Thursday, June 13, 2019

China's "long march" to world hegemony

Hugh Hewitt interviews Victor Davis Hanson on China. The entire interview is interesting, but what follows below is an excerpt from sections I found to be informative. I don't necessarily agree with everything.

HEWITT: Well, you came to mind because of an extraordinary speech that was given on May 21 by President Xi Jinping of China. And he went to the geographic location of where the long march began 80-plus years ago, Jiangxi Province, and he told a cheering crowd, "now there is a new long march and we should make a new start." That's significant, I think, Dr. Hanson, and I wanted to go through with you today what the long march was, what happened in China during World War II, and where we are now as a result of both of those things. Let's start with the Long March...

HANSON: I think one thing to remember is that when he [Chinese President Xi] mentions the Long March where he was almost exterminated, Mao, and then subsequent we have a war that took 16 million, and then subsequently the Civil War, which took another 7 or 8 million, Xi is saying that we're victimized, we've all been counted out during the Long March, the war, the civil war second phase, and we're going to fight to the end.

And so I think that's the message. We should also remember it suggests to us that this myth that the Chinese Communist apparatus somehow liberalizing as it becomes wealthier and as trade becomes freer is not true. They still see themselves as hard Stalinists that have been picked on and victimized and will prevail against overwhelming odds.

HANSON: [P]eople for the last 30 years said that infringement on copyrights or technological appropriation is the cost of doing business, or patent violations, or dumping, or currency manipulation, that was all tolerable because two things were going to happen. China was going to westernize or collapse, the Communist Party would collapse as it had in Russia, and therefore it would be a citizen of the world.

And as it got wealthier, it would start to obey the World Trade Organization, GATT, all of these international norms. And it would not translate that largess into a military colonial neo-imperial project. That has not happened. And so we've created, and we've called normal a very abnormal situation where they run up $400 billion, they own 50 ports of strategic-owned in the sense of long-term leases-50 ports all over the world.

And their ideology is, as they say at the party Congresses, that they're destined to world hegemony. And nobody has figured out how to counter that. A lot of people have extensive business interests in China. A lot of economists have said, you know what, we're free market people. It makes us leaner and leaner when they cheat.

When they cheat, it's not going to be sustainable. When they cheat, it gives us cheap goods for a stagnant wage middle class. They have all sorts of rationales. But the problem is that nobody wants to bell the cat. We all say, well, this is a bad situation. We should put a bell around this marauding cat, but nobody wants to do it. Because to do it, you have to resort to a Neanderthal confrontational tariff mindset, and we thought we'd gone beyond that in the 21st century.

HANSON: Well, I think the polls show that people support what [Trump's] doing, because it's an affront to the entire Council on Foreign Relations establishment, and it's affront to the entire elite economic mindset, if I could use that word again. Because what he's saying is that deficits count, trade treaties count, China is never going to liberalize. China is going to use this money that it's accruing, and it's largely through unfair trade, for other purposes that are contrary to world stability.

And I think people in the Midwest appreciate that. And they're saying to themselves, wait a minute. Now we have the cheapest electricity and energy costs in the world. We've got a great location, we've got a stable government, and we've got good workers. And we can't produce things, because other countries, but particularly China, have targeted our industries to destroy them. And that's Trump's message.

And whether it's accurate, and 100% or not doesn't matter, it's appealing to a lot of people. And notice that the criticism comes from the elite, not from the rank and file. The elite say, as I said before, that there's benefits actually in China running up a huge deficit with us, a surplus on our deficit, because they feel that it will make us more competitive or, as I said, we'd get affordable things that we otherwise would not be able to purchase, or it weakens China in the long run.

But that just hasn't happened. We haven't seen China weaken.

HEWITT: Now, do you think that this is propaganda by China, that they're attempting to wage diplomacy by invoking war? Or are we really into a confrontation that will be a decade long, two decades long? Because President Trump thought he could use tariffs. And in fact, our economy is a lot stronger and bigger than their economy. And they sell a lot more to us than we sell to them. Is he wrong about this?

HANSON: No, he's not. And I think the experts-we have Sandra Thornton, our next State Department official go over there and tell the Chinese last week, if you just hang on or wait for another administration, you'll win. But because they're not winning-remember that we have 1/3 the population of China, and we produced 2 and 1/2 times the GDP that China does.

Our universities dominate all world rankings of research institutions. Not one of China's does. Our military is about four times larger than theirs. We're the largest food exporter. We're the largest energy exporter and producer. So we have all of the cards, and they don't, and they know that. But what we don't have, and thank God we don't, is an authoritarian dictatorial narrative as they do.

So they're telling their people that we're going to win, and the United States is weakening. But a disinterested observer looks at this and says, wow, China needs the United States market much more than we need the Chinese market. America's got all the economic, cultural, social advantages. China does not.

And China overshot. China preempted. Had China been careful, they might have reached parity with the United States. But they were greedy and they were too overt. We have 350,000 students in the United States, and if 1% of them-and there's more than 1% are actively engaged in espionage-you could have 3,500, 4,000 Chinese operatives. And we know that.

Two high ranking, Hugh, CIA agents, just this month of May, Mr. Mallory and Mr. Lee, were arrested in the DC area, and their sentencings went down this week for espionage with China. And so when you have a head of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, Dianne Feinstein, who admits that her chauffeur for 20 years was passing on information to Chinese interests, that's pretty scary.

HEWITT: That penetration operation of the PRC is so underestimated. I used to do this in the '80s, prepare warrants for the signature of two attorneys general to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to follow the bad guys in our country. And the bad guys and the bad girls came from all different countries. My guess, though, it's a guess. I haven't had clearances since '88. My guess is that if you were to compare the relative number of warrants against non-Chinese actors versus Chinese actors then to today, it would have completely flipped. That's my guess.

HANSON: No, I think you're right. And I think the thing, also, if you remember what Henry Kissinger once said, among his many brilliant things, we want to be no worse friend to China than it is to Russia. Or flipped, we want to be just as friendly with Russia as Russia thinks China is, and just as friendly as China as China thinks Russia is.

And we've lost that Russian card. And I know that Russia's sunk in its strategic importance. But this whole collusion hoax has really eliminated one card that we used to play, because China has a lot of vulnerabilities with Russia. Russia still has 7,000 nuclear weapons that are deployable. So we've lost that, and we've lost a lot of traditional ways of hampering China.

And during the last eight years of the Obama administration, fairly or not, people like Taiwan, the Taiwanese, the South Koreans, the Japanese were unsure whether they were still or if they were at all under the American nuclear umbrella. They were unsure if the United States would support them if they pushed back on air and sea territorial violations.

So this is a very dangerous time, Hugh, because any time you're transitioning from appeasement to deterrence, what was abnormal had been considered normal, and now what's normal is being considered provocative and abnormal.

If China was Japan right now...remember Japan Incorporated of the 1980s that we thought was going to take over the world? Nobody talked of a war, because they were a democratic parliamentary system that was an ally of the United States.

So the problem with China isn't that it's a rising power that will create a paranoid response or will make us have to confront it. But the problem is that it's a dictatorial authoritarian communist country with a history of mass murder that 70 million people have now killed, 60 to 70, and it's antithetical to the open, cosmopolitan, transparent society of the United States.

And that's the problem. Not the disequilibrium in relative power. It's a contributing factor, but it's not going to make us go to war or not go to war.

HEWITT: Now, I've always believed-Victor Davis Hanson, I'd love your comments on this to close out this conversation-that the Soviet Union fell apart because the people who ran it had too much to lose in terms of money, influence, power, and authority. And rather than go to a confrontation with the West, they held on to their money. I think in China there are a lot of billionaires. There's an upper class that is genuinely enormously wealthy, people like Jack Ma, et cetera, and they have no incentive in a wealth destroying confrontation with the United States. Therefore, I'm not as concerned about the Thucydides Trap, provided that we're firm now. What do you think?

HANSON: I agree somewhat, but there's a chief difference. And that is, during the Cold War, the 50-year Cold War, there were not a heavily invested Russian elite overseas. And by that I mean they didn't have an escape hatch. So you're right, absolutely right. They had a lot to lose.

But in the case of China, there's hundreds of billions of dollars that are invested everywhere from Beverly Hills to Lucerne, Switzerland. And the ideology of the Chinese elite is, at some point, this thing is going to blow up because of the wealth inequality and instability of the Chinese government trying to square the circle of democracy and capitalism and authoritarian communism. It's not going to work.

And they've put their offshore money. And gosh, if you go to Vancouver or Seattle or you go to Paris, the Chinese are what the Arab nations were magnified or squared 100 times in the '70s. And so what I'm worried about is that the Chinese government has already factored into the idea that if they got tense-there's a lot of people who would just leave the country, and if they were critics or they were opposed, rather than have a coup or rather than the system break down.

You have two Chinas now. You have the mass of 1.3 billion people, but you also have about 200 million or 100 million, the elites that run the country that are invested globally all over the world and are really not going to lose if China has internal problems.

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