An alarming reminder of China’s growing power unrestrained by any normal moral limits.
Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama Is Hastening America’s
Decline and Ushering a Century of Chinese Domination
By Brett M. Decker and William C. Triplett II
(Regnery Publishing, 231 pages, $27.95)
Most Americans—even those who barely ever read a newspaper—are by now well aware of China’s astonishing rise to global great power status over the past four decades, of that country’s phenomenal wealth and its propping up of the American economy through the purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds. You would have to have lived since 1980 in a New Mexican rock hideaway not to have become aware of America’s soaring trade deficit with China or to know that the People’s Republic of China, no thanks to its Communist founder Mao Zedong, now probably boasts more billionaires than there are registered Republicans living in the South Bronx. A growing number of Americans have also learned that China is fast emerging as a military superpower, with a military about twice the size of America’s, naval cruise missiles specifically designed to kill U.S. carriers, and an amorphous mob of semi-military computer hackers who routinely take down U.S. government websites.
What few Americans understand, however, is that China is not merely a friendly economic rival to the U.S., but a nation-state specifically aspiring to gain global primacy over the U.S. and, in many areas of contention with America, competing ruthlessly for national advantage. China, to judge by innumerable official Chinese policy articles in books and the Chinese media, doesn’t want simply to emulate American success in the global arena. It wants to obliterate America’s ability to compete with China in economics, military affairs, and the “soft power” of international propaganda.
In the past decade, a few books have warned America of the “Chinese threat,” from Steven Mosher’s Hegemon to Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz’s The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America. Other titles like Martin Jacques’ more recent When China Rules the World take a sobering look at what kind of global hegemon China might be if most of its national aspirations came to pass: not a pretty one, and certainly not with the relatively benign Anglo-Saxon openness that characterized Britain’s imperial heyday in the 19th century and most of the American century in our own time. What Brett Decker (editorial page editor of the Washington Times) and William Triplett (former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) bring to the discussion of China’s growing strength are some alarming new examples of China’s military connections with rogue regimes around the world like North Korea and Iran, the crony capitalism guanxi (“connections”) of the country’s Communist Party “princelings,” and the constantly expanding role of Chinese “agents of influence” close to centers of power in official Washington.
The book performs a helpful role in reminding readers of the sheer nastiness of the Chinese Communist regime; torturing and beating to death dissidents, crushing religious opponents (both Christian and Tibetan Buddhist), and the underlying premise of such behavior: rule by law rather than rule of law. It also provides a dismaying reminder of how many China apologists occupy high places in the U.S. government and business communities; none being more prominent or more shamelessly exculpatory of Beijing’s political repression than former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger.
It seems impossibly long ago now that American optimists in the 1980s were trotting out the lazy cliché that growing Chinese middle class prosperity would soon enough force the Communist Party to concede power to some sort of multi-party democratic governance. After all, went the argument, South Korea and Taiwan were at one point rather thuggish one-party regimes, but their growing integration into the global economy and global culture eventually forced them to ditch their dictatorships and launch forth into parliamentary democracy. Surely, the argument continued, middle class economic pressures inside China would soon enough force the Communist Party to make compromises in favor of true democracy.
What the authors of Bowing to Beijing show, however, is that precisely the opposite has happened in China. The Chinese Communist Party has actually strengthened its hold on power by rewarding loyal supporters, especially at the top of China’s business tree, with fabulous financial advantages over merely “ordinary” Chinese entrepreneurs. China’s capitalist class is the strongest bulwark of the Communist state, say the authors. They add, “it’s likely that China will continue to become richer without becoming freer.” What is rather frightening about this observation is how closely it mirrors the pattern of Nazi Germany. As German capitalists benefited from Hitler’s crusade to revive the German national spirit, so they helped reinforce the tyranny of the S.S. and the Gestapo.
The title of the book is derived from the now infamous photograph of President Obama bowing, like a British schoolboy to the Queen of England, during an early meeting with President Hu Jintao. Indeed a sub-theme of the book is the alleged tendency of the Obama administration to bend over (in most cases backward) both to placate Beijing and to downplay any fears that China might already be posing a significant threat to American interests and freedom. In one of their more telling anecdotes, the authors describe the dismay with which many senior American intelligence analysts responded to the Obama administration’s decision to remove China from the “Priority One” category that it shared with countries like Iran and North Korea to “Priority Two,” a category that placed China as an issue alongside humanitarian problems like the earthquake in Haiti. The authors remind readers of the more than 60 examples of Americans indicted for spying for China during the merely three-year period 2008 to 2011, the 128,000 Chinese students studying at American universities and completely overwhelming FBI abilities to keep track of their activities, and rather unpleasant cases of Chinese “agents of influence” in the U.S. like the Sanya Group, a cozy club of retired former American and Chinese military officers. American members of the Sanya group have been known to attempt to delay the release of congressionally mandated Pentagon reports of Chinese military power.
BOWING TO BEJING is certainly an alarming reminder of China’s growing power unrestrained by any normal moral limits. It also reveals that far too many Americans have succumbed to the financial inducements of China’s growing “soft power”; for example, the Confucian Institutes being set up at a number of American universities. Nominally institutions that make available to American students knowledge of Chinese language and traditional culture, the Confucian institutes also function as convenient propaganda establishments distracting American academics from paying too close attention to the ugly side of Chinese Communist rule: the suppression of dissent, the torture, and the constant lying about the realities of Chinese life.
The overall gloomy picture that emerges from Bowing to Beijing, however, may not be the last word on China. There are many brittle weak points in China’s burgeoning economy. Even the vaunted political stability enforced by the Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army, and the Public Security Bureau may not be impermeable. Thousands of annual domestic protest demonstrations against corruption and injustice could yet get out of hand, leading to a serious erosion of China’s great power status, if not a fundamental political realignment of Chinese politics.
Finally, and not least important, arguably the most important cultural story in the modern world is the steady Christianization of China: the demand for morality and accountability and honesty in national life. China in the historical past has sometimes demonstrated commendable unity and civilized decency. It would be a rash prophet who completely ruled out a possible return to those standards. In that sense, it would be pleasant if some of the worst fears about China of Decker and Triplett did not come to pass.
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