Forty years ago, during the final decade of the Cold War, nobody had any illusions about America being perfect. Without wallowing in the topic, we all knew our nation had ongoing social and economic problems, and that our history was filled with examples of oppression. But for most Americans, understanding the grim reality of life for people living in the Soviet Union provided clarity. It was understood that no country is perfect, and compared to the USSR, living in America was paradise.
The argument that America, by a wide margin, is the lesser of two evils, does not get the traction today that it got during the Cold War. But there is no justification for its diminished relevance. Despite alarming new challenges to the rights and freedoms of American citizens, the gap between America and its contemporary rivals, Russia and China, is as wide as it’s ever been. And in the case of China, the magnitude of the threat they now pose to American global leadership is far more than anything the USSR could have once posed.
These considerations give rise to a pair of sobering questions: First, is China an expansionist nation, committed to growing powerful enough to dominate the world and impose its vision of human rights onto all of humanity? Second, before we level well deserved criticisms on American foreign and domestic policies, shouldn’t we compare these policies to those practiced by the Chinese government? Forty years ago, those questions mattered. Today, we need to revisit these questions.
Does China Intend to Dominate the World?
China is committed to an expansionist strategy. In just the last century, an era during which Western powers were relinquishing their claims to foreign colonies, China has annexed Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. The Chinese have absorbed Hong Kong, cracking down on human rights they had pledged to uphold. They have lopped off chunks of Indian Kashmir as well as the northern portion of Indian state of Assam. The Chinese openly declare their intention to absorb the independent nation of Taiwan. They’re even claiming virtually all of the South China Sea, in defiance of every other bordering nation.
China’s expansionist tensions with neighboring nations and Borg like assimilation of the occupied nations within its borders should provide clues to how it treats all its citizens. China’s population is more than 90 percent comprised of the Han ethnic group, and they are probably the most surveilled, micromanaged population on earth. Any dissent that deviates from the collective is immediately suppressed.
One may go on endlessly about allegedly parallel encroachments on the rights of Americans to express dissent, but it isn’t remotely comparable to what Chinese people go through. The regime of Xi Jinping has turned China into the world’s biggest prison camp, with nearly 1.4 billion inmates. Law enforcement extends well beyond criminal behavior to “social behavior,” where not just what you do, but what you say, what you think, and how you worship are all strictly regulated.
China’s economic aggression is well documented and points to an unavoidable conclusion; nations that do business with China are going to be systematically robbed of their technological edge and their financial stability. According to Fortune, one in five corporations say China has stolen their intellectual property in the past year. Estimates of how much this costs the U.S. economy range as high as $600 billion per year.
China’s economic war with the United States has been unrelenting. Over the past 25 years the cumulative U.S. trade deficit with China is nearly $6 trillion. China retains some of its trade surplus with the U.S. in the form of debt, currently an estimated $1.6 trillion.
Another way China is expanding its economic reach and influence in the world is through the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a modern version of the ancient Silk Road connecting East to West. In theory this is a laudable series of infrastructure projects linking China with trading partners across Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond with a series of highways, railroads, and modernized seaports. But participating nations are realizing that Chinese investment carries a high price.
The way China intends to control the railroads and seaports being built across this new Silk Road is by using the so-called debt trap. This is a practice whereby China lends billions of dollars to an economically weaker country for them to construct infrastructure. Chinese firms then pour in materials and labor to build the project, which means the Chinese loan funds are repatriated right back into Chinese hands. Then when the debtor nation can’t afford to pay back the loan, the Chinese seize ownership of the project as collateral.
An article published by the Washington Post provides an extensive list of nations already victimized by China’s infrastructure debt trap. They include Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. Some of these projects involve debt nearly equal to the entire GDP of the host nations. In many cases, Chinese-only gated communities are constructed, sometimes entire cities, swarming with Chinese security forces.
China’s economic imperialism is also reflected in its global buying binge. Using the savings generated from their huge trade surplus, China is buying companies and real estate all over the world. The United States is one of the only nations in the world that allows foreign companies to purchase controlling interests in U.S. companies, and China has taken full advantage of that. Michele Nash-Hoff, writing for Industry Week, posed this question: “Did we let the USSR buy our companies during the Cold War? No, we didn’t! We realized that we would be helping our enemy. This was pretty simple, common sense, but we don’t seem to have this same common sense when dealing with China.”