Will China Have a “Reckoning?”
By Andy Joppa
The three extracted quotes that follow best explain the most critical consideration for America’s future; will it prevail over China and the CCP? All information in this essay is extracted from the most significant thinkers in this area…and my own awareness. I’ve left out citations. If you’re interested…ask.
“The self-defeating philosophy of America’s leaders, rather than Chinese competence, may be China’s best shot at preeminent status during this decade.”
“With the Biden administration in power and ideologues firmly entrenched in every major American corporation and institution, expect to see ever more decay around you. Indeed, America’s elite seem to be doing their best to throw in the towel against China.”
“However, rather than “Reckoning,” the real central question of the twenty-first century will not be whether America will have its hegemonic status forcefully taken from it…or China will lose. Rather, it will be whether America will voluntarily relinquish its status through its own stupidity, exhaustion, and self-loathing.”
China’s “Reckoning” is best understood as, “China’s Communist Party promised to transform people’s lives after decades of chaos. Higher living standards underpin the party’s rule, making limits on personal freedoms worthwhile for many. But, as the economy slows, that social compact is will fray. According to this China “reckoning” theory, what will ultimately end the Sino-American competition is the accumulated effect of the profound internal stresses China faces combined with consistent external resistance. That is, China will lose because of its inherent dysfunctions.
If the United States and its allies and partners prove successful in checking China’s ego, then the combination of slowing economic growth, a growing debt bubble, a slow-motion demographic catastrophe, and other internal domestic stresses could lead to a marked decline in China’s ability to challenge the international order…challenge America. In such a world, Beijing’s hostility toward Washington could become less strategically problematic, even if hostility persists.
It is this believe in China’s eventual “Reckoning” that influences the projections of most of America’s positions. However, rather than “Reckoning,” the real central question of the twenty-first century will not be whether America will have its hegemonic status forcefully taken from it…or China will lose. Rather, it will be whether America will voluntarily relinquish its status through its own stupidity, exhaustion, and self-loathing.
However, alternatively, the same pressures that are cited as limiting China could ultimately lead to an evolution in Chinese governance, either toward democracy or simply a less aggressive form of autocracy. In either case, the United States’ primary task would be to hold the line geopolitically for as long as it takes these internal processes to unfold.
One of the claims is that China is due to split along regional lines as popular faith in the government erodes and the Han super-ethnicity begins to break back down into its constituent sub-ethnicities. In truth, however, it appears that nationalistic fervor has only increased in the wake of the pandemic. However, the racial and political divides that were anticipated in China seem increasingly applicable to America instead. At the very least, those in power in America are doing their best to sow division and strife along racial, sexual, and political lines. Added to this is…all prior projections regarding China’s decline have proven to be wrong.
America’s Democratic Party is doing all that it can to fan these partisan tensions. After a year of Black Lives Matter supported rioting, while Democrats looked the other way, Biden’s Justice Department is moving to label Trump supporters as “domestic terrorists.” This intensification of mutual suspicion is dramatically hurting and dividing the country.
The “Reckoning” regime-failure theory also raises some serious questions. A Chinese Communist Party that fears its power or control is slipping could become more aggressive in the near term. The concerted use of offensive measures to increase the strains on that regime could also increase tensions and dangers in the bilateral relationship. And critically, it is unclear whether the combination of external resistance and pressure would hasten the decay of the Chinese Communist Party rather than inadvertently helping it maintain control by stoking Chinese nationalism.
The otherwise irreconcilable members of this camp are united by a general acceptance of the mainstream view that China has achieved or nearly achieved peer competitor status with the U.S., that it is becoming stronger still, and that it will soon bring down or radically reshape the U.S.-led global order of the post–Cold War period, barring their massive blunder or a change in U.S. posture.
The China-bullish view is strong albeit not the predominant one in American discourse, and for good reason: it seems to be the best interpretation of the best indicators. GDP growth, military capital growth, and infrastructure investment are among the key metrics in which China has either surpassed the U.S. or is on track to do so within the next decade.
In a 2019 expert interview it was stated that “internal decay” may erode U.S. power independently of any changes in the international situation. Possible eroders include “partisan divisions,” “special interests,” rising “cultural tensions,” and the decline of social mobility.
With the Biden administration in power and ideologues firmly entrenched in every major American corporation and institution, expect to see ever more decay around you. Indeed, America’s elite seem to be doing their best to throw in the towel against China.
How could this happen, and why? Woke politics has emerged from the fringes to become the best example of American institutional decay in the past five years. A few of its consequences are military recruitment ads focusing on LGBTQ causes instead of national defense, loosened entry requirements at colleges, restricted access to advanced classes in the name of equity, proposals for defunding the police, and political censorship at leading scientific journals, among countless other examples.
It is impossible to gauge how much material damage is being caused to America by the wokeification of everything. Nonetheless, the above examples serve to showcase the utterly self-defeating mindset of the liberal elite: they no longer want to win. They’re focused elsewhere, on internal crises often of their own devising. The armed forces, police, schools, corporations, science, and the family unit are all sacrifices to the undefined and insatiable goal of “equity.”
China’s leaders know that America’s current ideological fervor is self-defeating. That’s why they’re funding it: CCP-aligned groups in the U.S., such as the Chinese Progressive Association, help to fundraise for Black Lives Matter.
“Self-defeating” is also a suitable descriptor for the Biden administration’s policy agenda, much of which is ostensibly geared toward outcompeting China. One of the United States’ primary assets in the twenty-first century should be its phenomenal fossil fuel reserves. In contrast, one of China’s Achilles heels will be its dependence on energy imports. Knowing this dynamic, a capable strategist would want to play into America’s strength, maintaining a self-sufficient fossil fuel economy while pulling back from guaranteeing the supply lines on which China relies.
Instead, the Biden administration has committed to assisting China’s “clean energy” strategy by mandating a shift away from fossil fuels and toward electric vehicles and wind and solar energy sources. This plays into China’s strength: the country dominates the clean energy supply chain and would directly or indirectly profit from American purchases. American investment in the advancement of green energy technology would also accelerate Beijing’s plans of ending its reliance on oil inputs through pivoting to coal and renewables.
It’s not just Joe Biden or the Washington policy circuit that believes that China has, in some sense, arrived. The roasting of Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the March U.S.–China talks in Alaska is evidence that Chinese leaders have become confident, even boisterous, in their perceived position of parity with the United States. Blinken’s timid response to a humiliating sixteen-minute lecture by top Communist Party Diplomat Yang Jiechi did little to dissuade the projected image of Chinese power.
Surveys also point toward a sea change in perceptions of relative status. An October 2020 poll by Pew Research found that, even as views of China turned sharply unfavorable during the unfolding of the pandemic, a strong plurality of people in the developed world now see China as the world’s leading economic power.
Against this backdrop, the Biden–Harris administration is floundering in its attempts to form a coherent strategy on China. Blinken’s framing of Beijing as an all-in-one “competitor, collaborator, and adversary” has set the tone for a policy approach characterized by indecisiveness and confused priorities. The self-defeating philosophy of America’s leaders, rather than Chinese competence, may be China’s best shot at preeminent status during this decade.