Sunday, April 23, 2006

Buying Ourselves Into a Corner

A lengthy article by Michael Klare discusses the Bush administration's plans to contain China -- to keep it from becoming a superpower on our level. This isn't exactly news to those who follow foreign policy, but most Americans don't pay much attention.

While the story is worth reading, Klare does not address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. If we wanted to prevent China from rising to the level of economic and military superpower, why did we shift so much of our production to their factories? We are funding the rise of China! Whenever you buy a computer, a stereo, a lawn chair, or anything else made in China, you are giving China the means with which to develop or procure the advanced weaponry they need to challenge us. Of course, greedy corporations in search of cheap labor have made it difficult not to give money to China. If China does indeed challenge U.S. hegemony, future historians will point to the first decade of the millennium as the time when our consumer urges trumped common sense. Whatever we save buying Chinese goods and whatever corporations save in labor costs, we will spend far more in taxes to support the military build-up necessary to contain an ascendant China. Should a real conflict arise between the two nations, we may discover that it wasn't such a good idea to close all of our domestic factories in a race to cheap labor after all.

Not only are we funneling cash to this potential threat, but as our national debt grows to outrageous levels (thanks to the Bush administration's shortsighted policies), the Chinese are buying an ever-greater ownership stake in our country. This is what economists call "grabbing us by the short and curlies" (you can look it up). China has gained quite a bit of negotiating power by taking on our debt. If we threaten them with military action, they don't even need to mobilize their armed forces. They could more effectively mobilize their bankers to disrupt our economy. Can you imagine how people would have reacted upon learning that the U.S.S.R. held so much financial control over America during the Cold War? Why doesn't anyone care that China has maneuvered itself into such a powerful position?

The China containment policy detailed in Klare's article is understandable, but clearly this is a problem of our own making. This has become a recurring theme in U.S. foreign policy. We trained Osama Bin Laden, we armed Saddam Hussein, and now we're creating a monster in China. Why are we signing trade agreements and enacting fiscal policies that help them toward the goal we wish to discourage? With the U.S. and China competing for the same dwindling natural resources, a collision is virtually unavoidable. And when it happens, China will not be easily subdued.

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