The Council On Foreign Relations Falls Out Of Love With China

The Council on Foreign Relations is a left-leaning entity.  As such, it has looked at China through rose-tinted glasses.  As recently as November 2014, it praised China’s complicity in helping President Obama hobble U.S. industry with a U.S.-China climate announcement, thus enabling President Obama to better sell the EPA restrictions on carbon dioxide.  It looks like the scales have fallen from their eyes now, though, with the release of a report entitled Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.  It is worth quoting from that report at length.

The report states:

…intense U.S.-China strategic competition becomes the new normal…. Because the American effort to “integrate” China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could eventually result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.

So far, so good, then this statement:

This strategy cannot be built on a bedrock of containment, as the earlier effort to limit Soviet power was, because of the current realities of globalization. 

They didn’t really mean that because they then recommend:

…creating new preferential trading arrangements among U.S. friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China.

Containment of China by exclusion is something we all can agree with.

Optimism has faded as evinced by this statement: 

Only a fundamental collapse of the Chinese state would free Washington from the obligation of systematically balancing Beijing, because even the alternative of a modest Chinese stumble would not eliminate the dangers presented to the United States in Asia and beyond. 

And: 

This conception, shared by all Chinese leaders since 1949, reflects a vision of politics that views conflict as intrinsic to the human condition. 

No more panda-hugging then?

The realpolitik continues: 

Washington’s current approach toward Beijing, one that values China’s economic and political integration in the liberal international order at the expense of the United States’ global pre-eminence and long-term strategic interests, hardly amounts to a “grand” strategy, much less an effective one. The need for a more coherent U.S. response to increasing Chinese power is long overdue.

Is this another way of saying the Chinese are racist?

More fundamentally, it requires that others accept this order as legitimate, which the historian Wang Gungwu has described as a “principle of superiority” underwriting Beijing’s “long-hallowed tradition of treating foreign countries as all alike but unequal and inferior to China.

Perhaps we are repeating ourselves, but it is worth restating: 

U.S. support for China’s entry into the global trading system has thus created the awkward situation in which Washington has contributed toward hastening Beijing’s economic growth and, by extension, accelerated its rise as a geopolitical rival.

And:

…it should not be surprising that Beijing has consciously sought to use China’s growing economic power in a choking embrace designed to prevent its Asian neighbors from challenging its geopolitical interests, including weakening the U.S. alliance system in Asia.

Now we discuss the shedding of blood, our blood: 

Beijing has embarked on a concerted modernization of the PLA with the intention to amass military power capable of both defeating local adversaries and deterring the United States from coming to their defense in a crisis.

A good, one-paragraph summary of the situation: 

The fundamental conclusion for the United States, therefore, is that China does not see its interests served by becoming just another “trading state,” no matter how constructive an outcome that might be for resolving the larger tensions between its economic and geopolitical strategies. Instead, China will continue along the path to becoming a conventional great power with the full panoply of political and military capabilities, all oriented toward realizing the goal of recovering from the United States the primacy it once enjoyed in Asia as a prelude to exerting global influence in the future.

Now come the suggestions for action, starting with:

Nothing would better promote the United States’ strategic future and grand strategy toward China than robust economic growth in the United States.

That is true but why does it have to be stated?  Shouldn’t governments being doing their best all the time to improve the economy?  Doesn’t the Council on Foreign Relations realize that President Obama has been doing whatever he can to hobble the U.S. economy?  That is why China made some vague promise about carbon dioxide in the year 2030.  They were following Napoleon’s dictum of “Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake.”  If President Obama needed to co-opt China in the hobbling of the economy, thay would have been only too happy to help.

The other recommendations worth stating are: 

Congress should remove sequestration caps and substantially increase the U.S. defense budget.

And: 

Impose costs on China that are in excess of the benefits it receives from its violations in cyberspace. A good starting point is the recommendation of the Blair-Huntsman Commission of an across-the board tariff on Chinese goods.

All-in-all, and apart from the naivety regarding carbon dioxide, this Council on Foreign Relations report is the most realistic that has come out of Washington to date. 

It was a more realistic report than the recent Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015.   One interesting statement from that report is: 

China is advancing its development and employment of UAVs. Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.

That is an average cost of $0.25 million and is credible.

Another statement in the DOD report comes back to the question of timing: 

Since 2002, China’s leaders — including current President Xi Jinping — have characterized the initial two decades of the 21st century as a “period of strategic opportunity.

That window of opportunity has five years to run.  China has developed the means, and they have the intent to attack, so what is the likely timing?  From a 40-year insider of the Washington defence establishment:

The PRC will, based on opportunity, continue on track to assert control over greater areas in the S China and E China seas, probably this year. War? Depends on the response. And depends on your definition of war. Within the PRC there is incredible debate over whether China's rise depends on confronting the US, or whether the US will just fade away, as it is now doing. The big unknown for the PRC (and everyone else) is how quickly the US could restore its credibility in a post-Obama world. My belief is that it will take a long time.

My view is that China’s economy could easily contract by 30% as their property and equities bubbles burst.  President Xi might feel compelled to act to maintain his legitimacy.  It could be anytime. 

A Chinese fort under construction in the Spratley Islands.  After seventy years, flak towers make a comeback.

David Archibald, a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance (Regnery, 2014)

The Council on Foreign Relations is a left-leaning entity.  As such, it has looked at China through rose-tinted glasses.  As recently as November 2014, it praised China’s complicity in helping President Obama hobble U.S. industry with a U.S.-China climate announcement, thus enabling President Obama to better sell the EPA restrictions on carbon dioxide.  It looks like the scales have fallen from their eyes now, though, with the release of a report entitled Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.  It is worth quoting from that report at length.

The report states:

…intense U.S.-China strategic competition becomes the new normal…. Because the American effort to “integrate” China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could eventually result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.

So far, so good, then this statement:

This strategy cannot be built on a bedrock of containment, as the earlier effort to limit Soviet power was, because of the current realities of globalization. 

They didn’t really mean that because they then recommend:

…creating new preferential trading arrangements among U.S. friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China.

Containment of China by exclusion is something we all can agree with.

Optimism has faded as evinced by this statement: 

Only a fundamental collapse of the Chinese state would free Washington from the obligation of systematically balancing Beijing, because even the alternative of a modest Chinese stumble would not eliminate the dangers presented to the United States in Asia and beyond. 

And: 

This conception, shared by all Chinese leaders since 1949, reflects a vision of politics that views conflict as intrinsic to the human condition. 

No more panda-hugging then?

The realpolitik continues: 

Washington’s current approach toward Beijing, one that values China’s economic and political integration in the liberal international order at the expense of the United States’ global pre-eminence and long-term strategic interests, hardly amounts to a “grand” strategy, much less an effective one. The need for a more coherent U.S. response to increasing Chinese power is long overdue.

Is this another way of saying the Chinese are racist?

More fundamentally, it requires that others accept this order as legitimate, which the historian Wang Gungwu has described as a “principle of superiority” underwriting Beijing’s “long-hallowed tradition of treating foreign countries as all alike but unequal and inferior to China.

Perhaps we are repeating ourselves, but it is worth restating: 

U.S. support for China’s entry into the global trading system has thus created the awkward situation in which Washington has contributed toward hastening Beijing’s economic growth and, by extension, accelerated its rise as a geopolitical rival.

And:

…it should not be surprising that Beijing has consciously sought to use China’s growing economic power in a choking embrace designed to prevent its Asian neighbors from challenging its geopolitical interests, including weakening the U.S. alliance system in Asia.

Now we discuss the shedding of blood, our blood: 

Beijing has embarked on a concerted modernization of the PLA with the intention to amass military power capable of both defeating local adversaries and deterring the United States from coming to their defense in a crisis.

A good, one-paragraph summary of the situation: 

The fundamental conclusion for the United States, therefore, is that China does not see its interests served by becoming just another “trading state,” no matter how constructive an outcome that might be for resolving the larger tensions between its economic and geopolitical strategies. Instead, China will continue along the path to becoming a conventional great power with the full panoply of political and military capabilities, all oriented toward realizing the goal of recovering from the United States the primacy it once enjoyed in Asia as a prelude to exerting global influence in the future.

Now come the suggestions for action, starting with:

Nothing would better promote the United States’ strategic future and grand strategy toward China than robust economic growth in the United States.

That is true but why does it have to be stated?  Shouldn’t governments being doing their best all the time to improve the economy?  Doesn’t the Council on Foreign Relations realize that President Obama has been doing whatever he can to hobble the U.S. economy?  That is why China made some vague promise about carbon dioxide in the year 2030.  They were following Napoleon’s dictum of “Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake.”  If President Obama needed to co-opt China in the hobbling of the economy, thay would have been only too happy to help.

The other recommendations worth stating are: 

Congress should remove sequestration caps and substantially increase the U.S. defense budget.

And: 

Impose costs on China that are in excess of the benefits it receives from its violations in cyberspace. A good starting point is the recommendation of the Blair-Huntsman Commission of an across-the board tariff on Chinese goods.

All-in-all, and apart from the naivety regarding carbon dioxide, this Council on Foreign Relations report is the most realistic that has come out of Washington to date. 

It was a more realistic report than the recent Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015.   One interesting statement from that report is: 

China is advancing its development and employment of UAVs. Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.

That is an average cost of $0.25 million and is credible.

Another statement in the DOD report comes back to the question of timing: 

Since 2002, China’s leaders — including current President Xi Jinping — have characterized the initial two decades of the 21st century as a “period of strategic opportunity.

That window of opportunity has five years to run.  China has developed the means, and they have the intent to attack, so what is the likely timing?  From a 40-year insider of the Washington defence establishment:

The PRC will, based on opportunity, continue on track to assert control over greater areas in the S China and E China seas, probably this year. War? Depends on the response. And depends on your definition of war. Within the PRC there is incredible debate over whether China's rise depends on confronting the US, or whether the US will just fade away, as it is now doing. The big unknown for the PRC (and everyone else) is how quickly the US could restore its credibility in a post-Obama world. My belief is that it will take a long time.

My view is that China’s economy could easily contract by 30% as their property and equities bubbles burst.  President Xi might feel compelled to act to maintain his legitimacy.  It could be anytime. 

A Chinese fort under construction in the Spratley Islands.  After seventy years, flak towers make a comeback.

David Archibald, a visiting fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance (Regnery, 2014)