Tuesday, May 21, 2019

America's Conflict with China

It ought to be obvious to all, what with all the McCarthyite talk about Russian collusion, that America’s most important international adversary is China. According to Joel Kotkin, President Trump is the only president to challenge China mano a mano. Naturally, Democratic politicians and liberal commentators reject the notion that China is a threat. In some cases they are beholden to their paymasters in Beijing. In other cases they reflexively oppose anything that Trump is doing, no matter what.

And yet, Kotkin points out, more than a few Democrats have been sounding alarms about China. He recognizes that Trump’s diplomacy lacks a certain coherence, but still, Trump has chosen the right target:

In the 21st century how we cope with China will determine the future of American economic and political pre-eminence. One does not have to approve of President Trump’s haphazard diplomacy to support a tough policy. Historically many Democrats, including senators Sherrod Brown, Charles Schumer and Bernie Sanders, have backed measures to curb China’s economic assault.

Noah Feldman, writing in the left-leaning Democracy, labels our conflict with China a “cool war” as opposed to the Cold War that ensued after 1945. Unlike the Soviet Union, China’s economy has become globalized, increasing the risks from a too drastic break in trade tries.

China is vastly more powerful economically than Russia. Have you noticed that since Trump took office Vladimir Putin is looming smaller and smaller on the world stage?

China is working to produce a worldwide trading network, one that will cement its status as a world leader:

But China’s pragmatic nationalism, exemplified by expansion into the South China Sea, its Belt and Road initiative and stated desire to dominate virtually all high value-added industry, could threaten the very core of American prosperity if not challenged.

Today, Kotkin believes, China is not playing with a strong hand. Thus, it might be the right time for America to challenge its nascent hegemony.

With China’s economic and population growth rate slowing, its bloated real estate markets showing signs of implosion and industrial production has slowed to the lowest level since 2004, this may be the time to strike.

The country faces enormous internal problems as hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese remain excluded from a system that favors both the very rich and the government-funded clerisy. China, notes one observer, itself is now developing “something resembling a permanent caste system.”

Has China been developing a permanent caste system? I do not know. At the least, we do know that over the past four decades China has moved more people from extreme poverty to the middle class life than any other nation has done in such a short period of time.

What should America do? First, we need to challenge trade deals that disadvantage the United States. And we should also redraw the Paris Climate Accords… because they are prejudicial to American interests.

China signed on to the accords, but only because they allow it to burn whatever fuels it wants for the next ten years. Since climate alarmists insist that we will all be dead in ten years, that feels like a good deal for China. Kotkin adds that the Paris accords exempted the European Union, point that had escaped me:

To gain back the initiative, we need to alter, as Trump suggests, not only current trade agreements, but also such things as the Paris Accords, which have exempted China, a larger GHG-emitter than the U.S. and the European Union together, from reducing reduce emissions until 2030. As Western countries de-industrialize, China can use coal, oil and gas to fuel its economic drive for predominance while the West engages in ever more drastic virtue-signaling. We need to make China focus on solving its own environmental and social challenges rather than seek to solve them at our expense.

I suspect that Kotkin is exaggerating when he worries that China will bring about a new authoritarian Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were feudal, not capitalistic. They did not practice free enterprise and pragmatic solutions. And, at a time, when children in schools no longer respect their teachers’ authority, it is probably not a great idea to continue to disparage authority:

We now face a powerful and highly nationalistic adversary that does not share a commitment to the rule of law and human rights. If unchecked, China rise to global supremacy could usher in a new authoritarian Dark Ages, shaped by Mandarins and supported by their intellectual and economic satraps, both here and around the world.


David Foster said...

The Chinese regime is also making efforts...largely successful...to influence the content of US-made movies:


trigger warning said...

As it happens, the "Dark Ages" weren't dark, either. But they were cold.

Anonymous said...

It is fu-fake.