June 17, 2024

China an Enemy

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Is China an enemy?
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Is China an enemy? What is an enemy? House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said, “I believe Xi, Putin, and Iran really are an axis of evil,” referring to the leaders of China, Russia, and the nation of Iran.
          But this is dangerous ground for dangerous words, words that need parsing. Countries need not be at war to be enemies. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States were enemies and engaged in war through surrogates. They engaged in an arms race with nuclear weapons aimed at one another, and their covert activities were intended to derail each country’s domestic institutions and foreign affairs. Yet, the U.S. sold grain to the Soviets, and enemies do not historically engage in trading relationships. Even so, the Cold War was interspersed with surrogate hot wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Therefore, the U.S. and the USSR were enemies.
          President George W. Bush denounced Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” After all, the U.S. has never signed a peace treaty with North Korea to end the 1950-53 Korean War, we fought two wars with Iraq, and Iran is the arsenal of terrorism. With new leadership, Iraq is off the list, but the other two nations remain our enemies.
          The original “Axis of Evil” was the monicker assigned to our World War II enemies: Japan, Germany, and Italy, all of which surrendered and joined our circle of friends.
          This brings us to the thorny issue of our times: is China our enemy? Does China belong in the Russia-Iran axis? Iran remains the terrorist’s best friend and financier. Russia is engaged in a war of conquest against a U.S. friend and trading partner, Ukraine, which has become a U.S. surrogate. However, the U.S. and Russia maintain diplomatic relations, and Russia does not pose anything approaching the danger posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War when the USSR and its Warsaw Pact communist allies posed a serious threat to NATO, Western Europe’s defense bulwark. Today, Eastern Europe has joined NATO, an alliance stronger than ever, so that not even a megalomaniacal autocrat like Putin would dare to engage with anything more than hollow threats.
          This makes Russia a temporary pseudo enemy – temporary being the length of time Putin remains in power.
          Unlike Iran, China is not a primary friend of terrorists. Unlike Russia, China is not assaulting its neighbors. Unlike North Korea, China is no longer a communist nation bent on undermining capitalism. Quite the contrary, China has embraced communism’s avowed philosophical enemy, capitalism, and become the largest U.S. trading partner behind Canada and Mexico.
           On the other hand, China is ruled by the anachronistically named Chinese Communist Party. This one-party rule is a form of strong-man fascism. But unlike the fascist leaders of the 1930s, Xi has sought expansion without war. This strategy has run the gamut from economic bullying to industrial espionage to militarization of the South China Sea.
          Into this mix are such companies as TikTok, accused of electronic espionage, and BYD, a Chinese company heavily invested in by a Warren Buffet company subsidiary that has surpassed Tesla to become the world’s largest EV manufacturer.
          Confronted with China’s military and economic competition, the Biden administration has been strengthening military ties with Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and other Indo-Pacific nations to counter Chinese military moves, especially against Taiwan. Economically, the administration is looking to increase tariffs and Biden signed a law demanding TikTok’s sale to U.S. interests.
          All this considered, China, which sent troops to fight in the Korean War seven decades ago when still a communist nation, is highly unlikely to engage the U.S. and its allies militarily today. Taiwan remains the flashpoint, but if that problem remains ambiguous and the economic problems become reasonably resolved to all parties’ best interests, then China-U.S. relations will become increasingly normalized.
          In short, what President Ronald Reagan described as “So-called Communist China” does not belong in Speaker Johnson’s axis of evil, but rather under President Joe Biden’s geo-political umbrella as a competitor, not an enemy.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2024 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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