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During Trump’s Administration, Washington decided to contain the global projection of Beijing’s totalitarian power, recognizing the fact that it faced a new superpower hostile to the United States in another cold war, now involving international trade on a scale unimaginable in the days of the collapsed Soviet empire.
This was absolutely expected under the principled realism adopted by the Trump Administration as its foreign policy philosophy. It was also necessary to do because the influence of a Beijing – for too long sold to the West as politically harmless, economically convenient and ultimately incapable of really competing with the West, neither in cutting-edge technology nor in the military arena – turned out to be quite the opposite.
China is already a superpower. It has been so for a short time, but because it already is, it finally dares to unmask its intentions to fight for global hegemony. And this is so because the CCP has managed to restructure a primitive Soviet-style socialist economy into a new social-mercantilist model that supports its totalitarian power -with a criminal ideology- in the limited and controlled adoption of “mercantilist capitalism” for the privileged and protected accomplices of totalitarianism.
Sascha Hanning recently commented to me that some Chinese dissidents have noticed something that I myself have been noticing for some time, that the mutatis mutandi model, as a model, is not new. We had already seen it in the collusion of large German corporations with National Socialist totalitarian power, in a socialism that turned out to be great business for privileged and protected large industrialists, loyal to the party and to its totalitarian ideology.
The CCP ideology is not identical -although all totalitarian ideologies have much more in common than they admit- but today’s technology allows social control on a scale -scope, depth and detail- unimaginable in the great totalitarianisms of the last century.
Today we have techno-totalitarianism, but the idea is the same. In exchange for loyalty to the party, the state and its totalitarian ideology, there is a comfortable place for private millionaires among the privileged of socialism, a socialism which remains centrally planned, but leaves enough room for levels of economic efficiency unimaginable in the Soviet model. It is a powerful combination, a very dangerous one. And the Beijing of today has honed it better than the Berlin back then.
It is the Beijing model. But every advantage includes some danger, that of a larger and much more productive economy than the Soviet one. One highly integrated into international trade – through the abuse of protectionist advantages, currency manipulation, slave exploitation and outright theft of technology – tied to the advantages of trade surpluses, global influence through private corporations, the ability to invest overseas income from international trade, growth, and with it, some “legitimacy” of “social harmony” in a once unimaginable, though still limited, prosperity for millions of ordinary Chinese who enjoy it today, to the danger of depending on external markets that may surrender to Beijing’s duplicitous trade strategy or decide to fight it.
And with the Trump Administration, the world’s leading power had decided to fight it. Hence, the plethora of restrictions that still hinder Chinese investment in the United States. The U.S. calculation was geo-strategic and of national security, but with very clear economic ramifications. Trump, in his peculiar way, summed it up as “it’s a trade war we can win.” And it was true.
It was also one that Washington had to wage before it was too late. Especially after the unlimited and complacent opening of the United States to Beijing during the Obama Administration, which was nothing more than taking to its ultimate consequences a willful, bipartisan, long-standing Washington blindness to the rising threat of Chinese totalitarian power, as Pompeo acknowledged in his historic December 9, 2020 speech at Georgia Tech. And one that Beijing gambled on stopping through a Biden in the White House.
The Trump Administration decided that Washington could not allow China to continue expanding its global influence and strengthening its military capabilities manipulating trade rules, its currency, stealing technology and cooperating with its private companies and government in espionage, to gain access to particularly sensitive Western research and industries. I commented recently in a previous column that Biden and the new and very socialist Democratic Party would like to return to Obama’s unlimited openness with China. It was a fantastic deal for them.
And I am not referring to Hunter’s alleged millionaire corrupt acts, although that would also be a good business for them. If Beijing bets on anything to influence politics in the West, it is corruption. But also because it seemed to them “good business” to destroy jobs and industrial investment in the United States, in exchange for growth in services and technology. But this arrangement meant that China would remain a third-rate imitator of the Western technologies it was stealing.
So China it would never succeed in selling its own technology – such as its own social networks – outside its protected domestic market. China would never compete with Western tech giants by improving on stolen technology. It would always be a big factory for hire, with cheap labor – and even Laogai slaves – with no environmental regulations, to manufacture what the woke corporations of the cancellation culture could never produce in the U.S. at those costs.
But it turned out otherwise. China turned out to be a serious competitor to Western companies for its own markets. And to become the first power in global hegemony. Neither Biden, nor most Democrats have wanted to see it. Trump did see it. And you, my conservative friend, see it. Half the country sees it. And part of the enemy sees it. Big tech sees it in full collusion with political power for totalitarian cancellation in their own self-interest, not the country’s. But they see it. So the Biden Administration will succeed in repeating Obama’s absurd policy vis-à-vis Beijing but in a limited way. But compared to Trump, it is still a victory for Beijing.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros