The Runback: The China Problem

We are living in a dangerous geopolitical moment; when will our leaders act like it?

Welcome to another week of The Runback. Have you been enjoying The Duckpin? Do you have comments or suggestions? Do you want to write for us? Let me know at theduckpin@gmail.com. And please be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. Thanks in advance.

Podcast Episode #34

This week we talk with Doug Rathell, Republican Candidate for the House of Delegates in District 30A

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Over twenty years ago, when I was a senior in college, I took a class on U.S. Foreign Policy. In my final paper for that class, I suggested that the pivotal region for U.S. interests in the 21st century would be Sub-Saharan Africa. I hypothesized that explosive population growth, the end of the Cold War, and natural resources would dominate U.S. interests in the region and that, ultimately, the U.S. would need to become a major player in the region in order to stabilize it, particularly in troubled nations like Zimbabwe.

The first twenty years of the century haven’t turned out that way. U.S. focus necessarily pivoted to terrorism prevention. While President George W. Bush made great strides in policy with Africa, particularly as it related to reducing HIV and AIDS as well as trying to end the crisis in the Sudan, African policy, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, has not been a key focus of other administrations.

And that gave an opportunity to China, who has been trying to use its resources and financial might to try to gain influence there:

China has likewise become a central player in Africa’s urbanization push, as a huge percentage of the continent’s infrastructure initiatives are being driven by Chinese companies and/or backed by Chinese funding….

…..Even before the Belt and Road was formally announced in 2013, China was making major strides into Africa’s urban development sphere. When the Communist Party of China first came to power in 1949, it was virtually completely unrecognized by pretty much every other country in the world — most of whom favored the Republic of China, the former government that the Red Army chased away to Taiwan. But China began lobbying Africa extensively, getting the People’s Republic recognized one country at a time. Before long, these political commitments were being repaid in concrete and steel, as China started building railroads, hospitals, universities, and stadiums throughout the continent. However, there were other reasons for China’s early partnerships with Africa: even though the colonial powers were largely gone or on the way out, the continent was still the same stockpile of natural resources it’s always been, and China wasted no time stepping into the power vacuum, laying the political and economic inroads that have given Beijing the advanced position it has there today.

A lack of American investment opened up the opportunity for China to push both its economic and geopolitical interests on the continent.

This is not really a surprise to anybody. China has been trying to dominate economic growth in developing countries for years. The Chinese government, despite its brutal communist nature, has been trying to stabilize economic ties with those in the West as well. The Belt and Road Initiative is a massive economic development platform that is designed to integrate dozens of countries with the Chinese economy. Lest you think that this is just some sort of Eastern alliance, members of the initiative include some of several of our NATO allies.

China is trying to integrate itself deeply into these economies that, ultimately, will give Beijing political leverage over each of these countries. This is something that has led to not one but two different U.S. counterinitiatives to combat it.

Just in case you were wondering China’s commitment to disrupting economies, just take a look at the ongoing crackdown on cryptocurrency mining:

Cryptocurrency activities in China will face greater scrutiny and supervision, state media warned on Sunday, as bitcoin’s global sell-off resumed on Friday amid Beijing’s latest crackdown on the trading and mining of digital tokens.

Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua said in a commentary published on Sunday that tighter supervision and scrutiny are in order for the cryptocurrency market.

While cryptocurrency is a niche thing, remember that China controls a tremendous amount of the U.S. national debt through the ownership of U.S. debt instruments and their ownership percentage of the national debt grows every day as successive administrations send the National Debt to the Moon.

And these are just a few examples of the way that China is trying to influence the world economic situation. Many countries are perfectly content to get into bed with the Chinese government despite their totalitarian nature, the Uyghur genocide, and military build up in anticipation of an eventual invasion of Taiwan.

The problem is that the U.S. has not acted particularly strongly the last few years. Yes, Donald Trump signed a Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which was little more than a slap on the rest. Yes, the Administration shut down the Consulate in Houston. The tariffs on Chinese imports did little more than raise taxes on Americans. The Biden Administration did not exactly start out on the right foot with the Alaska Talks back in March.

China is our biggest geopolitical headache right now and the biggest threat to the disruption of the world order. It’s high time both Republicans and Democrats act like it and project a strong U.S. policy towards China and their economic initiatives.