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Should We Be Worried About China?

Last month, in a column I wrote for The Week [1], I wondered whether President Trump’s “sloth and incompetence” might actually save America from catastrophic war by signaling clearly to our most important geopolitical rival — China — that they can easily get more by picking our pockets than by trying to mug us, while deluding the most nationalistic portion of the American public into thinking that all was well and America was becoming great again.

But as the administration’s collapse hastens, it seems likely that the illusion of dominance will be impossible to maintain. So my latest column in The Week [2] is about what the Chinese themselves are up to.

Is the United States losing to China in a new Scramble for Africa [3]? Is Washington being out-played by Beijing at a new Great Game [4]?

Just this month, The New York Times published two major stories sounding the alarm, one about China’s burgeoning investments in Africa [5], the other about China’s massive investments in infrastructure in Southeast and Central Asia [6]. As the Trump administration slips further into solipsistic delusion, starving its own diplomatic corps [7] and boasting about trade deals [8]in which America got badly outmaneuvered [9], China’s potential moves on the global chessboard only multiply. Alarm would seem to be justified.

But what game is China actually playing? Is China constructing a 21st-century version of a colonial empire? If so, is that something America ought to be concerned about? And what should — what can — we do about it?

Read the whole thing [2] to see how I answer the question in full. But I conclude:

Ultimately, whether China’s bets pay off spectacularly or only partially — or whether they are largely written off — the most important fact remains the quality and scale of the bets themselves, and the fact that China can readily afford them. That’s the important contest we’ve been losing.

If we invest in our own human and physical capital, we’ll be in a position to deploy that capital in ways that are mutually beneficial to ourselves and our trade and investment partners. If we neglect strength at home in favor of shows of dominance abroad, we’ll be playing right into China’s hands.

Unfortunately, with the generals increasingly in charge of foreign policy and both Congress and the administration essentially paralyzed, it seems all too likely that we’ll get precisely the opposite.

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Should We Be Worried About China?"

#1 Comment By bkh On May 17, 2017 @ 8:40 am

Invest in our own infrastructure and human capital? Why? It doesn’t help the warmongers’ portfolios and bottom lines. Also, if we get distracted about more important issues like is he a he or she or an it, then we surely are homophobic. And, why does that end of the county get more money for potholes than the other end of town? Ah, infrastructure improvements are surely about racism. Just make sure the PS4 controllers and cell phones are charged and everyone will be happy. All the trillions in investments for infrastructure and/or human capital will do no good since money can’t fix morals or cultural decay. There are alot things not to like about China, but they have a stability America no longer has.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 19, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

What frightens me and I mean frightens me about China is how seductive they are.

The influence they on our culture and how that translates into how people think. Had actually taught there I would have been given the boot, in three months.

I am unclear how I could have steered clear of a discussions about

abortion
homosexuality
celibacy
democracy the US greatness — exceptional
and the ultimate —

God Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Yet we embrace all thinks China as though, it’s the enlightenment.

#3 Comment By a spencer On May 19, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

Clear headed piece that lays it out well. Yeah, China has been involved in Africa for quite a while now. China sat down with Mexico immediately after Trump’s election.

I have the impression that the Chinese keep a significant presence on the ground in the countries it is heavily involved in – and in some cases that may eventually lead the locals to bristle. Anyway, they’re committing expertise that show tangible infrastructure in places that have lacked, at least during modern times. More than one African intellectual has commented that you could take all the foreign aid out of the ten poorest countries and the people at the bottom would never know the difference.

We’ll see where it goes. Maybe the US doesn’t have the interest for this sort of thing anymore, but the Chinese will happily fill the gap. If the corruption at the head of many African countries see it as an exchange to keep power, they’ll go along with it. For people in the bush, its been shown they prefer cell phone technology over modern sanitation since they’ll lived their whole lives without sanitation but now they can connect to the outside world in ways they never could.