A recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace advocates several policy recommendations which aim to rectify the “threat” that a rising China poses to “the foundations of the U.S.-backed global order.” Traditional strategies of “containment,” as used against the Soviet Union in the Cold War, won’t work, the report argues, so Washington needs to “balance” China instead.
The report offers four broad strategies for the U.S. approach to China, all of which are awful and all of which take for granted that U.S. foreign policy ought to be about world domination.
Bolster Regional Actors. By increasing the national power of China’s neighbors, the United States can constrain Beijing’s behavior and limit its capacity for aggressiveness. This investment is in Washington’s best interest irrespective of whether it is repaid in kind because it will diminish China’s ability to misuse its growing strength and increase American geopolitical maneuverability in the Indo-Pacific. But the United States must be wary of Chinese tactics to subvert these efforts.
This is already causing problems. The U.S.’s bolstering of all of China’s neighboring rivals has helped exacerbate regional tensions, prompting Japan and the Philippines to take a much more aggressive posture in confronting China. The naval jockeying in the East and South China Seas could be extremely dangerous: “My biggest fear is that a small mishap is going to blow up into something much bigger,” says Elizabeth C. Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Even if this policy did tend to stabilize things instead of make them more dangerous, the bias underlying this recommendation is that these weaker states are better off under U.S. hegemony than under Chinese hegemony. While some will argue the U.S. has promoted democracy and free markets (contrasted with whatever China would encourage), there’s really very little evidence for that, given the U.S.’s history of backing dictatorships, ethnic cleansing, and corrupt/closed markets.
The report, again, takes for granted the legitimacy of U.S. meddling. Suppose we reverse the recommendations for China, instead of the U.S. Is it legitimate for China to begin to “bolster” all of America’s neighboring rivals in, say, Latin America? Would Washington accept that? No. So, why is it ok for us to do the same?
Selectively Deepen Globalization. The United States should make trade liberalization a top priority. Since comprehensive global liberalization remains a distant goal, Washington should work to quickly conclude key regional trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which promise increased relative gains to the United States and its allies vis-à-vis China.
The contradictions inherent in this recommendation are almost laughable. We should impose so-called “free trade deals” that exclude or at least marginalize China vis-à-vis the U.S. and its allies? If it’s “selective” how can we honestly call it “free trade”? More like subtle economic warfare. Not only is this categorically anti-free market, but it represents the interests of Washington’s own global power, not the interests of consumers in the market.
Bolster U.S. Military Capabilities. To preserve its military superiority in the face of growing Chinese power, Washington should invest in improving U.S. power projection capabilities that will allow it to defeat challenges posed by China’s new strategic denial systems and regain U.S. freedom of action in the Indo-Pacific.
Yeah, because that’s exactly what the U.S. needs. After more than a decade of steadily rising defense budgets that have grown some 80 percent in real dollars since 9/11, we need to increase our military capabilities? Defense is eating up more than 60 percent of the discretionary budget, helping to feed a $17 trillion debt that will only become more burdensome as time goes on. We spend approximately as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. We need to do less of it, a lot less. Not more.
Reinvigorate the U.S. Economy. Revitalizing the domestic economy is imperative to sustaining American hegemony. To maintain its global economic dominance, the United States must emphasize labor force renewal, promote disruptive technological innovations, increase efficiency in production, and resolve the political squabbles that prevent Washington from fixing the country’s public finances.
It’s hard to argue with reinvigorating the U.S. economy, but notice again the bias here. The purpose of a healthy, growing economy is so that the government can take more resources from productive people and fortify its own grip on world power. Really? If that’s the real rationale, I’d love to see the president put that in one of his stump speeches. See how it goes over.