Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What to Do about China

What should we do about China? A good question, but one that does not have a good answer.

After outlining the way that China covered up the coronavirus and allowed it to become a pandemic, Victor Davis Hanson asks what we can do about it. Turns out, despite the outrage coming from our political class, not very much:

Cancel U.S. debt held by China? That is likely a terrible idea that would undermine the world’s entire financial system.

Cut off all relations? Embargos, sanctions, social distancing on a transnational scale? Expel all Chinese students? Bring home every American business in China? Seems unlikely.

The truth is that Americans know that to restore deterrence they must do something. But that “something” is equally difficult in the case of a 1.4-billion-person nuclear nation, which has systematically leveraged and compromised many of America’s own corporate, entertainment, media, and academic elite.

The result is that everyone from Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates to the CNN/MSNBC crowd know the truth that China despises the United States, feels that America is a spent and increasingly toxic society, and is ever more emboldened to humiliate its rival. Yet Beijing wagers that we will not do much, even if we could. It sees that weakness as laxity to be exploited, not at all magnanimity to be appreciated, much less reciprocated. So, for a while longer we know the truth, but apparently it is unbearable and preferably should not be known and just go away. And it probably will.

For my part I think that “despises” is a bit strong. Also, for my part I do not think that billionaires have any special knowledge of epidemiology or medical science. Why have they been treated as prophets?

Hanson is correct to say that China does not respect the United States. He is correct to say that China sees the West as weak and decadent. It sees China as the ultimate victor in the ongoing clash of civilizations. 

Of course, competitors normally try to humiliate their rivals. In the ongoing propaganda war, this is precisely what is happening. President Trump, I suggest, is happy to compete with China, to consider it a rival, not an enemy. When China becomes an enemy, bad things happen.

Note that Trump has declared that the first stage of the trade agreement with China will proceed, but that he doubts whether another stage can be negotiated. It sounds about right to me. 

Of course, Trump himself has wisely kept out of the propaganda war. Because he recognizes a counterpuncher when he sees one. After all, the Chinese response to the calls for reparations for coronavirus is to ask for reparations for Western pandemics, like the Spanish flu and AIDS.

I have some doubt over Hanson’s notion of “magnanimity to be appreciated.” What could it mean to say that Western weakness is magnanimity to be appreciated? Is he saying that the West’s decadence is really a sign of magnanimity? Is he saying that threats against China are signs of magnanimity?

If so, it does not make very much sense. Magnanimity comes from strength, not from weakness. And America is not being magnanimous. In the person of its politicians and media it is accusing China of mass murder. It is trying to land punches. It is attacking China, though not very effectively. To that the Chinese are counterpunching.

Besides, as noted here and elsewhere, the reason that China has been doing advanced coronavirus research is that Dr. Anthony Fauci felt that America’s CDC could not safely do the studies itself. The research was outsourced to Wuhan.

America is not just toxic. It is divided against itself. It is divided politically and culturally. It’s major cities are an international disgrace. (See previous post) Surely, a competitor would see this as a weakness to exploit. We do better to improve ourselves and to get our own house in order. It would put us in a better competitive position. 


trigger warning said...

"the reason that China has been doing advanced coronavirus research is that Dr. Anthony Fauci felt that America’s CDC could not safely do the studies itself. The research was outsourced to Wuhan."

Interesting spin, Schneiderman. Permit me to offer a different view, if you will:

The reason that China has been doing US-funded advanced coronavirus research is that rigorous American laboratory safety standards were being flaunted and a reassessment and recalibration was in order, and Dr Fauci decided to fund the work anyway in a nation where safety standards, enforced or not, would not be such a hot button.

UbuMaccabee said...

We cannot do anything against China, and certainly not with our economic numbers, our debt, and our vile and incompetent political class. We have to take anything they are offering just to stop the bleeding. We have just lost our position. But we have hip-hop.

Look at things from China's perspective looking at the US. Joe Biden has always been a grifter and a fool. He is not a serious man and never has been. Now he is a fool with no memory of himself. This is who one of our two primary political parties just nominated for President. The Chinese cannot believe what they are seeing. There is no possible way to view the US except as soft, weak, and in terminal decline.

China comes out on top from this.