Monday, April 1, 2019

The Coming Cold War With China

Two theories dominate foreign policy thinking. In principle, balance of powers diplomacy should prevent wars. It should allow nations to compete fairly in the marketplace without having to compete on the battlefield. Lurking in the background is its opponent, idealism, the kind that gave us Woodrow Wilson’s wish to make the world safe for democracy to the Bush administration freedom agenda to the Obama guilt ridden holier-then-thou weakness agenda.

In a recent paper published by the Hoover Institution Niall Ferguson analyzes the coming conflict between the United States and China in terms of the difference between balance of powers diplomacy and war. He preferred the former but he now believes that the latter is becoming increasingly inevitable.

He begins by quoting foreign policy expert Graham Allison:

“When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power,” Allison wrote, “alarm bells should sound: danger ahead. China and the United States are currently on a collision course… War between the US and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognized. Indeed, on the historical record, war is more likely than not.” 

From my perspective, and given that I know far less about this than the authors cited, I would say that when a ruling power adopts the habits of cultural decadence it will provoke a rising power to take it over, or to take what it can get from it. 

The United States and Western Europe have descend into sanctimonious mewling about our sacred democracy and human rights and the climate apocalypse. China is getting to work. Moreover, as Kai-Fu Lee noted recently, in the world of technological innovation, in the world of artificial intelligence. Western Europe has taken itself out of the competitive game… because it prefers regulation to innovation. This leaves the United States and China. If the USA continues to promote the regulatory state, it too will take itself out of the game.

One notes that idealists prefer regulation and do not care if it stifles innovation. They are too proud to fight and too proud to compete. They imagine that once they produce a Heavenly City in their own country, other countries will naturally follow their luminous example.

Ferguson continues:

In Cold War I, the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 was the moment America woke up to the red menace. I am not sure quite what the Chinese Sputnik moment was—maybe the publication last year of Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. China-bashing is no longer about unfair trade policies and the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest. The trade war that Trump launched against China last year has morphed into a tech war over 5G networks, artificial intelligence, online payments, and even quantum computing. Of course, there is an old-fashioned arms race going on as well, as China stocks up on missiles capable of sinking aircraft carriers. But that is not what is interesting about Cold War II.

Ferguson sees the United States and China as ideologically divided.

As in Cold War I, the two superpowers are ideologically divided, with President Xi Jinping reasserting the importance of Marxism as the foundation of party ideology even as Trump insists: “America will never be a socialist country.” And, as in Cold War II, both superpowers are seeking to project their economic power overseas.

I think it wrong to imagine that China has returned to Marxism. I believe that Chinese officials are terrified that the cultural contagion, the cultural toxins that are destroying America will invade their country. 

China happily borrowed the free enterprise system. They rejected American democracy and human rights and cultural decadence and opioids and sexual depravity. America is overrun by opioids. China has a long memory. It remembers the opium wars. It executes drug dealers. 

It is a choice. It is not a Marxist choice. It is a prophylactic. When you have the right cultural habits you might fear the arrival of cultural habits that will undermine your effectiveness, your efficiency, your productivity and your future.

Ferguson continues that China is much more powerful economically than the Soviet Union:

So what are the big differences? First, China is now a match for America in terms of GDP, whereas the USSR never got close. Second, China and America are economically intertwined in what I once called “Chimerica,” whereas U.S.-Soviet trade was minimal.

As Ferguson sees it, America is being torn apart by the radicals in our midst. He might have mentioned the high tech firms who do business with China but refuse to work with the Pentagon. He does remark that America is divided against itself, that an increasing number of Americans are not loyal to the nation and that more and more of them are promoting crackpot ideas whose only purpose is to deconstruct it:

My concern is with those native-born Americans whose antipathy to Trump is leading them in increasingly strange directions.

The vogue for socialism among Democratic voters is one sign of the times. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents view socialism positively, as against 47% who view capitalism positively. The left-wing firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done much to make socialism sexy on Capitol Hill this year. Even more disturbing, because it is much more subtle, is the way her fellow Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, is making Islamism acceptable. Earlier this year, she and her allies won a significant victory by turning a resolution intended to condemn Omar’s recent anti-Semitic remarks into one that also condemned “anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities” and deflected the blame for those who “weaponize hate” onto “white supremacists.”

Like her supporters on the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Omar knows that attacking Israel and accusing its American supporters of dual loyalty is an easy way to draw progressives to the Islamist side. It is strange that she has nothing to say about Beijing’s persecution of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority in Xinjiang province, hundreds of thousands of whom are being held in “vocational training centres.” In the old Cold War such camps were called the gulag.

So what if we reran the Cold War and half the country sided with the enemy? It wouldn’t be the end of history. But it might be the end of liberty.

Being tolerant of Islamist culture is not going to make us a more formidable competitor. Surely, the Chinese are watching with glee the antics of AOC and Co. Just as surely, they do not want to see such bad habits enter their culture.


sestamibi said...

After America and the West swirl down the drain, the playoff match forever will be between Islam and China. I would pass the popcorn, but I won't be around to see it.

David Foster said...

"In Cold War I, the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957 was the moment America woke up to the red menace. "

I don't think that's true at all: America was very concerned about Soviet expansionism from very shortly after the end of WWII...that's why we fought the Korean War and undertook very large defense buildups and programs.

What Sputnik was about was the undermining of the smug belief that while the Soviets may have had a lot of land and a lot of people, we pretty much had a lock on scientific and engineering brilliance. Sort of like the way the Zero fighter changed the perception of the Japanese.

One effect of Sputnik was the direction of large amounts of federal $$ to the public schools, largely for support of science & math education. It was sort of a headfake, if you look at what has become of those schools since.

Sam L. said...

Coming? Seems to me it's here now.

Freddo said...

It is with a certain bitter irony that I notice that the global establishment has spend the last decades blaming conservative white males for all evil and now expects that same cohort to prepare to shed their blood for the interests of the global establishment. Meanwhile neither Putin, Xi or Trump are advocating for replacement levels of immigration into the Netherlands, while the bureaucrats in Brussels are. Nobody I know is the least bit interested to enlist in order to "save Ukraine from Russian aggression", let alone being shipped off to Asia.

China may be a bit brutish in the way it is claiming its place under the sun, but no more so than Western nations used to do until very recently, looking at Libya or Syria here. (As a side note, Brexit will ensure the EUs military capabilities will be weakened beyond parody.)

China is currently playing the long game careful enough to wait until the next feckless coward like Barack Obama is elected while slowly using its Belt and Road initiative to place nations under debt slavery to China (as opposed to debt slavery to the world bank).

The suggestion that islam can compete in any way, shape or form with China is laughable. Muslim nations have squandered their oil wealth without making any structural investments, while exporting internal friction as terrorism.