Bluff on China: The US’s "Tough on China" Posturing is Embarrassing and Self-Destructive
The US government, specifically the military industrial blob at its core, in its determination to make an enemy of China will bring about its own undoing.
Every time a US politician pontificates about what a threat China is and postures in opposition to China, acting “tough on China,” they are making an ass of themself and flaunting, for the world to see, their profound impotence.
It’s worth looking at why we are so competitive with China and always seem on the edge of international conflict. A handful of decades ago, China was regarded as a poor and unstable nation, at best deserving of the world’s pity. They made changes to their economy, in part at the urging and with the support of the US, and rapidly turned things around, so that they’re now the second most powerful nation in the world, with their runner-up status becoming more debatable by the day.
If the US didn’t want to have to compete with China, they shouldn’t have brought them into the world economy. They shouldn’t have convinced the Chinese government to adopt a capitalist economy if they couldn’t anticipate that China would be better at it.
That’s what most of the anti-China rancor in the US is about: that they’re doing better than we are. They took the model we gave them, found ways to use it more effectively, and have been beating us at our own game. How dare they.
The US only wanted China opening up to the global economy so that it could benefit us. We wanted access to their resources, their cheap labor, their people to buy our excess pork and soybeans. We wanted them in a position of subservience, helping prop us up at the top of a global pyramid scheme. Very rude of them to start bucking to get us off their back, let alone threaten to take our spot.
At this point, there’s not a lot that we can do to stop them. The US is still powerful, economically and militarily, but the former is becoming less true and the latter less applicable. The Chinese economy is set to overtake the US economy. If we ever paid our debts in full, they’d probably run right past us. The military angle is essentially a moot point. Or hopefully it is. Because anything that we threaten to do to China militarily, they would respond commensurately, and it’s a case of mutually assured destruction. They’re not one of the poor little countries that we can bully, bomb, and sanction into submission. Continuing to act as though they are can only result in embarrassment and disaster.
If you encounter someone who seems better or stronger than you, who appears able to outperform and ultimately defeat you, posturing and threatening them won’t save you. If maintaining a position of dominance isn’t sustainable, and you are unlikely to win in a conflict with them, then you should be doing all you can to make them an ally, not an enemy. The US should be partnering with China. By opposing them at every turn, we are increasing their bonds with other oppositional nations (like Russia and Iran) against us. The US routinely makes an idiotic number of enemies for itself. Intentionally making an enemy of China is devastatingly stupid.
China’s politics, their generally apathetic position towards human rights, their pollution output, their empire-building, are all problematic to say the least. None of them are that historically, or even contemporarily, different from those of the US. Our government is no more honorable or less likely to put profit and power above all. It’s not a difference of morality and ethics putting us at one another’s throats, but ego and capital.
For better or worse, we’ll have to work cooperatively with China, if we are to survive. The US is going to have to learn to share, as abhorrent and aberrant a concept as that may be to us, because our determination to continue winning in every dispute will ultimately lead to a profound loss. Rather than guaranteeing the inevitability of that loss, we should be working toward mutually beneficial compromise.