America's Options Are Limited - And China Knows It
That increasing consumer wealth would invariably lead to less authoritarianism at home. That an economically developing China — as a new member of “the club” — would come to realize that only a gentler brand of state power would prove consistent with China’s view of capitalism-lite. (They called it “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.”)
And it worked, for a while, until the emergence of a thoroughly nationalistic strongman in the person of Xi Jinping. Suddenly, the economic liberalization campaign begun in the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping needed to be revised in favor of a quasi-capitalist but uber-authoritarian state, more like Mao 2.0. And so a new era of oppression at home and belligerence abroad began.
How belligerent, you ask?
Well, think about the savage ethnic cleansing and forced labor camps of Xinjiang province; the aggressive saber-rattling in the Taiwan Strait; the relentless suppression of basic civil rights in Hong Kong; the continuous campaign of artificial-island-building in the South China Sea; the worldwide, decades-long campaign of intellectual property theft; the horrific obstructionism surrounding the origins of the coronavirus that has now killed over four million people; and, of course, the never-ending cyber and social media campaigns aimed at any country — and anyone — that stands in the regime’s way.
To make matters worse, the Biden era has generated a new arrogance toward America to go along with the pre-existing belligerence.
How else to describe the in-your-face dressing down of our timid-to-a-fault Secretary of State Tony Blinken suffered at the initial summit with his Chinese counterpart in Anchorage, Alaska? Here, the administration’s indulgent wokeness was shoved right back at us by the same people who are currently going about the business of systemic genocide in their own country.
What to do?
Any honest appraisal would recognize how limited America’s options are at present, especially in light of the huge credibility gap left by our failed Afghan withdrawal. I would add to the problem list a military leadership seemingly more preoccupied with climate change than Chinese aggression.
And so America plods forward, hopeful that a strategic ambiguity surrounding our (and the West’s) commitment to defend Taiwan will be enough to discourage Mr. Xi’s planned “reunification.”
I wonder how many citizens of that vibrant little island feel comfortable knowing that their continued security (indeed, their very existence) is dependent on such a thin reed?
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