The threat from China has helped pass an international competitiveness bill of over $ 200 billion with less bipartisan support. An attitude that finds broad consensus in the foreign policy community. It is ideologically permeated as democracy versus autocracy. And if China's leader warns foreign powers to back off lest they “agonize and shed blood on the Great Wall of Steel,” what could be wrong with mobilizing against the Chinese threat?
A lot. The Chinese threat is being inflated in ways that, like the Soviet Cold War threat and post 9/11 terrorism, are counterproductive to foreign policy strategy and dangerously distort domestic policy.
Without question, the Soviet threat had some valuable ramifications. Government after government it held on to the "patient but firm and vigilant containment" of diplomat George Kennan. It gave birth to NATO, the most successful peace alliance in history. She convinced the financially conservative President Dwight D. Eisenhower to build the highway system. It helped President John F. Kennedy energize the land to fly to the moon.
But inflating the threat to global levels – as Kennan himself warned – led the United States to one failed policy after another in what was then the Third World. There was the swamp of Vietnam, which, while no longer America's longest war, is in many ways the most devastating. The overthrow of the governments in Iran and Guatemala, where aftershocks continue to this day. Involvement in mass murders of civilians in Indonesia, Chile and Argentina. And too many other examples that neither served American strategic interests nor upheld the declared values of the Americans.
At home, McCarthyism swirled like "a giant, stormy hurricane," as Senator Charles Potter put it, pondering with regret his past support. In government, business, the military, the arts, universities, and more, careers have been destroyed and civil liberties trampled. Films like He May Be a Communist, in which a teenage girl told her parents that "the Party convinced me to free me from the ongoing oppression of family life," have been incorporated into the public school curriculum.
Nor were the harmful consequences confined to McCarthyism. In 1956, just two years after the movement's senator of the same name was censored, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI invoked the Soviet threat to launch his counter-intelligence program. The organization, known as COINTELPRO, became a "vacuum cleaner" "gathering information about legitimate activities by American citizens" – including Martin Luther King Jr., feminists and environmentalists – and even tried to prevent the "infiltration" of clerks' parents -Teachers Associations. In 1967, despite the ban on domestic espionage, the CIA launched Operation CHAOS, which collected files on more than 300,000 individuals and organizations, "almost all of them US citizens and non-espionage organizations," the reported New York Times.
As for 9/11, the threat of inflation with the Iraq war was particularly evident. The decision to invade was made on the basis of scant evidence, with the political debate stifled by the gentle intimidation of terrorism. There were also few questions, as special units were deployed in the context of a so-called “global war on terrorism” in over 150 countries with vaguely defined and open-ended missions such as “training, advising and supporting”. While the Afghan war was initially proportional to the threat, its continuation over 20 years was based on worst-case projections of withdrawal and best-case assumptions about where to stay. If a terrorist threat increases in the future, it will be less because the war ended and more because of how the war was waged.
Perhaps the most telling example of a soft anti-terrorist electoral policy was the re-election defeat of the Georgia Democratic Senate, Max Cleland, a Vietnam War hero and triple amputee, smeared with ads showing his image along with that of Osama bin Laden because he did not vote for every single anti-terrorist measure. Defense budgets were thrown through Congresses with little resistance, and the two wars and global counter-terrorism campaigns totaled nearly $ 7 trillion by fiscal 2020, tipping the balance between national security and civil liberties in the former. Hate crimes and prejudice against Muslim Americans increased, culminating in a president who believed "Islam hates us".
Now there is China. Between the repression in Hong Kong, the genocide of the Uyghurs, the militarization in the South China Sea, a military clash with India in the Himalayas, the economic coercion of Australia, the diplomacy of the wolf warriors and the hacking of Microsoft, the Beijing Chinese hawks certainly have a lot to offer.
During Donald Trump's presidency, China was increasingly emphasized as a threat. The National Security Strategy “great power competition” of 2017 received more praise than most of Trump's foreign policies. The bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned that Beijing was trying to expand its “China dream” into the “dream of the world”. In the 2020 presidential campaign, Trump and Joe Biden tried to outdo each other on China.
In many ways, Biden was even more focused on the threat from China than Trump. China has been made the basis for a comprehensive review of Pentagon policies. It was the main threat identified in the intelligence services' initial review. It was at the center of the interim strategy for national security. It was the main theme of the G7, EU and NATO summits in June. It is about, as Biden put it in his quasi-speech on the State of the Union before the Congress, who is "21.
No question about it, China has been more assertive and aggressive lately. And it has largely rejected direct diplomatic initiatives by Biden. But win the 21st century? I get the motivational speech to win the rally round to win the mobilization bill. However, there is a real risk of falling into another inflation trap.
On the foreign policy strategy side, I have three main concerns.
First, the threat posed by China is overstated. We know that China wants to accelerate its rise to become a great power. But the evidence that they are pushing to be the sole great power is less convincing. As more than 100 China experts put it in an open letter, it is one thing to recognize China as a “serious challenge”, but quite another to see it as “an existential threat to national security that is being faced in all areas got to. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned of a classic vicious circle of security dilemma in which “Actions that are considered defensive in China can be treated as aggressive by the outside world; In China, deterrent moves by the West can be interpreted as encirclement. ”Whatever the ideological competition, the establishment of Confucius Institutes is far from undermining governments and fueling revolutions.
Even if the Chinese goals are more maximalist, one might ask: How are you, President Xi Jinping? The UK, which resisted US pressure to allow Chinese company Huawei to work on the 5G wireless infrastructure, joined the ban in retaliation for Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong. Japan holds a stronger position than ever before Taiwan. Australia has largely offset Chinese sanctions by shifting to alternative trading partners. The EU has withdrawn from a new investment agreement. China's $ 4 trillion Belt and Road initiative has had limited impact on recipient countries. In fact, Chinese economic state art was largely self-destructive. The diplomacy of the wolf warriors seems like brazen diplomatic rumble. Public opinion on China is much more negative in one country after another than it was a few years ago. In this and other ways, China meets what other great powers have when they overwhelm and harass themselves, including the United States.
Second, while key US allies have their own worries about China, they worry about getting caught in the middle of the neocold war. This is especially true of the Indo-Pacific, where countries, while happy to have America's backs, have their own interests in relations with China. In a poll on Japan's position in a US-China conflict, 58 percent of the Japanese public were in favor of working for international cooperation rather than taking sides, with only 20 percent prioritizing US relations. (Only 1 percent prioritized relations with China.) Kevin Rudd, a former Australian Prime Minister and China expert, emphasizes the need for both sides to manage their competition and both take responsibility for averting "bad luck." Despite the military clashes between India and China, foreign policy expert Tanvi Madan warns against "overestimating how far and how fast Delhi could advance with the US". South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong recently met with his counterpart in China and invited Xi to his country as soon as COVID-19 conditions permit. “Let's not vote” was the title of a 2019 study by the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In other regions, too, US allies and partners show a similar tendency towards hedging. Neither the G-7 nor NATO nor the EU would go as far as the Biden government wanted in the anti-China parts of the June summit communiqués. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, all major recipients of US military aid, also have security cooperation agreements with China. Israel has reached an agreement with the Shanghai International Port Group to operate the port of Haifa, despite US concerns about the security risks of the 6th Fleet visiting a nearby naval base.
Third, putting the Chinese threat at the center of US strategy suppresses and complicates two issues that pose even greater threats: pandemic prevention and climate change. While the Big Game is traditionally portrayed in terms of country versus country – a rising power challenging a dominant one – COVID-19 and climate change show that American security is more threatened by transnational forces than nation states.
Even if one agrees with the Chinese hawk threat assessment, how could it really be seen as a higher priority than something that has caused a higher death toll in the United States than any of the 20th US wars that came after Second, the Great Depression wreaked economic havoc and disrupted the daily lives of Americans more than anything in our history? While much of this had to do with Trump's dysfunctional domestic politics, the surge in the Delta variant reminds us how much pandemic prevention is an international issue. Given that the next pandemic won't happen when, it would be much more strategic to work on reforming and strengthening the World Health Organization than pushing ahead with investigating laboratory leaks in Wuhan.
When it comes to climate change, select extreme weather disasters this month only: fires in Oregon, a heat wave in the western United States and western Canada, floods in Europe and China, droughts in Africa. A recently published study puts the global annual death toll from climate change at 5 million. Very few countries have met their 2015 Paris Agreement targets, and even if they are met, global GDP would fall 4.2 percent by mid-century. The US Department of Defense's 2015 study of how the effects of climate change "threaten stability in a number of countries" has already been confirmed.
Although the Biden administration has raised these issues, they are still more on the sidelines than the focus of its foreign policy. The crowding out was evident at the Western Alliances Summits in June: Why Not Make Climate Change a Key Driver and Show What Democracies Can Do And Reclaim Global Leadership In A Way That Far At The November Global Climate Change Summit In Glasgow, Scotland is more resonant than China? Containment? And how can one create the common ground between the US and China necessary for effective policy on these issues if both sides continue to sharpen the portrayal of the other as enemies?
On the domestic side, it's great that Congress passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, but sad that, as David Sanger of the New York Times notes, "it took an adversary to be the organizing thought of things that we probably had to do anyway ". And as Sanger and colleagues wrote, the Beat China topline was "a godsend for lobbyists" and offered cover for all kinds of pig barrels and Christmas tree projects. Critics also ask whether too much emphasis is being placed on countering China's technological priorities rather than doubling on America's own proven research and development strengths.
China's gentle political drums are beating louder and louder. A potential Trumpian Republican successor for the 2024 election, Senator Josh Hawley, claims China is striving for "nothing less than domination … a master at home and abroad." Another, Senator Tom Cotton, says it is "time to contain the boom in China". The Committee on the Present Danger: China, renamed from its anti-Soviet days, is back on the Washington stage. The American public is doing its best to slow the turnaround: 78 percent now see China as a security threat, but 51 to 47 percent agree to curb China's power or to cooperate with it.
Asian Americans are already experiencing over 100 percent increases in violence and other hate incidents in California and 74 percent nationally. While the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act helps clear the long history of bias and discrimination against Asians that dates back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Rock Springs of 1885, Wyoming, white mobs attacked Chinese workers, killing 28, and looting Burns Chinese businesses and households is sobering.
The United States is likely to face China's geopolitical competition better if it avoids the threat of inflation, which experience has shown to be strategically counterproductive and politically dangerous.