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Beltway Warriors Target China as the Next Global Threat

Can you please refer me to that historic date at the end of 2001, the day when the world as we had known it was transformed, changing the global balance of power in a way that the international position of the United States would never be the same?

No, I do not have September 11, 2001 in mind. That is too easy and the wrong answer. Think December 11, 2001. It is the date on which China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), opening the road to its integration into the global economy and marking the start of a momentous geoeconomic and geostrategic revolution that is not yet over. Osama bin Laden, on the other hand, is still dead. [1]

That 12/11 and not 9/11 is the day to remember may have become clear to anyone who read a recent front page of The New York Times. “U.S. and Taliban Edge Toward Deal to End America’s Longest War” [2] murmured the headline at its bottom, while the one above the fold on the right screamed: “U.S. Scrambles to Outrun China in New Arms Race.” [3]

The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has finally ended…and China won!

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When the Berlin Wall came down, American policymakers had an opportunity to reassess U.S. global strategy, and with the disappearance of the Soviet threat—the main rationale for the huge American military presence worldwide—to start reducing those commitments, including in the Middle East.

Instead, America’s military and diplomatic presence in the Middle East only deepened, eventually taking the form of an ambitious Pax Americana project. Under it, the United States was expected not only to become the hegemonic military power in the region but to use its might to remake its politics and economics—the so-called Freedom Agenda—by pursuing “regime change” and “nation building.”

The neoconservative intellectuals who were advancing this strategy argued that by gaining hegemony in the Middle East, Washington could use its control of the oil resources there as leverage in its dealings with China, whose booming economy was becoming more reliant on energy imports. This would ensure that Beijing would not become America’s long-term global rival. But that proved to be just one more neoconservative fantasy.

In fact, the costly military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the failed nation-building and democracy promotion crusades in the Middle East, damaged U.S. global security interests—and played directly into China’s hands.

The Americans were drawn into a long and costly military quagmire in the Middle East just as the U.S. financial system was being challenged and the American economy was plummeting into a major recession.

At the same time, after joining the WTO—exactly three months after 9/11—the Chinese were able to continue strengthening their booming economy. This provided them with the opportunity to advance their economic and military agenda in East Asia.

Ironically, America’s military presence in the Middle East was now helping to secure Chinese access to the energy resources in the Persian Gulf. This amounted to free American security services for China in the region, the kind that the Americans were already providing to Germany, France, and Japan.

So by the time the Americans were able to defeat al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist terrorist groups, it was China, and not the financially strained United States, that emerged as the big winner. Beijing was on its way to becoming the hegemon in East Asia.

This explains why the two most recent men to occupy the White House—the “internationalist” Barack Obama and the “nationalist” Donald Trump—were elected after pledging to reduce U.S. commitments in the Middle East.

Indeed, it seems that both Obama and Trump concluded that the United States had neither the resources nor the will to launch new military interventions in the Middle East, not to mention promote regime change or nation build.

At the same time, Obama and Trump made it clear that they wanted to shift Washington’s geo-strategic focus from the Middle East to East Asia. They recognized that China—and not the military dictators, monarchs, theocratic regimes, or Islamist terrorists in the Middle East—posed the main challenge to U.S. global interests, and that the costly American intervention in that region had benefited Beijing and not the United States.

Obama’s new focus was highlighted when his administration announced in 2012 its “Pivot to East Asia.” As part of this strategy, he promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which would have linked the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries, while continuing to pursue a policy of engagement with China.

President Trump, on the other hand, has pursued a more unilateral strategy in dealing with Beijing, centered on an effort to re-balance the Sino-American trade and investment relationship. This has resulted in growing tensions between the two global powers.

Amid all this is a sense of déjà vu. Many of the major bureaucratic and political players in Washington, including Republicans and Democrats in Congress, who were promoting the global war on terror in the first decade of the 21st century are now contending that China is the leading global threat to U.S. interests, and are in the process of readying the nation for a new cold war, this time around with Beijing.

Hence both economic nationalists and security hawks seem to be looking forward to the evolving cold war with China, which would probably translate into an expanding government role in the economy and to growing defense budgets.

But most Americans would not benefit from rising tensions with China, which would only lead to more trade wars and could ignite military confrontations, opening the way for less economic and political freedom.

Contrary those sounding the drumbeat of the new Cold War, China does not represent the kind of threat that the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, or Nazi Germany posed.

China does not seek global domination and has no plans to establish a military presence in America’s sphere of influence in Central and Latin America. It seeks instead to protect its national security interests in its own sphere of influence in the Pacific where other powers—including India, Japan, and the U.S.—are seen to be challenging them.

Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union, the Chinese have not been promoting their political-economic model worldwide or trying to export it the way that the U.S. has with its liberal-democratic model.

It is kind of ironic that American officials and pundits are accusing the Chinese of pushing a huge propaganda campaign in the United States through, among other things, their academic Confucius Institutes and foreign language media. After all, it is the Americans, with their numerous semi-government organizations, who have been trying to promote their values and interests abroad, including by fermenting the so-called “color revolutions” around the world.

No serious observer would deny that China is emerging as a tough economic and military competitor of the United States. Washington needs to work with its allies to respond to the Chinese military and espionage threats while pressing it to end the theft of American technology, cease violating trade rules, and open its markets to foreign investment.

What would not make sense would be for Washington to turn China into its new enemy and marshal its economic and military resources for a long and costly global confrontation with the Chinese. Like the moribund war on terror, a new cold war would probably reward the power players in Washington—but it would not serve America’s long-term interests.

Leon Hadar, a TAC contributing editor, writes regularly for National Interest Online, Asia Times, Haaretz, and Quillette.

18 Comments (Open | Close)

18 Comments To "Beltway Warriors Target China as the Next Global Threat"

#1 Comment By 11bravo On February 10, 2019 @ 10:56 pm

The author (IMO) really glosses over the theft of just about everything China can get off of the internet, our Universities, our National laboratories, as well as private companies.
We have 300,000 “students” from China in our country. China would be nowhere near where they are if not for underhanded tactics they have been using for decades.
The US(Trump) needs to go full on hard ball with China. Tariff them every time they cheat. Expose the cheating to the world. Show that they are not some benign force.
The writer is correct we waited too long to address this issue and let our industries go for the quick “buck” with out thinking things through – as usual. In any trade war WE will win. China has more than a billion people to feed and take care of. A trade war would be way too risky for them – not us.

#2 Comment By polistra On February 11, 2019 @ 3:55 am

Too late to worry about China’s espionage. It’s been going on for 35 years with massive approval and assistance by the US government.

Also too late to worry about China’s influence in Africa and other poor countries. China has been buying power the HONEST way, by improving local businesses and farms then buying their products. Africans recognize the difference between China’s capitalism and our bombism. We aren’t going to regain those countries unless we completely destroy them. Therefore we will completely destroy them.

#3 Comment By peter mcloughlin On February 11, 2019 @ 7:27 am

There is certainly a sense of historical déjà vu. This article illustrates so well the challenges facing the US – the world. The pattern of history suggests these two global powers will end up in conflict. [4]
When the planet’s two largest economies go to war it will be a world war, dragging everyone else in. Both the US and China have strategic national interests to protect. The challenge is – and it’s a very real one – to avoid conflict in those spheres of influence where core interests clash and the demarcations are blurred.

#4 Comment By Stephen J. On February 11, 2019 @ 9:15 am

Perhaps the “Beltway Warriors” are:
“Searching for Enemies”

Searching for enemies keeps the establishment in control
But, give the people entertainment with a big Super Bowl
Burn up their tax dollars with fighter jets flying overhead
While the masses cheering, is very loud, and widespread

Searching for enemies keeps armies gainfully employed
Searching for enemies so that “war games” can be “enjoyed”
Searching for enemies so that the “war business” makes profits
Searching for enemies in the war marketers head office

Searching for enemies while training and arming terrorists
Treason and treachery is practiced by those that rule over us
Assisting the terrorists they are supposed to be fighting
Huge bloodstained profits are made, as they do all this inciting

Propaganda is peddled and promoted, at sports events, and games
Flag waving, marching, and cheering is done, in illegal wars name
Countries reduced to rubble by some countries “brave troops”
The victims; cities, and homes, are bombed and reduced

Refugees in the millions “live” in hellish conditions and camps
Millions of people are dead, and others are on food stamps
In the lands of “democracies” many thousands are homeless
Many live on the streets where poverty is their “business”

Some are veterans of the never ending wars
They did their duty and are not needed anymore
Others have been found to take their place in the system
Searching for enemies: gives them a uniform and a welcome

There is very little money for pursuing peaceful purposes
But plenty of money for wars, killing and other mad circuses
The masses dutifully accept, and are taxed for these realities
And the system continues to promote and market, Searching for Enemies…

[more info at link below]
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#5 Comment By Salt Lick On February 11, 2019 @ 10:15 am

The American Empire cannot tolerate the existence of any great regional power, particularly one that has demonstrated the success of a command and control economy that is completely at odds with free-market global capitalism. First and foremost, it means that the world’s largest and most desirable consumer market comprised of a billion Chinese will never be truly open to exploitation by American capitalists. Therefore, China’s government can never become a tool of global capitalism, the only acceptable model for the West.

Allowing China into the WTO was done in order to destroy the Chinese Communist Party and create a Western-style democracy It didn’t work out that way. Instead, they thrived with a centrally planned and tightly controlled economic model.

In the meantime, the West declined as their economies crashed and burned and their military exploits racked up failure after failure.

China success and our failure cannot be allowed to stand.
They must be brought to heel or the hegemonic unipolar world order is at risk.

We want deep structural changes in the Chinese model. This clearly means regime change. The only path is war by any means necessary.

#6 Comment By TG On February 11, 2019 @ 10:16 am

It’s almost humorous. Our own elites pushed and pushed for a policy of shipping our industrial base to China, to make a lot of short-term profits off of all that lovely cheap labor – the national interest and well-being of their fellow citizens be damned.

Now our elites are worried that, having shipped our industrial might to China, they may have created a competitor for power. A part of me hopes that the Chinese nationalize all those American factories in China and totally rip off our multinational corporations. I mean, as a mere U.S. citizen, it’s not like I have a personal stake in this any more.

#7 Comment By pax On February 11, 2019 @ 10:43 am

I read CNN’s list of aspiring (women) candidates for 2020. Guess what – no mention of Tulsi Gabbard? The only military veteran. I guess peace is not really on the agenda? Like Ron Paul in 2016. He was like a tsunami wave on US campuses, but MSM (the Goebel’s descendant) remained cold to him. Are we in the grip of the party of war?

#8 Comment By travi95 On February 11, 2019 @ 11:49 am

Its better late than never! China has been destroying the poor underdeveloped countries by encouraging the despots & dictators similar Xi through debt trap and making these countries pay back by pledging their natural resources and land, island, seaports and airports.

China Border Dispute Rules

If I like it, its mine.
If I’m holding it, its mine.
If I can take it from you, its mine.
If I had it little while ago, its mine.
If its mine, it must never appears to be yours anyway.
If it just looks like mine, its mine.
If you were patrolling with something and you left it sometime, it automatically becomes mine.
If its of no use to me, then also its mine until I say so!
Only problem is, it doesn’t work with Quad and their support for ASEAN in resolving SCS dispute as per the global common rules!

China is the only country forcefully invaded & occupied the largest country/ land mass (Tibet) after its independence since world war II. China supports the UNGA declared terrorists and has occupied the largest area under south china sea against the will of the ASEAN nations. Supports the 2 nuclear weapon blackmailing countries (NK & Pak only allies of China) of the world and still have the gumption to blame peace loving nations.

#9 Comment By Stephen J. On February 11, 2019 @ 12:17 pm

Some info at links below on the hypocrisy and treachery of “our leaders” regarding “China”.

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#10 Comment By peterkecs On February 11, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

In dealing with China, the Washington “experts” have displayed again their ignorance in world history.
They assumed that by allowing China in the WTO the Chinese Communist Party will be destroyed, since communism is incompatible with a market economy.
They obviously did not know about the NEP (New Economic Policy), a short lived market economy experiment which occurred in the USSR in the early twenties. They did not know about the Buharin school of economics, destroyed by Stalin not because it did not work, but because it worked too well. All they knew is that communism = Stalinism, with its terror and its chocked command economy.
We are paying for the ignorance and hubris of the Washington “experts”.

#11 Comment By Jeeves On February 11, 2019 @ 3:41 pm

Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union, the Chinese have not been promoting their political-economic model worldwide or trying to export it the way that the U.S. has with its liberal-democratic model.

I suppose this reads better in the original Mandarin. What are they doing in Greenland?
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#12 Comment By Taras 77 On February 11, 2019 @ 4:43 pm

We…must…have…a…threat!

It is as simple as that.

#13 Comment By joell On February 12, 2019 @ 9:30 am

@travi95 “China has been destroying the poor underdeveloped countries by encouraging the despots & dictators similar Xi through debt trap and making these countries pay back by pledging their natural resources and land, island, seaports and airports.”

Remove China from this paragraph and many would think you were referring to the IMF or the World Bank with its former President Paul Wolfowitz.

The U.S. is engaged in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, threatening military action in Venezuela, but somehow you view us as one of the “peace loving nations?”

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 12, 2019 @ 6:53 pm

Let’s be clear and honest. China does not need espionage, at least not in the manner we consider espionage. The academic communities and their desire to engage in open exchange simply does not require “spies”. And while I think open exchange is healthy, it can be too much of a good thing. It was the academic tend to share that released atomic secrets.

What China has been doing and doing very successfully since the 1970’s is an end round run of the west by building relations with African states, still trying to get things sorted out as colonialism loosened its grip. For all that the west took from Africa, she remains resource content rich. And the African States play their cards right, if they avoid conflicts outside their region and even more among themselves — well, it’ll a very different world.

China does not have the baggage that the west has in that part of the world. The problem with China is they have entered the modern world and they have entered with a billion people if only half compete as part of the marketplace, well that is going to continue to make a world of difference, even their growth slows, it will still grow. And that means, of they export more than they buy or break even she is going to be a power to reckon with.

And I beg to differ. The issues of Chinese influence on US thinking is profound and in my view dangerous. It is not a few schools of confuscian thought and musings. It is part of the intellectual lexicon. Their philosophical models regarding class are not jokes they are real and they appeal to the power brokers of politics and finance. The entirety of thought that places “good of society”, is just another way of saying, defer to the power structure and heed not any worries of self. That’s why the Mr. Bill Gates’, Mr Bezos’s, Silicon Valley elites make no nevermind about borders, and nation states, loyalties to country etc. It’s the global community that matters, not the whims of the US alone. And they DAVOS, the UN, WTO, IMF, G* and a host of others are making decisions with pressure for the US to conform to the same. China is already been making plans to deal with the dollar as a primary mechanism in trade.

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I was excited when the Chinese came to my college for a debate exchange, it was great and a sign of wonderful opportunities. But China has been around several thousand years. If age brings wisdom, the Chinese long term understanding of society not through the glass of 100 years down the road, but a thousand matters.

Our mistake was looking just over the horizon to the next week, month, and year.

We should build our wall, take stock of who are, figure out how to assimilate the people we have — and move forward as a nation with a clear sense of self. Even the most liberal minded chinese think in Chinese, about China, not the US.

That’s the edge.

I think there’s a lesson in that.

#15 Comment By Rossco On February 12, 2019 @ 11:54 pm

China has a long memory and will not be humiliated again by any nation.So trying to take it down via the usual US tactics will not work.
Rather than rape and pillage other nations and replace governments with puppet leaders , China has sort to build infrastructure in Africa and Asia. It has formed a strong alliance with Russia and neighbouring countries in developing the One Belt One Road Initiative that will involve over 50% of the worlds population and affect about 40% of global GDP.
The only criticism comes from the Yanks. The ones who had over 60 years of global domination ,but rather than help other nations have exploited the poor, stolen their land, invaded multiple nations illegally with their military,starvedand killed millions of people and then told the rest of the world they are the most exceptional nation on earth -My arse they are!
Their day of reckoning is close at hand .
The sooner it happens the sooner the rest of the world can get on without them.

#16 Comment By david On February 13, 2019 @ 1:28 pm

EliteCommInc says: “…Chinese influence on US thinking is profound and in my view dangerous.”

As usual, you have some good points, but fell into the usual trap to blame or attribute American problems and weaknesses to Chinese factors.

Just like people who are alarmed by the unsustainable trade deficit and look at China – with its largest trade deficit – so it must be China who cheats on trade. People who are alarmed by Chinese pace of catching up in STEM and military – oh, it must be China who are stealing and spying. You are alarmed by the rootlessness of the internationalists and think it is due to Chinese influence rather than the shallowness of our so called elite thinking?

#17 Comment By Tony Pun On February 13, 2019 @ 6:18 pm

I read all the comments for this article and categories them into 3 camps. Category 1: Hawkish views and the American way is the best in the world – unshakeable ideology. Category 2: A group that view the world on logic, peaceful co-existence and mutual prosperity. They are growing in numbers. Category 3: Like Category 1 but Chinese nationalistic views.
American foreign policy of regime change and spreading of liberal democracy has not changed since WW2. What is believable and convincing in the 50 years after WW2 is not the same in the 21st century as more facts are revealed about the wars in Libya, Middle East, Afghan, etc. The existence of international TV cable network from China, Russia, Turkey, Qatar etc. have neutralised a lot of bias reporting. At least the rival TV stations counter each other.
Category 2 people possess understanding of both US and China and their views and opinions are more important to planet survival as an “inevitable” war these days will wipe off the plant with MAD weapons.
An American political scientist Prof Graham T Allison coined the phrase “Thucydides Trap” to refer to when a rising poser causes fear in an established power which escalates towards war. Hence planet survival would depend on each side not straying close to the classic trap.

#18 Comment By Rossco52 On March 7, 2019 @ 8:33 pm

Like all empires,America too is,but a poor shadow of its glorious past. Too intent to exert control over other nations, too misguided in making war an industry, too little regard for the soveriegnty of other nations, too much hubris, too much money, too much corruption all spell the certain crumbling mess it has become.