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The World We Won; The World We Made; The World China Built While We Were Distracted
Being now the #2 navy is not the only reality we need to sober up to
In their laser focus on Cold War competition, I’m not sure the world we have today was quite what President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had in mind when they “opened the door to China” in 1971/2.
Both men grew in power in the Post-WWII era when, if not militarily by some definitions then unquestionably economically, the USA was THE global power.
In 1972 Nixon was 59 and Kissinger 49 - men in their prime when it came to political power and the perspective of the 27-yrs after the victory in WWII.
It is important to remember this was the year the USA planned to end its direct military involvement in the Vietnam War - bombing Hanoi over Christmas of that year to force the close. The USA was looking beyond their mistake in Vietnam, hoping the South Vietnamese would be able to hold the line on their own - which they did for a few years until the post-Watergate Democrat Congress cut off funds for the South Vietnamese to keep up the fight.
They had their eye on the great power competition with the Soviet Union - an empire that all evidence of the 1970s showed was continuing on its rise.
They took a gamble.
Their understanding of global competition had certain assumptions about the non-military aspects of that competition; economics.
In the post-WWII era to the opening of China, the centerpoint for these men and their peers was ~1960. For younger readers you will have to trust me on this - when you are in your 40s and 50s, a decade passes in a blink of an eye.
What was the economic reality like in the mind of decision makers? Let’s take a look at 1960.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC), literally, isn’t even on the map. The Soviet Union, an afterthought.
You can forgive the decision makers at the opening of China not thinking of economic competition … and you can see why - depending on how monied interests may have had a seat at the table - the potential of bringing in the huge population of the PRC in to the global (led by the USA) economic system was huge.
And so for three decades from 1960 we saw the military power of the Soviet Union grow to its peak in the 1980s and then stagnate until the entire empire fell apart at the dawn of the last decade of the 20th Century. Meanwhile, the PRC matured politically, restructured post-Mao economically, and except for the disastrous 1979 border war with the now united Vietnam, avoided external military distractions.
The year before Desert Storm and the end of the Cold War era, how had the world’s economy changed?
Our European NATO allies (AKA, core of the EU), well passed recovery from WWII under the USA’s security umbrella, have moved into their own trading block (by natural design). The Soviet Union (through Austria as a distribution hub for hydrocarbons) gives a hint of Europe’s future reliance on Russian energy, but is still an economic afterthought. And there is the PRC, off in its own little economic world with other 2nd tier communist/socialist nations - making its appearance on the stage.
That led us in to the 1990s when a lot of smart people started to ring the bell of what the PRC was poised to do. Not just economically, but after some rather curious “commercial” ventures - from buying incomplete aircraft carriers for conversion to a "casino” - innocently getting coffee-klatches full of rocket technology - and whatever other dual use technology they could borrow or steal.
The end of the innocence was, a decade distracted by imperial policing actions in Central and Southwest Asia, when the Obama Administration finally heard the PRC’s footsteps and, it a last gasp of denial, made the unmockable “We welcome China’s Rise” flop sweat speech.
That 2011 comment was really the kicking off point of a decade’s worth of battles between the China Doves and the China Hawks.
After so much time - time when the PRC to their credit kept right on their decades long plan - by 2023 I think it is safe to say the Hawks won.
The world of 2020 was a very different world. It just took a few years for it to sink in what we facilitated.
That should sober you up. If you want to feel even more like that nightmare when you walk in to a final exam for a course you skipped classes in for the entire semester; BEHOLD!
Now you know why it is important to stop the PRC inroads to the EU.
There is a direct line between economic power and military power. The smart people knew our enabling of China’s economic power would lead to their military power - now everyone else is seeing the Long Game’s fruit as it starts to ripen.
h/t Matthew Pines.