An economy that stands on the brink of a multi-trillion dollar self-induced debt makes us vulnerable to a fiscal collapse. Financial discipline will be required if we actually wish to stop our financing of the Chinese war machine. Pictured: Military vehicles carrying DF-17 missiles, which are able mount the DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, participate in a military parade in Beijing, China on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
Historians who have studied the decline and fall of great modern empires must be queasy these days.
Many have chronicled how a once mighty China lost its sovereignty to colonial powers during the early years of the 20th Century. Their enfeebled empress and a humbled military were swept aside by a European coalition of nations only to find that China was to become the bloody prize of Japanese generals whose forces raped and massacred their way to Beijing.
The West may not remember this "sideshow" of World War II and many Japanese still decline to acknowledge their legacy, but the Chinese remember.
They remember as they fly their latest generation of stealth fighters. They remember as they build an additional 100 ICBM silos. They remember as they create artificial islands in the Pacific to house missiles capable of targeting American aircraft carriers. They remember as they test hypersonic cruise missiles. They remember as they launch hypersonic missiles that can orbit the Earth, carry a nuclear warhead, and stay suspended at a low orbit until a decision to strike. And they remember as they launch manned space missions to create an orbiting space station that may well be capable of military activity.
How did the Chinese come to possess such prowess?
We became a primary customer for their goods that range from children's toys and housewares to medicines and embedded smartphone technology. We welcomed their trade in a manner that future historians will find as inexplicable, just as we do now when looking back at companies such as IBM and Ford who did a thriving business with the Nazis on the eve of World War II. After all, it wasn't about anyone's repugnant ideology. It was just business. As businessmen say today, if America keeps allowing it, they will keep doing it. Except that today, we are doing business with a country far richer and far more aggressive than America's former adversaries.
As consumers of Chinese-made goods and investors in Chinese-made products, we are openly funding the Chinese military. China's leadership has made no secret of its plans to rule the US technologically, economically and militarily, if necessary by "unrestricted warfare." For an America indifferent to the strategic implications, we placed trillions of dollars into the Chinese economy while seriously eroding our own industrial base.
Now much of what we depend upon is sitting in massive container ships, sitting idle off America's West Coast, stuck in a logistics logjam that has taught our citizens the word "supply chain" along with what happens when you dismantle your domestic production capacity and export it to a hostile nation. Rather than the goods from China unable to land, the US should be the exporter, not the importer. There should be no goods from China waiting to land, no revenues from America flowing into the coffers of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese know their history. They know that a democracy whose economy is weakened by COVID of a curious origin, a multi-trillion dollar budget that would plunge us into historic debt; a nation staggering under the burden of a possibly enfeebled national leadership, and a military humbled by being ordered off the Afghan battlefield by its commander-in-chief may be a once great country that has lost its way.
The Chinese know how to use strength, spot weakness, and assert their potent and growing dominance at the expense of others. They view the last century as a period of humiliation. From their actions, and ours, they intend to make this era a century of humiliation for some other nation. Their current and growing economic and military power can easily be stamped "Financed by American Businesses."
It is not enough to wring our hands in the face of such a relentless adversary. Washington needs to pivot and provide appropriate and necessary incentives for business to expand our once formidable manufacturing base here in the United States. America has the means, skills, and resources to return to its role as a super exporter but to so will also require us to get our economic house in order and freeze our nation's debt ceiling. An economy that stands on the brink of a multi-trillion dollar self-induced debt makes us vulnerable to a fiscal collapse. Financial discipline will be required if we actually wish to stop our financing of the Chinese war machine.
The question now is whether the United States, whose citizens rarely reflect on their own history of exceptionalism, has the strength, commitment, and courage to write a different ending to a chapter of history currently being written by People's Republic of China.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.