ARCHIVE - MARCH 2018
Issues, News & Views
CHINA - AN ENEMY?
2018/03/27 - The great hope of the foreign relations establishment group-think is that the best way to transform an autocratic world power into a liberal democracy is by what was once called "détente", by engaging with them in peaceful coexistence - trade, diplomacy, cultural exchanges, sports, and any other relationship-building experience folks can dream up.
The truth is that we have no examples of this peaceful coexistence transformation-by-engagement détente model ever actually working. Nazi Germany was overcome by militarily defeating them. Imperial Japan was defeated by nuking them. The threat posed by the Soviet Union was overcome only when Reagan gave up on detente and explicitly and aggressively sought to economically overwhelm them.
The lesson is this: we topple enemy regimes by toppling them; we strengthen enemy regimes by cooperating with them. Seriously. This should seem intuitive, axiomatic, yet it is a lesson that the really smart people in our State Department never seem to learn, as if something so obvious was something that even needed to be learned.
Ignoring the looming threat of and trying to get along with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan turned to be a bad idea. It is good to "give peace a chance", and maybe even a few more chances, but how many chances? When is the right time to give war a chance? In the 1930's the Europeans gave peace a few too many chances.
In the early 1970's when the idea and use of the term of détente was in vogue, President Nixon decided to reach out to Communist China. The visit was important for many reasons, not the least of which was that it ended 23 years of silence between the two countries. Not only did the visit drive a diplomatic wedge between the Soviet Union and China, it set the Chinese nation on a path to modernization and the Chinese state on a path to maturation.
The timing of Nixon's visit was good as well. It gave a tailwind to reformers who were more inclined to cooperate with the United States, and when the tyrant Mao Zedong died in 1976, it created the opportunity for the moderate Deng Xiaoping to eventually maneuver his way to the top leadership position.
A brief note on Mao for those not aware: he is probably responsible for the deaths of more people than anyone else in human history, ever. Ever. Even Hitler was a 3rd Rate killer clocking in at only 20 million or so corpses, while Stalin was a distant second, bagging the silver medal at about 25 million deaths. Estimates for Mao are in the 50-75 million range. At least Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's 3rd Reich are no longer with us; unfortunately, Mao's Communist Party of China still rules the People's Republic of China.
The once denounced and purged Deng introduced many reforms both economic and political. One of the reforms introduced in the 1982 amendments to the Constitution was term limits for the leader: two five-year terms for the president, that's it. Along with the idea of an orderly, non-violent, non-retributional transfer of power. Deng's design was intended to assure that there would not be another Mao.
After Deng resigned his positions, he was replaced in turn by Jiang Zimin (1993-2003), Hu Jintau (2003-2013) and now, unfortunately, Xi Jinping (since 2013).
We say "unfortunately" because we worry that Xi may be heading not up the path of the moderate reformer Deng, but down the path of that dangerous dictator who preceded him, Chairman Mao. Xi is like Mao in direction but far worse in magnitude. Unlike Mao, Xi is not a peasant leading a backward, starving, poverty-stricken nation, but an ambitious leader of a technologically advanced, economically empowered, militarily potent nation embracing its "manifest destiny" of a Chinese Century.
When you see the title "President-for-Life" it's pretty hard not to think of really bad people, the worst dictators who lead the worst regimes, responsible for inflicting mass casualties on its own people. And simultaneously, it's difficult to name many, if any, Presidents-for-Life who were good leaders, who respected individual rights, who lead nations that were good global citizens.
So this winter we watched with dismay and foreboding regarding the constitutional changes that occurred in China. In February a proposal was brought forth to eliminate the constitutional term limits on the office of the President that were ushered in by Deng's reforms.
On February 25, at the National People's Congress, at the start of Xi's second term, a proposal was brought forward to eliminate China's presidential two-term limit. On March 11, the vote was held and it passed 2,958 to 2, the kind of result to be expected from totalitarians, from fake Communist elections.
People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping is now President-for-Life. Get used to that name, he's only 64, he'll be around for a few decades probably. Or you can call him Mao II.
As we said, President-For-Life is almost always a bad thing, and almost as often, a very, very bad thing. They say "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". We can only wonder what direction Xi might embark upon with his newfound strength and power.
Can we make any inferences as to Xi's ambitions? It's always hard to tell. When a third of Germans voted for Hitler in 1932 did they know he would launch World War 2 in just seven years? Of course not. It's annoying, or course, to compare everyone and everything to Hitler, but on the other hand, how else do we learn and apply the lessons? The lessons are worth learning and remembering.
Hitler maneuvered his way to appointment as Chancellor by early 1933. In February civil liberties were suspended by the Reichstag Fire Decree. And March brought us the Enabling Act which gave us Hitler as a president-for-life of Germany. Just like 85 years later, February and March would give us Xi as President-for-Life of China.
So whither Xi? What can we infer? One thing we know is that individualism and freedom are enemies of an autocrat. Free peoples demand accountability from their leaders, and thus must have the right to dispose of failing leaders and choose new leaders.
A president-for-life is an autocrat, since by definition he is not accountable. He does what he chooses, for well or for ill. Whether he is competent or not, benevolent or not, empathetic or not, is irrelevant; he is still an autocrat.
A President-for-Life is the enemy of free peoples, and free peoples are the natural enemies of autocrats. The autocrat knows this and needs to suppress freedom. The people cannot be free, it is necessary to suppress their freedoms and oppress them. And this is what Xi has done, already.
Early in his presidency, in 2014, Xi launched the Societal Credit program. The basic idea is that everything that anyone says or does is tracked, and people are scored, on the basis of whether it is deemed beneficial - however that may defined - to society.
This program is not, in theory, unlike our consumer credit scoring system in the United States and elsewhere. Our credit scoring industry is a competitive business with three major players (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) competing against each other to supply the best consumer creditworthiness information to lenders, with the government acting as referee to ensure that the rules are followed by the competitors.
Xi's Societal Credit system starts with the same basic concept, and on the surface its objective might not sound so bad. The idea of incentivizing constructive behavior sounds pretty good. And when initially rolled out, the program gave awards to good citizens, which of course helped the program to be received with at least some positive reaction.
But you can also see how this can go horribly wrong. First of all, the government - for all intents and purposes the Communist Party of China (CPC) - is both the player and the referee. There are no competitive pressures. The government writes the rules for its benefit, and enforces the rules for its benefit. The Party gets what the Party wants.
And it goes well beyond credit scoring. It scores many other aspects of life as diverse as driving records and even parking tickets, and social media interaction. And it can go far beyond that. More and more sensors - such as but not limited closed circuit cameras - using biometrics and facial recognition to monitor who is where and doing what.
Can it really get that bad? Well not exactly, since it actually is that bad already. The South China Morning Post reports that jaywalkers are under surveillance in Shenzhen, a provincial town of a mere twelve million people. A project involving artificial intelligence, closed circuit cameras, facial recognition, social media platforms and cell phone carriers will identify jaywalkers and notify them of their fine via text message - in real time!
Good cases can be made both in support of and opposition to jaywalking, but jaywalking isn't our point. Our point is that an incredibly efficient, effective, persistent and pervasive automated system is being created for the purpose of controlling any aspect of human's behavior and bending society to the benefit of its rulers - the totalitarian autocratic Communist Party of China and President Xi.
Eventually every action of every person will be tracked and scored but even now we are already seeing outcomes. For example, people with low scores are being blocked from purchasing higher level train and plane tickets. It's already happening.
Again, some folks may think that issuing tickets to miscreants for jaywalking, or not issuing first class airline tickets to said miscreants is not such a bad thing. But of course it won't end there. It never does.
The Communist Party will be able to monitor every one of China's people in real time and compile a data cache on each person. It will be able to recognize emerging internal threats and eliminate its enemies before any harm is done.
Since, ultimately, it is the autocrat Xi who defines what is beneficial to the Party, you can guess that speaking negatively about Xi will harm your score. So forget about anything like the freedoms in our Constitution. To the extent there was any hope of liberalization in China, you can kiss that good bye.
Or consider this: Xinhua openly admits that since Xi came to power in 2013 more than 3,000 Chinese have been repatriated from foreign lands and rendered back to the homeland. Apparently Xi felt those hapless souls were in need of some administrative procedures. They call it rescue. We would call it abduction, kidnapping. And there is growing concern in the US intelligence community that PRC agents are now actively rendering lawful US residents back to China.
Xi has recently made comments about "opening up" but that is just propaganda for the consumption of our brain-dead western media. The Communist Party is tightening its grip, not relaxing it.
Xi's Societal Credit system is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and by then their goal of a dystopian 1984-style society will have been achieved. The Party - specifically Xi - will be able to exert full and absolute control over the people to the extent that it chooses to. And of course, it will.
What then? Well, probably war, eventually, or maybe sooner.
A sense of loss of freedom is accompanied by a feeling of enslavement. Slaves don't work very hard because they are not motivated to. Even the prospect of material gain is a hollow inducement. So the Party will need an external enemy to rally the people, just like in 1984. And that enemy would be Japan. Or us. It's a pretty short list of candidates, there are only two countries on it.
Or maybe not. But as Xi inevitably exerts his growing power - you do because you can - China will become ever a more oppressive totalitarian state. And Maoist tendencies will reemerge - decline, purges, and blaming foreigners for failures caused by the Party's oppression of the people. The Party will need to find enemies or make them up, enemies both foreign and domestic.
Consider the visit of Kim Jung-Il to China. The Soviets are gone (sort of) leaving the Chinese as North Korea's main benefactor. Xi has mended his fences with Kim, and is now pushing a denuclearization-for-recognition deal between North Korea and the United States. This is a terrible deal for us that should be summarily rejected, yet Xi through the official Xinhua news agency has reiterated its support for the hideous North Korean regime.
In reality China and Russia should both be ashamed of themselves for creating, nurturing, defending and supporting North Korea. North Korea is owned and operated by a hideous regime that needs to be eliminated.
But Xi sees no shame in supporting the worst regime on earth. What else might Xi do that he won't be ashamed of? Kim is currently the worst dictator on the planet, his regime is the ugly spawn of Soviet and Chinese Communists. And truth be told the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
We are concerned about what is going on in China. Maybe we shouldn't be, but we are. We are very concerned about Xi. He is not like Deng, he is like Mao.
But make no mistake, the Chinese leadership is not particularly Marxist. They are nationalistic. They love China more than they love Marx. They are mercantilist rather than internationalist. They are more like Hitler's Nazis than Stalin's Communists, except without an obvious domestic scapegoat like the Jews. So they need a foreign scapegoat.
As Xi seeks to consolidate his power at home he will need foreign enemies to distract the citizens dissatisfied with their loss, not only of their freedoms, but worse, their loss of hope for a free future.
The Chinese population is even more nationalistic than its leadership - they love China and the idea of a Chinese Century, and couldn't care less about Marxism, Communism or Internationalism. They want a Chinese Century, they want to recapture their former status as the greatest country on earth.
There may come a point where China needs a war.
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