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Is China or Fear of China the Greater Threat?

September 29, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

America looked at Imperial China as a potentially limitless consumer market. Washington sympathized with the republic under the Nationalists against Imperial Japan. Post-World War II China under Mao Zedong turned into a serious threat, eventually second only to that of the Soviet Union.


However, mutual fear of the USSR fostered rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. After Mao’s death, the PRC adopted significant economic reforms, sparking rapid growth. Personal autonomy greatly increased. Political freedom lagged, but many Americans hoped rising income and expanding private enterprise would foster political liberalization.

Instead, after the crackdown in Tiananmen Square China adopted an unstable system of loose authoritarianism. Although challenging Chinese Communist Party control would result in prison, more general discussions of political and policy topics were tolerated, at least in academia. Foreign contacts expanded significantly. A semi-independent press developed, which could challenge local government malfeasance. Protests against abusive local officials were common. The CCP’s reputation crashed as corruption burgeoned.

Now, President Xi Jinping is pushing the PRC rapidly in the opposite direction. Concerned about the party’s declining authority, he has imposed an increasingly totalitarian system—one which Mao likely would admire, especially its technological innovations. Among its fearsome features: forcing a million or more Muslim Uighurs into reeducation camps, crushing the slightest public hint of dissent, and imposing a “social credit” system designed to regulate all personal behavior.

At the same time, the economic relationship with America is foundering. While it should surprise no one that authoritarian Beijing subsidizes and manages its industries, the PRC also has engaged in commercial espionage, tolerated the widespread theft of intellectual property and discriminated against U.S. firms. Companies which missed the promised bounty from Chinese investment now applaud the Trump administration’s trade war or abandon the Chinese market altogether.



The PRC also has grown more aggressive internationally. Although Beijing does not threaten fundamental American security—no one imagines a Chinese assault on the U.S. homeland—it is mounting a significantly greater challenge to American influence in …read more

Source: OP-EDS