The main idea is simple: China is the growing political, economic, and military threat to Western Democratic world due to its totalitarian character deeply enrooted in its culture and history. This threat is not immediate, but real, growing, and all but inevitable in the future. It comes from the world view of Chinese leadership and majority of people in which world is perceived in hierarchical terms where somebody always is a hegemon at the top and the only legitimate hegemon is China. The last couple of centuries and up until now, with West having overwhelming power, are considered an aberration that is in remedial processes to be completed by 2049 – 100 years anniversary of Chinese communist revolution.
Introduction: Wishful Thinking
Here author describes his history as an eminent American expert on China and his slow evolution over decades that led him from very pro-China position when it was seen as moving in the same direction as West and destined to join Western democracies as fully pledged member of civilized democratic world, to the new and more realistic understanding that Chine is moving to its own drum that has nothing to do with democracy and which final objective is not to join, but rather subdue Western world to its will. Author articulate 5 basic assumption that were driving him and many other experts in wrong direction:
False Assumption 1: Engagement brings complete cooperation
False Assumption 2: China is on the road to democracy
False Assumption 3: China is the fragile flower
False Assumption 4: China wants to be and is just like us
False Assumption 5: China’s hawks are week
- The China Dream
This chapter starts with idea of Chinese Dream presented by current leadership as mainly benign collectivistic alternative to individualistic and materialistic American Dream. Author looks under the hood of this idea and sees a very different picture of the Chinese Dream as dream of being a hegemon in strictly hierarchical world. As a very recent historical example author looks at Chinese – Soviet relationship from early 1940s to 1970, when Chinese suck out all help they could: financial, economic, military, and technological and then turned over on their ally as soon as they felt to be strong enough to do it.
- Warring States
This is a brief review of cultural roots of contemporary Chinese attitudes, which author sees in history and stories of warring states. This rich history and literature developed around it generated rules that Chinese strongly adhere during what he calls Hundred-Year Marathon (19949-2049 they dead set to win:
- Induce complacency to avoid alerting your opponent.
- Manipulate your opponent advisers.
- Be patient – for decades, or longer to achieve victory.
- Steal your opponent’s ideas and technology
- Military might is not the critical factor for winning long-term competition
- Recognize that hegemon will take extreme actions to retain its dominant position
- Never lose sight of shi (deceiving other to act in your interest)
- Establish and employ metrics for measuring situation and progress to the objective
- Always be vigilant to avoid being deceived by others
- Only China Could Go to Nixon
This is somewhat contrarian to tradition look at US-China re-approach of 1970s when active part is not Nixon, but rather Chinese leaders who successfully used USA as protector against Soviet Union and opened way to attach themselves to a new host from which they could suck out financial and technological assistance without giving in anything really important to them, like their totalitarian power.
- Mr. White and Ms. Green
This chapter is not that much about China as about American elite’s attitude to China discussed using real story of two Chinese defectors one – Mr. White had truly rejected Chinese totalitarism and another one Ms. Green was a Chinese spy sent to promote disinformation. Despite events consistently confirming predictions and warnings of Mr. White and similarly consistently showing falsity of information from Ms. Green, American diplomatic and intelligence elite continued support and listened to Ms. Green, while rejecting Mr. White.
- America, the Great Satan
This is about Chinese version of typical for all totalitarians attitude to America as the main cause of their troubles. In this case it is Tiananmen Square events. Author finds interesting extent to which Chinese overestimate their importance in American political decisions and actions.
- China’s Message Police
This chapter is about what is commonly known in communist world as ideological struggle. It’s typical expression presented by tight message control inside and attempts to impose such control outside Chine via rewards and punishments to journalists and other opinion makers.
- The Assassin’s Mace
This chapter is about military aspects of future confrontation between USA and China. It lists Chinese fears of specific versions of American military intervention and potential response against them directed to various methods to neutralize American technological, Naval, and Air power superiority.
- The Capitalist Charade
Here author somewhat removes veil of deception from Chinese economic policy, which is typically presented as movement to expansion of economic freedom and private enterprise. In reality Chinese leadership sees such developments as tools of limited use necessary to obtain technology and investment. As soon as gap with America is closed, Chinese would move to massive expansion of government sector at the expense of private sector leading to quick achievement of overwhelming economic superiority.
- A China World Order in 2049
Here author looks at the world that could be if China successfully wins marathon. It would be the world where American values of individualism and freedom substituted by values of collectivism, hierarchy, and submission. That would be “harmonious world” with strict hierarchy and Chinese leadership at the top.
- Warning Shots
In this chapter author reviews recent events demonstrating that Chinese leadership seems to begin believing that they are ahead of schedule in this marathon, consequently demonstrating increasing aggressive activities in South China See, expanding influence in Africa, conducting barely masked cyber war, and exerting pressure against any media who dare criticize them elsewhere in the world.
- America as a Warring State
The final chapter is somewhat optimistic based on American history of confronting previous threats from totalitarian regimes with aspiration to world dominations such as Japanese Imperialists, German Nazis and Soviet communists. In typically American way author suggests 12 steps program to deal with Chinese hegemonic aspirations:
- Recognize the Problem
- Keep Track of your Gifts
- Measure Competitiveness
- Develop Competitiveness Strategy
- Find Common Ground at Home
- Build a Vertical Coalition of Nations
- Protect The Political Dissidents
- Stand up to Anti American Competitive Conduct
- Identify and Shame Polluters
- Expose Corruption and Censorship
- Support Prodemocracy reformers
- Monitor and Influence Debates between China’s Hawks and Reformers.
However the most important thing should come first: recognize that we are competing in Marathon and that if we lose in this competition then our way of live, our freedom, and prosperity will go away.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I completely share author’s concerns about Chinese totalitarian intent, actions, and success to date. However I am much more optimistic, probably because I have very intimate knowledge of internal live of similar mature totalitarian system and understand its intrinsic weakness often hidden for outsiders, even if they deeply involved in learning and analysis of such system. There are several main weaknesses of totalitarians like contemporary China. The first one is internal – it could never deliver on promises of better life for its people because of intrinsic corruption of the system that drives up cost of transactions and distorts decision-making, rending fulfillment of promises to population of better live just impossible. The second one is external – deep dependency on external world to provide resources and technology to enable totalitarians to compete successfully. As soon as Chinese action cause recognition of Chinese intentions, the flow of investment, technology, and trade would dry out in no time leaving China to its own devices that would not be sufficient to compete effectively. The third weakness is that any attempt of using whatever advantages China seemingly has in economic area to monopolize anything and dictate rules of game would inevitably encounter economic reaction quite detrimental to any such attempt. Gould example is recent story of rare earth metals.
Finally history demonstrated that in previous confrontations America was always recognizing growing danger extremely slow, mainly because the majority of people are too busy living their own lives and do not pay attention. Even when significant number of intellectuals in America starts pointing to it, the reaction mainly is “Let’s wait and it will go away”, which obviously never eve happened. It was always required to have a big shock either in form of loosing Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor or sudden recognition that Soviets took over all of Easter Europe and attached it to their Empire for Americans to recognize danger to their way of live and respond forcefully. However when such response came it always was successful in destroying enemy either via unrestricted war or slow moving economic and technological attrition. It is not possible to tell which way it will turn out with China, but I am sure that eventually America will win Marathon and China join civilized western, individualistic and free world.