The non-partisan Chinese apocalypse | The American Conservative
Apocalyptic visions have invaded the great American strategy over China. In disguise and with subtle nods, many strategists now view China as an orderly efficient power that will soon devour the world and spread its corrupt, atheistic authoritarianism and bankrupt America.
The apocalypse is not necessarily the end of time, however. The book of Daniel and the book of Revelation are apocalyptic works because they show a revelation of truth – they are simply a revelation of things to come and show the end of times. Their baroque imagery of gigantic realms portrayed as beasts, fiery destruction, and divine justice captivates reading, but they also have a rhetorical style that has been adopted for contemporary discussion.
This “revealing” aspect of the apocalypse is evident in the great strategists of the Trump administration: Mike Pompeo, Peter Navarro, Michael Flynn, Robert Lighthizer, Mike Pence, John Bolton, Michael Anton, Steve Miller and Steve Bannon. Her political thinking during her tenure sought to uncover a truth that Americans have not yet faced and for which they have the answers. For them, the liberal order led by the USA is ideologically blind to geopolitical competition. As a system for governing the world order, they state that international liberalism has reduced America’s exercise of military and economic violence. Their big revelation is that China and economic globalization are self-inflicted wounds that the US built over decades.
Mike Pompeo illustrates this thinking best in his visualization that China has ambitions for world domination. In a speech at the Claremont Institute in 2019, Pompeo stated that before Trump, the US had deviated from the founders’ wisdom about foreign policy restraint and realism in order to create a democratic Russia and China. Pompeo’s story is that the US had become proud and wildly optimistic about how to shape the world in their image, and worse, they thought that what is good for the world is good for the US. Pompeo is turning Trump into a kind of ambassador for the wild, demanding that the US confront China. He is not afraid of “notifying” other nations (like the UK) when they are selling “major infrastructure and technology companies to China”.
More recently, Pompeo’s December 2020 speech at Georgia Tech University China cites outrageous coercion into the false imprisonment of Georgia Tech’s own professor Wang, the theft of American technology, and his repressive tactics against dissenters from the Chinese Communist Party. China’s Confucius Institutes at US universities were insidiously watching America. He even mixes domestic and foreign countries when he claims that the US “cannot let the CCP arm political correctness against American freedoms.”
This has apocalyptic dimensions. For Pompeo, in the liberal order before Trump, the US violated the basic rule that world politics is inherently competitive and misinterprets the purpose of the US government. It lived on a misguided lie. He quotes Madison: “[Security] is an avowed and essential object of the American Union. That said, internal security, to preserve the distinctive American way of life, is the government’s first and foremost duty not to spread it around the world.
Similarly, in his 2018 Hudson Institute address, Mike Pence appealed to a Christian universalist tradition: “When American missionaries brought the good news to China’s coast, they were moved by the rich culture of an ancient and living people. And not only did they spread their faith, but the same missionaries founded some of the first and best universities in China. “But for Pence, when communism took over, it broke every path to world harmony through Christian unity. It shows that China is suppressing its Christian, Buddhist and Muslim populations by burning sacred texts, destroying religious buildings and imprisoning masses. China’s dark global ambitions are clearly visible: “As history shows, a country that oppresses its own people seldom stops there. And Beijing also wants to expand its reach around the world. “Like Pompeo, Pence argues that Trump said the unspeakable and tore up the old game book of economic liberalization and made the US see what China really is.
Apocalyptic literature tends to present a chronological sequence of empires and events, showing how catastrophes and calamities engulf the world. The pattern of empire after empire is very familiar to Pompeo and Pence in the theological sense. But the broader secular foreign policy establishment is well versed in imperial successors. The US took over Great Britain after 1945, just as Great Britain took over France in the early 19th century. Now China is following the US in the 21st century. Crumbling empires provide an apocalyptic backdrop, especially when combined with predictions of the exact year that China will overtake the US and become the world’s largest economy. It could be 2024 or 2028 or 2035. This economic technical data is a clock for the end time.
Biden’s liberal globalist collaborators – Blinken, Sullivan, McDonough, Rice, Harris, Kerry, Haines, Yellen – speak in different tones, but they see China as a global threat and the US as a benevolent state similarly. They too are trying to expose China and even free trade as a lie that pains America.
The political history of these democratic officials generally includes an optimism in the 1990s about making China economically dependent on the world in order to curtail its military and territorial ambitions. The investment agreement between the EU and China shows that long-term allies no longer adhere to the US strategy as a given norm. What is the Democratic Party’s strategy now regarding China?
They draw on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legacy to justify a Green New Deal, as well as stimulus packages, infrastructure spending projects and the correction of oligarchic tendencies in the US economy. His legacy is also a legitimate source for understanding the world order. He managed to combine the protection of freedom with geopolitical and destructive visions in order to prepare the Americans for the impending war against European and Asian totalitarianism. He revealed that the US could be surrounded by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In a speech to Congress in 1939 after the Munich Agreement, he said:
A war that threatened to set the world ablaze has been averted, but it has become increasingly clear that peace is not guaranteed. Undeclared wars, military and economic, are raging all around us. More lethal military and economic weapons are becoming more deadly all around us. New military and economic aggression threatens all around us. As always, storms from abroad challenge three institutions that are indispensable for Americans. The first is religion. It is the source of the other two: democracy and international good faith.
There is an ideological current in Biden’s Braintrust that particularly links domestic policy concerns about income distribution with traditional foreign policy concerns such as international trade and China. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, has started thinking about securing civil prosperity as a national security problem. His view reflects Biden’s own view that foreign and domestic politics are intertwined. Susan Rice’s appointment to the Domestic Policy Council when her foreign policy career was in the Clinton and Obama administrations. In these appointments and arguments, the Biden administration subtly agrees with Pompeo and Pence and others that the US needs a revelation: that China is an existential threat to the United States.
With Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, it is likely that the US will try to rally more allies to join its pressure campaign against China. Blinking “internationalizes” this revelation. In November 2017, Blinken wrote that the US must unite the world (or as much as possible) against China. In political terms, Blinken has not tried to demolish US tariffs on China’s exports, but rather to coordinate them with allies. This is not a refutation of Trump’s strategy. The apocalyptic visions now woven into the strategic thinking of Republicans and Democrats are a choice as institutional paranoia envelops Washington. How do critics of the American world power react to an increasingly bipartisan consensus on China?
Thomas Furse is a PhD student at the City University of London. He explores American strategic thinking in the second half of the 20th century.
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