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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/19/20

On China , Soft Power, and Arms Control

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Message Jason Sibert

The American political system is currently up in arms about the People's Republic of China.

There are worries about China's actions in Hong Kong, its intentions in Taiwan, and its behavior in the South China Sea. People are dividing the world up into blocks of governments that represent the democratic nation-state and governments that represent authoritarian and totalitarian forms. We're currently hearing politicians calling for huge defense budgets because of the rise of China as a power, something that will go well with the agenda of companies attached to the military-industrial complex.

However, there are some who advocate a wider discussion on the PRC. The trend of diclinism in respect to China is present in some thinkers. Liberal nationalist thinker Michael Lind recently said that our country is heading toward an economy based in "commodities, real estate, tourism, and perhaps transnational tax evasion," as China absconds with the country's high-tech industries and curtails the United States' global leadership. Columnist Noah Smith argued that absent domestic reform, "the U.S. will resemble a developing nation in a few decades."

Some fear our troubles with China are like the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, our economy is far more connected to the PRC than the old SU, as the U.S. does billions of dollars of business with China, making a shooting war very unpractical. Commerce can lead to more peaceful relations between states, as stated by commercial liberal theorists. However, free trade is not always a tool of peace or an ambassador for a democratic republican form of government. Our county has been trading with China a long time and the country is still not democratic and it behaves in a belligerent manner on the world stage. On the bright side, the economies of the U.S. and the PRC are so intertwined it makes war tougher.

In the future, we must push the conflict between our country and the PRC out of the military sphere and into the economic, political, and scientific areas. Our country must remember that geopolitical competition is sometimes won in the ideological and economic realms. Rebuilding a portion of our manufacturing base would make sense. In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, our inability to manufacture the items needed, ventilators and other items, was a weakness. The location of manufacturing is also important in matters of war and peace. If tensions between the U.S. and the PRC grow worse, the PRC might try nationalizing American firms. Those same firms would bribe politicians into using the military to protect their property. Manufacturing more within our borders would make a war fought for American companies less likely. This is policy that a thinker like Lind would agree with. The trick will be managing more domestic manufacturing with a certain amount of trade with the PRC.

The levels of inequality and political polarization in the U.S. make our country less appealing to impressionable minds in portions of the world that are not sure if they should bandwagon with, or adopt the same form of government, as the bloc of democratic nation states. A more attractive America is an America that can win allies to its pollical bloc, as stated by Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi in their story "The China Challenge Can Help Avert Decline."

We must listen to Smith's advice when it comes to melding domestic reform and the competition with China. We have some experience with this. When asked about the victory of the non-Communist block in the Cold War, many mention the Ronald Reagan Administration's defense buildup, the buildup that started in the Jimmy Carter Administration in 1978 when the SU invaded Afghanistan. However, the civil rights movement played a big role in this victory, as the existence of segregation in our country was being used as a recruiting tool for Communist factions in the third world. Non-Communist nations' leadership in culture and the arts also stroked sympathy for other forms of government in the Communist bloc. On the issue of civil-rights, current verbal and physical attacks on Chinese Americans will only hurt us and not help us.

In their story, Campbell and Doshi addressed a recent use of America's soft power - the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd this past summer. The protests reflected a struggle to realize the founding values of the United Statesvalues whose appeal was so universal that the struggle for them captivated global audiences and inspired marches abroad.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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