. 

From Jimmy Carter’s decision to reinstate their “Most Favored Nation” trading status in 1979, to China’s accession under George W. Bush to the World Trade Organization in 2001, the murderous regime has achieved each and every goal it needed to realize in order to become a peer competitor to its greatest enemy—us. Perhaps the global pandemic that is the Chinese Wuhan coronavirus could change that. It must.

Many have asked the reasonable question: Why are we producing upward of 95 percent of our antibiotics and medical equipment needs in Communist China?

Even before one explores the question of how rife these exports are to geopolitical exploitation, forgery, and failure, this fact appears suicidal.

But let’s just stay with the question: Why are we doing business with China at all?

This is a country with a system that killed at least 45 million of its own citizens in less than five years under the guise of the “reform” movement that was Mao’s Great Leap Forward and then starved another 30 million of its citizens to death.

This is the country that massacred thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square as the Iron Curtain was crumbling and which now censors the internet domestically for any mention of that failed revolution. And it does so with the help of supposedly American companies like Google

This is the nation that imprisons its people simply for following the “wrong” religion or for being a member of an ethnic group it has deemed undesirable. A nation that will harvest these prisoners’ organs against their will to sell or to use for those whose survival is more “important” to the state. 

And this is the country that has created a “social credit” rating system that allows the government systematically to denude you of your remaining civil rights, one by one, should your behavior or views be found to be politically incorrect or déclassé—that is, contrary to the official party line. 

Yes, China is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, it has abused and persecuted those who have spoken out about what really happened in Wuhan in December and January, and then launched an international propaganda campaign to downplay their government’s culpability. But that’s not really the problem. 

My question again: Why are we doing business with the world’s biggest Communist dictatorship at all? So the plastic toys we give away with Happy Meals cost us the least possible? Or so that we can be blackmailed when we need N-95 masks for the next viral outbreak? 

In 1957, when our grandparents turned on their transistor radios and heard the artificial beeps of the world’s first satellite beamed down from space they had their Sputnik moment. That’s when Americans realized the Soviets had out-thought and out-engineered us and that’s when we finally started to take the existential threat the Soviets posed seriously.

The Wuhan Coronavirus must be our Sputnik Moment for the threat China represents now.

Greatness Agenda

Don’t Think of Massie as a Hero

The Kentucky Republican is no national populist champion. In the face of this emergency, he’s acting like a clown in a tricorn hat.

The coronavirus relief plan passed last week, but one congressman tried to stop it.

U.S. Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), an ardent libertarian, nearly forced the entire House of Representatives to return to Washington to vote on the plan.

Massie defied the leadership of both parties on behalf of the Constitution . . . at least in his own mind.

Some conservatives saw him as a hero for standing up against the corruption of the swamp. But his protest was ultimately silly and a lame throwback to the libertarianism over which Donald Trump triumphed in 2016.

Massie outlined on Twitter why he opposed the coronavirus relief plan. His main beef was that the Constitution requires a recorded vote on such a bill.

The Kentucky Republican also complained about the wasteful spending, such as $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the increase in the national debt. He didn’t offer an alternative to the bill outside of making all of Congress fly back to D.C. to vote on it.

This move inevitably angered Massie’s congressional colleagues and President Trump. Trump even positively retweeted John Kerry calling Massie an “asshole.”

The congressman was right to oppose the unnecessary pork for undeserving recipients like the Kennedy Center. Most conservatives shared Massie’s disgust that these provisions made it into the final bill. But most conservatives also realized that there was something more important in the fight than Massie’s objections.

The relief plan was never going to be perfect. Congress needed to pass a quick compromise to help out Americans in desperate need. Republicans should have been more discerning in what they allowed into the bill. Massie, however, ignored the major problems in the bill.

He didn’t mention the $350 million set aside for “refugee assistance” in his Twitter thread. This is far more than what was allocated to the Kennedy Center and is more of an insult to struggling Americans. Why is our government spending money on foreign nationals at a time when millions of Americans are out of work? This would’ve been a great question for a Republican lawmaker to ask about and oppose.

One Republican did make a fuss about it—it wasn’t Massie though. It was Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Additionally, the relief plan prohibits Defense Department funds to be used for the border wall. Coronavirus illustrates the dangers of open borders and globalism; any serious response would insist on stricter immigration controls and stronger borders. The provision limits America’s power to protect itself and prevent future pandemics from getting to our country. Yet, Massie, like all Republicans, ignored this restriction.

It would have been far more productive and relevant for Massie to focus on these concerns instead of reviving arguments from 2010. Nationalists and populists shouldn’t see the Kentuckian’s fight as their own.

Serious Trumpists understand the government has an obligation to help out people in a time of need. The arguments over “big government” and the deficit are relics from the Tea Party era. We’re in a new era where Republicans need to fight to protect the people and defend their interests. The government is no longer the enemy, but a tool to advance the national interest. 

There is no libertarian solution to the coronavirus crisis—unless of course, you want millions of Americans to go broke and the economy to crater. 

Massie is a valuable lawmaker for his courageous stands on foreign policy and opposition to disastrous interventions. This is why the establishment hates him, not because he wants limited government. The establishment knows the limited government rhetoric is ultimately toothless. The real threat is the national populist agenda Trump ran on, which combined immigration restrictionism, economic nationalism, and noninterventionism.

It would’ve been great if one Republican lawmaker had taken a stand against the relief package on behalf of that viewpoint. Instead, we got a farcical rehash of the Tea Party fights against Barack Obama.

One Republican aide perfectly summarized Massie’s rebellion.

Harsh words, but true. Massie is no national populist champion. He’s acting like a clown in a tricorn hat.

Greatness Agenda

Pandemic, Plague, and Protests: Will Chile Join the Sh–hole Country Club?

Lower-case, doctrinaire democrats in America doggedly conflate the “will of the people” across the world with liberty. This Disneyfied view of democracy ignores that, in a democracy, the right to vote gives one man control over another’s life and livelihood.

Before the coronavirus pandemic and the plague of locusts came the protesters.

From the affluent locales—Chile, France, Britain, Hong Kong, Catalonia—to the impoverished ones—Algeria, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and more the world was on fire (to borrow from Amy Chua’s brilliant book).

The reasons cited for a worldwide conflagration ranged from the evils of free-market capitalism (says the Left) to the “socialist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela” (says the Right), to “economics, demography, a sense of powerlessness . . . and social media.”

Some experts spoke of a “youth bulge” of overeducated young people chasing too few jobs. In truth, this was more like ill-educated youngsters with useless degrees who thought it chic to don a balaclava and lob hard objects at the police and the property they were protecting.

Chile is the jewel of Latin America. In 2014, it even surpassed the United States on the Index of Economic Freedom, ranking seventh to America’s 12th. Since 1990, economic growth in Chile has been as steady as the stability of its institutions. Poverty rates had plummeted and social services had been extended to the needy.

On the Right, Pat Buchanan has described Chile as “the country with the highest per capita income and least inequality in all of Latin America.”

On the Left—yet still on the side of a competitive market economy—the Economist agrees. Chile “is the second-richest country in Latin America, thanks in part to its healthy public finances and robust private sector.”

In no man’s land are the protestors on the streets of Santiago and other cities. What the demonstrators want is unclear. To the extent their inchoate signs and signals can be divined, it would appear that the path well-to-do Chile will be forced to take is that of less capitalism and more socialism; less of the private sector and more of the state.

Indeed, Chile is beset with protesters determined to bring the elected government to its knees. Many parts of Santiago, the capital, have been boarded up or burned down. The country’s “malcontents” want more state-provided stuff: more health care, more free education, and government pensions.

Increasingly it looks like Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, may just be forced “to scrap a system” that appears to have served Chile well.

One of the Chilean system’s signal features was “developed by free-market economists during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.”

Whereas, “in many other countries,” including the American social democracy, “public pensions are financed by taxing current workers and giving the money to current pensioners”; in Chile, explains the Economist, “citizens are expected to save for their own retirement.”

In the United States, the pension promises made by the government and underwritten with taxpayer support have resulted in pension debt to the tune of $5.2 trillion for state and local governments.

Conversely, Chile’s private scheme has helped the country “manage its public finances and encouraged the development of long-term capital markets, which in turn has boosted economic growth.”

But that’s not how the rioters and looters see solvency and individual responsibility. Theirs is the story of democracy and the quest for government-mediated distribution.

Ditto, the Venezuelan mobs fighting against the forces of Nicolás Maduro. They are not fighting for “freedom,” as classical liberals and conservatives think of it, and certainly not against socialism.

Rather, in opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the anti-Maduro malcontents in Caracas and elsewhere were simply looking for a better, more malleable socialist.

Lech Walesa, an iconic Polish political leader, captured the impetus propelling demonstrations across the world. Working-class people are turning on the wealthiest 10 percent of the population, he forewarned. Their motto: “Give us your assets.”

Lower-case, doctrinaire democrats in America doggedly conflate the will of the people across the world with liberty. This Disneyfied view of democracy ignores that, in a democracy, the right to vote gives one man control over another’s life and livelihood.

People with higher incomes constitute a minority—an economically dominant minority. People with low incomes are in the majority, a politically dominant majority.

In a democracy, the rich dominate the economy, the poor dominate the polity. Come election time, the politically powerful exact their revenge against the economically powerful.

Or, as H. L, Mencken put it, “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

Greatness Agenda

Viral Prerequisites and Nationalist Lessons in Time of Plague

Trump’s prior initiatives eased the implementation of many of his most effective orders during this crisis.

President Donald Trump has courted endless controversies for promoting nonconventional policies and entertaining contrarian views. From the outset, he oddly seemed to have believed that having navigated the jungles of the Manhattan real estate market—crooked politicians, mercurial unions, neighborhood social activists, the green lobby, leery banks, cutthroat rivals—better prepared him for the job than did a 30-year tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Certainly, candidate and then President Trump’s strident distrust of China was annoying to the American establishment. The Left saw China in rosy terms as the “Other” that just did things like airports, high-speed rail, and solar panels better than did America’s establishment of geriatric white male has-beens. Many on the Right saw China as a cash cow that was going to take over anyway, so why not milk it before the deluge?

In sum, conventional Washington wisdom assumed that appeasing the commercial banditry of an ascendant China, at best might ensure that its new riches led to Westernized political liberalization, and at worst might at least earn them a pat on the head from China as it insidiously assumed its fated role as global hegemon.

Trump once enraged liberal sensibilities by issuing travel bans against countries in the Middle East, Iran, Nigeria, and North Korea as they could not be trusted to audit their own departing citizens. His notion that nations have clearly defined and enforced borders was antithetical to the new norms that open borders and sanctuary cities were part of the global village of the 21st century.

Trump certainly distrusted globalization. He has waged a veritable multifront war against the overreach of transnational organizations, whether that be the European Union or the various agencies of the United Nations. Even relatively uncontroversial steps, such as greenlighting experimental drugs and off-label uses of old medicines for terminal patients drew the ire of federal bureaucrats and medical schools as potentially dangerous or irrelevant in cost-benefit analyses.

Yet since the outbreak of the virus, Trump’s idiosyncratic sixth sense has come in handy. The country is united in its furor at China—even if it is giving no credit to Trump for being years ahead of where it is now.

No longer is there a national debate over the evils of “protectionism” and “nationalism,” but rather over how quickly and effectively can the U.S. return the manufacturing of key medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, strategically vital technologies, and rare earth metals to American shores. Offshoring and outsourcing are now more likely synonymous with tragedy than smart investment strategies. Not long ago, pundits and politicians were startled to hear Trump in his grating Queens accent berate Chinese “cheating,” as he invoked Neanderthal remedies like tariffs and boycotts. Today, even liberals are furious that the Chinese Communist Party put their families and businesses at risk by systematically lying about the origins, transmission, and lethality of the coronavirus. When you need a mask or antibiotic, it can cut through a lot of political rhetoric.

When Trump issued the key January 31 travel ban that suddenly stopped the arrival of 15,000 visitors per day to the United States from China, the Left was as outraged as it had been with the ban against Libya, North Korea, and Iran. Candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders saw an opening against their presumed 2020 opponent, and quickly sought to demagogue voters with “here-we-go-again” rhetoric that racist Trump is banning free travel of a marginalized people in his habitual “xenophobic” and “racist” fits.

That Trump shortly extended the ban to all of Europe—and eventually was followed by almost all nations of the world—did not mean he was not simultaneously caricatured as a nationalist rube. How odd that no prior critical major newspaper, network, or politician has now called for the end of such unnecessary and hurtful bans and the resumption of travel from China without further interruption—especially now that we are told by CNN and MSNBC that the Communist Party apparat has all but ended the virus or at least is far more competent than the Trump Administration.

What made Trump a renegade Republican was his appeal to the deplorables, irredeemables, clingers, and dregs, whom the national media and elite had derided as toothless, smelly, fat, superstitious, bigoted, racist, superfluous, addicted, and toxic. Those at Trump rallies were deemed mindless if not scary. Yet Trump claimed he felt more at home with them than with the national press corps on the night of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

When 150 million Americans were barricaded behind their doors, corporate lawyers did not deliver their food. Dropping Harvey Weinstein’s name to the guy shelving hand cleanser didn’t mean anything.

The chatterbox Rachel Maddows of the world were not growing fruits, beef, vegetables, and grains for those behind locked doors. Those pro-Chinese NBA stars were not needed to ensure toilet paper on the shelves, any more than loudmouths like Cher and Madonna were up all night in the emergency room or checking groceries at Costco. It was not the beautiful people, not the best and brightest, not the globetrotters and cognoscenti who were pulling the country through, but their antitheses, the rubes and assemblers who never learned to code.

We are learning, belatedly, that Trump was also rightly wary of transnationalism. The World Health Organization in the early weeks of the outbreak was mostly a paid-for Chinese megaphone. Its functionary director propagandized, on Chinese prompts, that the virus was likely not transmissible from human to human and that travel bans were ineffective and thus reflective of Trump’s repugnant views.

Americans were startled at how quickly the brotherhood of the European Union collapsed. Within days, individual countries were ignoring the Schengen open-borders rules and reinvented themselves as nations. None were eager to welcome in their neighbors. Few were willing to share medical supplies and key pharmaceuticals across ancient boundaries. And fewer still wished to allow even more illegal aliens from the Middle East and North Africa to continue to pour into their nations.

The quite diverse manner in which Germany and Italy respectively reacted to the virus showed very little European commonality, but reflected that both were unique cultures and societies as they had been for centuries. In sum, the virus panic gave Americans some idea how the European Union might act during a war or invasion—each country likely cutting deals with the invader, and double-crossing one another, with the most virtuous in abiding by EU canons in a suspicious climate, also the most likely to suffer the quickest defeat.

Here at home, under the present lockdown conditions, Americans worry about finding their needed but long-ago outsourced prescriptions and medical supplies, but they are not so fearful of running out of food or fuel for their vehicles and heat for their homes. Was it good then to have demanded expansions of native gas and oil production, to have supported pipeline construction and more fracking and horizontal drilling? Was it in retrospect wise or foolish to have tried vehemently to stop California authorities from releasing precious state and federal reservoir water out to sea thereby shorting the irrigation contracts of the nation’s most important food producer?

At such times as these, was it smarter to trust in bureaucracies like the CDC to issue test kits or to encourage private enterprise to step forward and become creative producers? Could counties and states adapt better to the local and regional differences of the virus’s manifestations than a monolithic federal government?

What is one to make of gun stores in liberal cities and counties of all-blue California mobbed by potential gun owners, many of whom had no prior experience with firearms, but plenty of fears that law enforcement would not or could not enforce laws respecting shoplifting, burglary, and assault during the lockdown?

When the jails are emptying, was it then wiser to have a pro-Second Amendment president or one who wished to restrict the availability of guns and ammunition, Beto O’Rourke style?

In short, Trump’s prior initiatives eased the implementation of many of his most effective orders during this crisis. And his general suspicions about China and globalization, his distrust of bureaucratic regulations, his support for domestic production of key industries, his promotion of the interests of farmers and frackers, and his vehement opposition to increased gun control, all reflect a world view of national and self-independence, in which Americans can only count on themselves and their fellow citizens.

Trump often loudly and crassly pushed these policies. He fought tooth and nail with his opponents. He replied with nuclear tonnage to preemptive media and political attacks on his person and family.

All that also might suggest that presidents really should start being judged by their actions rather than the degree of mellifluousness of their words—yet another lesson from this time of plague?

Greatness Agenda

America’s Cultural Left Chooses to Advance Chinese Interests Over America’s

A moment will come—perhaps sooner than later—when the American Left will need to make a choice between advertising the virtues of American government and our way of life or enabling China in their design to take a position as the preeminent global economic power.

People who follow the news closely likely are aware of how mainstream outlets lambasted President Trump’s use of terms like the “China virus” or the “Chinese virus” to refer to the novel coronavirus. His detractors argue the term is racist, xenophobic rhetoric validating all their criticisms of his personality. As others have demonstrated, critics seem to be pretending that they are unaware that the CDC and World Health Organization routinely refer to viruses and illnesses using terms that designate their apparent place of origin.

As a rhetorician, I examine the stakes and effects of particular examples of public discourse. Using the term “China virus” or the “Chinese virus” is not a racist or xenophobic use of rhetoric. Neither term makes use of denigrating cultural stereotypes in that way that a term like the “Kung Flu” (allegedly used by one White House official) does. In fact, the Left’s reflexive charges of racism and xenophobia for the mere mention of “China” showcases their perpetual conflation of race, ethnicity, and nationality.

The designation of “Chinese” doesn’t disparage Asians at large. And of course, “Chinese” doesn’t even name an ethnicity, as there are a number of ethnic groups living in modern China, some of whom are brutally repressed by the Han ethnic-majority in their government.

Further, various mainstream journalists assert that the real problem with phrases like the “Chinese virus” is that it stigmatizes Asian-Americans. But Asian-Americans aren’t Chinese—they’re Americans. The fact that voices on the Left insist on viewing them as “Chinese” underscores the Left’s unending devotion to a globalist identity politics: citizenship is irrelevant. If your family originally came from China, you are Chinese—now and forever.

Of course, a little more stigma might have slowed the now-catastrophic spread in places like New York City—one of the Left’s urban centers most strongly embracing the cosmopolitan rhetoric of identity. As late as February 18, the New York Times was still publishing articles with claims such as, “The greatest enemy we face is not the virus itself; it’s the stigma that turns us against each other.”

The potential damage of that kind of obfuscation can’t be quantified. Who knows how many New Yorkers invited Asian friends (perhaps freshly back from celebrating the Lunar New Year in China) to dinner in an effort to fight “stigma” and signal virtue.

That’s not to say Asians and Asian-Americans with connections in Asia should be held in “suspicion” or disdain. Obviously, they should not be. It’s merely to say that with any new and relatively unknown public health hazard, it should be common sense (but, sadly, is not) to temporarily limit one’s contact with people who are most likely to have been exposed to the disease.

A New Cold War with China

Nevertheless, focusing on whether or not Trump’s use of the term “China virus” was impolite distracts us from much more important geopolitical concerns. Unquestionably, this pandemic will further strain the already testy relationship between Washington and Beijing. China has now threatened to enact trade policies with the stated goal of ensuring a greater spread of the disease in the United States. And they are likely aware of the fact that after the virus is tamed, a number of Western economies will begin reducing their dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

Depending on the scope of that decoupling, it could have disastrous effects on the Chinese economy. These geopolitical anxieties will exacerbate the confrontation between our nations. Given that both sides would seek to avoid military engagement at all costs, the confrontation—first and foremost—will be rhetorical in nature. Essentially, we may be entering what could be called a cold war with China.

George Gallup—the father of modern opinion polling—deeply understood the role of public opinion in winning a cold war. In a speech titled “Why We Are Doing So Badly in the Ideological War,” Gallup noted that Americans shouldn’t assume that “only the gullible could be fooled” by Soviet propaganda. He asserted that the only way to win the Cold War would be for America to wage an even more cunning propaganda effort. And we did: Reagan’s rhetoric, in particular, contained a forceful—and occasionally impolite—condemnation of Soviet Communism.

But it wasn’t only presidential rhetoric that advanced this propaganda effort. It was “Rocky.” It was Bruce Springsteen. It was MTV. It was “Red Dawn.” It was the 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice.” It was Nike. It was Hulk Hogan.

Put differently, the society at large—the mass media, the sporting world, the popular culture—understood that everyone had a role in Cold War messaging against the Soviet Union if the confrontation would be settled in our favor. And it was.

If we are entering a new rhetorical cold war with China, our culture will again need to be unified in our messaging. China’s propaganda efforts against the United States will be brutal. They have already shown this by asserting that the United States exposed the Chinese people to the virus and threatening to “plunge us into the sea of the coronavirus.” And the uniformity of their official messaging is guaranteed: the Chinese media and culture industry are tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

A Bad Time to be Disunited

Of course, if we were in healthier political times, there would seem to be some opportunity for understanding among the average citizens of China and those in the United States—in the wake of their government’s authoritarian handling of the outbreak, many Chinese took to social media to condemn the CCP and endorse Hong Kong’s call for American-style democratic reforms.

But in America, our media elites are signaling that they will not allow America to take part in any rhetorical effort to undermine the Chinese government’s economic and geopolitical aggression towards the United States. The United States, in other words, is not united.

By chiding the president for using the relatively banal term “Chinese virus,” they are weakening America’s position in this new ideological battle before it even begins. Given that the culture at large needs a unified message, if we are to win the coming battle, explicitly condemning the official government position on matters related to the Chinese culpability for the pandemic is tantamount to advancing the Chinese propaganda effort.

Clearly, China has noticed, and they appreciate the assistance: as if on cue, they have begun imitating the rhetoric of the American progressive Left.

A moment will come—perhaps sooner than later—that the American Left will need to make a choice. Obviously, many of them think that America is a blight on history. But we are left to ask: faced with the choice of advertising the virtues of the American government and way of life or enabling China in their design to take a position as the preeminent global economic power, would they choose the latter?

Is their self-disdain so severe that they would sabotage American messaging as it relates to China? Day by day, they are answering these questions.

Greatness Agenda

What Price Should China Pay for Causing the Coronavirus Pandemic?

At some point, Beijing needs to be held financially accountable for the worldwide havoc, misery, and death caused by the Chinese virus.

The coronavirus pandemic thus far has spread to more than 145 countries, causing high levels of infection and thousands of deaths. The worldwide costs of combating COVID-19, including efforts to overcome severe economic hardships for millions of people and organizations, undoubtedly will amount to many trillions of dollars.

There is widespread agreement and indisputable proof that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leaders are directly responsible for the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

It is well established that the CCP tried to conceal the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, a city of over 10 million people. It also is well established that the CCP knowingly allowed thousands of potentially infected Chinese citizens to travel to numerous overseas destinations thereby putting billions  of people worldwide at risk of contracting a highly contagious and deadly virus. In one of its several attempts to disavow responsibility for the pandemic, the CCP unsuccessfully (and foolishly) tried to place blame on the United States Army.

Considering the facts we know about, what price should the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing pay for causing such worldwide infection, death, and economic hardship? Should the 145 affected nations simply “write it off”—as many governments did in the wake of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic that also originated in China?

Or should this be an occasion for the world community collectively to say “enough is enough” and require China to make restitution for its reckless and ruthless behavior?

Holding the CCP financially accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic could go a long way toward preventing future pandemics originating from China. Needless to say, the CCP and its leaders will not willingly agree to make financial restitution for the catastrophic human, medical, and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At first glance, there are several potential options to consider for compelling the Chinese Communist Party to reimburse the affected countries for the damages they incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic. One option could be the collective use of bona fide and highly restricted trade with China to such an extent that the CCP could lose control of the Chinese population. Such an effort would have to be led by the United States and perhaps even qualify as a modified Article 5 emergency under NATO provisions requiring collective action.

If, for instance, the total worldwide costs of the COVID-19 pandemic are upwards of $3 trillion (and remember, the U.S. Congress just passed a $2.2 trillion “rescue” bill), the CCP could be required to distribute this amount, either in currency or goods or some combination thereof, over three years to affected nations.

Another potent remedy (which some may consider too far fetched but nonetheless should in the bucket of possibilities) would be the unilateral cancellation of debts owed to China by the most affected nations.

Roughly $1.1 trillion of the U.S. national debt is owed to China. The total worldwide debt to China is estimated in excess of $5 trillion, according to the Harvard Business Review. Cancellation of these debts also would save many billions of dollars in annual interest payments to China.

No doubt a courageous and determined multinational effort led principally by the United States will be required. Hopefully, most of the affected international community will agree and be committed to undertaking this very important effort.

But without a doubt, the CCP needs to be held financially accountable for the worldwide havoc, misery, and death caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not too early to begin some innovative thinking about how realistically to accomplish this.

Greatness Agenda

The Long-Term Contagion From China

The Chinese Communist Party’s threats include potential disruption to global supply chains, financial markets, and deadly pandemics. But the “soft power” spread by Confucius Institutes on college and university campuses is another type of virus we must immediately quarantine from American culture.

Thanks to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Americans grow increasingly aware of the threat China poses both globally and in the United States. Yet many still don’t know the true extent of it.

They think of the Chinese threat (rightly) as coming from our dependence on cheap imports and its harmful effect on domestic manufacturing; the dangerous amount of America’s national debt they hold; and now increasingly, they understand China’s control of the medical supply chain.

But this moment of heightened awareness serves as an opportunity to highlight another threat hiding in plain sight on our college and university campuses. They’re called Confucius Institutes and they’re nothing less than a well-coordinated infiltration of higher education by a hostile foreign government.

Confucius Institutes are Chinese government-funded entities formed to promote Chinese propaganda to America’s student body under the guise of Chinese language studies. Right now, there are 107 Confucius Institutes located across 45 states. Even Politico, hardly a nationalist publication, pointed out the threat back in January 2018. That story noted:

A 2011 speech by a standing member of the Politburo in Beijing laid out the case: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad,” Li Changchun said. “It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power [emphasis added]. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”

Their purpose is not to educate America’s students, it’s to reprogram them. It was why I first created the website in early 2019. It’s also why a 2019 Defense Authorization Act smartly limited Pentagon funding for language programs at any university that sanctioned a Confucius Institute on campus.

For anyone who says that a CI chapter is simply about promoting culture, they’re right in a way. But it is promoting a culture of intolerance and authoritarian control with a long record of human rights abuses: Intolerance of the West and of Christianity; authoritarian control of anything from the press and social media to political dissent, most famously in Hong Kong; and human rights abuses against the unborn and millions of Uighur Muslims.

Pew Research reported that between 2004-16 more than 1.5 million foreign students obtained permission to stay here and work after their graduation. Of those, 53 percent graduated with degrees in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). This means they are being placed into positions that control every conceivable element of infrastructure vitally important to our national security. They work around our power grids, our cell phone networks, and in every other American industry that could cause gridlock if disrupted.

These graduates stay in the United States through what is called the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). Of the 1.5 million who have stayed, 21 percent come from China. This means more than 300,000 workers holding positions in key areas of specialization throughout our country.

There are now 369,548 Chinese students, up from 98,235 just 10 years ago, studying at U.S. universities. This 300 percent increase, coupled with the exposure of China’s expansionist tendencies, should be a cause of concern for any rational American.

This is not xenophobia. This is a rational reaction to the dangers of ignoring obvious national security risks for the sake of progressive woke culture or globalism.

China is depending on exploiting our politically-correct-at-all-costs culture. I certainly don’t mean to implicate or demonize all Chinese-born students or workers (some are certainly here for legitimate and positive reasons) but how can we be sure? It’s simply a fact that many of these workers are engaged in corporate espionage on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. Just last week a Chinese-born man trained in spycraft was sentenced to four years prison after an FBI counterintelligence operation revealed he was working on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security.

Knowing all of this, how can we continue to let China’s state-sponsored propaganda outposts thrive on America’s college campuses?

The Chinese induced global pandemic has awakened many to the national security risks posed by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party. Yes, the CCP threats include potential disruption to global supply chains, financial markets, and deadly pandemics, but the “soft power” spread by Confucius Institutes on colleges and universities is another type of virus that we must immediately quarantine from American culture.

If we don’t, we only confirm the Chinese government’s assumption that we are indeed fools.

Greatness Agenda

Ventilator Blues

America’s small businesses, our machinists, die-casters, plastic injection molders, electronics parts suppliers, and others are eager to get to work providing the medical equipment the nation needs but the companies that hold the patents and process patents for this equipment need to open up and ask for bids.

Don’t matter where you are
Everybody’s gonna need a ventilator

— “Ventilator Blues” Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor

The Wuhan coronavirus has laid bare America’s dependence on Communist China for critical medical supplies, from pharmaceuticals, facemasks and hospital gowns, to medical ventilators.

Besides suffering from the Wuhan virus, America has a bad case of the ventilator blues. That’s not just a track from the Rolling Stones’ classic “Exile on Main Street”—it’s the zeitgeist from New York to Detroit and Washington (state and District of Columbia).

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state alone needs 30,000 breathing machines for intensive care units.

The FDA changed regulations to clear bottlenecks in the design and production and there’s talk of automakers retooling to produce ventilators.

“GM is working to help find solutions for the nation during this difficult time and has offered to help, and we are already studying how we can potentially support production of medical equipment like ventilators,” a GM spokeswoman told Automotive News.

Bill Ford, the head of Ford Motor Company, told NBC’s “Today Show” his company is working with GE to make ventilators “as fast as we can.”

But that’s not fast enough for some. New York’s Cuomo is the loudest, but not the only, voice calling on the Trump Administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed the manufacture and delivery of the machines.

The mobilization of private industry to counter the Wuhan coronavirus harks back to World War II when industry repurposed assembly lines to turn out machine guns and other war materiel.

There are similarities and key differences with our situation today.

In World War II, the government essentially took over the factories producing goods for which there was only one customer—the U.S. government.

Today, four of the largest ventilator manufacturers in the world have some production located in the United States: Philips Healthcare, Allied Healthcare, Medtronics, and GE Healthcare.

But actual long-time suppliers to these ventilator manufacturers are seeing no plans for rapid increases in output. And the Michigan automotive suppliers association has seen no evidence whatsoever that members have been asked by automakers to retool to make ventilator parts.

Phillips has a plant in Pittsburgh and says it’s hiring an additional 50 employees to double the production of respirators from 1,000 to 2,000 in the next eight weeks.

“And after those two months we want to double it again,” a company spokesman says. “For this we are dependent on our network of suppliers,” the Dutch newspaper NRC reports.

But even if Phillips quadrupled its production, it would be nowhere near enough to handle the need in the United States. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has ordered 2,000 respirators, and other countries are buying all the respirators and other medical supplies they can lay their hands on.

Phillips is concerned the Trump Administration could use the Defense Production Act to take the respirators it’s currently producing for export to Europe.

While know-nothing globalists chant “viruses don’t respect borders, we’re all in this fight together,” reality bites. Global Trade Alert reports 54 governments around the world have imposed export restrictions on medical supplies and drugs in response to the pandemic. (The United States has no export restrictions.)

The list includes allies such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and other countries in Europe. Half of the world’s ventilator producers are located in the EU and are not available to the United States because of export restrictions.

Then there are the parts that go into a respirator.

“Every respirator maker in the world is looking for parts, and they all come from the same suppliers,” Emergency Care Research Institute director Marcus Schabacker tells the New York Times.

And many of those parts suppliers are in Europe and Asia.

The circuit boards that go into Philips respirators are made in China. One of Phillips’ long time suppliers reports the Pittsburgh line was shut down for several days because of a lack of circuit boards. The company didn’t have a second source in the United States.

Circuit boards aren’t the only problem. It seems the overwhelming majority of Phillips’ part suppliers—providing such things as plastic enclosures, filters, plastic tubing—are short on stock. That’s according to Phillips’ buyer.

Meanwhile, Medtronics, another respirator manufacturer, has problems as well. A European outsourcing conglomerate manages Medtronics’ supply-chain acquisitions. It issued a request for price quotes on 11,000 different ventilator parts and components.

However, the RFP failed to include specifications, blueprints or drawings for the parts. Not a single design or specification was provided for even one of the 11,000 parts.

It’s hard to provide a price quote when you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be making.

The long and short of it is existing supply chains are nowhere near able to meet the short-term demand.

A reasonable person might suspect these companies are hiding or covering up their supply capacity, or are merely going through the motions to appear they are interested in ramping up production while trying to protect existing production chains. Or they are truly incompetent.

Our friends at Phillips give us a hint at what else may be going on here.

“Philips director Frans van Houten met with ‘the main competitors’ over the phone last weekend, says Philips spokesperson Klink, ‘To discuss how we can scale up together,’” NRC reports.

We have a name for “competitors” who “discuss how we can scale up together”—it’s called a cartel.

Which brings us back to World War II.

Transforming America into “the arsenal of democracy” required breaking up cartels that controlled critical industries.

In May of 1940, President Roosevelt set a target of building fifty thousand planes a year. That required a lot of aluminum, and the metal was under the control of one company, a monopoly, Alcoa.

By November 1940, a shortage of aluminum forced Northrop Aircraft Company to cut hours by 20 percent. Six months later, Boeing ceased bomber production because of inadequate aluminum supplies.

Alcoa was attacked for keeping supplies down in order to keep prices up.

The government stepped in to expand desperately needed supplies.

The federal government loaned millions to an upstart in the aluminum foil business named Richard S. Reynolds. He was happy to provide as much aluminum to build aircraft as needed. America met Roosevelt’s target in 1942 and doubled it two years later.

The government also pushed to break up other cartels, forcing giants like Standard Oil to license their patents for all to use.

The lesson: the federal government can use its purchasing, financing and legal powers to promote competition and make America manufacturing great again.

America’s small businesses, our machinists, die-casters, plastic injection molders, electronics parts suppliers, and others are eager to get to work providing the medical equipment the nation needsbut the companies that hold the patents and process patents for this equipment need to open up and ask for bids.

Thanks to “Goliath” by Matt Stoller for recounting the role of anti-monopolists in building the arsenal of democracy.

Greatness Agenda

This Crisis Vindicates Trump’s America with Borders

Coronavirus and its awful toll may be ending a second American holiday from history, one in which we entertained boutique notions like a world without borders and all the existential risks that come with it.

Great leaders, history has taught us, are often vilified in their own time and later exonerated as events vindicate their warnings. Churchill warned about the Nazi war machine when “peace in our time” was briefly fashionable. Reagan outraged the political class when he said that Soviet communism should be defeated, not contained. Similarly, events are already vindicating Donald Trump for his stand that national borders matter.

Since Trump descended the escalator in the summer of 2015, he has argued that a nation must protect itself from outside threats. Those threats could include violent criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, and, as it happens, infectious diseases. For this and other apostasies, Trump’s opponents have all but anointed him the Prince of Darkness.

It took a global health crisis for the world to come around to Trump’s position. Borders are suddenly relevant again. Countries that once embraced globalism are now following Trump’s lead and protecting their borders. Allowing citizens of the world to enter a country with little or no scrutiny now seems like a quaint, naïve position of a bygone era.

The borders issue is not think-tank fodder—it is now a matter of life or death.

On January 31, the administration announced that it would temporarily bar foreigners from entering the United States if they had been to China within the previous 14 days. We may never know how many lives were saved by that action. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) credited this decision at the time for being “the single most consequential and valuable thing” done to combat coronavirus.

While the medical and manufacturing industries race to combat the virus domestically, Trump’s moves on border security have prevented potential new carriers from entering. The importance of this is incalculable.

In addition to restricting non-essential travel with Canada and Mexico, the United States will now expeditiously return aliens who cross between ports of entry or are otherwise not allowed to enter the country, as the facilities in which these aliens normally would be held cannot support quarantine for the time needed to assess potential cases.

The need for this action is necessitated by the crisis. A virus breakout in a detention facility would cause limited healthcare personnel and material resources to be diverted at a time when they are desperately needed elsewhere. We cannot allow this to happen.

These are judicious, responsible decisions in what is akin to a wartime environment. Still, the anti-borders mindset is blind to these realities. The moves on the southern border elicited the predictable condemnations from organizations whose sole purpose is to bring more foreign nationals into the United States.

“President Trump has been falsely scapegoating immigrant communities in the name of public safety since he came into office,” said Michelle Brané at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “This rule would unquestionably violate both domestic and international law and is an abdication of our moral responsibility to protect vulnerable people.”

Perhaps it is time for a remedial lesson in Civics 101. The highest “moral responsibility” of American leaders is to safeguard the American republic and its citizens. If the American economy is decimated and its population is ravaged by disease, there will be no refuge for the oppressed of the world to find shelter.

While the United States has a long and unparalleled history of helping the less fortunate around the world, it is done more out of noblesse oblige than any legal requirement. Open Borders Inc. will have to take a timeout while we deal with this worldwide emergency.

It has been said that the years preceding the September 11 attacks were America’s “holiday from history,” a time when the country was largely isolated from the problems of the world and existed in a state of naïve somnambulism. Coronavirus and its awful toll may be ending a second American holiday from history, one in which we entertained boutique notions like a world without borders and all the existential risks that come with it.

The new reality is that borders matter more than ever. We can embrace that reality and prosper, or live in denial and perish.

Greatness Agenda

Pandemic Nationalism

The headwinds of the coronavirus outbreak threaten to derail the Left’s anti-nationalist program in a serious, and perhaps permanent, way. As Nigel Farage declared recently, in the Age of Corona, “We are all nationalists now.”

Even in the grip of virus-related panic, most liberals are demonstrating a remarkable ability to remain focused on what they regard as Job One: trashing Donald Trump. Nevertheless, in some quarters on the Left, one can perceive glimmerings of uneasiness. In addition to ordinary human concern over the fate of themselves, their friends and family, and mankind as a whole (a concern from which leftists, despite their neurotic fixation on Trump, are not immune), this uneasiness has two primary causes.

First, leftists are beginning to perceive the danger in Trump’s newfound status as what is, in effect, a wartime president.

Trump is leading America’s—and, to a point, the world’s—response to an unprecedented crisis. These are circumstances in which a chief executive can bolster his image greatly, unless he fumbles the opportunity in legendary fashion. Leftists and the “gentlemen of the press” are working diligently to create the impression that Trump is indeed floundering, but unfortunately for them, the relative success of the United States, versus the Euro-socialists, in containing and managing the pandemic, makes these smears less than credible.

There is compelling evidence that Trump is plowing right through the blizzard of misinformation and connecting with the American people in a positive and reassuring way. Once the “curve” really does get “flattened,” and infections and deaths begin to decline, it’s hard to imagine that President Trump would not be credited with helping to rescue the American people from a terrible threat.

Second, and less obvious in the heat of epidemiological battle, is the fact that the worldwide response to the crisis has not followed the pattern that leftists would prefer.

While global and supranational coordination of the virus response has been important, the most critical decisions about how to respond are occurring at the national, state/provincial, and even local levels. The Left has been laboring for decades to create a world that is seamlessly interconnected, that is borderless and multicultural, that is devoid of ethnic and nationalist prejudices, and that transcends as much as possible the concept of the nation-state and national sovereignty in favor of the construction of a new world order in which bureaucratic, corporate, and academic elites enact progressive change on a wide, regional basis, at a minimum (think: the European Union), and on a global scale, if at all possible (think: the United Nations).

The coronavirus pandemic has scrambled these assumptions and aspirations, to say the very least.

While leftists would like for Americans, and others, to think of themselves as members of a “global village,” in the current climate of high anxiety, things have moved quickly in the opposite direction. President Trump was criticized, from a globalist perspective, for his early decisions to cut off airline travel with China, and then with the European Union. Days later, the very Euro-socialists who had chided him were acceding to the implementation of identical policies in their own homelands.

Everywhere we look, countries are closing their borders, denying entry to foreigners, forbidding the exportation of critical medical supplies, nationalizing vital industries and infrastructure, and raising the proverbial drawbridge of global oneness. It would seem that, alarmed by the rapid, transnational spread of the virus, most people’s reaction, understandably, has been to focus first and foremost on “taking care of one’s own.” Even Germany, arguably the headquarters of internationalism, is rapidly reconstructing and securing its borders.

Not surprisingly, under these circumstances, some Europeans are beginning to ask if the E.U. and the U.N. are so powerless and useless in a moment of crisis, and if most people turn instead to their national leaders for guidance and protection, then what is the bloc’s future?

What is the point of pursuing internationalism even as an ideal, when interconnectedness itself exposes us to such serious risks?

After all, the pandemic would have been far easier to manage if cross-border trade and travel were not so pervasive—if people, all along, had stuck closer to home. These are perfectly reasonable and natural questions to ask right now. They are also questions that the Left has done its level best either to ignore or to suppress for decades.

As always, the Left has attempted to achieve its long-term ideological goal—the obliteration of nationalism and the creation of a globalist mass consciousness—in a gradual, insidious manner. In many ways, their project has been crowned with remarkable success, at least if the widespread opposition to border protection, to the enforcement of immigration laws, and to the pursuit of trade fairness and reciprocity is any indication.

The headwinds of the coronavirus pandemic threaten to derail the Left’s anti-nationalist program in a serious, and perhaps permanent, way. As Nigel Farage declared recently, in the Age of Corona, “We are all nationalists now.”

If he’s right, President Trump’s reelection prospects will start to look brighter—and the sneering know-it-alls who have shoved the E.U. and the U.N., and much else besides, down humanity’s collective throat for more than 60 years may finally be forced into a strategic retreat.