What to Do About China?

An Op/Ed By Doug Bandow

The United States is the world’s dominant power. America will remain influential for decades to come. But China is likely to eventually force Washington to share its leadership position.

Such a change would be uncomfortable for American policymakers. But Washington doesn’t have to dominate the world to guarantee U.S. security. Washington need only possess a military capable of preventing other nations or groups from threatening the United States. And that should become the basic objective of American foreign policy.

Today, the United States stands as an international colossus. America accounts for roughly half the world’s military outlays. Washington spends more on defense, even after adjusting for inflation, than at any point since World War II, including during two very hot wars in Vietnam and Korea.

Moreover, the United States is allied with every major industrialized state except China and Russia. Washington is friendly with most other countries, including middling and emerging powers such as India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and South Africa.

The United States enjoys a more positive security environment than at any time during the Cold War. The world will always be dangerous and unpredictable. We hate having to go through metal detectors at airports, but school kids no longer practice getting under their desks for shelter during a Soviet nuclear strike. There are no Red Army tanks poised to invade Germany’s Fulda Gap.

We still worry about terrorism, as we must, but terrorists are no substitute for nation states with nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles, carrier groups, armored divisions, and more. Terrorists attack civilians because they don’t have any of these weapons, and thus the ability to destroy nations. The United States faces no enemies of note: North Korea, Iran, and Cuba simply don’t make the grade. One American carrier group has more firepower than all of their decrepit militaries together.

Even Russia, not exactly friend or foe, is a military mess. Moscow can beat up on the country of Georgia, little more.

This leaves the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The PRC poses a number of challenges to America. Its economy continues to grow rapidly. China owns a lot of Uncle Sam’s debt, but Beijing can ill afford to dump its U.S. assets without wrecking the value of its own portfolio.

The human rights situation is bad. Nevertheless, there is a lot more individual space today than 20 or 30 years ago. And the horrid, murderous years of Mao Zedong are long past. The Communist Party cannot be certain of its ability to hold onto power over time.

Finally, Beijing resists U.S. foreign policy in a number of areas. The PRC opposes sanctioning Iran and aids Third World despots in Burma and Zimbabwe. They also have resisted applying tougher sanctions on North Korea. Yet even a cooperative China might not be enough for Washington to succeed in dealing with those nations.

Of greatest concern to many analysts is the PRC’s ongoing military buildup.

At a superficial level, the numbers look worrisome. Chinese spending has slowed this year, but outlays have been increasing at double-digit rates. Exact expenditures are difficult to estimate, but Beijing’s real defense budget probably runs between $70 billion and $100 billion.

Yet that number is less impressive than it sounds. First, the Chinese military starts at a low base. Beijing traditionally has had large quantities but low qualities of men and material. Much of the PRC’s recent spending has been devoted to the difficult task of reversing replacing quantity (by cutting numbers of soldiers and aircraft, for instance) with quality. Doing so takes

a lot of money and time.

Despite its efforts, China remains far behind on major measures of firepower. The United States possesses a vastly larger and more sophisticated nuclear arsenal and air force. Washington has 11 carrier groups; Beijing has none.

Second, Washington continues to spend far more than the PRC on the military. Total U.S. expenditures will hit $750 billion next year. Ignore the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and America still spends well over half a trillion dollars. Even taking into account higher personnel costs in America, Washington spends a multiple of China’s outlays. Beijing is not overtaking the United States.

Third, Washington is not alone. Close allies include Japan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and more. Russia, Vietnam, and especially India also are important counterweights to Beijing. All have an incentive to work to constrain the PRC. In fact, several Asian states are improving their navies.

In short, China is in no position, and will be in no position for years, or probably decades, to threaten the United States, or to exert the kind of global influence that America today enjoys. It’s difficult to predict the long term, but for Beijing to build the kind of force necessary to directly challenge America will take an extraordinary investment over a long period. During that time, the United States will be able to respond as necessary.

Still, none of this means the PRC’s military buildup is not having an impact. Beijing is focusing its investment on two objectives. The first is creating forces capable of intimidating Taiwan. The Taiwanese have created a capitalist and democratic state of which they should be proud. However, Chinese leaders view the island as part of a united China and, rather like Abraham Lincoln to the American South, aren’t inclined to take "no" for an answer.

The second is to create a military capable of preventing U.S. action against Beijing. In a word, the PRC is seeking to achieve deterrence.

China is investing in its nuclear forces, to prevent Washington from making nuclear threats. Beijing also is improving its missile and submarine capabilities, to sink U.S. carriers. The Chinese military is developing asymmetric warfare abilities, particularly to destroy American satellites and attack America’s information infrastructure.

These are formidable capabilities, but they offer little offensive potential. There will be no Red carrier forces steaming toward Hawaii. A nuclear strike against America would result in catastrophic retaliation. The People’s Liberation Army will not be deploying on U.S. territory. At base, China is seeking to counter America’s ability to attack China.

As a result, Washington will eventually face a world in which it no longer dominates every country at every point on every continent. Uncomfortable as that world might prove to be, it is inevitable. The United States simply cannot afford to spend what it will be necessary to overcome China’s (and other nations’) growing capabilities.

The problem is that offense costs far more than defense. The PRC doesn’t need 11 carrier groups to fight America’s 11 carrier groups. Beijing only needs enough subs and missiles to put U.S. naval forces at serious risk. Then no president is likely to send the fleet into the Taiwan Strait.

Washington is likely to face similar challenges from other emerging powers in the years ahead. For instance, India is unlikely to attack the United States. But India likely will develop a military capable of deterring Washington from ever attempting to coerce India.

The United States should adopt a similar strategy involving its friends and allies. The best way to constrain Beijing, to ensure that the PRC’s rise proves to be truly peaceful, as Chinese officials routinely claim it will be, is to encourage other states to deter China.

For example, it is in neither America’s nor Japan’s interest if the only way Tokyo can be defended is by the United States risking Los Angeles. Far better for Japan to create a potent military to secure its own territory and protect its own commerce. Nations like Australia, South Korea, Philippines, and Singapore need to get over their war-time fears of Tokyo and cooperate with Japan to safeguard East Asia.

India also can play a role. It has held naval maneuvers with Vietnam and battled China for influence in Burma. One of America’s great advantages is its strong ties to so many of the world’s prosperous democracies, which are now capable of protecting themselves and their regions.

This doesn’t mean the United States should ignore Asia. But it suggests a new role for Washington. Rather than put allied states on an international dole, essentially turning them into a foreign version of the welfare queens that President Ronald Reagan long ago criticized, the United States should help them become independent.

America should watch from afar to guard against extraordinary threats that friendly countries cannot handle. But the United States should not spend Americans’ time, resources, money, and especially lives in an attempt to micro-manage the globe. Attempting social engineering at home is bad. Attempting social engineering abroad is far worse.

Defending America is a vital interest. We should spare no expense to secure our people, liberties, and territory.

In contrast, intervening everywhere around the globe is not a vital interest. With a $1.6 trillion deficit this year and another $10 trillion in red ink expected over the next decade, Washington can no longer afford to act as the global policeman. We have no choice but to make defense of America the basis of our foreign policy.

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Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire (Xulon Press).


 



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On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Monday, Harvard Law professor and lawyer on President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team Alan Dershowitz explains the history of impeachment and its process, why the framers did not include abuse of power as criteria for a Constitutional impeachment, why the Democrats are framing their case the way they are, and what to look for in the upcoming Senate trial.

Dershowitz argued that "abuse of power" -- one of two articles of impeachment against Trump approved by House Democrats last month -- is not an impeachable act.

"There are two articles of impeachment. The second is 'obstruction of Congress.' That's just a false accusation," said Dershowitz. "But they also charge him, in the Ukraine matter, with abuse of power. But abuse of power was discussed by the framers (of the U.S. Constitution) ... the framers refused to include abuse of power because it was too broad, too open-ended.

"In the words of James Madison, the father of our Constitution, it would lead presidents to serve at the will of Congress. And that's exactly what the framers didn't want, which is why they were very specific and said a president can be impeached only for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," he added.

"What's alleged against President Trump is not criminal," added Dershowitz. "If they had criminal issues to allege, you can be sure they would have done it. If they could establish bribery or treason, they would have done it already. But they didn't do it. They instead used this concept of abuse of power, which is so broad and general ... any president could be charged with it."

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On Friday's radio program, Bill O'Reilly joins Glenn Beck discuss the possible outcomes for the Democrats in 2020.

Why are former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama working overtime to convince Americans they're more moderate than most of the far-left Democratic presidential candidates? Is there a chance of a Michelle Obama vs. Donald Trump race this fall?

O'Reilly surmised that a post-primary nomination would probably be more of a "Bloomberg play." He said Michael Bloomberg might actually stand a chance at the Democratic nomination if there is a brokered convention, as many Democratic leaders are fearfully anticipating.

"Bloomberg knows he doesn't really have a chance to get enough delegates to win," O'Reilly said. "He's doing two things: If there's a brokered convention, there he is. And even if there is a nominee, it will probably be Biden, and Biden will give [him] Secretary of State or Secretary of Treasury. That's what Bloomberg wants."

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On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Friday, award-winning investigative reporter John Solomon, a central figure in the impeachment proceedings, explained his newly filed lawsuit, which seeks the records of contact between Ukraine prosecutors and the U.S. Embassy officials in Kiev during the 2016 election.

The records would provide valuable information on what really happened in Ukraine, including what then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were doing with Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, Solomon explained.

The documents, which the State Department has withheld thus far despite repeated requests for release by Solomon, would likely shed light on the alleged corruption that President Donald Trump requested to be investigated during his phone call with the president of Ukraine last year.

With the help of Southeastern Legal Foundation, Solomon's lawsuit seeks to compel the State Department to release the critical records. Once released, the records are expected to reveal, once and for all, exactly why President Trump wanted to investigate the dealings in Ukraine, and finally expose the side of the story that Democrats are trying to hide in their push for impeachment.

"It's been a one-sided story so far, just like the beginning of the Russia collusion story, right? Everybody was certain on Jan. 9 of 2017 that the Christopher Steele dossier was gospel. And our president was an agent of Russia. Three years later, we learned that all of that turned out to be bunk, " Solomon said.

"The most important thing about politics, and about investigations, is that there are two sides to a story. There are two pieces of evidence. And right now, we've only seen one side of it," he continued. "I think we'll learn a lot about what the intelligence community, what the economic and Treasury Department community was telling the president. And I bet the story was way more complicated than the narrative that [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff [D-Calif.] has woven so far."

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Carter Page, a former advisor to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, found himself at the center of the Russia probe and had his reputation and career destroyed by what we now know were lies from our own intelligence system and the media.

On the TV show Thursday, Page joined Glenn Beck to speak out about how he became the subject of illegal electronic surveillance by the FBI for more than two years, and revealed the extent of the corruption that has infiltrated our legal systems and our country as a whole.

"To me, the bigger issue is how much damage this has done to our country," Page told Glenn. "I've been very patient in trying to ... find help with finding solutions and correcting this terrible thing which has happened to our country, our judicial system, DOJ, FBI -- these once-great institutions. And my bigger concern is the fact that, although we keep taking these steps forward in terms of these important findings, it really remains the tip of the iceberg."

Page was referencing the report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which revealed that the FBI made "at least 17 significant errors or omissions" in its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications for warrants to spy on Page, a U.S. citizen.

"I think this needs to be attacked from all angles," Glenn said. "The one angle I'm interested in from you is, please tell me you have the biggest badass attorneys that are hungry, starving, maybe are a little low to pay their Mercedes payments right now, and are just gearing up to come after the government and the media. Are they?"

I can confirm that that is the case," Page replied.

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