China and the U.S. have had a love-hate relationship for more than 200 years. Substantial numbers of Chinese have been educated in the United States where they acquired an appreciation for freedom of speech, democracy, and the American educational system. Currently, approximately 275,000 Chinese students are attending colleges and universities in the U.S. Admiration for things American was on display during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China in 1989. A replica of the Statue of Liberty was displayed, and there were calls for reforms and American type freedoms and democracy. The Tiananmen Square demonstrations alarmed China’s governing power elite. Liberalization and elections could cause them to lose their grip on power. The demonstrations were violently suppressed.
China has moderates and hard-liners just as we do in the United States. China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, seems to be influenced by the hard-liners who envision China becoming wealthier and more powerful than the United States. U.S. moderates have held that economic development would cause China to adopt Western democratic and liberal practices. That assumption is now in doubt. After the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, textbooks used in China’s schools were rewritten to portray America as an enemy. Michael Pillsbury writing in The Hundred-Year Marathon states that “…Chinese leaders believe the United States has been trying to dominate China for more than 150 years, and China’s plan is to do everything possible to dominate us instead.” “…China’s leaders see America as an enemy in a global struggle they plan on winning.”
Chinese analysts know that, at the close of WW II in 1945, America established economic and mililtary operations that eventually gave America a “super power” status. The United States established the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, all very much under U.S. control. The United States now operates nearly 800 military bases, small and large, in 70 countries. China is establishing an alternative system. China has established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Association of Southeastern Nations, and the New Development Bank. Importantly, China has also established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank with approximately 60 member countries. Arthur Kroeber writing in his book China’s Economy reports that “China invited dozens of nations, including most significant economies in Asia and Europe, to join the AIIB as founding members. The US Government urged many of its allies, notably Australia and South Korea, not to participate, but in the end around sixty countries, including many US allies in Europe and Asia, joined.” Canada also joined, and England subsequently applied for membership. China also founded the New Development Bank in concert with Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa. China conducts more trade than any other country, and China’s Export-Import Bank finances more export and import trade than the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and England combined. Developments, like these, cause critics to assert that China’s influence is rising, and America’s influence is diminishing.
China’s military has the East Wind DF-21D, a state-of-the-art ballistic missile specifically designed to eliminate an aircraft carrier. Guess who has the world’s largest fleet of aircraft carriers. China also has a weapon that can evidently destroy a satellite, for example, a military communications satellite.
During the past several years, our attention has been focused on the Middle East, but the serious threat to U.S. well-being will likely come from the economic and military rise of China and her allies. Ted Fishman writing in his book China, Inc. expresses another failure of focus. “The very demographic group — the 18-to-34-year-old population — that ought to be most focused on the coming Chinese century is also the one most brilliantly diverted by entertainment and news-lite that detail the trials of celebrities and reality-TV neurotics.”
China has 1.4 billion industrious and ambitious people. They are not in our rear view mirror; they are along side and accelerating.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.