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The Times: Time is running out for the West to stop China’s global takeover

H

hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member

Time is running out for the West to stop China’s global takeover

There are bits of this I disagree with - the stuff about Trump, trade agreements, etc but it's interesting to see a growing awareness that China is asshoe.

Time is running out for the West to stop China’s global takeover
For decades we have turned a blind eye to Beijing’s crimes and kidded ourselves it won’t take advantage of our weakness, says Edward Lucas



Anyone witnessing Xi Jinping’s state visit to London in 2015 would have thought that the Chinese leader came as a conqueror. Officials in distinctive blue tracksuits marshalled obedient crowds of Chinese expats to wave flags for the visiting president. But it was British police who kept the streets clear of even the tiniest murmur of dissent. When Shao Jiang, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, dared to hold up two sheets of A4 paper with the slogans “Democracy Now” and “End Autocracy”, he was bundled away. Along with two Tibetan exiles, he was charged not with a minor public order offence but with conspiracy. This allowed the police to search his home under anti-terrorism powers, seizing his computers. Shortly afterwards, he received a warning from Google that a “state actor” had attempted to access his accounts.

That should have been a scandal. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right in a free country. A police watchdog investigation found evidence of extraordinary pressure exerted by the Chinese authorities on the Metropolitan Police in the run-up to the visit. Indeed, during the talks, the Chinese delegation even threatened to walk out if Shao was not detained. But the arresting officer refused to answer questions about the case and it was dropped for lack of evidence.

The episode reveals a central fact about modern China. The regime in Beijing does not just seek to control its own vast country, it wants to control the way other countries behave, too. Nowhere is off limits. Recent books have highlighted Chinese pressure in Canada (Claws of the Panda by John Manthorpe) and in Australia (Silent Invasion by Clive Hamilton). Hamilton has co-authored a forthcoming book, Hidden Hand, about the way Chinese power is being exercised in Britain and Europe. Isaac Stone Fish, a leading American China-watcher, is researching the same topic in the US.

The locations differ but the tactics are always the same. China wields its economic clout to reward submissive governments and punish unhelpful ones. It offers generous inducements to friendly China-watchers and freezes out those who ask awkward questions. Anne-Marie Brady, a leading authority on the Chinese propaganda machine, is one of the few critical academics prepared to speak out. When her home and office in New Zealand were mysteriously burgled, police investigations got nowhere. When she tried to give evidence to a parliamentary committee, her testimony was cancelled on spurious procedural grounds.

It is easy to see China not just as confident, capable and determined but unstoppable. This is the contention of Has China Won?, a provocative new book by a Singaporean diplomat and commentator, Kishore Mahbubani. Written before the coronavirus outbreak, he argues that China is in many respects already ahead of the US, even if America has yet to realise it. China’s 1.3 billion people have a bigger share of global purchasing power than the US. It has a better system of government, greater global popularity and a stronger economy. On the one hand stands a plutocracy, deluded about its strengths and popularity, enfeebled by its greed, inequality and political dysfunction, and on the other a dynamic meritocracy run by brainy, patriotic long-term thinkers.

The examples he provides are striking. When China opened the longest route on its high-speed rail network, from Beijing to the southern commercial hub of Guangzhou, the service took just eight hours. Over a comparable 1,200-mile stretch in the US, between Key West in Florida and New York, the Amtrak service takes 30 hours. That was in 2012. Since then, American infrastructure has deteriorated further while China’s has soared.

China is also gaining the edge in artificial intelligence, robotics, life sciences and space technology. Unlike the US, it does not saddle itself with burdensome defence spending and foreign wars. It buys cheap “carrier-killer” missiles, each of which costs less than one thousandth of the giant warships that America believes vital for its global prestige.

The West was once admired, envied and emulated around the world for the freedom, prosperity and fairness it offered its people. Now, says Mahbubani, it has lost its soft-power advantage. The contrast between Donald Trump’s empty, bombastic “Make America Great Again” and the steely, efficient stewardship of the Chinese Communist Party’s plan for “national rejuvenation” is glaring. Social mobility — the heart of the American dream — is worse in the US than in China. Poor people in China get richer every year. In the US, the bottom half of the population has experienced stagnant wages for 30 years. For China, those same three decades have been the most prosperous and stable since 221BC. The US-led alliances that once glued the West together are fraying, while China slowly builds up a network of economic, political and security clients.

The economic and cultural conflict between the US and China might not escalate, Mahbubani concedes. And even if it does, the US may win. But China has won the first round, and has done so before many in the West realised that the competition for global supremacy was even under way. His book, out next week, certainly deserves a careful read. But his thesis is open to attack. The Chinese Communist Party has overreached abroad and is in trouble at home. The West is in a mess but its plight can be fixed.

The motto of Chinese diplomacy used to be “hide and bide”. Chinese diplomats could be choleric on occasion, particularly over issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, human rights or territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But their main aim was to project an image of China as a reliable and unthreatening partner. That era is definitely over. The new mantra is “wolf warrior diplomacy”, named after two gung-ho action movies featuring a heroic, Rambo-style Chinese adventurer. The new tone is confrontational and patronising, reflecting, as the official Global Times newspaper puts it, a changing balance of power:

The days when China can be put in a submissive position are long gone. China’s rising status in the world requires it to safeguard its national interests in an unequivocal way. When the West falls short of its ability to uphold its interests, it can only resort to a hysterical hooligan-style diplomacy in an attempt to maintain its waning dignity. As western diplomats fall into disgrace, they are getting a taste of China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy”.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, a journalist based in Berlin, got a taste of Chinese diplomacy when she moderated a UN human rights meeting in Geneva in 2018. The Chinese participants systematically disrupted the discussion, shouted talking points, intimidated witnesses and refused to identify themselves. “It really knocked me sideways,” she says. “It just didn’t let up. It was very threatening.” Since then her employer has received anonymous emails denouncing her as a racist. Closer to home a Chinese state TV correspondent, Linlin Kong, was convicted of assault after she slapped a steward at last year’s Conservative Party conference who had tried to stop her disrupting a meeting about democracy in Hong Kong. She claimed to be the victim of hypocrisy and discrimination.

China’s hold over the World Health Organisation is another case in point. The UN health body has been craven in its refusal to criticise any aspect of Chinese health policy, and in its official disdain for Taiwan. For Beijing, the status of the offshore republic is totemic: it must on no account be treated as an independent country. In a startling vignette, Bruce Aylward, a Canadian WHO official, squirmed and pretended not to hear when a journalist from Hong Kong recently dared to ask him about Taiwan’s exemplary response to the pandemic.

China has found that intimidation often works. But it is beginning to stiffen resistance. Relations with the US, which looked so promising a year ago, are icy. Though the trade war has reached an uneasy truce, American politicians are furious with China for stoking conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and for botching the original response, which enabled it to gain a foothold in Wuhan and spread abroad. The anger is bipartisan: Democrats and Republicans vie to sound more hawkish, in some cases verging on racism. As even Mahbubani notes, there is no longer any lobby in the US willing to defend détente with China. Corporate America is bruised by decades of Chinese state-sponsored intellectual property theft, the protectionist restrictions it faces in China’s domestic market‚ and competition from China’s business champions.

Even the EU, which has been jelly-like in its China policy, is stiffening up. This was meant to be the “Year of Europe” in China’s diplomatic calendar: a charm offensive to persuade European countries that co-operation would bring benefits on everything from trade (£600 billion last year) to climate change. It is turning out rather differently. The crisis sparked by the coronavirus has led to the cancellation of two summits and stalled trade negotiations. A further summit planned for September in Leipzig looks in doubt. If it happens, and if President Xi attends as promised, it threatens to be a showdown over his country’s mischief-making, not a showcase for co-operation. China’s response to the pandemic, combining public temper tantrums and politicised aid shipments, has sparked alarm bordering on fury in European capitals. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned its members to be ready for a “struggle for influence” and decried China’s “politics of generosity”.

The pandemic has exposed how much Beijing’s thuggish foreign policy has in common with its repressive approach at home. Not only are there signs of a cover-up about the origins of the virus, but the Chinese authorities bullied into silence the doctors who tried to warn about its danger. China has sprayed disinformation abroad, dodging blame, claiming credit and spreading confusion. The foreign ministry spokesman went so far as to claim that it was a US military delegation that brought Covid-19 to Wuhan.

For years the outside world has been willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in China: the occupation of Tibet, the cultural genocide of the Muslim Uighurs in the province of Xinjiang, the much less-noticed oppression of ethnic Mongolians, the crackdown in Hong Kong, the persecution of the underground Catholic church, and the savage treatment of dissidents. All this was regrettable, the argument went, but the bigger picture was positive, or at least tolerable. The most important thing was to play for time and not to overreact.

That disastrous approach was the hallmark of Barack Obama’s presidency. When China picked on other western countries, America did nothing. Obama shied away from confrontation in the South China Sea, to the point where these vitally important international waters have been turned into a fortified Chinese lake. Each new transgression of international law could have been met with a firm protest from his administration and decisive countermeasures. Now it is too late: China’s military and naval presence in the disputed region is so strong that countering it is impossible, short of a full-blown military conflict.

Books like Has China Won? make the mistake of exaggerating the Chinese Communist Party’s role in the country’s economic miracle. It is far from being the omnipotent source of prosperity it claims to be. What’s more, China’s 21st-century success story seems to have flipped under Xi’s rule into a catalogue of failures. Andreas Fulda, a professor at Nottingham University, says: “Xi has lost control of Hong Kong, destroyed the US-China relationship singlehandedly, and now owns Covid-19.” On the domestic front, he adds, “there are so many unresolved issues: the health sector is underfunded, the education sector is corrupt, pension funds are plundered by corruption, and food safety is a scandal. They kick the can down the road. But if you do that with lots of issues, the cans pile up and it only takes one to explode for there to be a chain reaction.”

The West is waking up to the true cost of China-centred globalisation. Oddly, this criticism is coming more from the right than the left, where kneejerk anti-Americanism still blinds many to the obvious. The real issue is not that China is invincible but that the West is divided. Ten years ago it was possible to see how a rising China could be constrained by a strong international alliance of advanced industrialised democracies. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would bring together north America and the European Union. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would do the same for the US and its allies in eastern Asia. Though the goal was rarely stated publicly, these economic agreements were about far more than stimulating trade by reducing tariff barriers. They were the building blocks of a new global economic governance, which would have touched everything from the 5G network and the future of the internet to environmental standards and protection of intellectual property. Faced with a united western block with a comparable population — 1.3 billion — and far bigger GDP, China would have had little choice but to engage with the US-led, rules-based international order.

But TTIP and the TPP failed, stymied by anti-Americanism in Europe, missteps in Washington, public weariness with the effects of globalisation and a lack of urgency regarding China. Now we have to try again to rebuild a multilateral economic, political and security international order with enough consent and clout to contain China’s meddling. That will help channel its rise towards co-operation rather than conflict. The task is urgent. The regime in Beijing has not won yet. But unless we wake up to the danger now, it could.

Edward Lucas is a Times columnist and studies Russian and Chinese disinformation at the Centre for European Policy Analysis
 

HeresJohnny

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They're taking over the world, one shitty garment and one stolen intellectual property at a time. I can't help but feel the coronavirus ends that, however. A lot of people won't ever forgive or forget their actions.

And yes, Obama was a giant vagina, albeit a likable one.
 
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Woo-Fu

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I thought we wanted them to take over so we could stop spending all that money being world police? Make up your mind, people. You don't want to be in the Middle East any longer? Fine, China will take our place.

Not comfortable with ceding all of that power and responsibility to communists? Well then stop complaining about foreign wars. Stop complaining about protecting our interests overseas. Stop complaining about slapping Iran around when their theocracy gets out of line on the world stage.

It's like these people can only keep one idea in their head at a time.

The simple truth of the matter is that China is going to take over for exactly the same reason they've taken over manufacturing. Their people are content with a significantly lower standard of living than the people making the decisions in America. That means their resources and their economy will always outperform ours. Better economy, less of it spent on the people? More money spent extending your influence throughout the world. Get used to it. It's happening. It isn't going to stop happening short of a nasty revolution in China which isn't even remotely close to happening.

The time isn't running out, there was never any time to begin with.
 
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Mista K

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To say there is “no time” is a joke. Their phones use android, and the Beijing Subway runs on windows 98. China isn’t going to keep advancing without someone enabling them, including the IP theft. The west has to essentially ostracize China in order to weaken it. This means no more trade deals and starving them into reform. They want to be a part of the global economy, but their ideals don’t exactly support it. Younger generations are seeing it more and more there

So question is, can the west all agree to disagree with the CCP? I don’t know. The roots run deep, and they’re getting deeper.

There is one point I want to make here, I don’t recommend going around saying “fuck china,” because the people aren’t exactly the problem, it’s the CCP itself. They make the rules. You can’t really blame the people when they’re being fed what is given to them. Remember how communism works
 
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finowns

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They're taking over the world, one shitty garment and one stolen intellectual property at a time. I can't help but feel the coronavirus ends that, however. A lot of people won't ever forgive or forget their actions.

And yes, Obama was a giant vagina, albeit a likable one.

Maybe the silver lining to all this.

I thought we wanted them to take over so we could stop spending all that money being world police? Make up your mind, people. You don't want to be in the Middle East any longer? Fine, China will take our place.

Not comfortable with ceding all of that power and responsibility to communists? Well then stop complaining about foreign wars. Stop complaining about protecting our interests overseas. Stop complaining about slapping Iran around when their theocracy gets out of line on the world stage.

It's like these people can only keep one idea in their head at a time.

The simple truth of the matter is that China is going to take over for exactly the same reason they've taken over manufacturing. Their people are content with a significantly lower standard of living than the people making the decisions in America. That means their resources and their economy will always outperform ours. Better economy, less of it spent on the people? More money spent extending your influence throughout the world. Get used to it. It's happening. It isn't going to stop happening short of a nasty revolution in China which isn't even remotely close to happening.

The time isn't running out, there was never any time to begin with.

Wtf? How are pointless wars in the Middle East connected to responding to China’s behavior?
 

Mista K

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Maybe the silver lining to all this.



Wtf? How are pointless wars in the Middle East connected to responding to China’s behavior?
I think what he’s getting at is the US’ global power. China is seeking to expand through the middle east with their belt and road program
 

finowns

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I think what he’s getting at is the US’ global power. China is seeking to expand through the middle east with their belt and road program

Sure but China is investing they expect a return that’s quite different than regime change.
 

General Lee

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West is simply too greedy to stop feeding the beast that is China because it would mean they'd have to actually curtail the rich corporations and investors that see nothing but short term profits. It would be up to governments to mandate restrictions, but they will do nothing because the politicians are bought. Quarterly capitalism will sell itself to China in the long term. We all love cheap stuff, and China has no qualms about exploiting its slave labor and push government subsidies so large any foreign business has no chance of competing.

Ultimately we will have no say in the matter because all the talent and key industries have been outsourced to China, and attempting counteract that is tantamount to financial suicide. Largely that has already happened. Without US and EU coming together to reshuffle their key industries to be less dependent on China the current trajectory will continue. So either you will end up paying more for your stuff not made with authoritarian regime's slave labor, or you'll soon find that regime dictating policy to you.
 
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Nobody_Important

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There is no good way to cut out China's influence. It's either economic collapse (if China is even nice enough to leave it at that) or it's a straight up war with one of the major powers of the world who is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons.


And this is a country who doesn't even care if it's own people live or die. They sure as shit aren't going to give two turds about lobbing a nuke in any direction if they feel their survival as a government depends on it.
 

Gargus

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China isn't taking over the world. China is the new boogie man people can deflect to in order to be mad at something in times where they are unsure and angry and helpless.

And since when is it America's job to be the world police? Oh yeah since we stopped producing or contributing anything the rest of the world wants and we started swinging our dicks around and using our military to March into countries where we don't belong starting with Vietnam. We're like the inept boss at a company that rose to his level of incompetency and yet somehow went higher and everyone else in the office says behind his back "why is he in charge? He doesn't do shit"
 

Woo-Fu

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Maybe the silver lining to all this.



Wtf? How are pointless wars in the Middle East connected to responding to China’s behavior?
There are no pointless wars in the Middle East. There's simply wars you don't understand the point of, or more likely disagree with. Do some research and come back when you understand the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz. Hint: ~60% of the world's oil travels through that chokepoint.

When you understand why it is important to keep that chokepoint unimpeded you begin to understand why it is important for a world superpower to make that happen. The US is currently making that happen. If we step down, somebody else will step up, most likely China. Are you comfortable with China taking over that role? A near-sighted person might think it doesn't matter to the US because we're close to energy-self-sufficient. Well guess what, most of our trading partners? They're not. Our economy relies on their economies. Their economies rely on the oil continuing to flow.
 
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The Pleasure

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They're taking over the world, one shitty garment and one stolen intellectual property at a time. I can't help but feel the coronavirus ends that, however. A lot of people won't ever forgive or forget their actions.

And yes, Obama was a giant vagina, albeit a likable one.
Aren't all vaginas that are moderately attractive likeable ones? Shi shi sha!
 
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Punished Miku

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They want to be a part of the global economy, but their ideals don’t exactly support it.

I'm afraid the opposite is true, and that their ideals are a better fit for the vision transnational corporations have for the world. The reason they have power is because the corporate world is allying everything they have with them. They don't care if the government censors, they will help them do it with their technology and make money on it. They don't care about social credit scores, big tech firms basically already collect the same type of information for advertising and profile building already. They don't care about workers' rights, and they all shipped their manufacturing jobs to China or US prisons because corporations are fine with slave labor.

Expecting the architects of globalization to turn their back on China seems naive to me. They're allies, and are more interested in hollowing out the US treasury than standing for any kind of principles. US corporations and China are allies together against the US people. Together they buy the US politicians and push through whatever they want.

The global economy has more contempt for western lower middle class workers expecting a fair wage, pension, environmental standards. The global economy is what created modern China.
 

Mista K

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I'm afraid the opposite is true, and that their ideals are a better fit for the vision transnational corporations have for the world. The reason they have power is because the corporate world is allying everything they have with them. They don't care if the government censors, they will help them do it with their technology and make money on it. They don't care about social credit scores, big tech firms basically already collect the same type of information for advertising and profile building already. They don't care about workers' rights, and they all shipped their manufacturing jobs to China or US prisons because corporations are fine with slave labor.

Expecting the architects of globalization to turn their back on China seems naive to me. They're allies, and are more interested in hollowing out the US treasury than standing for any kind of principles. US corporations and China are allies together against the US people. Together they buy the US politicians and push through whatever they want.

The global economy has more contempt for western lower middle class workers expecting a fair wage, pension, environmental standards. The global economy is what created modern China.
What made modern china is the exploitation of slave labor, which subsequently improved their economy. It’s something that has been done over 50 years with various nations. I’m aware of that. What I mean is that china isn’t going to win a culture war without a mean fight. I simply can’t see a chinese song topping any charts, or their movies. A lot of stuff they pull within the country only works because everyone there speaks chinese. The road to global takeover isn’t only won through making deals. Culture is actually one thing the west has an advantage on, which is why china tries so hard to keep it out (weird considering the IP theft still.) To think everything will go one way so soon is naive. We’ll see how the world responds after this virus situation gets settled
 
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Punished Miku

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What made modern china is the exploitation of slave labor, which subsequently improved their economy. It’s something that has been done over 50 years with various nations. I’m aware of that. What I mean is that china isn’t going to win a culture war without a mean fight. I simply can’t see a chinese song topping any charts, or their movies. A lot of stuff they pull within the country only works because everyone there speaks chinese. The road to global takeover isn’t only won through making deals. Culture is actually one thing the west has an advantage on, which is why china tries so hard to keep it out (weird considering the IP theft still.) To think everything will go one way so soon is naive. We’ll see how the world responds after this virus situation gets settled
Yeah that's a good point about the limits of soft power for them. Hadn't really thought of that. But they have so many people over there that they'll just have a parallel cultural influence that's different, separate, but possibly just as big.

So far, that's not the case at all. Except for their censorship.
 
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diffusionx

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I'm afraid the opposite is true, and that their ideals are a better fit for the vision transnational corporations have for the world. The reason they have power is because the corporate world is allying everything they have with them. They don't care if the government censors, they will help them do it with their technology and make money on it. They don't care about social credit scores, big tech firms basically already collect the same type of information for advertising and profile building already. They don't care about workers' rights, and they all shipped their manufacturing jobs to China or US prisons because corporations are fine with slave labor.

Expecting the architects of globalization to turn their back on China seems naive to me. They're allies, and are more interested in hollowing out the US treasury than standing for any kind of principles. US corporations and China are allies together against the US people. Together they buy the US politicians and push through whatever they want.

The global economy has more contempt for western lower middle class workers expecting a fair wage, pension, environmental standards. The global economy is what created modern China.

I feel like this is the right take. When these Davos types talk about being "global citizens", they mean it. It's not high-minded rhetoric. They don't actually have any loyalty to their own nations, or even regional groups like the EU. For example, some people have raised the very valid point that China now manufactures tons of things that the USA literally needs to function on day to day basis, which is an obvious weak spot for this country, not unlike when Rome relied on North Africa for its food toward the end of the Empire. Well, the Chamber of Commerce polled a bunch of firms and found almost all of them have no plans to relocate manufacturing. They simply don't see the problem with the US relying on a future and maybe present enemy, and in fact are actively hostile to this idea. Not to mention that China gives them the skim off the top they really care about.

A company like Google is, if anything, trying to bring China's way of thinking to the world, not the other way around.
 
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