Guest post by Michael West.
[I realized…I’m a little slow sometimes…that it was silly to call outstanding posts on Ethics Alarms Open Forums “comments” when they are, in fact, stand alone essays. With this example by Michael West, Ethics Alarms will, when appropriate, designate such commentary as guest posts. That will not mean that my answer to all of the people who tell me they love Ethics Alarms and want to contribute with product promotions or articles on haberdashery, insect larvae or cosmetics will be changing. It’s still NO. JM]
This will be a tough nut to crack. We’re heavily “interdependent” with them economically (but we don’t have to be). We’re becoming direct competitors in the eastern Pacific.
From an “all nations are equal” point of view America has the distinct positional advantage. We have allies ringing the Chinese periphery on one side. As frontiers are described, nations prefer a “peripheral zone” around their “cultural core” before the nation even reaches the “fringe” or the “frontier”.
For the vast majority of American history, the core was the “Boston-Washington corridor”, with the periphery being the “North” +West Coast and the “fringe” being “the South and the West Coast” and the frontier being “the Southwest” and Alaska + Hawaii, with outposts in the wide ranging Pacific. America has been “comfortable”.
China…with landmasses in it’s ideal “peripheral zone” being oriented towards the United States: Japan and Taiwan, and several being neutral but more inclined to the USA, such as Vietnam….and with landmasses in it’s “fringe and frontier”, such as Indonesia and Singapore, being oriented towards the United States, has never enjoyed the “comfort” that the USA has felt.
But that’s okay…because all things are not “being equal”. I don’t care that a Communist country that inflicts as much pain on it’s landed periphery and fringe- Tibet and Western China- that it would love to inflict on its Pacific periphery. They are the Bad Guys.
But they have one thing they can trade to the world- cheap labor.
If there has ever been a crisis of slavery in the modern age, it’s been China. They have not only a captive work force, but a captive workforce that is seemingly content with it’s station in life. That’s partly due to geography…the vast population of China is beholden to it’s coastal elite for even a modicum of access to the outside community. When the coastal elite breaks down and can’t unite against the outside…the interior and China’s workforce has even *less* access to the free parts of the globe.
Cheap labor means inexpensive goods for the world’s consumers.
But this is an ethical conundrum on two levels.
Is it right for us to enjoy inexpensive products ostensibly gained through “free trade”? But it’s not really free?
This is a hard question. Libertarians will argue that opening up trade to Soviet Russia helped bring Soviet Russia down. Instead of a military invasion we invaded them with Coca-Cola, Jeans and Rock and Roll. And the subversion won. But we have remarkably free trade with Communist China given the circumstances…and nothing’s budging.
So are we ethically wrong to enjoy cheap products from Chinese abuse of their own slave population?
A question political parties need to ask.
America, as a point of craftmanship almost has the same dichotomy that faces Italy. Italy has artisans who try to mass produce stuff and it’s crap…like some of Fiat’s more memorable flops…or it has artisans who focus their efforts and produce the Ferrari. We have the ability to mass produce, and when we produce crap we get past it and improve and can mass produce quality.
If we want to devote ourselves to it and it’s associated costs.
Divorcing ourselves from China will require a sort of *gasp* *nationalistic* pursuit of internal production. But it will take the wind out of the sails of China’s ability to manipulate world financial markets.
Make no mistake…when your economy doesn’t rely on the same rules everyone else’s economy plays buy…your money is meaningless. And that’s how China will defeat us. Through despicable monetary tricks.
It’s of *global* existential importance to divorce ourselves from the Chinese “economy”. While on paper they are physically weak, even despite a billion person population (which matters in one key aspect), they can still completely hose the world’s economy which has willingly coupled itself to China’s cheap slave labor.
*Shame on all of us in free Republics and semi-Republics*
And that’s the prisoner’s dilemma. While libertarians will argue that “opening the economy will defeat China”, we don’t realize that China isn’t Russia. It’s a whole different worldview. Defeating China will require more aggressive steps. On a level of economic warfare and “great game” power maneuvering. Which is where we pivot to actual physical maneuvers. We’ll leave the question of the China economic approach open to the coming party realignment.
Frankly, it seems the Democrats, at a most likely configuration are just playing the “peace-nik” approach (which will accomplish nothing but emboldening China), or they are playing the “wimp” approach (which will really accomplish nothing but emboldening China). But the true *worse case scenario* with a Biden administration and a Democrat control of Senate and House is that even the most rudimentary and disorganized conspiracy theories are true – that Biden and the Democrats *want* to oversee an American waning in favor of any other nation’s ascendancy – and given the fear and orientation of Biden’s commentary… it would seem he’s beholden to China.
*I do NOT want to go down that route because not only is it terrifying to contemplate an entire political party selling out our nation to a foreign power’s interests it is painfully believable at this point*
So to focus on China’s physical options:
South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam are all essential friends in containing China in the Pacific.
Taiwan is a key point…even American global corporations who enjoy China’s fake money translated into America’s real money kowtow to China’s claim on Taiwan.
The South China sea, ringed by America-oriented states, but gradually probed by Chinese “development” (read as China literally inventing Islands to house military aircraft), is a hot spot. We’d do good to increase economic integration of that region to the slight exclusion of China. Eyes on Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
But we’ve let China take some symbolic leads in that area (to the chagrin of the Trump administration).
I think a Biden administration will be milquetoast enough to let China make subtle-but-huge symbolic strides in this area.
This isn’t good…but it’s a talking point the GOP can use for the coming realignment.
A real physical competition will occur between China and India. We’ve obviously seen China pressure India in their western borderlands in the past year. While this is of immediate concern to India, this should be seen as China probing *OUR* resolve. China knows it currently cannot contest the American Navy in the Pacific. So it will see what kind of tiny land grabs it can accomplish. While China is running a big show along the western component of it’s border with India, it’s been recently inventing some land claims along the eastern border…where a blitz land grab would be hard for India to physically respond to.
If China successfully accomplishes that with *no opposition*, which it can expect from a Biden administration much like Russia’s satellite land grab in Ukraine during Obama’s administration, then China can gleefully look to bigger options in the South China Sea or even Taiwan as a most dangerous course of action.
The GOP will do itself HUGE favors to continue to highlight the plight of India.
What’s the ethical response to China? The Democrats will make a fiasco of things…how will the out of power GOP craft an appropriate message in this regard?