The China Century: Squeaks and Groans as U.S. Gets Used to Being #2

China flag graphic
China flag graphic, Photo: Natthapong Khromkrathok/123RF

I fail to see why we should start World War III to get nuclear weapons out of North Korea. I don’t see how North Korea having nuclear weapons is any worse than China or Russia having them. Those other two countries can easily blow up Los Angeles or any other American city.

Well, you might say, those countries are not threatening to attack the United States these days. And there is truth to that. Fact is, with the superpowers, everybody knows that attacking with nukes only gets their own cities destroyed by nukes. It’s unsaid. We’re tired of saying it after repeating it so often during the Cold War.

But Kim Jong-un is a crazy person, you say. Or is he? He acts like a crazy person. But so far he actually hasn’t blown anything up with nuclear weapons. He rattles the sword. He’s been capable of destroying both Tokyo and Seoul at the push of a button for 10 years. And he—nor his father—hasn’t done it.

A crazy person wouldn’t care if he got blown up in return. Kim Jong-un is “acting” like a crazy person. And why? Because he rules a backward kingdom and the equipment in his military are antiques—40 years behind the rest of the world. Indeed, it’s widely believed in American think tanks that what he does and says is only coming out of his mouth in order to continue his dictatorship, and not be invaded by those freedom loving people who might overthrow him—South Korea and its protector, the United States. He wants to scare us to death.

Why not say aloud “Kim, if you drop even one nuclear weapon out there, your palace and chief city are toast. Trust us. Not one more peep out of you.”

You might recall two years ago that President Obama sent a stealth bomber swooping over North Korea. It shut them up for a time.

As for us being a bully, we have a President who is an expert at this. He should go at it, in my view.

Kim Jong-un will get the message. And therein continues a stalemate. We, in fact, have no desire to overthrow Kim Jong-un. It would be nice. But not necessary.

As for the larger picture, the American people have yet to comprehend what is going on. Last month, China passed us as the greatest import-export nation on earth. Their trade exceeded $8 trillion. Last month, China passed us in molecular research by harnessing quark energy for the first time. Six months ago, China passed us by building the most powerful computer by far. One month ago, China developed a computer that could beat a human at the game Go. This is a game that involves not only facts, but hunches. It seems impossible that a computer could do this. Last year, in a dubious distinction, China surpassed America as the largest country polluting the planet. This year the amount of their pollution will nearly double ours. China, within the next 10 years, will surpass America in almost every way as the most powerful nation on earth.

How quickly do we forget? In the early part of the 20th century, the United States became the single dominant nation in the western hemisphere, and as Teddy Roosevelt put it, determined to “speak softly and carry a big stick.”

All foreign powers were to stay clear of South and Central America, the islands in the Caribbean and, out in the Pacific, Hawaii. Later, when there were only two superpowers, we got the Soviet Union to back off in Cuba by refusing to allow them to have missiles so close to our shores. We won without firing a shot.

Now, China is seeking to become the dominant power off its shores. How can we blame them? And how can we overlook that they are doing this? They built a fortress out of sandbars called the Spratley Islands to stake their claim. They expect to become the dominant power in all of the China Sea, overseeing everything that touches that sea, from Indonesia to Vietnam to Japan. Recently, the Philippines, which we made free after taking it over from the Spanish, began making friendly noises at China. Perhaps China should take them under their wing.

In an age of international trade, there is no longer any need for one country to take over and rule another country. But there certainly is a need for groups of countries to make treaties and look for protection. It’s natural to look to a superpower near you. Or in some cases, even far from you. Israel comes to mind.

President Obama made agreements with some of our Pacific Rim friends to carry our interests there into the future. President Trump has swept them away—not because he wants us to give up our dominant position in the Pacific, but because it was “not as good a deal.” He did the same thing with the Paris Climate Agreement. The amounts of money America was committed to spend helping poor countries in this effort was way out of whack. It did not consider China’s new dominance. Trump said he would be back in the Paris Climate Agreement if he “got a better deal.” He also said something similar to NATO—everybody should “pay their fair share.”

There’s a certain logic to having a nearby world power handling trouble in an area not far off their shores. If there’s trouble in Panama, we handle it. If there’s trouble with Mindanao rebels in the Philippines, why fight to keep the Chinese from handling it?

It is true that in the colonial era, the thing to do was go in and suck a small country dry. America never bought into that. And from what I can see, China is not buying into that. China took over Hong Kong from the British in 1999 when Britain’s 99-year lease for that colony ran out. Hong Kong was a vigorous democracy under British rule. It remained a democracy for 15 years after the British left, but now its slowly turning to China’s way—a benevolent dictatorship that reins in some freedoms and competes in the world like a giant business conglomerate… and is that so bad? Is it worth going to war with them because they don’t believe in our democratic way of life? We need to clean up our own backyard.

Ten years from now, all the countries of the Pacific Rim will be going to China for help if rebels emerge to take them over. From that perspective, North Korea—which the Chinese helped during the Korean War—would be the Chinese attack dog. China makes nice. But they have this little dog that terrifies people to keep them at bay. It is historic folly to think that China is going to disarm North Korea.

This 10-year period, during which China takes its place as the more dominant of the two superpowers on this planet, is fraught with danger. China is in no hurry. It was in no hurry with Hong Kong and we should be in no hurry as we slowly let go of what’s near them either.

Indeed, Trump has already announced that America will not intervene every time somebody gets abused by somebody else in a foreign country. Our finances are way out of whack. We need to spend money at home. If we keep going as policemen of the world, we will go bankrupt. So we are letting go a bit. America first.

I want to hear Trump tweet: “Watch out, Kim Jong-un, we’re lining up our nukes to turn you and your family and your palace and all of Pyongyang into glowing dust.”

Was that more than 140 characters?

More from Our Sister Sites