Today’s video covers the India-China border dispute, which has gotten significantly more serious over the past 48 hours. I don’t have much to contribute to what’s happening on the ground, even the real reporters are having difficulty figuring that out. But the fact that China is embroiled in this lethal border dispute indicates a serious problem for the country.
China has missed an extraordinary opportunity. Now that I think of it, so have the Russians, the Chinese, and anybody else who has been set up as an enemy of the United States. Before this year he still had his defenders, but in June of 2020 there are few people who dispute that Donald Trump is the dumbest, weakest, and easiest to bribe president in US history. Yet after three and a half years of Trump’s time in power none of these legendarily so threatening actors have managed to do much at all to advance their interests. China, supposedly the country ready to supplant us, has managed to dig itself a massive hole geopolitically and financially. It’ almost as if we’re spending too much money on our military…
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. China’s most recent border conflict with India seems to have calmed down. But when reports first started filtering out, it looked quite alarming.
The border area is so disputed that I am not even going to provide a visual in this video. No matter where I drew the lines it would have pissed somebody off. China and India have their own interpretations of the border and Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan all have their own ideas about it as well. Some Indian sources claimed that Chinese elements had forced their way a few miles into Indian territory, but it’s not entirely clear whether anyone else saw it that way.
It’s difficult to get an exact picture of what happened last month, but the impression I get is that India got pushed around a bit. Tensions are being defused, but the massive military imbalance between the two countries has once again been underlined. Some see this as a victory for China, but I see it as the exact opposite. This is the latest in a number of signs that China has completely missed one of the greatest opportunities it has ever had.
2015 and 2016 were very scary years for China. Their economy’s charmed life of hyper-growth was clearly ending. In 2015 the Chinese stock market crashed, and GDP growth fell below 7% for the first time in 25 years. Their great rival was headed by a charismatic international celebrity, who was surrounding China in an ever tightening web of anti-CCP allies. This alliance had just finished negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal designed specifically to cut Chinese exports, and they were working on an Atlantic version that would have cut China out of European trade as well. This was the environment that China was dealing with when a minority of American voters decided to give China an extraordinary gift. That gift was Donald Trump.
Allies are essential to any US strategy against China. Our relatively small population, and distance from the world’s emerging economic center in Asia make careful diplomacy necessary. When we are in tune with our allies, as we were in 2016, China’s range of motion on the world stage is closely limited. China was reduced to impotently pouring concrete into the sea and calling it power projection. But when Donald Trump took power in 2017 he set about ripping this international system apart.
Trump threw out the Trans Pacific Partnership in his first month in power. From his absurd penny-pinching on Korean bases to his useless trade wars with Europe and Mexico, Trump’s abuse of our allies created an incredible opportunity for China.Trump is a joke. And with Trump as president, US diplomacy became a joke as well. World leadership was there for the taking.
China did make a couple savvy moves to take advantage of this. China has taken the driver’s seat in a number of international organizations through the devious strategy of paying its bills on time. Seriously, that’s all it takes to outwit the Trump administration, being low key generous to international organizations, and meeting those commitments. So sinister. In 2017, Xi Jinping, the president of a nominally communist country was welcomed like a conquering hero at the world economic forum at Davos, where he gave a keynote speech celebrating globalization.
If China had stuck to doing stuff like that, they could have really changed the balance of power in the world. Instead China decided to piss away its opportunity with a campaign of Trump style aggression. Most are familiar with what China has been doing in Hong Kong and to the Uighurs in Xinjiang, but that’s not really what I am talking about here.
China’s actions on its home turf are not China’s main problem. As much as we claim to care about Hong Kong and the Uighurs in the United States, China probably isn’t losing too many points here internationally. When they claim these issues are about, sovereignty, every country’s ability to control it’s own territory, many countries hear that with a sympathetic ear. India has its own, much larger Muslim minority it wants to abuse. Russia has Chechnya, and political forces across Europe would probably like a freer hand to deal with their own minorities. In a time when even the US is putting undesirables in cages, we may be overestimating the amount of outrage the world feels over Chinese concentration camps.
What does outrage the world, however, is a China that is externally aggressive. And that’s exactly the face that China has chosen to show the world since 2017. Last month’s confrontation on the Indian border is the second one in just the past three years. China has been throwing its weight around elsewhere in Asia as well.
Beyond the physical actions the Chinese diplomatic corps has taken a series of bafflingly aggressive positions on things. They have decided to follow Trump’s example, and start the new Cold War by abusing potential allies instead of luring them onto their side. The Covid-19 crisis has obviously not been a big win for China, but with a little humility they could have made it through OK. China probably did less international disease spreading than the US did, and they have been generous with supplies and aid. But they have chosen to take an extremely weak and Trump-like approach to the question of how the disease started, floating absurd conspiracy theories, and retaliating against countries that call for investigations.
China had a golden opportunity to look like an adult, and build international trust in America’s absence. Instead China chose to sink to Trump’s level. It’s looking a lot like the United States will be able to start rebuilding its reputation by booting Trump out in November. That’s not an option that China’s system provides.
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