On that note, is there a currently-open topic on the BBS where one can discuss how governments can most effectively address the threats that China poses? If not, I’m considering starting one tomorrow; I feel like some discussion needs to be had about what politics and politicians on the left can/should do in regards to China and how to craft some sort of policy with teeth.
Please do so. I’m just fully aware of who is a threat to me right this second, and it’s not China. China is not going to invade and impose a communist government. China is not going to take away my bodily autonomy. They are not currently killing my fellow citizens at traffic stops.
Feel free to discuss Chinese foreign policy and many will join you on that issue - it’s real. But do not mistake it for the real threat to millions of Americans right the second. To me and my family right now.
Before anyone gets specific on policies that governments might implement, let me suggest a broad heuristic for them:
Don’t Act Like the Chinese Government
So: don’t discriminate against and incarcerate racial and ethnic and religious minorities; don’t suppress dissent; don’t spread disinformation; don’t insist the government (in reality the leadership’s cronies) get a cut of business deals in the name of “national security”; don’t engage in trade wars in order to score cheap points with nationalist followers; don’t attempt to dictate women’s’ reproductive freedoms; don’t waste time that should be spent governing on empty rallies; don’t reduce environmental protections in the name of the economy; don’t encourage personality cults around leaders; don’t lie about or downplay the gravity of pandemics; don’t insist that technology vendors and services give the cops backdoors for surveillance; don’t countenance creepy “social credit” scoring systems.
I could go on, but the point is that while I’m all for reality-based policies with teeth aimed at reducing the specific and very real threats China poses at home and abroad, it’s not whataboutism to note that it would be better if they came from governments (as opposed to nation-states) that don’t treat China’s authoritarian and corrupt ruling cadre as aspirational role models to one degree or another.
That out of the way, what threats do you or others think most urgently need to be addressed by Western governments? Xi and his band of thieves and thugs offer lots of choices.
The Chinese government and its authoritarianism, lack of concern for human rights, and more, poses a significant threat not just to persecuted minorities in China and those that want freedom, but also to the rest of the world. It’s something that governments on the world stage will have to confront eventually. I think that there’s ample room to discuss how politicians and left-wing political parties/organizations the world over can create an effective foreign policy platform with regards to how to curb China’s growing soft & hard power abroad and its human rights abuses in its own borders.
Yesterday I had written an exasperated and frustrated comment about how the neoliberal approach of playing by the rules haven’t worked. I think that playing by those rules hasn’t worked and won’t work because the ones who wrote those rules are the same people that are profiting off of the status-quo:
The status-quo can’t continue. The conservative and neoliberal paths have been tried, and failed miserably. The global left needs to formulate long-term and short-term policy goals that seek to curtail China’s authoritarian nature and human rights abuses. These policy goals need to be rooted in things such as economic justice, social justice, and facts and reason.
One short-term policy goal that I think would help to keep China from growing its soft power is banning Huawei equipment from 5G networks. The main non-Huawei players in 5G are Nokia (Finland), Samsung (Korea), and Ericsson(Sweden). The current Huawei ban has a dearth of evidence. A new Huawei ban based on the reasoning that letting China project soft power through allowing its businesses that are tied with the state to become crucial parts of global telecom infrastructure is very bad, especially when we have other countries that don’t do the same shit as China that we can get equipment from.
One long-term policy goal I can also think of is to increase the diversity of countries that people can source materials and components from as part of their supply chains, as well as increasing the redundancy and resiliency of domestic supply chains. China simply cannot remain the world’s sole supplier of damn-near everything. American universities could work on new, innovative ways to safely and cleanly extract and refine rare-earth elements from untapped deposits here in the US. This, combined with funding research into potential breakthroughs in things like additive manufacturing/3D printing for metal parts and components, could bring about a revolution and massive cost reduction in domestic supply chains.
If you’re going to take a broad view on reducing China’s power abroad, you really have to take a look at Belt and Road, which is basically soft imperialism that’s taking advantage of the West’s withdrawal from or lack of interest in the developing world and the post-Soviet states.
Progressive governments that looked at involvement or investment in these countries and regions not as opportunities for exploitation (as has been the case with Western conservatism and neoliberal globalism) but rather as true co-operative ventures that better the lives not only of the local ruling elites but also the entire populace. That would provide a real contrast to how the Chinese are currently making inroads.
I agree that keeping Huawei out of 5G networks is a good idea that has been bungled in practise. One approach might be to look at things from the point of view of unfair trade practises. From what I’ve read, China is effectively dumping the technology components at below cost to gain early inroads in 5G infrastucture outside China. A liberal or progressive Western government (or coalition of them) could take that approach without all the protectionism and jingoism we see from the U.S.
Similarly, the Five Eye countries plus the EU have the technical expertise to winkle out all the backdoors and other garbage the Chinese government insists Huawei put in their products – a liberal or progressive government (especially one that takes a firm line against such practises domestically) should have no problem exposing every one of the exploits.
And yes, we need to stop relying on China for everything. But whether you’re talking about R&D and innovation or about supply chains and actual products, we have to acknowledge that we in the West (governments, corporations, individuals) will have to start spending a lot more on these things than we’d prefer. A truly liberal or progressive government might promote that, but conservative and Third Way governments and the corporate masters they serve are not so inclined.
What all this is coming down to, though, is that we have to see a lot of political change in the West before we can even hope to address the threats posed by China in an effective manner. Unfortunately, China is moving so fast on its initiatives those changes won’t happen in time.
From your linked comment:
Yeah, that’s not true at all.
Seconded. The U.S. still throws its weight around internationally and ignores rules when there’s a buck to be made or when jingoes need some red meat. And while its citizens enjoy more freedom than those of China, that’s a very low bar to clear (albeit a bar that conservative and Third Way leaders insist on raising as far as they can at home with every passing year).
I’m confused by what you mean by this. Could you please clarify? Are you saying that other countries should dump tech components they make atbe low cost to try and compete with China’s dumping?
This is why I mentioned research into 3D printing metal parts and components. Figuring out how to do that could drive the costs of manufacturing by a respectable margin. Prices could still go up, but hopefully by amounts that most economies could sustain.
That’s what it feels like, though. The conservative and Third Way folks that Gracchus mentions have crafted the narrative that if you just be nice and assume the best of everyone in terms of global trade & economics, everything will turn out well eventually. It’s that narrative that led to the agreement to let China into the WTO under the assumption that the country would eventually become more free and possibly wind up becoming a liberal democracy.
No, I’m saying there are international trade courts that address dumping, and if a case grounded in solid evidence is made then China can’t game the rules there as easily as they can in other international forums like the U.N.
There are other approaches to take as well. For example, demonstrating to developing nations that Huawei’s supposedly cheap 5G products come with a lot of hidden costs, some of which will be borne by local strongmen and oligarchs who fall out of favour with the mercurial regime in Beijing.
R&D is fine, but we can’t count on it to be a magical panacea. These are hard problems to solve and won’t happen instantly, even when Western governments and corporations are willing to accept the costs (which, as noted, they’re not inclined to).
Third Way politicians, yes. Conservative politicians in the U.S., UK and some other Western countries have gone off the deep end and abandoned that narrative for one of protectionism and isolationism. Ask Canada if Il Douche is playing nice and assuming the best of everyone.
That kind of xenophobic nationalism is one of the biggest barriers to addressing these problems in an effective manner. The West has to re-frame how they look at China’s behaviour internationally. Yes, it’s exploitative and expansionist and crappy, but ultimately it isn’t primarily about an attack on the U.S. and other Western countries in the same way that many of Putin’s actions are.
To some people, sure. I mean, it’s fine as long as it is explicitely stated: “I wanto t make certain policy changes because i want to feel like I got a good deal” because then you can analyze the tradeoff between feeling like you got a good deal and actually getting a good deal.
How long do the trade courts take to reach a ruling, on average? Trade courts are a good idea but I’ve always felt that the tangible benefits that we receive from them are years after the initial harm that was done.
Which is why we need to get started on them as soon as possible.
I really think that solutions need to be split up into long-term goals and short-term goals. And for the sake of discussion, let’s try to define Short-Term and Long-Term.
Short-Term Goals: Can be started right away, can likely be completed within 2-4 years
Long-Term Goals: Can either get started right away, or take a bit to start up, but take well over 4 years to complete.
I’d put “Stop buying 5G equipment from Chinese sources start buying it from the aforementioned Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson” as a Short-Term Goal. “Reinvigorating domestic manufacturing” is something that I’d put down as a long-term goal. Same with taking China to court for dumping and IP theft, with solid evidence-based accusations.
Another Long-Term goal would be to create a new multilateral trade agreement that has actual teeth to it in regards to protections for human rights, the environment, and rights for workers. The TPP was a massive giveaway to corporations disguised as a “progressive” trade agreement; everything that served the interests of the rich was binding, and everything that would’ve made things better for everyone and everything else was a non-binding suggestion. The agreement was advertised as our biggest and best chance to curtail China, but everything about it made it clear that the China would be able to waltz on into the agreement any time, its human rights violations given a free pass.
Future multilateral agreements must put progressive policies forward as binding, and any country that wishes to be a member has to talk the talk and walk the walk.