Over the weekend China challenged the United States to a new strategic competition akin to the over-forty-year Cold War with the Soviet Union. It did so on the premise that the U.S. is interfering in Chinese internal affairs. The Chinese are using this as an excuse to rationalize offensive political actions against the U.S. around the world.
Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, said Sunday that America should “give up on its wishful thinking of changing China” to avoid bringing the U.S. and communist China to a “new Cold War.”
“China has no intention to change, still replace, the United States,” said Wang , according to The Washington Post. “It is time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people in their historic march toward modernization.”
The Marxist rhetoric aside, the Chinese are sending a subtle message (they are a subtle culture) by the use of the terms “replace” and “historic.” In asserting indirectly they do not want to replace the U.S. on the world stage, the actual meaning is exactly the opposite. First they seek to achieve economic parity and then superiority. They seek the same in the strategic military sense. This was how the Soviet Union militarily planned and proceeded in the First Cold War. The Chinese should consider how that turned out for the Soviets.
By “historic,” they revert to the concept of historical determinism that basically says to the U.S. and the rest of the world: by the immutable laws of socialist progress China is destined to rule the world. The rest of you can lump it.
But do the Chinese have the might to do so? The short answer is no. Yes, in a strange twist on the old Soviets who had a strong military but a Banana Republic economy —the political cliché, not the clothing store— the Chinese have a thriving economy (slave labor brings down production costs) and a third-rate military that does not qualify as a legitimate strategic force.
Its army is large but, like the Soviets, lacks a strong NCO class, the backbone of any army, and relies on the rote following of orders and not individual initiative. That could make it a blind and slow-moving giant on a modern battlefield. The navy is not blue water but mostly a regional force. The air force is better than the other services, but lacks real world experience. The strategic rocket forces are good. Thus, semi-close, but no banana.
Pundit Stuart Varney said recently that he thinks that a Cold War between the two countries has already begun. He focused on China’s move to impose draconian national security edicts on Hong Kong. His analysis is good. The Chinese are oppressing Hong Kong to show they can do exactly what they please regardless of international condemnation and broken diplomatic commitments to the West. It is a signal of things to come.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented, “We are trying hard to come out of an economic disaster. But a knockdown fight with China has been thrust upon us. The takeover of Hong Kong is the writing on the wall.” The Chinese may rue the day when the U.S. woke up to that fact.