Mon, Jan 14, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Ian Easton on Taiwan: America’s China shock

The first assumption was that the Soviet Union would not decline, let alone fall apart. It was widely agreed that the Soviet Union would be around indefinitely and continually grow more powerful relative to the United States and its allies. The second assumption was that Washington had little it could do to affect the nature of the regime in Moscow. The third assumption was that any direct attempt to advance the United States’ position at the expense of the Soviet Union would result in crisis and an increased probability of a catastrophic nuclear war. The fourth assumption was that it was best to avoid tensions by containing and placating the Soviet Union. Since the regime in Moscow could not be changed and was too dangerous to confront, the best anyone could hope for was that it might gradually “mellow out” and take less aggressive actions.

Today the same false assumptions linger on in the minds of many, only this time they are applied to China instead of the Soviet Union. The main variation on the theme has been the assumption that the Chinese Communist Party would eventually change on its own accord. Those who believe this have argued that there is little need to contain and confront China, and greater need to accommodate its ascendance and thereby ensure its smooth political transition. They also assume that proactively encouraging peaceful regime change in Beijing would be futile, counterproductive, and ultimately dangerous.

There is no guarantee that the next Cold War will end as happily as the first. Indeed, the first Cold War may have continued indefinitely had it not been for President Reagan’s strategy for great power competition. Although we now take it for granted, the Soviet Union could have survived if the external conditions facing Moscow had been different. In that event, the world would be a far darker and more menacing place to live, even if the twilight struggle for global supremacy never spiraled into global war.

What will the world of tomorrow look like if the United States and its allies fail to stay ahead of China? Already the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian influence is spreading. Democratic governments are being undermined and the rule of law diminished. Insecurity and fear now reign in more and more places. In an affront to our sacred principles, values, and laws, Chinese might increasingly makes right. We can hardly judge the future, but the trends before us appear grim.

While it seems unimaginable, the future could belong to the Chinese Communist Party and the authoritarian axis it leads. Advanced 5G communications and artificial intelligence-enhanced machines have the potential to greatly enhance China’s surveillance state and the reach and effectiveness of its emerging power.

Yet there is no reason to lose hope. The future will be shaped in part by the aims and efforts of China’s tyrannical leaders, and in part by what others do to stop them. Having woken up to the threat, the US government now needs to spend less time engaging China’s dangerous elites and more time undermining them. The watchwords should be: more action, less dialogue.

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