A few weeks back when I spoke with the Lubbock Rotary about the state of the world, much of our discussion concerned China, and whether we could avoid a future US – China conflict. My point was: It’s been ongoing for years, just not with bullets – yet.
We should have listened to Napoleon when he said: “let China sleep – for when she awakens, she will shake the world.” Instead, the US played reveille, and we are now suffering the consequences. We tried accommodating China within the international rules-based system which the US (mostly) established; instead, China is now working nonstop to accommodate the global system to its worldview and succeeding. But an even higher priority for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is its continuing and total control over the Chinese people so it can perpetuate itself in power; the greatest obstruction to that goal is the US and the Western model of open societies, democracy, and the free flow of information.
In pursuing global domination, the CCP is already at war with us in several areas, and in some we have unilaterally disarmed. I saw this firsthand in Africa, where the Chinese were spending large sums to control vital resources which are essential for this century’s “electric” economy. Just one example: the Democratic Republic of Congo holds about 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves, a metal essential for batteries and alloys – China has not only gained control of most cobalt mining, but 85% of processing takes place in China. This is being repeated with other key minerals. The CCP is also investing heavily to promote Chinese culture, purchase favorable media and diplomatic support in Africa, which will double in population by mid-century, and which has the largest number of votes in international institutions which set global rules. China understands the key role Africa will play this century; we seem to not. And for the first time ever, a recent poll found young Africans favoring China more than America.
The CCP’s strategy is global and all encompassing. China’s aggressive combat extends to fields beyond controlling global resources, such as: intelligence (stealing military, technical and trade secrets through every means possible); technology (using its vast resources to leapfrog our advantages across the board); and higher education (recruiting the best global scholars to make its universities tops in research). China is also increasing its military aggression – like buzzing our allies’ aircraft and saturating Taiwan’s air defenses – while dramatically upgrading its military capabilities. It just launched an ultra-modern aircraft carrier and is also increasing the quantity and quality of its nuclear weapons.
And how is China able to pay for such global overreach? With dollars and other western currencies which flooded into China when we made it into the factory of the world. As an anonymous quote goes: “God created the World; everything else is made in China!”
But the area which poses the greatest danger to our way of life – beyond military conflict – involves our financial well-being. Currently, almost everything in the world is priced in dollars, meaning we slap green paint on paper, and it has real value. So, when China buys raw materials they need to do it with dollars. But China is now introducing its own digital currency (Yuan). This is for two purposes. By doing away with paper money, every currency transaction in China will be monitored for even greater control over their people. “Big Brother” will know how much every citizen spends and on what. Beyond that, China will likely export the capability to governments – and there are many around the world – who would also like to control their people. China will no doubt gladly provide the technology and maintenance. Once implemented, such countries will be able to transact business with China without ever having to enter the global dollar transaction system. Eventually, the Chinese Yuan could replace the US Dollar as the world reserve currency – meaning everything would be priced in Yuan and we would be the ones having to buy their currency to transact business. And even more seriously, our government could no longer slap green paint on paper and give it value – our dollars would have to be supported by more than our name. This scenario could come sooner rather than later, as China becomes the major trading partner of more and more countries and regions. (China is gaining on the US even in Mexico).
So, is China’s victory inevitable? By no means! But to assure our primacy we need both an external and an internal strategy. Externally, we absolutely need to maintain and strengthen our alliances and partnerships. As Churchill said, “there is only one thing worse than fighting with our allies – and that is fighting without them!” Right now, those partnerships are our strength, and we need it to keep them. But even more importantly, we need to again be the UNITED States of America. To paraphrase Lincoln, “America will never be destroyed from the outside – if we lose our freedoms, it will be because we have destroyed ourselves from within.” And unfortunately, we are succeeding at doing just that!
Not too long ago, we were in a national funk similar to today. Post-Vietnam defeatism, combined with stagflation and Carter’s international fiascos deeply depressed the nation. But how quickly America’s mood uplifted when Ronald Reagan came on the scene. I’m praying there is a Reagan ready to come on stage.
Ambassador Tibor Nagy was most recently Assistant Secretary of State for Africa after serving as Texas Tech’s Vice Provost for International Affairs and a 30-year career as a US Diplomat.