Will the Trade War Lead to Real War with China?

What the U.S. faces with China is not a new Cold War but a contest unlike any it has known before, says Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

By Chas W. Freeman, Jr

Chas FreemanFive hundred years ago, Hernán Cortés began the European annihilation of the Mayan, Aztec, and other indigenous civilizations in the Western Hemisphere.  Six months later, in August 1519, Magellan [Fernão de Magalhães] launched his circumnavigation of the globe.  For five centuries thereafter, a series of Western powers — Portugal, Spain, Holland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and, finally, the United States — overturned preexisting regional orders as they imposed their own on the world.  That era has now come to an end.

In the final phases of the age of Western dominance, we Americans made and enforced the rules.  We were empowered to do so in two phases.  First, around 1880, the United States became the world’s largest economy.  Then, in 1945, having liberated Western Europe from Germany and overthrown Japanese hegemony in East Asia, Americans achieved primacy in both the Atlantic and Pacific.  Almost immediately, the Soviet Union and its then-apparently-faithful Asian companion, Communist China, challenged our new sphere of influence.  In response, we placed our defeated enemies (Germany, Italy, Japan), our wartime allies, and most countries previously occupied by our enemies under American protection.  With our help, these countries — which we called “allies” — soon returned to wealth and power but remained our protectorates.  Now other countries, like China and India, are rising to challenge our global supremacy.

Trump, joined by other U.S. officials, receives Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Oval Office, January 2019 (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr )

Trump receives Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Oval Office, January 2019 (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr )

President Donald Trump has raised the very pertinent question: Should states with the formidable capabilities longstanding American “allies” now have still be partial wards of the U.S. taxpayer?  In terms of our own security, are they assets or liabilities?  Another way of putting this is to ask: Do our Cold War allies and their neighbors now face credible threats that they cannot handle by themselves?  Do these threats also menace vital U.S. interests?  And do they therefore justify U.S. military presences and security guarantees that put American lives at risk?  These are questions that discomfit our military-industrial complex and invite severe ankle-biting by what some have called “the Blob” — the partisans of the warfare state now entrenched in Washington.  They are serious questions that deserve serious debate.  We Americans are not considering them.

Instead, we have finessed debate by designating both Russia and China as adversaries that must be countered at every turn.  This has many political and economic advantages.  It is a cure for enemy deprivation syndrome — that queasy feeling our military-industrial complex gets when our enemies disorient us by irresponsibly defaulting on their contest with us and disappearing, as the Soviet Union did three decades ago.  China and Russia are also technologically formidable foes that can justify American R&D and procurement of the expensive, high-tech weapons systems.  Sadly, low intensity conflict with scruffy “terrorist” guerrillas can’t quite do this.

China and Russia Blamed for Our Malaise

No one in the United States now seems prepared to defend either China or Russia against the charge that they, not we, are responsible for our current national dysfunction and malaise.  After all, we’re the best, Russia’s a rogue, and China’s an unfair competitor.  Our patriotism is admirable, theirs is malign.

It must have been the Russians who overcame our better judgment and made us vote against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.  Who other than China could have caused our companies to outsource work to places with cheap labor, instead of upgrading equipment and retraining their workers to meet foreign competition?  A pox on all foreigners, not just Mexican rapists, European rip-off artists, Japanese free riders, Russian trolls, immigrants from “shithole” countries, and Chinese cyber burglars.  Why worry about how to boost our own competitiveness when we can cripple the competitiveness of others?

White House in winter, Feb. 1, 2019. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Bogosian via Flickr)

White House after snow shower, Feb. 1, 2019. (White House Photo by Joyce N. Bogosian via Flickr)

Today our government is trying to break apart Sino-American interdependence, weaken China, and prevent it from overtaking us in wealth, competence, and influence.  We have slapped tariffs on it, barred investment from it, charged it with pilfering intellectual property, arrested its corporate executives, blocked tech transfers to it, restricted what its students can study here, banned its cultural outreach to our universities, and threatened to bar its students from entering them.  We are aggressively patrolling the waters and air spaces off its coasts and islands.  Whether China deserves to be treated this way or not, we are leaving it little reason to want to cooperate with us.

Our sudden hostility to China reflects a consensus — at least within the Washington Beltway — that we need to wrestle China to the ground and pin it there.  But what are the chances we can do that?  What are the consequences of attempting it?  Where are we now headed with China?

Realism is out of fashion in Washington even if it’s alive and well elsewhere in America.  It should give us pause that our new enemy of choice is a very different, larger, and more dynamic country than any we have unbefriended before.  China had a couple of bad centuries.  But 40 years ago, the Chinese Communist Party and government began to evolve what turned out to be a successful model of economic development that blended state capitalism with free enterprise.  This unleashed the entrepreneurial talents of the Chinese people.  The results have been staggering.   Per capita income in China today is 25 times what it was in 1978.  Back then, well over 90 percent of Chinese lived in poverty, as defined by the World Bank.  Today, less than 2 percent do.  China’s GDP is now 60 times bigger than it was 40years ago.

China is no longer isolated, poor, or irrelevant to affairs distant from it.  It is a society with capabilities that rival and are beginning to overtake our own.  China faces many challenges, but its people are resilient, resourceful, and optimistic that the lives of their descendants will be vastly better than their own — this at a time that we Americans are unprecedentedly pessimistic about our own country’s present and future condition.

Flight view of Beijing Capital International Airport. (Wikimedia)

Flight view of Beijing Capital International Airport. (Wikimedia)

Despite increasingly problematic policies, the Chinese economy is still growing almost three times faster than ours.  By some measures, it is already one-third larger.  China’s manufacturing sector accounts for over one fourth of global industrial production and is one-and-a-half times bigger than that of the United States.  China’s ability to defend itself and its periphery against foreign attack is now formidable despite its spending less than 2 percent of GDP on its military.  If pressed to do so, China could spend as much on defense as we do — and that’s a lot: almost $1.2 trillion when you add up all the military spending that is hidden like Easter eggs all over non-Defense Department budgets.

China is slightly larger than the United States – 6.3 percent of the world’s landmass vs. 6.1 percent for the U.S.  But there are 1.4 billion Chinese, with only one-third the arable land and one-fourth the water we Americans have.  If we had the same ratio of population to agricultural resources that the Chinese do, there would be almost 4 billion Americans – about 600 million of them over 65 – most of them probably planning to retire in Florida.

In China, No Margin for Error

Nanjing Road, Shanghai. (Wikimedia)

I suspect that, if there were that many people crammed into the United States, Americans would have a much lower tolerance for social disorder and a different attitude toward family planning than we now do.  We’d also be more worried about the prospects for individual security and survival.  Sixty years ago, perhaps 30 million Chinese died in a man-made famine known as the “Great Leap Forward.”  Chinese are acutely aware that they have narrow margins for error.  This makes them naturally risk averse and, in most respects, a more predictable actor in foreign affairs than we now are.

Until we suddenly launched a trade war last year, China was our fastest growing export market.  It is, after all, the largest consumer of a vast array of commodities and products.  China consumes 59 percent of the world’s cement, 47 percent of its aluminum, 56 percent of its nickel, 50 percent of its coal, 50 percent of its copper and steel, 27 percent of its gold, 14 per cent of its oil, 31 percent of its rice, 47 percent of its pork, 23 percent of its corn, and 33 percent of its cotton.  It consumes about one-fourth of the world’s energy.  It provides one-third of the global market for semiconductors.  Its companies’ demand for these has been growing around 16 percent annually. Microchips have become China’s largest single import — around $110 billion this year.  China has been the main market for U.S. chips, one of the few products of industry we Americans still monopolize.

By slapping tariffs, quotas, and export bans on China, the United States is throwing these markets away as well as raising prices and reducing choices for American consumers.  Food security has been an obsession for every Chinese state over the course of the last 2,500 years.  No responsible leader in China is again going to commit his or her country to long-term dependence on the U.S. for its feed-grain, wheat, corn, cotton, pork, or fresh fruit supply.  Erratic behavior in business makes one the supplier of last resort.  Whatever the short-term outcome of the trade war we launched against it, in future China is going to look elsewhere for critical imports.

No “wall” is in prospect on the U.S.-Mexican border, but the United States is surrounding itself with a moat full of protectionist measures aimed at denying China not just sales in the U.S. market, but opportunities to invest its rising wealth in U.S. industry, agriculture, and services.  This is in part a response to a real but far from unprecedented problem.  In the 19th century, encouraged by Alexander Hamilton and others, Americans pioneered the art of technology theft from Britain and other more advanced manufacturing economies.  As the 20th century began and we became a net exporter of innovation ourselves, we renounced intellectual property crime.  Japan and Taiwan then took over our role.  When Japan got rich, it too retired.  Taiwan moved its pirate industries across the Strait to the China mainland.

Fighting the Last War

China took up the by-now, well-established practice of upgrading its industrial base by lifting technology from wherever it could.  But, like the U.S. and Japan in earlier days, China is now itself becoming an exporter not just of capital but advanced, innovative technology.  With a lot of competition among its own enterprises and an increasing share of the world’s intellectual property, Chinese companies have become very concerned to secure their innovations from pilferage.  This has made them responsive to our pressure on them to clean up their act.  In their own interest, they are almost certain to do so whether we make a deal with them or not.  Like the proverbial generals, we may be fighting the last war, not the one to come.

The end of the 21st century’s second decade is a remarkably inauspicious moment for us to be severing ties with scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians — so-called STEM workers — in China.  Technology advances through collaboration, not the sequestration of knowledge.  In the United States, we graduate about 650,000 scientists and engineers annually, over one third of whom are foreigners.  (In some disciplines, like engineering and computer science, foreign students account for about half of new U.S. degrees.)  Almost one third of all foreign students here are from China.  On its own, China now graduates 1.8 million scientists, engineers, and mathematicians annually.  It is about to overtake us in the number of doctorates it confers in these fields.

Workers in 2008 perform quality control testing on computer drives; Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour. (Robert Scoble via Wikimedia)

Workers in 2008 perform quality control testing on computer drives; Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour. (Robert Scoble via Wikimedia)

Already about one-fourth of the world’s STEM workers are Chinese.  This Chinese intellectual workforce is eight times larger than ours and growing six times as fast.  By 2025, China is expected to have more technologically skilled workers than all members of the OECD combined.  (The OECD is not a trivial grouping.  It consists of the world’s most advanced economies: the United States, Canada and Mexico, all non-Russian-speaking Europe, Australia, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Turkey.)  By severing ties with the Chinese, we Americans are isolating ourselves from the largest population of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in the world.

U.S. Educated, Working in China

The United States has always been a major importer of foreign brainpower.  Since 2000, 39 percent of our Nobel Prize winners have been immigrants.  A great many of our technology companies were started by immigrants or are now managed by them.  Asian immigrants, mainly from China (including Taiwan), India, and Korea, make up about 17 percent of our current STEM workforce.  In large part as a result of the less welcoming atmosphere in our country today, less than half of Chinese graduates from our universities now join the U.S. workforce.  Most are going home to work or start companies in China rather than here.  China is now home to 36 percent of the world’s “unicorns” – start-up companies valued at more than $1 billion.

Some estimates are that the United States is already one million short of the STEM workforce our economy requires to sustain our competitiveness.  Tightening restrictions on foreign students and workers as we are now doing undercuts our ability to fill this gap.  We are reducing our openness to foreign science and technology at precisely the moment that other countries — not just China but nations like India and Korea — are pulling even with us, Europe, and Japan, or charging ahead.  China has begun to outspend us on research and development, especially in the basic sciences, where breakthroughs in human knowledge that lead to new technologies occur.

Our strategy is not aimed at upping our own performance but at hamstringing China’s.  This is more likely to induce intellectual constipation here than in China.  The Chinese are not going to oblige us by ceasing to educate their young people, halting their progress, or severing their science and technology relationships with other countries. Nor will most other countries join us in shunning them.  We Americans, not the Chinese, are the most likely to be weakened and impoverished by our growing xenophobia and nativism. Others, not Americans, will leverage China’s advancing prosperity and brainpower to their advantage.

At root, of course, our concern about China’s increasing technological prowess is about the balance of military power between us.  Since World War II, Americans have become accustomed to being the privileged custodians of the global commons, setting the rules and calling the shots in all the world’s oceans, including the Western Pacific.  We gained our primacy there nearly seventy-five years ago when we defeated Japan and filled the resulting power vacuum in its former imperial domain.

Allied leaders (left to right) at Yalta Conference,1945: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. (Wikimedia)

Allied leaders (left to right) at Yalta Conference,1945: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. (Wikimedia)

But Japan is back as a major power even if it has preferred to pretend otherwise.  South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and others in East Asia have become powerful, independent states that bow to no foreign power.  There is no vacuum in Asia for either the United States or China to fill.

No country in Asia can ignore the power that China’s huge and growing economy confers on it.  None could achieve a decisive victory in a war with China.  But none is prepared to enlist in our campaign against China or China’s backlash against the United States.  None wants to choose between us.  As uneasy as China’s neighbors may be in the face of its economic and military ascendancy, they all know they must accommodate it.

For over half of the last millennium, all or part of China fell prey to a remarkable range of foreign invaders – Qiang, Jurchens, Mongols, Manchus, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British, French, Russians, Austro-Hungarians, Germans, Americans, and Japanese.  Often, China was ruled by foreigners or dominated by them.  The most recent set of invasions was from the South and East China Seas.  It should surprise no one that Chinese are determined to defend the approaches to their coasts or that, to this end, they are developing what the Pentagon calls “anti-access, area denial” or A2/AD capabilities.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s rapidly strengthening capabilities have become a formidable impediment to anyone planning to mount an attack on China or on shipping approaching or leaving Chinese ports.  The United States has repeatedly declared that we see China’s new ability to control its periphery as a threat to us.  The Chinese take this, our plan to “pivot” much of our military to their frontiers, and our aggressive patrols of their defenses as ipso facto evidence of U.S. preparation for war with them.  The United States and China are caught in a classic “security dilemma,” in which each side’s defensive moves are seen as threats by the other.

The contest between our determination to defend our continuing military primacy in the Indo-Pacific and China’s imperative of keeping potentially hostile armed forces like ours at bay is clearest in the South China Sea.  Though long claimed by both China and Vietnam and fished in by the Philippines, this was traditionally a no-man’s land – part of the regional commons where fishermen from all the littoral countries felt free to ply their trade.  But, in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam seized most of the land features in the Spratly Islands in an effort to secure its seabed resources for themselves.  A decade later, China took the few rocks and reefs that were left.  It has since turned these into islands with secure harbors, garrisoned them, and built airfields on them.

Games of Chicken

The U.S. and PLA Navies are now engaged in escalating games of chicken around these artificial islands as well as along the coasts of the China mainland.  Both navies are highly professional.  The danger of an accident is therefore low, but the risk of miscalculation is high.  Should actual combat between our armed forces occur, it could rapidly widen.

In the East China Sea, the United States has pledged to back Japan’s claims to the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands.  These are barren rocks about 100 miles east-north-east of Taiwan and 250 miles west of Okinawa.  Chinese in both Taiwan and the mainland claim them as part of Taiwan.  Armed Japanese and Chinese coast guards began patrolling them a decade ago..  At least for now, both seem determined to manage their differences prudently.  Neither wants a war.  Still, there is a decided risk that we Americans might be dragged into a bloody encounter between Chinese and Japanese nationalism.

But the greatest danger of a Sino-American war is Taiwan.  Taiwan is a former Chinese province that was recovered from its Japanese occupiers by Nationalist China at the end of World War II.  In 1949, having been defeated everywhere else in China, Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces retreated to it.

The universal expectation at the time was that the People’s Liberation Army would cross the Taiwan Strait and unify China by finishing off Chiang and the Nationalists.  But, when the Korean War broke out, the United States intervened to prevent its widening through a PLA invasion of Taiwan or a Nationalist attempt to retake the China mainland.  We Americans thus suspended but did not end the Chinese civil war.  To this day, we remain committed to preventing war in the Taiwan Strait.  To this end, we continue to sell weapons to the island.  China sees this as hostile interference in a quarrel among Chinese in which foreigners should not involve themselves.

Night market in Taipei. (Wikimedia)

Night market in Taipei. (Wikimedia)

Behind its U.S. shield, over the course of 70 years, Taiwan emerged as a prosperous democratic Chinese society with decidedly mixed feelings about whether it should be part of China.  The island is now ruled by a political party that is deterred from declaring independence from China only by its realization that this would trigger a violent resumption of the Chinese civil war that would almost certainly destroy Taiwan and its democracy.

Chinese on the mainland see their country’s continued division as an artifact of U.S. policy.  While they have pledged to try to resolve their differences with Taiwan peacefully, they remain determined to erase the humiliation that the continued foreign-supported separation of Taiwan from the rest of China represents.  War is not imminent, but it is an ever-present danger, with the potential to produce a nuclear exchange between China and the United States.

Taiwan illustrates the dangers of managing disputes by relying exclusively on deterrence to the exclusion of diplomacy.  Deterrence can inhibit the outbreak of war, but it does nothing to resolve its underlying causes.  In the case of Taiwan, the United States lacks a diplomatic strategy to encourage the parties to the dispute to address and resolve their differences.  In default of a strategy, we are now doubling down on our politico-military support of Taiwan.  But if Beijing loses confidence in the possibility of a peaceful reconciliation with the Taiwan authorities, it will be increasingly tempted to use force.  This is precisely the trend at present. We have no plan to deal with that trend other than to prepare ourselves for combat.

China enjoys widening military superiority over Taiwan.  Many judge that it could already defeat an effort by us to defend Taiwan.  The PLA need not invade Taiwan to devastate it.  Taiwan would be the main loser in any conflict whether the U.S. supported it or not.

A Sino-American war over Taiwan could quickly escalate to the nuclear level.  China has a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons but it could deliver a devastating counterstrike on the U.S. homeland if we attacked it.  There is very little substantive contact between the U.S. and Chinese militaries, and there are no mechanisms for escalation control in place.  It is not clear how either side could fend off domestic pressures for escalation if we come to blows, as we may.  Instead of exploring means of establishing and managing a strategic balance with China, we are withdrawing from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in part to enable us to deploy nuclear weapons closer to China.

For better or ill, the admirably liberal Chinese society on Taiwan cannot assure its security or prosperity without reaching some sort of accommodation with the much larger, authoritarian Chinese society on the other side of the Strait.  Sooner or later, Taiwan will have to negotiate a durable modus vivendi with the mainland.  Current U.S. policies help Taiwan avoid hard choices even as the balance of power shifts against it.  We are inadvertently helping Taiwan set itself up for a Chinese offer it will be unable to refuse.  Meanwhile, US-China relations are increasingly hostile politically, economically, and militarily.

What we face with China is not a new Cold War but a contest unlike any we have ever experienced in our 230 years as a constitutional democracy.  China is fully integrated into the global economy.  George Kennan’s grand strategy of containment was based on the correct judgment that, if isolated for long enough, the defects in the autarkic Soviet system would cause it to fail.  China cannot be isolated, and its economy is currently outperforming ours.

The Soviet Union was an overly militarized state that collapsed under the burden of excessive defense spending.  China has kept the proportion of its GDP devoted to its military at or below the level of our European “allies,” whom we accuse of spending too little on their defense.  The Soviet Union controlled satellite countries and sought to impose its ideology on others, including us.  The Chinese have no satellites and are notorious for not caring at all how foreigners govern ourselves.

Our competition with China is primarily economic.  It will not be decided by who has the more appealing ideology, the most aircraft carriers, or the greatest stash of nuclear weapons, but by who delivers the best economic performance and by which country’s statecraft is soundest.

Are we ready for such a contest?  Let’s look at the bright side.  Maybe it will challenge us to get our act together.  Let’s hope so.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping with their spouses, April 2017

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping with their wives, April 2017. (Wikimedia)

It doesn’t seem to matter which political party controls the House or Senate.  Congress still can’t pass a budget or otherwise set national priorities.  When it’s not shut down, our government runs on credit rollovers.  Our debt is out of control.  So far this century, we’ve committed almost $6 trillion to wars we don’t know how to end.  Meanwhile, we’ve deferred about $4 trillion in maintenance of our rapidly deteriorating physical infrastructure.  We are disinvesting in our human endowment, cutting funding for our universities and scientific research.  Our government is bleeding talent.  This is not our finest hour.

And, if allies are assets rather than liabilities, the willingness of our security partners abroad to follow us is more uncertain than at any point since we became an active world power seven decades ago.  We are withdrawing from international agreements and institutions, not seeking to shape them to our advantage or crafting new ones.  Instead of asking our allies to do more to defend themselves, we are asking them to pay us to defend them.  Our Senate can no longer bring itself to consider, let alone ratify treaties – even those we ourselves originally proposed.  In short, we are not leading the world as we once did.  We’re not part of the solution to transnational problems like global warming or arms control.  Instead, we are becoming active obstructionists of solutions to pressing global problems.

The social mobility that once made equality of opportunity a reality in our country has ebbed away.  Our wealthy are getting richer; those less fortunate are not.  We have the highest percentage of our population imprisoned of any country in the world.  That superlative aside, on many other measures of international excellence, we have complacently fallen to levels of mediocrity.  Our students are thirty-eighth in math proficiency and twenty-fourth in science.  We rank forty-second in life expectancy, forty-fifth in press freedoms, nineteenth in respect for the rule of law, and seventeenth in quality of life.  Need I go on?

There’s a lot to fix at home before we can be sure we have what it takes to go abroad in search of dragons to destroy.  There is a real danger that we have taken on more than we can handle.  China is guilty of malpractice in several aspects of its trade policies.  We are right to demand that it correct these.  Experience strongly suggests that, if we work with others of like mind in organizations like the World Trade Organization to persuade China to do so, we can move China in desirable directions.  An across-the-board assault on China of the sort we have just mounted is not only likely to fail, it entails risks we have not adequately considered.  These risks include armed combat with a nuclear power.  And China is getting relatively stronger, not weaker, even as our inept handling of foreign affairs increasingly marginalizes the United States in areas of human endeavor we have traditionally dominated.

We have given inadequate thought to how to leverage China’s rise to our advantage.  Trying to tear China down will not succeed.  Neither will it cure our self-induced debilitation as a nation.

We have launched a comprehensive competition with China for which we are not ready.  We cannot afford to learn this the hard way.  Whatever we do about China, we have to get our act together and do it now.

Remarks to the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, St. Petersburg, Florida, 12 February 2019

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman chairs Projects International, Inc. He is a retired U.S. defense official, diplomat, and interpreter, the recipient of numerous high honors and awards, a popular public speaker, and the author of five books.

56 comments for “Will the Trade War Lead to Real War with China?

  1. yes
    February 21, 2019 at 21:40

    What’s ironic about the rise of China economically is that it was fueled intentionally and entirely by the USA government and its corporations.

    What could be better than to manufacture your products in a country that meets all of the requirements to achieve a ~1000% rise in profits annually –

    – totalitarian government
    – a population under complete control by its government
    – no taxes (merely payoffs to local politicians)
    – no pesky health benefits or other government imposed costs of doing business
    – no environmental regulations
    – no unions
    – a population of billions of slaves means a never-ending supply

    Gawd bless amerika and free markets

  2. Brian James
    February 21, 2019 at 17:08

    Feb 15, 2019 Next Phase, Xi & Trump, Coordinate The Transition

    US industrial production plunges, this doesn’t mean that manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the US this means the [CB] is deteriorating quickly as Trump brings back manufacturing.


  3. Baz
    February 21, 2019 at 11:03

    I welcomed the Chinese rise from a long suffering peasant culture to the thriving economy!

    It was nice to meet and welcome the Chinese visitors to Europe!

    It was also good to see the Chinese kids mixing with our own in Universities.

    The U.S. can’t stand the competition, hence the bogus anti Huawei propaganda!

  4. SocraticGadfly
    February 20, 2019 at 23:35

    500, maybe even 400 years ago, China had 1/4 the world economy. This is just a return to what was.

    • Zhu
      February 25, 2019 at 05:53

      When the US became independent, China & India were the two biggest exporting countries in the world. Economic & military dominance comes and goes and comes again.

  5. Bernard B. Elliott
    February 20, 2019 at 15:47

    This is an absolutely excellent essay.It is a clear analysis of the situation regarding America, China and the world order in the 21st Century. How can we save ourselves from nuclear annihilation? Well. There is only one way left in which we can possibly save ourselves. And that is Global Veganism. Aye. I have been writing to leaders around the world for decades and as I write I evolve my thinking. Veganism is now the only possible way forward for all of us. And I mean all of us. American, Chinese, Russian, Scot, English,etc. It would save all the other species. It would save the Land and Sea. It would save the human species because Veganism would curb our aggression. Our aggression is destroying the world. Veganism would bring about a new golden age. We would all become more healthy. Are we intelligent enough as a species to survive? We need a radical change in the way we think commensurate with our survival instincts. Are you Vegan?

  6. Newshound
    February 20, 2019 at 15:45

    Nice piece! If only more people would realize this.

  7. Godfree Roberts
    February 20, 2019 at 14:25

    Sound advice as usual from Amb. Freeman.

    One niggle: “40 years ago, the Chinese Communist Party and government began to evolve what turned out to be a successful model of economic development that blended state capitalism with free enterprise”.

    In reality, Mao grew the economy three times faster than ours for 25 years despite being under the most severe embargoes ever seen in peacetime.

    The embargo included bans on agricultural equipment and grain–strictly enforced during the 1961 El Nino event that led to millions of excess deaths among elderly Chinese.

    China’s economy has grown even faster in the past 40 years because we admitted it to the UN and the WTO and lifted much–but not all–of our embargoes.

  8. Robert White
    February 20, 2019 at 10:12

    American ingenuity morphed into American parasitism when FED Chairman Alan Greenspan singlehandedly decided to goose markets with Federal Reserve Monetary Heroin so that markets would always go up like housing prices do in the West. Clearly, Greenspan cared not for price discovery or rate normalization when markets were always going up into the stratosphere. As Greenspan was outed as the simpleton he really is Americans started to wonder if they might have lost USD Hegemony in the fallout. Furthermore, since the Lehman Moment September 16th 2008 it has become very clear to everyone in the world that the West is mired in excessive Debt-to-GDP due to the very American exceptionalism that was embodied in the likes of The Committee to Save the World.

    The Committee to Save the World actually lost it in their hubris & collective myopia atop their petards of American exceptionalism writ large across-the-board in the Western Banking Empire. In brief, when the overtly leveraged Bank Holding Companies [read very Large Hedge Funds] decided to get greedy due to the leveraged allowances that the Security & Exchange Commission permitted they mistakenly assumed that housing prices always go up. These professional idiots involved in STEM research must have graduated from degree mills instead of real universities because they collectively failed to understand the process of market clearing & mean reversion from a perspective of Central Limit Theorem.

    What is now very obvious is that Americans are relying on the theater of the absurd to guide them en masse into an uncertain future.
    Their choice of meat puppet is an aged geriatric with attention deficit disorder and the maturity of a petulant pre-teen strung out on sugar. With no ability to lead the nation into any sort of productive future Americans have become dependent upon gamesmanship in the White House as a guiding principle of management that the Greeks likened to the Necropolis.

    Make America Gullible Again!


  9. Peter Loeb
    February 20, 2019 at 07:46


    Charles Freeman’s piece pays no heed to the economic realities in China today and
    its global interactions. Before accepting this hook, line and sinker, I strongly
    recommend that that the reader read carefully the analyses of economist Jack Rasmus.
    In the last decades there have been further developments in China’s economy.
    These are described in detail by Dr. Rasmus in many of his works and in particular

    Most other analysts make the same errors. I am not an economist but it seems
    that perhaps too much attention is given to information provided by China
    itself. It would be like commenting on US economic problems basing your
    conclusions only on reports from the US Department of Labor and the US
    State Department.

    A more nuanced and careful analysis is needed.

  10. February 20, 2019 at 02:29

    THE CHINESE ARMY IS COMING AGAINST OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE NAME OF ITS HEREMONY. Will the Trade War Lead to Real War with China? https://consortiumnews.com/2019/02/18/will-the-trade-war-lead-to-real-war-with-china/ http://rusdozor.ru/2018/11/16/kitajskaya-armiya-voyuet-protiv-drugix-stran-vo-imya-svoej-gegemonii/

    • Andrew Thomas
      February 20, 2019 at 14:04

      The view that Chinese armies are coming to ensure its hegemony is a classic case of projection. That is what the US has done, is doing, would do; ergo, that is what China will do under similar circumstances. Although they have been, and remain, extreme in their efforts to “pacify” peoples inside China’s borders who identify as something other than, or in addition to, Chinese (Uighurs, Tibetans) the Chinese leadership has not shown itself to be clinically insane. Until some Chinese document shows up like the US project for a new American century, and it can be shown that it is acting upon it, clinical insanity remains a thing only in US leadership circles.

  11. Grady
    February 19, 2019 at 17:58

    “Our debt is out of control. So far this century, we’ve committed almost $6 trillion to wars we don’t know how to end. Meanwhile, we’ve deferred about $4 trillion in maintenance of our rapidly deteriorating physical infrastructure.”

    Mr. Freeman is very good, yet not beyond reproach. The topic is China-US not israel so understandable it would not get mention. However, US foreign policy is not US, the tail is wagging a very big dog. From the federal reserve and its power lords above it, down through Wall Street into Fortune 500s, US foreign policy is dictated by the ruling zionist elite. They of the new world order demand to rule from a seat of power in Jerusalem and they utilize the greatest power ever on earth to achieve that goal. Zionist run think tanks fabricate policies, hand the approved policy to the legislative branch to be made into law. All those interfering are sanctioned, and/or militarily intervened with in order to keep the USA as the bully attack dog, for as long as we are needed. Then we too will be left to dry up and blow away. Even better, the US taxpayer gets to use its blood and treasure to achieve a foreign country’s goals. Wonderful. Bottom line, the foreign policy is not by or for the USA, rather by and for the ruling zionist elite.

    • Abby
      February 20, 2019 at 02:22

      Well stated. The one country that is rarely mentioned is Israel and its power over our government. Israel has been setting our foreign policies since its inception and we not only send our men and women to do their fighting, but we also buy all of their military equipment. Israeli soldiers just stay home and practice their military skills on Palestinians. And now Israel has decided that we cannot protest its brutality against the Palestinians by boycotting their products. But … it’s not just Israeli products that we are not buying because of the global corporations.

      But in regards to China and how it is over taking our role in the economy, I recently read an article describing how that has been planned for some time. Our parents and grandparents built companies up until they became successful and then they took their profits offshore and closed down their facilities here because it was so much cheaper to pay people only a small amount, but not have to pay for insurance, pensions, government taxes and workers compensation insurance, etc. Businesses have no loyalty to one country anymore because they have gone global.

      This country will not be fixing its infrastructure because corporations don’t need to use them anymore. Congress will soon be gutting our social programs and we will be left to fend for ourselves. But this isn’t just happening here. Every major country is gutting their social programs too. This is called asset stripping just like Romney would buy companies and after loading them with debts just take the money and walk away. I give it 50 more years or less.

    • 2ThiSelfBTru
      February 28, 2019 at 22:47

      Didn’t Mr. Freeman caution against blaming others for our own shortcomings, ex.: China for our inadequacy and Russia for our impotence?

      And now Israel; who else? Mexico, Venezuela, Afg, Pak, Iran, EU, the list’s too long. Everywhere, but here.

  12. Brian Murphy
    February 19, 2019 at 16:51


    Can anyone here clearly articulate why China must be viewed as an adversary? How is China’s ascendancy a threat to the citizens of the USA? If China is not a threat to the citizens of the USA, the solution is to pull the Navy armada out of the China Sea and stop the nuclear escalation in the area. If China is not a threat to the citizens of the USA and this de-escalation isn’t done, the problem is not in China, but rather in Washington.


    • Abby
      February 20, 2019 at 02:25

      China isn’t a threat to us Americans. It’s threatening the globalists. The TPP was created to keep China’s growth down. But the jokes on us. China is working with many countries and forming their own unions.

    • rosemerry
      February 20, 2019 at 16:44

      Chas. Freeman explains why , but the PTB do not listen. It is the same with Russia, which is NOT a threat but also not “interfering in the US elections” (as if they are free and fair!) but needs to be demonised.

    • Zhu
      February 25, 2019 at 06:23

      China is seen as a threat because 1) the Chinese government is not submissive; 2) Chinese people ate a bit more prosperous than before, which excites jealousy; 3) US society requires a cosmic enemy at all times.

  13. ibn insha
    February 19, 2019 at 15:25

    The author of this lengthy article, Chas W. Freeman, Jr, is clearly prejudiced against the USA. He could not find a fault with any country if he tried yet he could not find one good thing that the USA did during its existence and not to mention that the author loves treaties and agreements that make USA weak or lose its sovereignty. In essence, it is all America’s fault.

    • rosemerry
      February 20, 2019 at 16:48

      Anyone observing the behavior of the USA would be “clearly prejudiced against the USA. ” It is called taking notice of the facts. Stephen F. Cohen has a new book “War with Russia?” giving detailed historical facts and explanations, but he is rarely invited to CNN etc; He is described as ‘controversial’ because he actually quotes truth and not official stories.

      • Baz
        February 21, 2019 at 11:10

        You said it Rosemary! See also The Untold Story of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick

  14. Seamus Padraig
    February 19, 2019 at 15:10

    I usually agree with Chas Freeman on foreign policy, where he’s a welcome and now rare voice of realism. But as soon as he switches to the subject of trade, he begins to sound like a garden-variety neo-liberal.

    Look, I get it: Trump’s tariffs are probably not the best way to address the problem. But they still aren’t quite as bad as running gargantuan trade-deficits with China year after year, decade after decade.

    The élites in DC are just now realizing that this was a supremely bad idea? I saw this coming nearly *thirty years* ago! When Bush/Clinton extended Most Favored Nation trade status (as it used to be called) to China, I knew it was going to turn out bad.

    Also, I sure hope Freeman doesn’t buy into this idea that, in order to remain competitive, the US *has* to continue brain-draining away third-world countries while declining to educate and employ its own people. America invented the steamboat, the cotton gin, the lightbulb, the telephone, the film projector, the atomic bomb, the assembly line, the vacuum-tube computer, the digital computer, and the internet! And weren’t we the first to put a man on the moon? Why do the élites now like to pretend that we’re some stupid, inferior breed and that, in order to continue to innovate, we *need* all these grad-students from the abroad? Tell me: how many foreign grad-students is China importing?

    Let me say just one more thing: as flawed as Trump’s trade policies may be, if the Democrats try to run on the glories of open-borders and ‘free’ trade, they will likely lose to him again … and they will richly deserve to.

    • Maxwell Quest
      February 19, 2019 at 16:33

      Concerning foreign grad students, and I know is sounds cynical, but as one or our newly elected rep’s put it, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby”, or in this case, “wage suppression”.

      Having worked in high tech my whole career, I saw how, slowly but surely, thanks to the H-1B visa program, American engineers were replaced with lower paid foreign graduates. Happy to begin their career in Silicon Valley, with visions of stock options dancing in their heads, or possibly running their own start-up one day, they would tolerate low pay and long hours, while company lawyers dragged out their immigration process for years. Being virtually captive, they were guaranteed to nod approvingly in all meetings to any crazy idea that management proposed. Before I retired, it was not uncommon to walk into a high-tech firm and encounter a sea of cubicles staffed almost entirely with young Indian and Chinese engineers.

      • Zhu
        February 25, 2019 at 06:28

        The US has always imported its engineers.

  15. February 19, 2019 at 14:51

    Very informative and high quality presentation. Thank you

  16. MichaelWme
    February 19, 2019 at 14:08

    For 90% of recorded history, China was the richest, most advanced, most powerful nation. Sometimes, it was tied, with Rome in the 1st century and with the Islamic civilisation in the 9th century. Then in 1422, on the verge of an industrial revolution, the Emperor decided to join the Chinese version of the Amish religion: if Confucius didn’t have it, we don’t need it. The Chinese figured the Wall made them safe, but the Manchu bribed a guard, and, once in, China had nothing to stop them. Next came the British, who stole so much that many Chinese starved. And the British shared with the other European colonial powers, with the US, and with the Japanese. All had ‘concessions’ where the concessionaire’s laws superseded Chinese law and the concessionaires took almost everything. Every year, millions of Chinese starved. Then the concessionaire’s went to war among themselves and, at the end of WWII, Mao was able to evict all the concessionaires. Mao ordered that every Chinese child must go to school and learn to read. ‘Impossible,’ they told him. ‘Do it or else,’ said Mao, so they did.
    But still millions starved every year. Most Chinese were peasants who had a hard time feeding themselves. They spent all day, every day during the growing season pumping water to irrigate in what’s called a Water monopoly empire. It was back-breaking work. Then Mao died, and Deng said, ‘Why not use electric pumps?’
    ‘No electricity, ‘ they told him.
    ‘Build power plants. I want everyone in China to have a reliable source of electricity, and I want all the irrigation done with electric pumps.’
    ‘But what will all the peasants do?’ they asked Deng.
    ‘Let’s find out.’
    Today, most agricultural villages are deserted. Almost all the peasants are gone. Water is pumped with electric pumps, and one person goes around to check on the pumps and calls if there’s a problem, and it gets fixed right away. Planting and harvesting are done with massive machines run by one person. And one billion peasants, all well educated and literate, are producing more than any other nation.
    China, after an unfortunate 500 years, is back where it belongs.
    And the US is threatening to thrust itself into the Thucydides trap.

  17. Keeley Curvo
    February 19, 2019 at 11:14

    “Who other than China could have caused our companies to outsource work to places with cheap labor, instead of upgrading equipment and retraining their workers to meet foreign competition?”


    Wall Street wanted increased profit, thus Chinese manufacturing (much like previous reliance on other cheap manufacturing nations).
    Consumers want cheap products, thus Chinese-made goods.
    The M-I-C has similarly turned to cheap manufacturing, even for military & defense products.

    All to save a buck, all for increased profit for a few at the top of the economic chain.

    The U.S. continues to exploit others for cheap labor, and continues to suffer the consequnces of that decision.

    Rather than work for truly better purposes, we continue to live solely to consume.

    It’s been reported the Mayan civilization declined due to conspicuous consumption.

    Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power—of the income or of the accumulated wealth of the buyer.

    It serves no higher purpose.

    It is perhaps merely a display of insecurity.
    Meant solely to provoke the envy of other people,in desperate attempt to define ones own existence & sense of lost self-worth.

    • Sam F
      February 20, 2019 at 06:43

      Well put.

    • Bernard B. Elliott
      February 20, 2019 at 16:00

      A fine article. America really could lead the world if it was not so greedy.

  18. Jeff Harrison
    February 19, 2019 at 09:58

    The difference between the US and China is that all the US wants to make is money. China, on the other hand, is trying to grow their economy and lift their populace out of poverty. China is doing that by building all kinds of stuff and selling it to whomever wants to buy it. They’ve been remarkably successful, driving their poverty rates to levels well below the US. The US, too, has been remarkably successful. Those with money have been able to make lots and lots more money buying low and selling high and, since lifting people out of poverty wasn’t part of the plan, the impoverishment of our population is not a bug but a feature. The US is the world’s biggest debtor and China its biggest creditor. Let’s hope we don’t wind up in a major pissing contest because I don’t want to find out how brittle the US is.

    • Eric32
      February 19, 2019 at 12:48

      Well said.
      If common people aren’t making much money because industrial production has left the country, but are still being encouraged by marketing to buy things, they can do it for some years by increasing their debt.

      Much of US Government spending is a form of money laundrying. Money is drawn from the public via taxation and govt. debt and fed into bloated govt. spending, much of which is passed on to elites in the form of corporate profits and perhaps via the $20+ trillion non-documented spending that has accumulated, mostly in DOD and HUD.

      My view is that there is a “toxic cloud” layer of highly moneyed elites which overlies the “deep state” of bureaucrats (the Muellers, McCabes, Congressional staffs etc.) and compromised politicians.

      Many have vested interests in keeping all this going; many fear having various lies and acts they have committed exposed. Control of someone amounts to having dirt on them, you won’t rise in the system if you’re not dirty, and bucking the system will get you destroyed.

      • Ibn Insha
        February 19, 2019 at 15:31

        Here we go again. Blame the rich.

        • anon4d2
          February 20, 2019 at 06:48

          Oh but the rich are so sacred to the greedy opportunist.
          We owe it all to the gangsters: liberty and justice for gangsters!

  19. satrappist
    February 19, 2019 at 09:29

    “Taiwan is a former Chinese province that was recovered from its Japanese occupiers by Nationalist China at the end of WW II. In 1949, having been defeated every where else in China, Chiang Khe-shek and his Nationalist forces retreated to it.”

    – the politics of heroin in southeast asia, (2nd edn.) – prof. alfred mccoy
    – the strength of wolf – douglas valentine
    – the strength of the pack – douglas valentine

    three works demonstrating the moral vacuity and professional criminality of the Kuomintang.

    a criminal enterprise which successfully invaded a peaceful province of a nation state.

    a criminal drug enterprise, gang, arguably, equal to jewish and french enterprises which preceded them.

    criminal enterprises which were successfully succeded by Ngo Dinh Diem, Vang Pao, Nygen Kao Ky, Ted Shackley et al.

    please, please may we be enlightened by native Taiwanese. any who survived the 1949 invasion by criminals.

  20. AnneR
    February 19, 2019 at 08:43

    Mr Freeman raises many issues with which it is difficult to disagree. And I am certainly glad to at last see recognized that in the “intellectual property” theft field, the USA was hardly behind the door, certainly throughout the 19th century, both directly (as in Lowell and friends conscious copying of cotton spinning and weaving technology that they – deliberately – visited in Manchester, Lancashire) and indirectly by welcoming a wide range of skilled artisans and scholars (even against those people’s home countries’ laws).

    Where I fundamentally disagree with Mr Freeman is on three points:

    1. America did not “liberate” Western Europe from Nazi Germany dominance. That effort – concerning an enormous loss of Russian lives – was overwhelmingly performed by the USSR and its military.

    2. The USSR was *not* interested in reshaping the USA or Western Europe into Soviet/Communist satellites. Yes, Eastern European countries bordering Russia were indeed brought under the Soviet umbrella, willy nilly of their wishes. This was to create a bulwark against western invasions of Russian territory – invasions that had, to the great cost of tens of millions of Russians lives, taken place on a fairly regular basis over the preceding two hundred plus years.

    One might ask – in what way is the USA any different? It has, since the Monroe Doctrine, presumed that the whole of Latin America, from Mexico on down, the waters of the Gulf and the islands of the Caribbean to be under its diktat.

    3. The tone of the article gives the impression that somehow dominating the world, organizing the rest of the planet in its own interests, is the unquestionable prerogative of the USA. (We see an example of this presumption – mixed in with the Monroe Doctrinal purview – in the Strumpet’s a) declaring Maduro illegitimate and Guaido President of Venezuela and b) the latest order to the Venezuelan military to stop supporting Maduro.)

    No more empires, thank you.

    • February 19, 2019 at 11:51

      You are absolutely correct. Poor old Chas had to sip a lot of Kool Aid during his career in government. It is difficult to believe that they actually believe some of this discredited Cold War propaganda but they do. They have had to for so long that to revise opinions on, for example, Kennan’s Telegram would necessitate wiping the internal hard drive almost clean and starting again.

    • rosemerry
      February 20, 2019 at 17:02

      Excellent analysis. The US population not only does not know that the Red Army was the main defeater of Nazism, but many do not even know they were on the same side!

      The USA refused Marshall aid to the devastated USSR, requiring it to use the resources of the eastern European “allies” which were also devastated. The USA, of course, had NO homeland damage or civilian casualties, so of course could leap ahead with rearming and getting on with the good life.

      The constant complaint about NATO protecting the European allies and kind USA making most of the payments is one of my pet peeves, living in Europe. It is the USA making Russia the enemy-who else are we “defending ourselves” from? NATO is obsolete (since the fall of the USSR) and putting bombs again in Europe (Germany has already refused!!) pointing at Russia is asking for trouble, as Pres. Putin has just warned again since the INF rejection by the USA.

  21. February 19, 2019 at 06:21

    there was once a time when our economy grew at the same rate of growth as China. This was the New Deal Democrats and this Idea of the NRA (the national reconstruction act). the basic economic strategy was to negotiate within each company; the labor, amount of hours worked, the pay, the products made, and the price of the eventual product and finally the profit. We had 10% GDP growth from this and almost as much job growth as well. the workers were happy and many of the bosses were happy too. this was a guaranteed profit far better than they had before. the only unhappy people were the super wealthy who no longer got to “call the shots” with out having to d”consult the workers”. So then the Supreme Court came to the rescue of the Plutocrats and declared the NRA unconstitutional because it put too much power in the hands of the president which was not really true since it was all negotiated. It was a flimsy pretext that once again put back all that power back into the hands of the plutocrats. As time passed on they created ever larger monopolies, broke more unions, and bought off more politicians and ever increasingly began to suck the life out of our economy leaving us with 2 to 3 % GDP and tepid job growth. Just like the kings and dukes of old the very wealthy protected their perch of power to the detriment of all others.
    IN China they have their own privileged elite which happen to be the powerful party members. we will see how this power imbalance plays out. they use their computers to spy on all their citizens in a totalitarian control, yet they still have had almost 10% GDP growth.

  22. john wilson
    February 19, 2019 at 05:32

    America doesn’t fight big, well armed countries because they would take massive losses at home if they did. The Americans only pick off small or poorly armed countries and then only if they have resources or hold a strategic position somewhere.

  23. OlyaPola
    February 19, 2019 at 03:12

    “The author covered a lot of important issues, but missed some things.”


    On framing and deception


  24. February 18, 2019 at 22:35

    “If we work with others of like mind in organizations like the World Trade Organization to persuade China to do so, we can move China in desirable directions.” So there it is, the same bottom line: the dividends of global exploitation are the prize for U.S. finance capital. Let’s make a deal with China to share the loot. It won’t work. The clash between expanding Chinese capitalism and huge but hollow U.S. capitalism is unavoidable. The answer for working people in the U.S. is socialism.

    • February 19, 2019 at 09:52

      I agree, and as the middle classes of both these countries and many more expand the more this will erode the wealth advantage of the rich. I predict this because this is how the nobility lost power in Europe but this was not an easy process, First we had the french revolution followed by Napoleon’s Imperial expansion followed by the backlash and then more worker revolts against the back lash etc. I hope we don’t have any major wars. I don’t think the rich want this. I could be wrong.

  25. Sam F
    February 18, 2019 at 22:29

    A very well written article. But while China is not weakened by isolation, the US is weakened by negative trade balances, to be eliminated by trade regulation rather then careless embargoes.

    The oligarchy that seized control of post-WWII US are classical tyrants, needing foreign enemies to demand power and accuse their enemies of disloyalty. The US is indeed marginalized by poor foreign policy and is no longer “part of the solution” to international problems.

    But the popular right-wing myth that the USSR and China “challenged our new sphere of influence” has no substance. The USSR quite naturally stayed in eastern Europe as the buffer zone through which Napoleon and Hitler had made devastating unprovoked attacks from Europe. Both naturally supported anti-colonial rebellions in N Korea and Vietnam, and had sympathizers in other anti-colonial rebellions. The aggression was entirely by the US oligarchy, terrified of socialism in the US, which redefined “defense” as “containment” of ideas by wars around the world in favor of all dictators and religious fanatics opposed to socialism or communism.

    • Bob Van Noy
      February 21, 2019 at 11:08

      Thank you Sam F., your response represents long, clear thinking about our past policies and our current delusion.
      It’s comforting to know that there are still people capable of such things…

  26. February 18, 2019 at 20:29

    The American Dream is Killing Us yet all we know how to do is blame China, or Russia, or Democrats, or Republicans, or Martians, or…

  27. Tom Kath
    February 18, 2019 at 19:58

    We hear often the phrase “sleepwalking into war”, and I always think of the Lemming spectacle.
    Unfortunately, we tend to only question the wisdom of going to war when it becomes less certain that “we” will win. In reality wars are always LOST not won.

    • OlyaPola
      February 20, 2019 at 09:09

      “In reality wars are always LOST not won.”

      Reliance on binaries facilitates sleepwalking; reliance on Capital letters does not “prove” validity.

      Without transcendence “winning” becomes “losing” and “losing” becomes “winning” – a carousel of iteration of wars to end all wars;
      those immersed in “winning/losing” affording opportunities for others to transcend those so immersed.

  28. E Wright
    February 18, 2019 at 18:11

    A side note to my main comment….China is innovating quite rapidly on the use of big data. It has a real competitive advantage here since there are virtually no impediments to the use of personal information. In the West this is matched by corporations like Google, but the latter must keep their capabilities secret, lest they be shackled by what remains of democratic process.

  29. E Wright
    February 18, 2019 at 17:51

    A very interesting and detailed article. But like Eric32 implies, the elephant in the room is global corporatism which has outsourced labor costs to the cheapest provider. These corporations also offshore their profit so that all economies are cheated – China and the US alike.

    Further, whilst China reluctantly accepts foreign trade as a component of full employment, it has been simultaneously implementing New Deal style policies by creating massive infrastructure projects. An unwanted side affect is corruption and waste. Furthermore to pay for this it has been expanding the money supply M2 tremendously. Something has to give. The Trade War has the potential to destabilize China’s internal balancing act. This is its achilles heel.

  30. guest
    February 18, 2019 at 17:17

    The same people and institutions that pressed for outsourcing production to China are the ones that are shocked that the Chinese have invested some of their profits in their military capabilities. Now they insist we further expand our bloated military and risk a war over some rocky outcrops in the South China Sea.

    Then there is the “help” we provided to Russia to transition from Communism to supposed free markets that somehow left oppressed Jewish mid-level bureaucrats to become billionaire owners of former state assets. I don’t know why Russians would be upset with that.

  31. February 18, 2019 at 16:29

    Wasn’t this the guy that was denied a cabinet post because he said something even handed about Israel’s aggressiveness in the Middle East?

    It is extraordinary, and I assume Ambassador Freeman’s comments are sourced and accurate, what China has achieved with its so-called mixed economy. It is something repeated over and over again in the Far East. Singapore comes to mind. Nearby is India, which has achieved far less growth and the comparison of the two would be instructive. It, too, possesses impressive intellectual resources. China, I think, is an example of how our corporations, out to put technology in the hands of others, to create low cost imports and higher profits, had the tables turned when the Chinese either took or retrofit our technologies and manufacturing practices to their advantage. They were also far seeing enough to see the value of our educational system and use it. And, as Mr. Freeman notes, something everybody does but doesn’t have the STEM capacity of China. Great acronym.

    Great article but can the United States rethink it future or will it continue as it has while trumpeting its exceptionalism.

  32. Eric32
    February 18, 2019 at 16:08

    The author covered a lot of important issues, but missed some things.

    Since the onset of the industrial revolution, industrial production and the science, engineering and technology that grows up around it is what counts among nations.

    We’ve been bleeding ours since at least the Clinton administration because US elites figured out how to make money shifting industrial production overseas. They cared little about US workers much less about the long term effects on the country.

    They also like the overvalued US dollar foreign exchange rate – the bankers especially.

    The chronically overvalued dollar makes imported goods/services relatively cheap to US consumers, and US goods/service relatively expensive to foreign consumers.

    We don’t need tariffs, clever financial tricks and ensuing debacles, CIA covert operations, foreign interventions to seize control of other nation’s resources.

    We need a US dollar that drops until the trade imbalance goes away, permanently. Probably circa -30 percent.

    Then we’ll see industrial production and its associated science, engineering and technology come back up again in the US.

    However, that would take a real revolution, not the kind of low grade sham politics we wade around in.

    • guest
      February 18, 2019 at 17:26

      Try telling someone that is on a fixed income that they are going to experience a 30% price increase over the next few years. Especially when it leads to a rise in interest rates that discourages investment in domestic production. Plus, what is to stop other nations from devaluating their own currencies in retaliation? Devaluation didn’t work in the 1930s and won’t work now.

      Retaliatory tarrifs disproportionately hit the nation with the trade surplus. How did we ever fund the US government with tariffs for most of its existence?

    • KiwiAntz
      February 18, 2019 at 22:04

      Unfortunately, the US Dollar has had it’s time in the Sun & is on its last legs? China & Russia are moving way fron the Dollar tyranny that has enabled America to gain, as you mentioned, Dollar dominance over all other Nations? America has weaponised the Dollar to bend other Countries to their will, but now the gig is up? Other Countries are sick to death of the US Dollars undeserving, Fiat, worthless status & the Nations that are detaching from this System, such as China & Russia are coming under fire for this? That’s the reason why there is a coordinated effort by America’s propagandist MSM & Political System to demonise & blame these rising, rival Super Powers for all America’s problems & their inly strategy is containment or postponing the outcome in the hope of a reset too the status quo?This article confirms the US Empire as a hasbeen power on its way to oblivion!

    • Seamus Padraig
      February 19, 2019 at 14:53

      Exactly, Eric.

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