An Unnecessary Containment Policy

If China isn’t really expansionist and doesn’t endanger freedom everywhere, a containment policy seems both unnecessary and dangerous

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Walter Russell Mead cheerleads for the new Cold War:

Today, the Chinese Communist Party has become an expansionist, tyrannical power whose inordinate ambition endangers freedom world-wide. America’s interests and values both lead us to oppose that ambition, even as we seek to avoid the catastrophe of another great-power war.

China hawks talk a lot about Beijing’s vast ambitions, but they don’t have many things that they can point to as proof that these ambitions are real. It’s as if they just dusted off talking points from fifty years ago about the Soviet Union and replaced every reference to the USSR with the CCP and PRC instead. The story is simply too good for them to check. After all, if China is an “expansionist power” that “endangers freedom worldwide,” a containment policy makes a kind of sense. It might still be the wrong thing for the U.S. to do, but you could at least see why someone would want to do it. If China isn’t really expansionist and doesn’t endanger freedom everywhere, however, a containment policy seems both unnecessary and dangerous.

The Chinese government is tyrannical, but for more than forty years it has not waged a war outside its borders. There have been skirmishes and there have been territorial disputes, but the last war of any consequence that the PLA fought was in 1979. A huge percentage of Americans alive today can’t remember the last time that the Chinese military attacked anyone. That never seems to come up when talking about supposed Chinese “expansionism.” Mead refers to China as “expansionist” and talks about Chinese “expansion,” but he would struggle to identify where that expansion has taken place.

Mead’s misleading choice of words is more than just sloppy writing. He wants his audience to believe that there is expansion that needs to be “countered,” and that is where the US comes in. The thrust of his column is that the US doesn’t have the luxury of having any standards in which partners it supporters because it needs every two-bit dictatorship it can get to “counter” China. He applauds the Biden administration’s, er, flexibility with the new leadership in the Philippines, and he bemoans their half-hearted criticism of the Saudis. We need that “multilateral coalition” to oppose China, he tells us, and who cares about the compromises that it takes to get it?

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

20 thoughts on “An Unnecessary Containment Policy”

  1. Lol
    So the author is upset about proper word selection because “expansion” does not quite meet his perceptions of how China is “expanding” its inflence/power.
    Is not their ever increasing investment in the Middle east oil fields not an expansion?
    Is not investments in the smaller China sea countries not an expension?
    Perhaps the disscussion should be on the good or bad of the expanding ties but to say it is not occurring in various ways is not really true.


    Back in late March, top American General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the United States of America would be doubling its military budget in case the Kiev regime was defeated by Russia. At the time, Milley claimed that “not supporting Ukraine now would lead to a massive increase in future defense budgets”. He also added that “it would lead to a global conflict that has been avoided since World War II ended”.

    Sep 10, 2021 Infographic: US military presence around the world

    The US controls about 750 bases in at least 80 countries worldwide and spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.

    1. China is the world’s 2nd largest military spender and the US spends more than 2x as much as China does. The US could use the money it spends on bases abroad and wars on domestic affairs.

  3. The China war propagandists are everywhere and it’s so hard to get away from it all. Mainstream media is infested with the neocon virus. These days we hear more truth on Tucker Carlson than on NPR sadly…

    1. Except that they now fired Carlson. He was the last honest person on TV news or commentary, despite some of his political positions being disgusting.

      People who get their information and/or news from TV will be brainwashed and clueless. If you want real news, as opposed to propaganda, you have to make an effort to find it.

        1. Really? Not his honest opposition to U.S. wars? Not his honest support of Julian Assange? Not his honest general challenge to the establishment? You’re clueless. Or maybe you’re a liberal, if that’s any different.

          1. All you’ve done here is to call him names. You haven’t provided any evidence or supporting facts to back up your claims, because there aren’t any. Just because you don’t like someone and/or their political positions doesn’t make them dishonest or a fraud.

          2. The information that has come out from the Domininion suit has made his phoniness quite clear, Jeff.

          3. No, all that came out was that he didn’t like Trump, which is also true about a lot of other people on the air on FOX who said the opposite in public. I believe his anti-war and pro-free speech comments. He was honest about those things, even though they went against his own network’s and bosses’ positions on major issues.

          4. He’s a lying hypocrite, Jeff and you are just another rube that has fallen for his act.

          5. Yeah, he trolls on this site and on Popular Resistance. He probably believes what he’s saying, unfortunately.

  4. Any country that challenges the U.S. empire’s power or money will be called names, such as “expansionist” and “tyrannical.” Just like the mass propaganda/brainwashing machine dishonestly calls people “racist” and other such names when they challenge the establishment and/or its war machine.

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