Vladimir Lenin, the father of the Soviet state, is reported mockingly to have said, "the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." China's leaders have long believed that America's unsustainable trade imbalance with China is that rope. Pictured: Container ships laden with exports at a port in Qingdao, China. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
China's leaders are shrewd students of history and they apply those lessons every day as they pursue their agenda for global dominance.
For example: They know the decline and fall of the Soviet Union came about not because of military might or the square miles under control. Rather, it imploded because the West, and specifically the United States, used freedom of thought, capitalism and the enormous power of the free market to marginalize, reduce, and collapse the Soviet Union. They simply couldn't compete on any level with the West. From technology to the quality of life provided for its people, the Soviet Union became a nation without a future. Fortunately, it ended with a tired sigh rather than a nuclear exchange.
For China's leaders, the resulting chaos inside Russia was yet another lesson. The leadership saw how a well-entrenched communist regime can be peacefully replaced. The experience led them to impose unprecedented restrictions on their citizens while introducing their version of state-capitalism. Their unholy brew created one of the most powerful dictatorships in history – combining thought control with billions in international trade that, in turn, has funded a growing and potent military armed with nuclear weapons.
For China's leadership, however, that is still not enough. The United States continues to dominate the 21st century and, while previous presidential administrations used their version of appeasement to avoid addressing the enormous trade imbalances between the two nations, this policy came to an end under the Trump Administration. That move created consternation, alarm and quite a bit of anger in Beijing, which had not expected America ever to acknowledge that hundreds of billions in investment, manufacturing, jobs, and entire factories had left the United States for China.
China's communist leadership quickly recognized that if the U.S. continued to demand economic reciprocity, China could easily lose its ability to claim solo superpower status for the remaining decades of the 21st century.
Then something happened in a city called Wuhan. Whether it was from a lab or a bat. Whether it was an accident or deliberate. Whether it was concealed or accelerated, COVID-19 became a strategic game-changer for China.
Capable of controlling its population, subduing or "disappearing" medical "whistleblowers," and absorbing whatever the human cost, China found an "accidental" biological and economic weapon that has the potential to achieve their singular strategic goal: removing a strong and powerful international competitor, the United States.
Add to China's delight that America must currently buy, at extortionate prices, the medical supplies previously hoarded by China and now needed to combat this plague from the very country from where it was hatched. It's as if the United States needed to buy from Imperial Japan the silk it needed to wrap its dead at Pearl Harbor. Pandemic profiteers are currently selling flawed Chinese-manufactured masks, medical gowns, and other supplies at enormous markups while America's economy sits paralyzed and with no means quickly to respond. This is a lesson that will stay with us for generations to come.
The United States needs to understand the true threat from COVID-19. While any loss of life is to be mourned, the far more dangerous menace to our future comes from a communist regime that believes, as Vladimir Lenin, the father of the Soviet state, is reported mockingly to have said, "the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." China's leaders have long believed that America's unsustainable trade imbalance with China is that rope. Add the global pandemic crisis introduced by China and Beijing sees victory without an artillery shell being fired.
History also reminds us, however, that America has a habit of getting up from a sucker punch. With containment policies in place, an entire medical research industry working around the clock to find solutions, and a nation now very much aware of where this pandemic started and possibly why, COVID-19 may, in fact be, a game-changer after all. Just not the way China wanted it.
America learns from its mistakes and when this is over, the U.S. will be far wiser in how China is playing the long game of global leadership through any means short of traditional understanding of war.
Of equal importance, the other 183 nations that have been attacked by COVID-19 will have seen for themselves a Chinese communist regime capable of actions that threaten their respective societies, leaving Beijing to dictate the future. Like blinders falling from the eyes of those who have long avoided the truth, this new clarity will create a united, engaged, and resolute international community prepared to confront Beijing's agenda of global dominance.
Lawrence Kadish is a real estate developer, entrepreneur, and founder and president of the Museum of American Armor.