Beware the Dragon

In my earlier article this week, I focused on the political and cultural aspects of the US relationship with Europe. However, there is another party very much interested in the outcome of the ongoing struggle between the forces of order and chaos in the West. That party is China.

The problem of China has been allowed to fester for so long that there are no truly good solutions left. We do, however, have a number of options when choosing how to manage or how to confront China. Our central choice is this: Do we allow China to rise and become a second great power (and chance what may come of a bipolar world1) or do we oppose China’s rise and attempt to maintain our position as hegemon2.

Whereas a resurgent Nationalism is the only thing that can truly save Europe, such a resurgence would undoubtedly complicate things for the US on the international stage (at least in the short term). Just as assuredly as Globalism looks outward and ignores the needs of the common people, Nationalism looks inward to care for those needs. However, this prioritization of the needs of the people and the nation often leads (sometimes necessarily leads) to a de-emphasis on foreign affairs. Should Europe turn inward, as a result of resurgent Nationalism, the US would find itself largely alone on the international stage when it comes to handling China. Yes, Japan, South Korea, and a few others would help (to some degree) in addressing the China issue3, but the wholesale withdrawal of Europe from the world stage would, almost certainly, prove to be a net loss to the US and, thus, a net gain to China.

However, there is one other major consideration when assessing a European withdrawal from the world stage and what such a withdrawal would mean vis-à-vis China. That consideration is trade. The Chinese economy is presently largely export driven. More than that, the Chinese economy is reliant on trade. There is a non-trivial chance that a resurgent Nationalism in Europe could lead directly to a decrease in international trade. Now, the majority of China’s international trade is not with Europe, but the percentage of China’s international trade that is with Europe is significant. This article is not the proper place to delve into Chinese history, culture, politics, and psychology, but there is one central truth about the Chinese Community Party that must be understood in order to properly grasp the situation: The Chinese Communist Party4 has staked its legitimacy on the fact that it protects (party officials would argue “produces”) stability, and economic growth is considered a major component of “stability”. Anything that endangers the growth of the Chinese economy is considered a mortal threat to the Chinese Community Party.

A significant decrease, or even the wholesale end, of European trade with China would endanger the growth of the Chinese economy and could, in fact, endanger its stability if such a change were sufficiently abrupt. China, of course, has long recognized what it perceives as an uncomfortable reliance on the US and Europe, and has been working feverishly to diminish this reliance and, thus, protect the stability and the growth of the Chinese economy. However, effecting such a change in an economy the size of China’s takes significant time and effort. At the present time, and for the foreseeable future, China is reliant on its Western trade partners.

What does this mean for the US? A great deal. International politics is a game of knowing your opponents’ possible moves and incentives. If we know China’s incentives, we have only to figure out their possible moves to predict their actual moves (i.e., their actions). China has a number of incentives when it comes to acting on the international stage; however, we are concerned, here, primarily with China’s economic incentives: stability and growth. If China, an export-driven economy, wishes to compensate for lost trade (e.g., a Nationalist Europe) or to increase trade, it has a number of options: 1) trade more with existing partners, 2) transition away from an export-driven economy, or 3) find new trading partners.

Option one is fairly unlikely as most of China’s major trading partners are already trading at considerable (arguably excessive) volumes with China and are experiencing pushback from their populations about the present level of trade. For various reasons (some of them structural), the Chinese economy is unlikely to transition away from being export driven any time in the near future; this eliminates option two. This, naturally, leaves only option three: find new trading partners, and that is precisely what China has been doing.

In recent decades, China has undergone a major refocusing of its trading, and other economic, activity in an effort to shift focus away from the West and to Africa and South America. Of course, Africa and South America have nowhere near the wealth of Europe and the US, except when it comes to natural resources. In fact, the exploitation of natural resources, if not also the eventual outright annexation of territory, is very clearly part of China’s long-term plan. If we are to remain the hegemon, then we must address China’s aggressive moves in these two continent-sized markets as soon as possible.

There are, in essence, four5 possible outcomes when looking at the US and Europe. The foregoing paragraphs have, more or less, looked at the two scenarios in which the US goes Nationalist. There are, then, two scenarios in which the US does not go Nationalist; in these two scenarios, the US pursues a regionalist path. Here are the four possibilities:

Nationalism Collapse
Nationalism ++ +-
Regionalism -+

Europe as x-axis and the US as y-axis.

It is, in fact, not necessary to analyze the lower left and the lower right options separately. In each scenario where the US opts for regionalism instead of Nationalism, China will, barring some significant collapse of their own, become the hegemonic power in the international system. China will use that newfound power to push further into Africa and South America and to extend its already considerable power in Canada and the (Western) US. Unencumbered by the Cultural Marxism disease that has paralyzed the West, China will expand its influence effectively and efficiently. There is no other center of power likely to challenge this rise of China.

In either of the two scenarios in which the rise of China can be thwarted (i.e., those scenarios wherein the US resists the siren song of regionalism), the onus rests with us. No one else is going to effectively oppose China, and, should China become the hegemon, no one will, in short order, oppose China at all. Yet again, we come down to an old, familiar conflict: Nationalism versus Communism.

There is no guarantee that we will, in choosing Nationalism, win. However, there is no hope of anything short of absolute defeat if we, in choosing regionalism, simply leave the field. I, for one, do not wish for the sounds of human civilization to collapse down into the monotonous, tonal drone of Mandarin Chinese.

Some will, undoubtedly, notice that I have not addressed the issue of Russia: This is intentional. Russia may choose to desist being a pariah and join the West in defending our civilization and our homeland or choose to become a cold, largely-irrelevant vassal to a Chinese suzerain. In either scenario, Russia merely weights the odds in favor of one or the other of the major players. By itself, Russia is not a true competitor for the ultimate prize (i.e., hegemony).

  1. In many ways, this would be a repeat of the Cold War. 
  2. And what means should we be willing to employ in the pursuit of that goal. 
  3. It should, however, be noted that Japan and South Korea are, respectively, China’s second- and third-largest trading partners (the US is, of course, first). 
  4. Much like the Chinese emperors before it. 
  5. I am deliberately ignoring the possibility of the US outright collapsing, as there is, rather obviously, not much of a point in analyzing such a scenario.