The Hong Kong demonstrations reveal that President Trump was right in many ways to identify China early on as a threat to the United States. He saw them as an economic threat and dishonest trading partner. To a lesser degree, he saw them as a military threat.
He was right, although ultimately, their military — including space and cyber warfare — are probably the largest threat.
To be clear, China is a bigger, long-term threat economically and militarily than anyone else, including Russia which has aging nukes but otherwise is a virtual third-world economy and a vastly weakened military. Modern militaries cannot be created and maintained in modern warfare without strong economies underwriting them.
Russia does not have such an economy. China increasingly does. And anyone who thinks China does not have as much — or more — of a goal of world domination, knows nothing of Chinese history and the current goals and philosophies that align with that history.
They continue to think of themselves as the Middle Kingdom — that is, the center of the world — and are intent on reconstituting the world so that is the case in a very real sense. Despite being an atheist Communist regime that oppress religions from Christianity to Islam to Buddhism to hundreds of sects, the Chinese still see the Middle Kingdom as a sort of spiritual destiny.
From the ambitious Belt and Road initiative, with China at the center, to exporting opioids to the U.S. through Mexico, to stealing U.S. technology and intellectual property, to building ports with 100-year leases around the world, to embedding spyware into Huawei products and its global 5G network, to dramatically improving its military capabilities in the air, sea, land and space, China confronts and affronts the U.S. everywhere.
Even presidential candidate Joe Biden has finally seen the danger of China and flipped. (Although he flips a lot.) According to the New York Post:
Former Vice President Joe Biden toughened up his language on China Tuesday, saying the Asian nation represented a “serious challenge” and sometimes a “real threat” to the United States — just a month after saying “they’re not competition for us.”
“We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat,” Biden told an Iowa audience while out campaigning for president.
It’s not readily understood, but China like Russia enjoyed a pushover of a president in Barack Obama, but are getting significant pushback in the form of President Trump.
What’s well publicized is the trade war Trump has responded to. It’s so important to remember, and the media either is ignorant or just being willful partisans as usual, but Trump did not start the trade war. China has been cheating and stealing for decades, and getting more bold in recent years. They’ve been at war with us on trade for a long time. Trump has merely returned fire. Finally. But it won’t be easy.
The tariffs and trade war show how stubborn and tough the Chinese leadership can be. They take the long view toward the Middle Kingdom. And they don’t have to answer to their people at the ballot box as American presidents must. It’s one of the dynamics that makes it more difficult for American leadership, yet Trump is doing it anyway. It’s almost like he’s not your typical politician who makes decisions based on his re-election needs.
This goes to his genuineness. He’s authentically who he is. You get what you see. You shouldn’t need to agree with him on all issues to find that refreshing.
In addition to his responding to China’s trade agressions, Trump has responded militarily with naval movements and, maybe most importantly, with treating Taiwan like the democratic ally they are — instead of quivering before the Chinese Communists like previous presidents and distancing ourselves from our Chinese ally.
As the South China Morning Post points out: “Washington has been approving arms deals with Taipei at a much faster pace than under Barack Obama and George W Bush, while the self-ruled island has been making public US military movements near the Taiwan Strait – information that would not have been released under previous US administrations.”
In trying to close the southern U.S. border to stop the waves of illegal immigrants, the Trump administration would also be cutting deeply into the supply trough of illegal opioids that are developed in China, shipped to Mexico and smuggled into the U.S. There are many drivers of the awful opioid crisis, but ready availability is certainly one of them.
And Trump has begun the long journey of rebuilding the U.S. military, including the Navy that is critically important to projecting U.S. power in important regions such as the Middle East, but in the future, perhaps even the near future, the Asian Pacific where U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines are all potential victims of Chinese military aggression one day.
There are many pieces to what China is doing. And they have vulnerabilities in all of them. What’s required is American leadership with the vision and chutzpah to push back on those vulnerabilities. Trump is doing so on trade and in Taiwan military sales and closeness.
President Trump may not understand all of the associated history ancient and recent of China, but he rightly identified the primary threat to American leadership in the world. And that is a dictatorial China. And that is not a better world.
Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.