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Long Read of the Day: How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China

BY David P. Goldman — Columnist, Asia Times

China is a phenomenon unlike anything in economic history. The average Chinese consumes 17 times more today than in 1987. This is like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle or between indoor plumbing and an outhouse. In an incredibly short period of time, this formerly backward country has lifted itself into the very first rank of world economies.

Over the same period, China has moved approximately 600 million people from the countryside to the cities—the equivalent of moving the entire population of Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. To accommodate those people, it built the equivalent of a new London, plus a new Berlin, Rome, Glasgow, Helsinki, Naples, and Lyons. And of course, moving people whose ancestors spent millennia in the monotony of traditional village life and bringing them into the industrial world led to an explosion of productivity.

Where does America stand in respect to China? By a measure economists call purchasing power parity, you can buy a lot more with $100 in China than you can in the United States. Adjusted for that measure, the Chinese economy is already bigger than ours. In terms of dollars, our economy is still bigger. But the Chinese are gaining on us, and in the next eight to ten years their economy—unlike the economies of our previous competitors—will catch up.

China, on the other hand, is an empire based on the coercion of unwilling people. Whereas the United States became a great nation populated by people who chose to be part of it, China conquered peoples of different ethnicities and with different languages and has kept them together by force. Whereas our principle is E Pluribus Unum, the Chinese reality is E Pluribus Pluribus with a dictator at the top.

China once covered a relatively small geographic area. It took about 1,500 years for it to reach its current borders in the ninth century. These borders are natural frontiers. China can’t expand over the Himalayas to India, while to its extreme west is desert and to its east is the ocean. So China is not an inherently expansionist power.

Nor is China unified. It has a written system of several thousand characters that takes seven years of elementary education to learn, working four hours a day with an ink brush, ink pot, and paper. Learning these characters well enough to read a school textbook or a newspaper is how the Chinese are socialized. The current generation is the first where the majority of Chinese understand the common language, due to the centralization of the state and the mass media. But the Chinese still speak very different languages. Cantonese and Mandarin are as different as Finnish and French. In Hong Kong, you’ll see two Chinese screaming at each other in broken English because one speaks Mandarin and the other speaks Cantonese and they don’t have a word in common.

China is inherently unstable because all that holds it together is an imperial culture and the tax collector in Beijing. It is like a collection of very powerful, oppositely charged magnets held together by super glue—it looks stable, but it isn’t.

RTWT @ How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China  

Narrator translation:

– How dutiful are China’s daughters, discarding fashion for uniform.
– This formation, composed of the Capital Women’s Militia is a dazzling spotlight of the parade.
– Among this formation are civil servants, entrepreneurs, social youths and university students.
– With their vigorous energy, they showcase the Capital Women’s Militia’s lustrous splendour.
– With their fiery youth, they illustrate their love and loyalty for the motherland.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper April 9, 2018, 9:41 AM

    No charge for the editing.

    “The US is inherently unstable because all that holds it together is an global terrorist culture and the tax collector in DC.”

    Many people won’t believe this until it is gone.

  • Donald Sensing April 9, 2018, 11:04 AM

    ghostsniper, that was not the case for the first 180-190 years, but you are right – it is the case now.

  • Donald Sensing April 9, 2018, 11:05 AM

    I do not understand the love of goosestepping by totalitarian regimes.

  • pbird April 9, 2018, 11:07 AM

    Its a show of power, the unison goosepooping.

  • Eskyman April 9, 2018, 12:46 PM

    Once I saw a short video showing marching Chinese (or maybe Korean) military women, much like this one- but it featured a photographer laying on the ground near the women. He was apparently filming upskirt video as they marched past him! (OK, who said, “Nice work if you can get it,” we’re keeping an eye on you!)

    It was a most peculiar video, and I wondered who he was filming for; I doubt the women themselves were happy about it, though of course their expressions didn’t show anything (and no, I never saw the actual video that photographer was filming.)

    We live in very strange times!

  • ghostsniper April 9, 2018, 1:47 PM

    @Donald Sensing, Agreed. I was born in the wrong century.

  • GoneWithTheWind April 9, 2018, 2:26 PM

    I don’t trust China. I worry about their long term goals and even more about their short term goals. I am quite old now but I still expect to see China use massive force in my lifetime. Probably to retake Taiwan. I suspect they have their eyes on Australia and New Zealand. Two very large countries with very small populations; exactly what China needs. Between high tech weaponry and massive manpower China is unstoppable if they decide to make their move. They have built massive hardened underground facilities to allow them to survive a nuclear war. We do not even have so much as a fall out shelter for Americans (perhaps some for our politicians and a few generals).

    What worries me is simply that I think if you do not worry about the massively terrible effects of a world war in the 21st century that it would be surprisingly easy to execute and win it. First destroy our Navy, Army and Air Force in one massive first strike. Then ship a couple million Chinese military to our mainland to mop up what is left. The fact that our population is heavily armed is problematic but perhaps there is a way to first take our weapons from us without a fight…

  • Quent April 9, 2018, 7:32 PM

    As far as the Chinese military is concerned, these women are mascots, nothing more. The new Chinese dictator obviously likes the old style Maoist mass displays.

  • Ann K. April 10, 2018, 7:38 AM

    I had the chance to ask a retired spy, who once oversaw operations in Latin America and later Moscow and now is with the Bush School at Texas A&M, what kept him up at night, and without hesitation, he said China. We are living in interesting times!

  • james wilson April 10, 2018, 10:59 AM

    America lost it’s way so long ago we don’t even know what the way was. As the Chinese see us for what we increasingly are they become exited by the prospect of economic conquests, which are more powerful and final than military conquests. They will have Africa to run, and eventually Latin America. No need for war, and every need not to. Never interrupt our enemy when he is making a mistake, said the little fat man. In this case war is an interruption. We’re doing just fine at taking ourselves apart.
    The Chinese weakness is that they cannot see themselves for what they are. Who can? More especially when they are giddy with anticipation. But the limitations of the Chinese are, well, epochal. All things considered, the Chinese may be the enemy we need. I have no confidence in many of our friends.

  • John Venlet April 10, 2018, 11:42 AM

    Goldman’s piece rightly notes the many possible challenges the U.S. could face from China, which is all well and good. If we are to have government, and it’s utopian foolishness to think that we will not have government, it is the government’s purpose, its job actually, to protect our country from military threats, in this case the possibility of military threat from China. Personally, I am more concerned with the rottenness of our current U.S. government, and the enemies within our U.S. government, both R and Ds, whom are continually attacking us, and day by day gaining more ground in destroying the freedoms the United States was founded upon. I fear more that our own house’s disorder, a type of anarchy from above as Chesterton termed it in Eugenics and Other Evils, will precipitate this nation’s fall than the Chinese showing up in California.

  • ghostsniper April 10, 2018, 1:56 PM

    You are right John.

    I cannot see the enemy at 9,000 miles away as the enemy close at hand blocks the view.

    No one in any foreign country has ever harmed me but this rotten assed gov’t has cost me severely and massively several times specifically, and all of my life continuously.

    There are thousands of people walking this country right now that have full authority to destroy anyone at anytime.

    This is worse than anarchy.

    Anarchy is simply “the absence of governance”, but what we have now is the exploitation of criminality and the malfeasance of tyrannical government.

    I have no problem governing myself, and have thousands of references as proof.

  • ErisGuy April 11, 2018, 5:34 AM

    I’d feel better about Goldman’s observations & predictions if he’d been right more often in the past; e.g., about Iran.