China, Foreign Policy, Security, Top Stories, World Affairs

Will There Be a New Cold War with China? A Reply to Niall Ferguson

The end of the Cold War was a heady time in the West. Francis Fukuyama’s essay “The End of History?”—which argued that the world was witnessing the “unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism”—was published in the National Interest a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. US President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were touting the possibility of a “peace dividend,” in which billions of dollars could be shifted from defense budgets to domestic projects. The number of nuclear weapons in the world dropped precipitously after peaking in the mid-1980s, and the threat of nuclear war seemed dimmer than it had been in decades.

There are countless ways in which the post-Cold War era hasn’t lived up to expectations. The global recession in the late 2000s and rising income inequality have undermined faith in open markets and democratic institutions, authoritarian demagogues have risen to power on both sides of the Atlantic, and as the novel coronavirus pandemic ravages the global economy, we could be heading for yet another recession with who-knows-what political consequences in the coming years. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, historian Niall Ferguson wants us to know that we’re also witnessing the start of another Cold War.

Ferguson argues that the post-Cold War era was merely an interregnum between Cold Wars. “When did Cold War II begin?” he asked last December. “Future historians will say it was in 2019.” Of course, this new Cold War isn’t with the Soviet Union—it’s with China. Ferguson has previously contended that the United States and China have a symbiotic and deeply interconnected economic relationship (what he and the economist Moritz Schularick labeled “Chimerica” in 2007), and he now believes the two countries are locked in a global struggle for economic and technological supremacy.

While Ferguson notes that Cold War II won’t be without its ideological and military dimensions—from tension over Chinese authoritarianism and human rights abuses to a potential naval confrontation in the South China Sea—he believes the conflict will primarily be over issues like trade and new technology such as quantum computing. He also believes this sort of Cold War might be a good thing: “If Cold War II confines itself to an economic and technological competition between two systems—one democratic, the other not—its benefits could very well outweigh its costs.” These benefits would include a research and development boom similar to the one that propelled the US economy in the 1950s and 1960s, and the sense of national solidarity that could develop from the perception that Americans have a common enemy abroad.

Ferguson argues that “there is no obvious reason Cold War II should feature nuclear brinkmanship or proxy wars.” Nor should we expect a major ideological battle: “The People’s Republic does not have the same approach to global expansionism as the Soviet Union,” he writes, adding that the “‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative—Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature overseas investment program—does not aim for world revolution.” The term “Cold War” conjures images of nuclear standoffs, guerrilla insurgencies, the hot wars in Vietnam and Korea, and many other episodes that don’t bear much resemblance to the tension between the United States and China today. But if the definition of “Cold War” is merely antagonism between two great powers—even if the nature of that antagonism is vastly different from one conflict to the next—is “Cold War” really the right term for it?

Consider the historical context in 1945 versus 2020. World War II had just come to an end and Soviet forces were positioned deep in the heart of Europe. Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany were all under Soviet control, and there was stark disagreement about what post-war Europe should look like. While Churchill and Roosevelt wanted Eastern Europe to resemble the open and democratic West, Stalin wanted governments that resembled the Soviet system. He was particularly interested in maintaining control over Poland to deter future German aggression and expand his sphere of influence.

The Soviet Union was a hostile expansionist power with satellites across Eastern Europe and client states around the world. And beyond the devastating proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam, US and Soviet forces were often in terrifyingly close proximity—it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which confrontations over Germany and Cuba, for instance, could have led to war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, an American destroyer was trying to force the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine B-59 to surface by dropping non-lethal depth charges. Believing that they were under attack, two of the submarine’s three commanders wanted to launch a nuclear missile at the US forces, but Vasili Arkhipov (whose authorization was required for the launch) refused. Arkhipov’s actions almost certainly averted the outbreak of nuclear war.

Ferguson acknowledges that the ideological confrontation with China is unlike the ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union, but it’s worth emphasizing just how different the circumstances are today. Communism was an ideology predicated on the destruction of the economic and political systems that existed in the liberal democratic West, and its adherents couldn’t just be found in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America—they could also be found in Western Europe and the United States.

In one sense, Ferguson is right that the Chinese challenge to Western liberal democracy is more serious than the one posed by the Soviet Union. China has maintained an authoritarian political system alongside a dynamic market economy and managed to deliver consistently high GDP growth for decades. Unlike the Soviet Union, this makes it a long-term economic rival to the United States—as Ferguson often points out, China’s GDP surpassed the U.S. years ago in terms of purchasing power parity. However, unlike the Soviet Union, China doesn’t seek to reshape the world in its political and economic image. Like Ferguson, Francis Fukuyama observes that China is “fundamentally different from the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century … I don’t think that they are particularly interested in exporting their model. I don’t think they think that anyone can duplicate their model anywhere else.”

Fukuyama explains that the advantages of the Chinese system—such as the ability to develop and implement policies quickly by avoiding the procedural and legal constraints that exist in a country like the US—are inextricably bound up with that system’s weaknesses. While China’s centralized, undemocratic form of government is more efficient than the checks and balances in a liberal democracy, it also leaves the country vulnerable to the “bad emperor problem.” As Fukuyama explains: “If you’ve got a good authoritarian government, you’re really doing well. But there’s absolutely nothing to guarantee that you’ll have a constant supply of good leaders.” This problem was made all the more acute when the National People’s Congress voted almost unanimously to amend the Chinese Constitution and abolish term limits for President Xi Jinping, confirming him as president for life. This won’t just lead to chaotic succession struggles in the future—it will also mean China has even less recourse if another Mao comes along.

China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to demonstrate that highly coercive centralized states are better positioned to handle massive public health crises than open and democratic societies. In a February report, World Health Organisation researchers credited China with implementing “perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history.” While this is almost certainly true, the initial Chinese response has had disastrous global consequences—a fact that can also be blamed on the authoritarian nature of the regime.

For several weeks after the virus was first discovered and reported, officials who raised the alarm were silenced, medical professionals were ordered to misrepresent and suppress information, major events still took place, and millions traveled out of Wuhan (where the disease originated). Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, explains that there was “no action in Wuhan from the local health department to alert people to the threat.” Huang has seen this before—in a 2003 paper about China’s response to the SARS outbreak, he pointed to a “fatal period of hesitation regarding information-sharing and action.” He warned that this response “raised crucial questions about the capacity and dynamics of the Chinese political structure and its ability to address future outbreaks.”

China’s botched initial response to the latest coronavirus outbreak has exposed another source of instability. After the death of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was forced to sign a statement admitting to “illegal behavior” after he tried to warn his colleagues about the danger on December 30th, there was an eruption of grief and anger with the government over how he was treated. The hashtag #WeWantFreedomOfSpeech was viewed millions of times on Weibo, while state media officials, executives, and thousands of ordinary Chinese called for reform. This was a reminder—along with the Hong Kong protests and the recent election in Taiwan—that there’s growing democratic resistance to repression from Beijing.

While there’s no doubt that China presents an alternative to liberal democracy, you aren’t going to find many Western politicians or intellectuals arguing that it’s an alternative their societies should seriously consider. Ferguson disagrees: “I am more worried by America’s enemies within, who are surely much more numerous than during the Cold War.” What internal enemies is he worried about? “Those native-born Americans whose antipathy to Trump is leading them in increasingly strange directions.” Toward Chinese-style authoritarianism, in other words.

Ferguson cites a Gallup poll that shows greater support among Democrats for socialism (57 percent) than capitalism (47 percent) and points out that “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done much to make socialism sexy on Capitol Hill.” But if antipathy to Trump is what’s driving the popularity of socialism in the United States, why did a majority of Democrats report a “positive view of socialism” to Gallup in 2016, 2012, and 2010 as well? And why does the Democratic Party look certain to nominate Joe Biden to face Trump in November rather than the socialist candidate Bernie Sanders? Those poll responses probably aren’t expressions of support for anything resembling Chinese authoritarianism—they’re more likely expressions of support for expanded public services such as paid sick and maternity leave, single-payer healthcare, and so on.

This presents another problem with discussing U.S.-China relations using Cold War rhetoric—it increases the panic and hostility that can eventually lead to phenomena like McCarthyism. Ferguson stresses the deepening concern within the U.S. government about China’s rise: “Americans have suddenly grown fearful of the growth of Chinese power. What was once the position of a few alarmists is the new orthodoxy in Washington, shared by Republicans and many Democrats, foreign policy wonks and technology nerds.” Isn’t there a risk that rhetoric about a new Cold War is contributing to the spread of that fear and orthodoxy? Ferguson has emphasized the importance of understanding the unique historical circumstances of the Cold War “before the idea of the Second Cold War gets so well established that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” As anti-China rhetoric intensifies during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s even more important to take this concern seriously.

The most terrifying and defining reality of the Cold War was the ever-present threat of nuclear war. In his 1945 essay “You and the Atom Bomb,” George Orwell discussed the idea of living in a “state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.” This was probably the first use of the term to describe the condition of perpetual conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, and Orwell’s argument was built around the implications of nuclear weapons. As Ferguson acknowledges, China is vastly “inferior to the United States in nuclear weaponry,” which is another reason to question the idea that we’re entering a new Cold War.

To many intellectuals, the idea that the United States is in the early stages of Cold War II with China is becoming conventional wisdom. Walter Russell Mead recently argued that China’s expulsion of American journalists was part of its effort to “construct a new Iron Curtain to keep the world from learning what is happening within Chinese borders.” Mead says he “hoped that common economic interests would lead both countries to avoid the kind of destructive rivalry that characterized the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War. But hope is not always enough.” The title of his article is “Beijing Escalates the New Cold War.” To Mead, the reality of a New Cold War is so obvious that it should be our starting assumption.

If you already believe Cold War II is underway, every confrontation between the United States and China—from trade disputes to recriminations over the novel coronavirus—is evidence for that interpretation. But framing the relationship between the world’s two superpowers in this way could, in fact, make the new Cold War a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The Cold War ended when one side folded,” Ferguson writes. “That will not happen in our time. The democratic and authoritarian powers can fight for three or 30 years; neither side will win a definitive victory.” Perhaps this is a reason to stop using words like “war” and “victory” in the first place.

 

Matt Johnson has written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, the BulwarkEditor & PublisherAreo MagazineArc DigitalSplice TodayForbes, and the Kansas City Star. He was formerly the opinion page editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjj89

Featured Image by Fronteiras do Pensamento (Flickr)

Comments

  1. While I don’t expect any western democracy to follow a Chinese authoritarian model, as that would require a hard boot of the whole system it’s interesting to consider what influence Chinese systems of government have already had on European models. Frederick the Great of Prussia adopted written examinations for the civil service in the 18th century, inspired by a Confucianist model, Voltaire praised it as an example of enlightenment rationality.
    An objective competitive examination system not only acts as an I.Q. filter, it radically reduces the opportunities for corrupt nepotism or influence peddling.
    The American system seems to be the usual hodge-podge wrapped in mish-mash inside a patch-work. Some federal agencies have entrance examinations but nothing goes down as far as the municipal level. The whole civil service examination system seems to have been blown up by the Carter administration with the Civil Service Reform act of 1978. I’m sure they had many reasons but this quote leapt out at me

    “[to] make the federal work force mirror the American people more closely”

    Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

    To me that looks a lot like a back door diversity initiative. You can get a lot of support if you can give your people positions on the government payroll. They are then locked into your patronage network. Classic Tammany Hall political machine stuff. That’s much more difficult to pull off if your clients have to pass an exam and are from, (here I am trying to find the correct euphemisms) “historically marginalized communities” or is it “under performing minorities” or could it be “traditionally disenfranchised ethnicity”?
    It will be interesting to see how or even if the Chinese crypto-Confucian model will be exported. I believe it will be more of an import-export model. Foreign students studying in China and Chinese corporations working overseas . Numbers are difficult to get but I have seen figures of just under half a million foreign students in China in 2018.
    Western countries spread their own modes of life through foreign students too of course, but I am of the opinion that poor students from Nigeria (for example) will do a lot better for themselves and their people by studying STEM in Shanghai than they will by studying comparative literature in Oxbridge or gender studies in The Ivy league. With the comparative price advantage there will also be a lot more of the former than the latter.

    Time will tell.

  2. I tend to agree with Ferguson’s assessment that we are at the start of a New Cold War, if one deliberately couches it within the framework of a purely technological and economic conflict. A couple of years back, you couldn’t read or watch any coverage of China, without a ubiquitous segment with a Chinese Official referencing the Thucydides Trap. But where I would tend to disagree with the evaluation, is that it underestimates the threat of a Cordell Hull style act of provocation, on the part of America, meant to pull China to the negotiating table, spectacularly backfiring.

    I also think the assessment of China’s political and economic structure is somewhat flawed, in it’s analysis. Western thinkers tend to focus too much on where power is concentrated, and not enough on how funding operates. In the West, funding and tax raising powers tend to be deliberately centralised, and it’s a huge flaw in our systems, leading to the potential for catastrophic failures. Whereas in China, perhaps following a model espoused by Nassim Taleb, of the 24% of National Wealth that the Chinese Government captures, 80% is devolved out from the centre.

    The iterative, inherently competitive process, with individual actors vying to succeed on a local or regional level, possesses a natural potential to evolve towards Meritocratic Autocracy. The biggest threat to this evolution is going to be whether institutionalised perceptions of threats to existing power structures, acts to sabotage or hobble particularly talented individuals, or draws them into nurturing patronage relationships. Only time will tell which scenario plays out. There also exists to potential for a schism between the more ideologically ‘pure’ old guard operating mostly in the interior, and the more systemically adaptive coastal entrepreneurial types.

    Where the West has always gone wrong, is assuming liberal democracy is the best formula for other cultures. It’s patently not, given that it’s failures are everywhere from the Middle East to Africa and parts of Asia. One reason why this might be the case is because we have yet to see the emergence of the WEIRD psychology in most of the rest of world- Western style dichotomous two party systems, and their derivatives, might require the contest of ideas between the Liberal and the Conservative mindset existing in a natural state of tension, to succeed.

    The fact that this system has become untethered in much of West, particularly the Anglosphere, might account for the Chinese sneering condescension for the baizuo, or white liberal. The Western liberal tends to become increasingly deranged when deprived of the natural vetting which having conservatives challenge and repudiate their ideas entails.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s served us extremely well in the past. Especially in the market, the pairing of Head-in-the-Clouds idea generators, with Conscientious Conservatives has led to growth, innovation and wealth. But liberals are terrible at challenging their own ideas, and when deprived of the status quo driven conservative to vet them, they flounder, producing all manner of delusions which go unchallenged.

    For China, a Conservative mindset ideological system, perhaps based on the British Conservative past, might be a better fit. China’s culture inherently favours the family as the basic political unit of currency, over the sovereignty of the individual, and Conservatism inherently favours the family as a base unit of stability. In all likelihood, increased wealth and stability in China will inevitable lead to the openness of experience typical of liberals- it’s something that’s determined by family status and affluence after all, rather than curriculum (a mistake that the teaching establishment made in the West, not realising that an ultra-liberal syllabus wouldn’t necessarily produce liberals).

    But if China wishes to avoid the unhinged Leftist phenomenon that so alarms them about the West, suppression is not the best alternative. Those who test high in trait openness to new experience should be pushed towards technical or scientific background, where they won’t break the culture and are less likely to do harm, or harnessed towards entrepreneurship, where they can be paired with hyper-conscientious conservatives who can keep them grounded and on task.

    One final point on the subject of China. It doubtful they’ll fall into the trap of aggression in their current phase. For one thing, it’s stupid and they are not generally known for being anything other than smart in their dealings. The neglected part of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative mentioned in the article, is that it will undoubtedly secure them a large voting block with veto powers within the UN. It also plays to the inherent weaknesses of the West. Any attempt to restrain China or it’s emerging Allies, will inevitably be played as an attempt to restrain the economic interests of the developing world, and maintain Western dominance. It’s an argument to which we have little defence, with our mainly liberal political establishment.

    The irony is that both China and America are incredibly pessimistic about the coming economic struggle for dominance. For China, this rests on the 421 problem and the societal difficulties created by their One Child policy. But however bleak their own economic assessments, there can be little doubt that they are about to reap a windfall dividend in a well-planned diplomatic strategy, aimed at realigning themselves as a centre of world influence. It’s perhaps the single biggest failing of the Trump Presidency, among a host of surprising victories, at a time when America should have been cementing it’s relations with Europe, perhaps at arms length through the foreign policy establishment, China has been growing in influence, both regionally and globally.

  3. I am inclined to agree with Niall Fergusson’s analysis and not the one presented in this article.

    I agree that China has no intention of exporting its one-party-system, unlike the Communists. But they do seek to increase their influence and control over other countries worldwide. Take, for example, the numerous Confucius Institutes that are being established at universities all over the world and serve as ideological outposts. China is also using the disagreements between countries within the EU (and also in other regions of the world) to gain influence. Or think of the way Hollywood already adapts movies so as not to offend the CCP. The recent scandal of the NBA trying to silence criticism from one of its players of China’s Hong Kong policy also comes to mind.

    I assume that sooner or later parts of the establishment in Western countries will consider copying the Chinese social credit system if it turns out how helpful it is to prevent crime, deviant behavior, hate speech and unrest. Particularly if the elites in their own countries are more and more confronted with a “populist” opposition, this option is likely to appear increasingly tempting. So yes, there is a conflict between different political systems and it is unclear which one will prevail in the long run.

    I suppose we will see more of this in the coming years. And until we realize that some kind of cold war (or system conflict, or whatever you want to call it) is developing, it is difficult to raise awareness of the danger and make people understand that we need to be more careful not to find ourselves in an unpleasant situation at some point.

  4. Likely, yes, and the filthy China dictatorship has brought it upon itself, building islands and aircraft carriers, scaring its neighbours, buying African countries, and behaving totally disgracefully in the pandemic it originated, never mind having a million Uyghurs in “re-education” camps.

    China is a large, vile, dangerous dictatorship with designs on the world.

  5. rising income inequality have undermined faith in open markets and democratic institutions, authoritarian demagogues have risen to power on both sides of the Atlantic

    Stopped right there.

  6. Good points, but I think the bigger danger with China is that it engages in some type of belligerence internationally in order to quell internal dissent, which is something authoritarian regimes do with some regularity. France’s warmongering Louis XIV has been accused of this, and according to historian Stephen Kotkin, this was one of Tsar Nicholas II’s motivations for backing Serbia against Austria-Hungary in 1914, ie, rallying pan-Slavic nationalist sentiment in Russia in a desperate bid to save his crumbling regime.

  7. A verbal tick required of writers who want to try and remain in their progressive tribe. You can just ignore it and continue reading, or have nothing to read from their point of view, because they have to say it, and normally they would also tie in climate change, racism, white supremacy, TrumpHitler, etc., within the first couple of sentences.

    the Khmer Rouge fixed income inequality on day one. No one had any. Problem solved. These people nowadays think they can do that again, but this time with 50% less killing fields, and everyone having i-phones and craft beer and cool lofts in Brooklyn.

  8. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had already fallen apart, long before 1972.

    Making China rich is probably the single dumbest strategic error made by the US, ever. It is a self inflicted injury, with high costs.

    The integration of Russia after they abandoned communism, was wrecked by the Harvard boys. Their advice on managing the transition to a market economy was so irresponsible, so atrocious that I think, the old timers were turning in their honorable graves from shame.

    We have a filthy, debauched elite today.

  9. Who is really willing to go to war with the largest nation in the world, or take a big hit to their standard of living in order to get the Chinese to wash their hands and stop eating weird stuff ?

    Russia called. They want their largest country crown back.

    And yes, every day for the last 20+ years or so I’ve taken that hit because I check labels obsessively and avoid chinese products wherever possible. Only with electronics, sadly, are such efforts futile. I will always, happily, pay more if it means my dollars or euros don’t go to that demon regime. But keep up your water carrying, by all means.

  10. One big difference between the old Cold War and the situation today is that the interests of the American managerial class today coincide with the interests of the Chinese communist elite. The multinationals are interested in large and cheap labor force under a tight authoritarian control. They are interested in lax environmental and labor laws that allow them to bring down the cost of production while the populace is kept quiet by the totalitarian government. There is a strange symbiotic relationship between the elites in US and China that did not exist during the Cold War with the Soviets. What we have today is not really a traditional cold war between nations. It is more of a traditional class war on an international scale.

  11. What has undermined faith in open markets is resentful people like the author assuming it is acceptable for anyone to be angry about someone else having more than them. Poor people such as myself shouldn’t be angry that other people are rich, they should be ecstatic such people exist to provide us with goods, services, real estate, and jobs that are opulent from a historical perspective.

    Poor people, who in previous generations would be scratching the dirt all day trying to feed themselves, are instead eating too much and watching too much TV. We have done an astounding job of getting rid of suffering. But instead of trying to pay that good fortune forward by contributing as much as we can to the advancement of the civilization, people like the author advance this toxic idea that the system is unjust and people are justified leeching off of it.

    We are already in a cold war with China, and we do have sympathizers among us. They are the commies who think meritocracy is unfair, and have a Maoist zeal for forcing the successful and the dissidents to conform to their ideological dictates. A great purge, followed by a dictatorship of ideologically-pure experts, is exactly what progressives long for.

    As much as some Chinese might wish for greater freedom and hate the CCP, as many will admit in private, they are currently powerless to effect change. Western communists, on the other hand, have the benefit of the ballot box, and can advance their cause openly through a march through the institutions. Chinese also still have pride in their civilization, unlike many Westerners. We are at a disadvantage in this fight, and if we don’t wake up to the threat, freedom will be suppressed in ever-greater portions of the world.

  12. Were the people of China to be judged by white bourgeois liberals by the same standards they apply to white Westerners, the people of China would be damned as racists and neo-nazis.

    But of course they aren’t judged by those same standards.

  13. I think one big mistake Ferguson makes, and many people make when thinking about China, is by thinking of China as a socialist or communist country. Despite what it calls itself, it’s not communist, and hasn’t been for a couple of decades, since it embraced some sort of semi-capitalist industrial approach back in the 1980s. If it was truly communist, it would never have been able to compete industrially or economically with the West – only by embracing an authoritarian kind of capitalism has it been able to move forward.

    Much of the analysis in this article was based on the idea that 2020 China isn’t motivated to spread its ideology outside of China in the way that the Soviet Union tried to do. That’s true, but it’s irrelevant, because the Soviet Union isn’t the right 20th century analogy to modern China. The right analogy is Nazi Germany. (Bear with me, this isn’t a reductio ad Hitlerum, it’s a genuine argument.) Like the Nazis, China’s government is essentially a one-race ethnonationalist empire. Although China contains multiple racial groups, only one has any power, and the rest are horribly abused and pretty clearly targeted for eventual elimination – through intermixing instead of extermination, but the effect is the same in the long run, the creation of a completely racially homogenous population.

    Also like the Nazis, the Chinese government is socialist when it feels like it and capitalist when it feels like it. It’s all totally arbitrary based on the current whims of Xi Jinping, with essentially no accountability to any kind of legislative body or electorate. Businesses exist, and as long as they are ideologically loyal to the State, they get to make their profits, creating a sort of aristocracy or nobility that makes it even easier to oppress common people than it would be under an all-ideology Soviet-style system. It also creates a veneer of “freedom” that gives cover to foreigners who want to collaborate with them – you can’t imagine Amazon sourcing doodads from a Soviet gulag, but the fact that Chinese gulags are “privately owned” makes it far more palatable to buy their crap from them.

    Finally, the bogeyman for the Chinese government isn’t capitalism – it’s the West. Whereas the Soviets scared their population into obedience with horror stories about the evils of free markets, the Chinese do it with stories about colonialism, which are inherently racial – white people that would dominate Asia if it weren’t for the power of China. Their propaganda focuses on Chinese superiority to the West, not communist superiority to capitalism. Like the Nazis, the Chinese government is racially chauvinistic and props itself up by making devils out of other ethnic groups.

    Given all of that, the fact that China isn’t concerned about exporting its ideology isn’t important – I worry that China is starting to think about exporting its population. During a trip to Africa a couple of years ago I couldn’t help but notice the number of Chinese businessmen I saw in the cities, or the huge number of Chinese construction projects everywhere, even on the western side of the continent. I also wouldn’t be the first to point out that Siberia and the “stans” of the former USSR are all located along indefensible borders with China and are quite sparsely populated by economically depressed peoples. If I’m right that modern China is more National Socialist than normal Socialist, they’re looking for Lebensraum and are likely to get up to the same sort of military shenanigans that Hitler got up to 80 years ago, perhaps thinly veiled by their “Belt and Road” project.

    The China of today is very different than the one Mao ruled, or the more hopeful China that grew up during the period of Deng Xiaoping’s influence in the 1980’s. So its relative lack of interest in empire over the past century is no reason to think it isn’t thinking of expansion now. No military force on Earth could stand against them in Asia without using nuclear weapons. They are as militarily dominant on that continent right now as Germany was in Europe in 1938, and just as confident of their own racial and cultural superiority over their neighbors. That should scare the living crap out of everybody, imho.

    Or maybe I’m just being paranoid.

  14. The comparison of China with Nazi Germany does not seem helpful to me, and I would like to put forward some arguments against it.

    But first, I agree with your statement on the economic aspects: China’s current semi-capitalist economic structure bears some similarities to that of the Third Reich, where private enterprise was permitted but the government worked closely with strategically important companies (and threatened to nationalize them if they did not comply). Moreover, the Third Reich also had four-year plans in pursuit of their ends, a lesser known fact.

    But China also differs in essential points from Nazi Germany:

    • Racism: The ideology of superior and inferior races as well as the eternal struggle between them was crucial to Nazi ideology. China’s policy, on the other hand, focuses on wiping out the cultures of other peoples (e.g. Tibetans, Uighurs) inside China, but not their genes. Also, their propaganda against the West focuses on cultural superiority.

    • Conquest: For the Third Reich the conquest of neighboring countries and especially of new Lebensraum in Eastern Europe was a clear and central goal. China shows no intention to further extend its main territory to other countries (with the exception of their “breakaway province” Taiwan). Nor do they have the necessary population growth to replace other peoples. Their likely aim is to make all other countries, starting with their neighbours, into vassal states.

    • Revenge: National Socialism emerged in the aftermath of the First World War, provided cheap explanations for why the war was lost (the Jews, the Democrats), managed to eliminate the competing Communists and tried to correct the outcome of the war by brutal force. There is nothing comparable in China’s situation over the last seventy years. As @Jake_Dee described, China’s policy is based on the role it has had for thousands of years: to be the dominant center of the known world.

    • War: From the beginning, war was an essential part and goal of Hitler’s policy. The preparations for another World War began the moment he came to power and took only six years. China tends to see war only as a last resort, when all other measures did not work. They would probably prefer to achieve all their goals without firing a single shot.

    In my opinion, the disadvantage of the analogy with Nazi Germany is that it can lead people to focus on the wrong things, such as looking for signs of racism, militarism etc. in China, and thereby misjudge the real threats.

    To use a metaphor, the Third Reich could be compared to a fire that broke out in a neighboring building and that without quick countermeasures threatens to burn down the entire area.
    The Chinese threat, on the other hand, is more like a glacier. Gigantic big, extremely hard to stop, and its slow approach easily overlooked. But if we do not react, over time and before we know it, we will be covered, embraced and subjugated.

  15. Good to know! By the way which one are you again? Judean People’s Front, or the Peoples Front of Judea?

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