China on Our Minds

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to arrive in Washington on Tuesday evening, to start a three-day official visit to the United States. All reports coming out of Washington, D.C. suggest this visit is amongst the most highly anticipated in years. And no wonder: The United States is committed to two ongoing wars and is still attempting to sustain even a modest economic recovery. China has enjoyed solidly robust economic growth for years and is rapidly expanding its enormous military’s technological capabilities, as well as its geopolitical reach.

In short, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the United States will be forced to deal with another country as something approaching an equal, while being mindful of the dispiriting possibility that at a similar meeting not too far in the future, it may well be the United States, the leader of the Western Free World, that is the junior partner in the Sino-American relationship. Many words have been written ahead of the summit, and still more will be penned when it’s over. Even so, it is worth briefly reflecting on the current state of the relationship, as well as the worrying evidence that President Hu might be rather more a figurehead than a leader.

By the standards of recent history, the United States and China get along fairly well. There is none of the brinksmanship, with the attendant risk of nuclear war, that was the cornerstone of Soviet-American relations for 40 years. This is not to deny that there are flashpoints in the relationship, merely to point out that areas of disagreement between the two nations do not pose the risk of rapid escalation to mutual genocide. Unlike the Soviets, China does not as yet demonstrate any sign of having global imperial ambitions, and seems content to adapt capitalism to its own needs, rather than battling against it in an inevitably futile struggle.

Indeed, it is China’s willingness to use capitalism, with surprising effectiveness, that leads to many of the regime’s clashes with the United States. Over the last 20 years, China has become the assembly line of the entire world, manufacturing items of every description and exporting them to Western markets for prices that businesses in the importing countries cannot hope to compete with. They have used the influx of cash obtained through these sales to purchase enormous quantities of American debt bonds, creating a closed circuit wherein America gives China the money China uses to buy American debt.

As China’s economic might has grown, however, it has refused to open its markets to Western goods, has kept its currency artificially low (to make Chinese exports even stronger) and has shamelessly appropriated Western patents and other forms of intellectual property for its own domestic use while paying little or no compensation. Even while it has sought to join Western-oriented organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the Group of 20 leading nations, it has refused to play by the same rules that effectively govern trade in North America, Europe and the rest of the developed world.

It’s not hard to see why. For two decades now, the citizens of the West have been partaking in a debt-fueled orgy of spending, and only a country with pockets as deep as China could possibly loan them enough money to keep the party going. Western diplomats might have made noises about China’s unbalanced trading practices, but there was no incentive for them to rock the boat. Now that the financial crisis of 2008 has brought the party to a close, the West is shaking off its fiscal hangover only to notice that not only has China bought up enormous quantities of American debt, it has also turned itself into a manufacturing giant and helped itself to enough Western know-how to be rapidly narrowing the technology gap. One can criticize the Chinese actions while still admiring their cunning. The West lent them the money they needed to compete with us on more equal terms.

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  • aspacia

    China, and other actors, are calling for an end to the dollar as the world currency, If you think prices for commodities is high now, just wait.

    • sky

      theprovocateurnetwork video american dream, type in endfinancialfraud.orgsound money

  • Gamaliel Isaac

    China does not depend on the American economy. What do we produce that they want debt? We can blame China for stealing our patents but we can't blame them for our debt, that we only have ourselves to blame.

    • scum

      Uh, to whom do they sell China crap if the American empire crumbles completely?

      • crackerjack

        India, Russia, Europe, Australia, Brasil, Africa, Canada with still loads of crap left to go for the domestic crap consumption.

    • hijinx60

      I heard a comment today on FOX that made perfect sense. Someone said that if you owe the bank a dollar then the bank owns you until it is repaid, But, if you owe the bank a billion dollars then you own the bank because they are counting on you to repay it and if you don't, they go bankrupt. If this logic is correct, then China needs us much more than we need China.

  • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

    "Bring our troops home" they scream, and if these comrades get their way like they did to help their Internationalist comrades in Vietnam, Communist China and Communist Russia will fill the void in the Middle East with the help of their friends in Iran!

    I say "Bring our JOBS home!" China is making everything and some of those shoddy goods are poisoning our children, pets, and now homes contain poisonous dry wall. What else is being poisoned ON PURPOSE?

    So the only solution is to bring our factories back to the U.S. and our hemisphere like in Mexico, Central America, and Haiti. If they have jobs there, maybe they won't come here! Also, isn't it cheaper and easier to ship goods across the Rio Grande than it is to ship the goods across the Pacific? TO H*** WITH COMMUNIST CHINA!

    • scum

      Interesting point, Steve, but you're barking up the wrong tree. The vast majority of American CEO's that have shipped your jobs overseas are on your side. Maybe it's time you took a real look at what's going on.

  • Wesley69

    Replacing the revolutionary rhetoric of Mao, Deng Xiaoping and Communist rulers after him, set China on course toward what could be a CHINESE CENTURY.

    China is positioning itself to be the Middle Kingdom surrounded by tributary countries. Using State Capitalism coupled with its Authoritarian government, it has used its abundance of cheap labor to undercut competitors, including the US, while improving the standard of living for many Chinese on the road to the world's industrial powerhouse. With its money, China is modernizing its military, its infrastructure, its industry. Though it lacks things such as oil, China is outbidding the US for valuable mineral rights from Africa to South America.

    And while the Obama Administration sleeps, the Chinese power increases. The US don’t see eye to eye with China over Iran, Sudan. A source of tension is Taiwan, which China has claimed since 1949. As its military grows and with the development of such weapons as the carrier-killing missile, China will seek eventual reunification of the island with China. Short of a nuclear war, there may be nothing the US can do to stop it, except to manage the transition as exemplified by the British leaving Hong Kong.. Such an event would alter the balance of power in Asia. Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, while wary of China, may have to rethink their strategy in view of an inevitable US retreat. It could possibly lead to South Korea with Chinese approval, reuniting with the North under a free, but demilitarized nation.

    Considering our level of debt to the Chinese, our leverage is weak. We can't demand that they revalue their currency, improve their human rights record, pressure the North Koreans or Iran about their nuclear programs. The best thing the US can do it to get its own economic house in order and reevaluate our military strategy. It may involve a strategic retreat in some areas, while establishing a firm alliance with Japan, Australia and

    • Steve Chavez

      What if a crisis, like in North Korea or in Taiwan, takes place and we cut off imports and boycott China and now all that "cheap labor" that raised their "standard of living" revolt? Billions is being spent on moderization and if that comes to a grinding halt, what will happen to the workers who are somewhat Westernized, since they make products that they now buy but all of a sudden, there is no job and no money to buy?

      They're more afraid of that just like they are afraid of a war in North Korea that will certainly bring millions of refugees to China. We'll see then the great humanitarians they really are!

      • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

        If our government gets out of line the chinses will just puit in a new government and understand one fact the little chinese guy have nothing against mass death of all americans, but also understand within 10 years the chinses will just take south korea and taiwan and will own little japan in 15 years after that it will move its population into the USA And will own this place and many others by using the weapon of population, end game over. last thing, to undestand how a weapon like population is used just look at Canada and its west coast and the USA Or England/united kingdom.

      • Wesley69

        Problem is, many of the things we use to make, the Chinese make it now. A military conflict would be bloody and achieve little. China's government does have to worry about its population, but if it needs to cut down a couple of million, they have no problem doing it. There is a worry that the military is wanting to flex its muscle in China. So the question is, how much control does President Hu have over the military? As for refugees from North Korea over a possible war, the Chinese will seal the border, better than we will. Economically, it is in their interest to keep the trade going. They continue to loan us money and we can't stop borrowing it. Tough times are ahead regardless.

  • BLJ

    I have never trusted the Chinese Communists. Their goal is not just to be the dominant Pacific power, but also the world. Their top military people have stated this goal.

    Obama is the perfect tool for them. He is a marxist and probably admires Mao as well.
    I have zero confidence in his ability or desire to stand up to them.

    The Chinese are also investing heavily in nanotechnolgy to make their military more powerful. They are the greatest threat to the U.S. and the West.

  • MES

    If I remember my history correctly, I believe that Lenin said that the Capitalists would sell the rope to hang themselves with. When the west outsourced all the manufacturing jobs, they started borrowing to buy all these new cheaper goods. Now the west, especially the US is in a bind. This is the result of GREED, people. You have no one to blame but yourselves, when your competitors start squeezing. Until there is a change in mentality and manufacturing starts again in the US and the West, we can expect more of the same from China and our other competitors. Remember they are not our friends but competitors. They will bleed us dry to further their economic and strategic needs.

    • scum

      MES speaks truth. While FPM is continually deflecting blame in all directions, the plutocrats who are sinking the ship here have shipped your jobs overseas. It's about time Glazov or Horowitz or someone else starts to pay attention.

  • USMCSniper

    In 2005, Gen. Chi Haotian of China, its “minister of national defense” since 1993 to 2003, revealed in his speeches that in China’s war on the United States, from one-third to two-thirds of Americans would be poisoned or infected biologically by the Chinese, and their homes and property would be transferred over to Chinese settlers, since the Chinese (and not the Germans, as Chi stipulated in his speech) are the superior race and must have everything best in the world. Anyway, a slave state (China) has this advantage over a free country (the United States): it can reward (enrich!) 100 million or 200 million of its troops and its civilians with what those killed (poisoned and infected) Americans and their ancestors had been acquiring for the past two-and-a-half centuries.

    • USMCSniper

      In addition Whittington states: China continues to pursue confrontational policies dating from the early 1950s, when our troops directly engaged in Korea. China's senior military leaders periodically threaten the use of nuclear weapons, and intentionally downed an American P-3C and incarcerated its air crew off Hainan Island in 2001. More recent tests of anti-satellite and anti-ship missiles present an eerie backdrop to the recent public displays of an advanced air fighter aircraft equivalent to the cancelled F-22 and ongoing aid to North Korea. The U.S. decision to field cheaper and less capable single-engine F-35s while canceling production of highly maneuverable and supremely capable twin-engine F-22s looks increasingly suspect in light of new awareness of China's moves. With F-22 production tooling gone–and probably running into the tens of billions of dollars to restore–and no follow-on new generation air superiority in the works, the U.S. continues to bet on a military aimed at counter-insurgencies and low-level "Wars We Have." Naval modernization is another area in which recent budgets fall short of the evolving mark, which must eventually focus on China and Russia and not on the tunnel-vision tied to Afghanistan nation building.

  • crackerjack

    China seems to be developing a new model. Capitalism serving the national state in contrary to the present Western model, where the national state has come to serve Capitalism. This new approach and its imitation by the 3rd World nations may become a far greater challenge to Western global dominance than the debt issue.

  • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    Our boys not the Chinses are making the deal to take us all into a Third World hell, the china boys will do all the work and our boys will make billions, understand one fact our boys in our banking system own the world for now, but soon the China boys will own our system and just look at the real China with 10 percent well to do, and 90 percent living on one dollar a day that is our future and our hell.
    Have fear and understand when you start to see Chinses guys winning elections inside the FORMER USA Run-away.

  • jemc50

    Regardless of how they smile and shake hands, the Chinese government is still Communist. And, the anti-thesis of freedom and liberty. The government of China is like a crocodile. It smiles at you, but you don't really know what it is thinking. It hides sharp teeth behind the smile.

  • okrahead

    Official White House Tapes of Meeting Between Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao
    19 January 2011
    Commence 09:15:09 EST

    POTUS: Mr. President, allow me take this opportunity to extend the warmest possible welcome on behalf of the American people, I hope that this meeting can be productive and mutually……

    POPRC: Lower!

    POTUS: Ummm, excuse me?

    POPRC: If you are going to bow like that, do it right! Bow lower!

    POTUS: Oh, okay, sorry, didn't realize I was doing it wrong. Is this better?

    POPRC: Lower! And why you look at me like that, barbarian?

    POTUS: Ummm, okay, I guess I can get a little lower? But aren't you supposed to make eye contact when you bow? I mean, that's how it was in the first Karate Kid movie and all that….

    POPRC: Shut up! Bow lower! Can't you do anything right? All I want to see is back of your head! Okay, I guess that best you can do, stupid barbarian dog. Now let's get down to business.

    POTUS: Um, okay, sure, yeah. Listen, I think we need to talk about this whole currency business. Some of my folks over at treasury….

    POPRC: Shut up! What for you try to tell me about currency? You think currency is magic American credit card you just spend whatever you want and bill never comes due! Why you think you can talk to me about currency, you greedy capitalist pig-dog! I tell you, you no tell me! You understand that… Read the rest here… http://beautifulletters-bls.blogspot.com/2011/01/

  • Jim

    Accuse China of unfair trade practices in a US court. Find them Guilty. And give them a fine for the amount we owe them. No cash need trade hands and all debts and fines are discharged.

    No one else need worry about America defaulting as they must all practice fair trade don' tyou think.?

  • Arngrímur Stefánsson

    The Chinese will be a major threat in the coming future, of that is no doubt. Yet, as stated above in a comment, Chi Haotian's threat of biological and chemical warfare are probably null and void, since i do belief that the USA and their European allies are capable of producing more, and deadlier poisons than the Chinese. The Chinese strenght are after all, their population and incredibly efficient governing strategy, not their technology. Why waste it on a gamble that could end up in having the Chinese population decimated by biological weapons?

    As wikileaks has revealed, there was a major scare in high places in the US when the Chinese proved that they are capable of destroying satellites with miniscule effort, therefore beeing able to knock out the a big portion of the wests technological advantage.

    Yet, China is facing a crisis nonetheless, as it is home to many nationalities, but controlled by the Han Chinese. Of course, white genocide continues against most of the non-Han chinese by settlements, intermarrying and, in extreme cases, violence. Recent riots and terrorist attacks in North-Western China, former Sinkiang, proves this. There is also the Tibet problem, but buddists are for some reason, far less likely to fight back violently than the Islamic minorities in China.

    It remains to be seen if China can hold it's huge nation together, after all, modern China is barely 50 years old, when it regained the territory that the Qing dynasty held at the end of the 19th Century. The last territory was of course, Tibet. The only remaining, is Taiwan. It's almost been forgotten by many, but the Chinese territorial claims on Taiwan are much much more than empty threats.

    Taiwan is, after all, the only remaining part of the old Nationalist China, the Kuomintang. A bastion of Anti-Communist Chinese and a direct insult at the communist leaders in Beijing. A place where Chiang Kai-Shek retreated(with all the Chinese gold reserves) when the Nationalists lost the war for mainland China. A fact often forgotten, is that the full name of Taiwan is actually The Republic of China, contrary to China which is the ,,Peoples'' Republic of China. Will China try to annex Taiwan in the coming future? Yes. Will it lead to war? That remains to be seen.

    Remarkable that only 110 years earlier, eight nations sent expenditionary forces to quell the Boxers rebellion of China, today, same nations would take that as a gods gift if China fell to an traditionalists/isolationalists rebellion.

    • Wesley69

      Taiwan will be China's next target. The Obama adminstration presents it with a unique opportunity. A weak leader with questionable resolve. Can we pull it off without going to war????

      China claims an incident occurred between it and Taiwan. It quickly ratchets up the war of words and moblizes its forces. If US ships appear, China threatens the US, telling it not to get involved. Secretly, it offers talks to the US. The US accepts. China presents its demand – Taiwan is to be reunited with China, but it will be a special administrative zone similar to Hong Kong with similar freedoms. The US agrees and says to Taiwan, accept it because if you don't we're not lifting a finger to help you. The crisis ends. The balance of power shifts in Asia. Obama is the new Neville Chamberlain. When people research appeasement, Obama's name will be at the top of the list.

  • CharlesWhite

    China's raise was a direct result of Western greed and power hungry political ego maniacs! None of which is new (Greed and lust for Power) or is it cunning to use. The greedy and power hungry maniacs (Repub’s and Demoncrats) sold the entire shop to the Chinese! H_LL G.E. (Major 0bama backer) is selling our finest jet engines to the Chinese right now! Now the J20 is bigger and faster then our own stuff…

    • Wesley69

      I keep coming back to Obama and his relationship with Rev. Wright. Wright wanted to see the US punished for its many sins against blacks, indians, other nationalities. Allowing China to get the best of our technology, refusing to build the next generation fighter, are these moves deliberate on the part of Obama? He sat in Wright's church for 20 years.