If you’ve been an avid CNN watcher for the past four years, you might wake up in cold sweats at the thought of Vladimir Putin overthrowing the U.S. government at any minute.
It was all so absurd, wasn’t it? The corporate media’s magnification of the Kremlin as America’s greatest geopolitical foe was pure cynical politics. It was entirely justified, in journalists’ minds, to undermine Trump’s 2016 win, and to use this as a cudgel against him during his four years in office.
Unfortunately, in that regard, it worked shockingly well… a special counsel investigation and a White House under siege with endless allegations about being “Putin’s puppet.” The Russia collusion lie was a national media obsession for almost four years.
But as the Great Orange Menace of Trump has passed (at least for now), our media is waking up to some unpleasant realities of geopolitics. In the real world of superpower conflict, Russia is just a sideshow. For all the talk of Putin’s machinations, he runs a country with a GDP under $2 trillion and about 140 million inhabitants who struggle to pay its bills when the price of oil drops.
It’s China that we will really have to worry about… And this has been true for decades. China is by far our biggest competitor economically and militarily.
It’s China that we will really have to worry about… And this has been true for decades. China is by far our biggest competitor economically and militarily. With a GDP of almost $15 trillion, and boasting more than 1 billion people, China is the only real challenge to U.S. hegemony. Geopolitics in the 21st century will be dominated by a struggle between the American eagle and the Chinese dragon. We can all see this coming.
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And it’s going to keep President Joe Biden’s hands full on the foreign-policy front. From what we have seen so far, Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”) Chief Xi Jinping is preparing to put on a clinic of realpolitik for this new White House.
Whatever one thinks of Trump’s foreign policy (no new wars was certainly great), he was fundamentally correct about China. The CCP was getting away with all kinds of illicit and unfair trade practices at the expense of American workers and businesses. Despite the conventional wisdom about the need for “free trade” with China, Trump was right when he said that wasn’t what was actually occurring. It was really a one-way trade war, and Trump decided to fight fire with fire.
Then there’s the ongoing cyber war… The Chinese are among the most aggressive and sophisticated hackers on the planet. The Russians have had more success going after top-tier American targets of late, but whatever China lacks in quality, it more than makes up for in volume. There’s simply no way to accurately assess how much intellectual property and other sensitive or proprietary information has been taken from U.S. computers in recent decades.
In the long run, we may discover that this massive and ongoing theft at the hands of the CCP was a civilization shifting transfer of knowledge and wealth. This could manifest itself in advantages China has over the U.S. in quantum computing, 5G communications, and other essential technologies. It’s already starting to pull away from us in those areas.
China also has the advantage of clear purpose. While America in the first months of the Biden administration seems determined to tear down its own history and go on a cancellation spree of Dr. Seuss books, China is expanding its influence in many of our most powerful institutions. The proliferation of Confucius Institutes and other nodes of CCP influence on U.S. soil have been growing for years, but it’s the power that China wields over America’s entertainment industry that has gotten the attention of everyday people.
When a remake of the movie Top Gun is forced to remove the Taiwan and Japan patches from the pilot Maverick’s jacket, even Americans who generally could care less about foreign policy take notice. (Chinese censors demanded the edit.) When NBA superstar LeBron James weighs in on the Hong Kong protests – not to express solidarity with those standing up for their freedom against violent crackdowns, but with the CCP government that is oppressing them, it’s clear to everyone that China’s influence has grown to dangerous levels here at home.
Now, it’s all up to Biden and his foreign policy team to sit across the global chessboard from China and outplay our greatest rival since the Soviet Union.
Now, it’s all up to Biden and his foreign policy team to sit across the global chessboard from China and outplay our greatest rival since the Soviet Union. To be sure, Biden has some foreign-policy players who are highly esteemed around the think tank circuit. Their records of success on the global stage, however, aren’t as impressive as their ivy-tinged resumes.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a consensus-driven box checker who might as well have been created in a lab by the Brookings Institute. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, currently dubbed the “climate czar,” is an almost comically bombastic and out-of-touch plutocrat who now goes around hectoring the world about the “existential threat” of CO2. Nicholas Burns, a former senior State Department bureaucrat, is the expected next U.S. Ambassador to China. None of them seem up to the task of taking on an increasingly aggressive CCP.
And what about Joe Biden, the newly elevated commander in chief? Biden’s views on China seem to be a work in progress, which is troubling considering the man has worked in foreign policy for longer than I’ve been alive. On the most obvious points – China as a ruthless economic competitor, CCP’s horrid treatment of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province – he largely aligns with the views of his predecessor. On trade policy, Biden is expected to relax some of the more aggressive tariffs Trump put into place, if for no reason other than a desire to reverse what Trump did. Other than that, Biden’s moves against Beijing are anybody’s guess.
The Communist leadership in Beijing has to see Biden’s ascension as an opening. Trump was responsible for awaking America from its sleepwalking about the real costs of China’s predations. Biden, who has been famously wrong about every major foreign-policy decision of the last four decades, may well lull us back to sleep. Xi has many cards to play with his administration, and the pull to be anything-but-Trump on policy will be strong enough on its own.
With the start of the coronavirus in Wuhan and its ensuing spread resulting in a global pandemic, China likely changed the outcome of a U.S. election in 2020… and world history. As Biden settles into his new role as leader of the free world, he would be well advised to prepare for the possibility that China could be the wellspring of another crisis that tests his administration in ways he can barely begin to imagine now.
Buck Sexton is host of the nationally syndicated talk radio program, The Buck Sexton Show, heard on more than 100 stations across the country. He’s also a former CIA and NYC police department intelligence officer. You can follow him at BuckSexton.com.