(Centennial Intern) "The American people, they're very simple people," said Wang Qishan, Vice Premier of China, according to recent news accounts. Was there a note of condescension in this, coming from a high official of the ancient and self-regarding Middle Kingdom that sees itself superior to all other nations? Maybe.
Regardless, my response to the Vice Premier took shape last weekend, when I had the opportunity of doing what I love most and what continues to be the epitome of honor in my life - - leading our men and women in uniform. One moment that captures what America means to me as well of millions of other Americans is an image vested in simplicity. It is a story that takes us to the wine country of Western Colorado, specifically Grand Junction.
My platoon sergeant (senior most non-commissioned officer in a platoon) and I were driving down a street in Grand Junction next to the farming area of the city. Two farmers, working on their tractor, stopped working and smiled and waved as we passed by. This is one of the several gestures we see during training, whether it is a wave, a smile, or a thumbs up. I believe this is the simplicity Qishan was referring to; however, I am convinced that vested within that simplicity is what makes our nation great.
It is, as I like to refer to it as, the greatness of simplicity. It is the values and morals that make this nation what it is today; a bastion for freedom and a vindication of the words inscribed within the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Mr. Qishan, we are simple people who are proud of our simplicity and the greatness within it. It is this aforementioned simplicity, vested within the morals and values that define our nation, which will continue to perpetuate its greatness and its beacon of hope and freedom for the world. It is why I am convinced that even though my generation will face the greatest challenges we have witnessed since World War II; we will also see our greatest triumphs.
My unit, the 947th Engineers, Colorado Army National Guard, at work:
Being a fifth grader isn’t too hard other than avoiding the sixth grade bullies, playing it safe in playground politics, partaking in cafeteria trading which would give a NYSE trader a run for his money, and making sure you didn’t sit too close to the girls because you didn’t want to be accused of being in love and wanting to marry her. Fifth grade was also my first memory of conceptualizing the grandeur of our democracy manifested in the 1996 election, where the entire student body of my elementary school was sent to the gym for a mock debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. All of us were given American flags to wave during the debate and I remember how I proud I felt to be a part of an idea so great. Before the debate, there was a bit of snickering from the students and being a curious fifth grader I inquired why - - “Check out the flag. It says Made in China on it.”
This example is but a minute illustration of how America has slowly devolved from its own sense of sovereignty; indeed, our very economic security is in the hands of another nation - - a very precarious situation indeed. Unfortunately for us, the situation is far worse. Irwin M. Stelzer of The Weekly Standard writes that the Chinese strategy “is about the use of state resources not only to satisfy the legitimate needs of a growing economy, but also to obtain the power to influence the policies of other nations.”
But the issue is not purely economics, it’s also related to military positioning. Indeed, Jonathan Adams of the Global Post writes “much of the talk has focused on China's new anti-ship ballistic missile, which is now deployed, according to the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific. Not to mention today's news about a runway test for China's first radar-evading stealth fighter. State media called the news "rumors" and played down the aircraft's capabilities.” This statement was retorted by Lin Chong Pin, a former Taiwan defense official who teaches strategy at Tamkang University, who writes, "It's a very effective deterrent on the minds of strategic planners in Washington. The Chinese don’t have to do anything in the future. Their announcement has already thrown a monkey wrench in strategic planning for U.S. action in and around the Taiwan Strait."
Liz Yang, a Masters student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service is focusing her thesis on the threat posed by China. She states that “China focuses on defense and impenetrability. At the same time, they also use smoke and mirrors, pretending to be weaker than they actually are to quietly bolster up their military. The most crucial thing to realize about Chinese foreign policy is that they always view all their actions as purely defensive, and will justify them as such, even if they aren’t.” Stelzer continues by stating that “the regime is becoming increasingly aggressive in asserting its claims to disputed territories, and backing those claims with a massively expanded military.”
China’s version of “state capitalism” has led to trade imbalances, unfair market places and currency manipulation. Above all is the problem of our national debt, which Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called "the most significant threat to our national security.” And why wouldn’t it be? The Treasury Department reported that China owned $895.6 billion in U.S. bonds as of November. When you are the largest creditor to a lender, you can control and dictate its foreign policy. So it should not be too much of a surprise when the representative of our largest creditor, President Hu Jintao, arrived in our nation’s capitol and dictated the conversation.
The above description is a lucid depiction of the enormity of the national security threat Americans are facing. So what do we do? My mom always used to tell me, “Before you go save the world, take care of your own home.” What does that mean? It means finding innovative ways to cut our debt and get our own house in order. It means having a trade policy that is infused with a nuanced understanding of China’s advantage. It means creating policy to give incentives for our private sector’s interests to coalesce with that of our national interests.
Let us not forget that we do remain the beacon of freedom and hope for the world and we continually vindicate our role as the leader of the free world. But let us not fall into the mire of complacency and into ideology without principle informing it. We are a nation founded on the ideology of free market capitalism, which is a hallmark of our nation’s strength and freedom. Let us not forget that ideology is vapid without principle. I hope that our guiding principle is one focused on our nation’s strength and its consequent effects on national security. After all, there isn’t anything wrong with “Made in America.”
Acknowledgements: Dr. Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and director of economic policy studies at The Hudson Institute. His article “Our Broken China Policy” was an inspiration for this blog post and I would strongly encourage everyone to read his piece. Ms. Elizabeth Yang is a Masters Student at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service and is focusing her thesis on our national security in the context of the rise of China. She seeks to continue in her desire to serve our nation through national security and defense policy and will be pursuing PhD studies to accomplish this goal. Mr. Jonathan Adams is a writer for The Global Post. His piece “China's military head games” informed a large measure of the discussion of the China’s growing military presence.
Karthik Venkatraj is a postgraduate fellow with the John Jay Institute and a 2010 graduate of Texas A & M, where he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. He is doing a Centennial Institute internship this semester.
A couple of fairly expensive compact fluorescent light bulbs went kaput in my house after hardly any use. I checked the package and, sure enough, they were made in China. My first thought was that the Chinese need guidance from a W. Edwards Deming equivalent. My next thought was it would do no good.
Deming, who died in 1993, was the brilliant American who collaborated with the Japanese when their shoddy products had become a source of international ridicule. His sermon was direct. Quality counts.
The Japanese had been figuring that out for themselves and worked with their usual energy and self-discipline to address what was too easily breakable, too quickly inoperable and too likely dangerous. A result was superior goods that made the jokes go away as prosperity smiled more graciously.
But even if there were now a thousand Demings eager to mount workplace pulpits in China, I am not sure their excellence evangelism would further the cause.
It's true that, after embarrassing headlines some time back, the Chinese instituted stricter quality control measures, going so far as to execute two businessmen whose tainting of milk poisoned thousands. Outside observers say the bad old days were soon back. The government and factory operators remained too intent on exploiting the moment's opportunities to fix fumbles.
I bring all this up not because I am particularly worried about my light bulbs, but because I think the quality issue informs us about China on a variety of other issues highlighted in the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao with President Obama.
Increasingly, it is the Chinese hour, as is shown by its current 10 percent growth and a statistic from the recently departed holiday season: 80 percent of the Christmas toys sold in America are produced there. With an economy that surpassed Japan's as second in the world this year, a swaggering China has been as careless about the rest of the world as it has been assiduous in advancing its own agenda.
You would think there would be more wisdom in this ages-old civilization, but much that was noble got waylaid in a murderous Marxist revolution. One consequence has been a bully-boy mentality in a corrupt Communist Party that tyrannizes the populace while harassing Japan, threatening Taiwan, building weapon systems to intimidate everyone and, not so long ago, warning Norway's Nobel officials that their country would suffer for giving a prize to a dissident the Chinese have imprisoned.
The world needs China's help with Iran, a major source of Chinese oil and therefore a favored friend suffering little reprimand on a march toward nuclear armament. The world also needs China's help with North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons, and China mostly sits on its hands.
Thanks to a belated epiphany that even relatively liberated markets work better than collectivist oppressiveness to generate wealth, China has become a major international player. But major players have major responsibilities, and a constant question has been whether the United States should intervene in China's recklessness with retaliatory trade acts. The answer is that the trade benefits our economy enormously while protectionist combat could afflict us mightily, and that China happens to be a crucial financier keeping us afloat in our own deficit recklessness.
Summits make better sense, and this one at least saw Hu acknowledging that there really might be such a thing as universal human rights and that North Korea's nuclear-enrichment plant really could spell trouble. From such meager beginnings, real accomplishments can grow, and must, not just for our sake, but for the sake of a nation faced with factionalism, rebelliousness and hundreds of millions still in poverty.
China's continued ascent is no more a given than a Communist Party collapse some have predicted. If the party survives without significant policy changes, the ascent quite possibly won't. Present faults even including poor product quality might defeat China's foremost aspirations. China's light will shine as it could only if those light bulbs work.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a Centennial Institute Fellow. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
(CCU Faculty) Good morning from the People's Republic of China. It is the beginning of 2011 here--it's still the old year in the states. And since many a pundit is arguing that the future of the world is here it seems like a good idea to be writing my first blog of the year from this location.
China is, indeed, booming. the signs of growth are everywhere: endless office and apartment buildings being built to the sky. Bustling, booming cities. Brand, spanking new airports built to impress the world. Recently the airport in Beijing jumped to number 2 in the world in terms of passenger traffic with Shanghai at number 11 and Guangzhou--where I am--coming in at number 21. And the spirit of the people is aggressive yet friendly. When I speak in classes at Peizheng University I am no foreign devil--I am treated like a rock star. I have had my picture taken scores of times. Everyone wants a photo. I told my wife that I must be better looking than I thought. She told me to stop deluding myself. Students and faculty are fascinated by America. But they are very, very proud of China and thrilled with her new place in the world.
And what a significant place it is. Mallory Factor argues in this morning's New York Daily News that the man of the decade should be...Deng Xiapeng, the architect of modern China. I couldn't agree more. Deng repudiated the murderous legacy of Mao, liberalized China's economy, and brought several hundred million people out of poverty through the principles of free market economics. I never thought I would see the day when the leaders of China should be brought in to lecture the President of the United States on how to produce economic growth. But that day has come.
China is determining the course of the world in other ways. By itself, it has buried the entire global warming nonsense machine. The only way the purported threat of greenhouse gases can be mitigated is if China goes along. And guess what? China hasn't the slightest intention of reducing her carbon footprint. Quite the contrary. She is increasing it as fast as she possibly can. In George Will's column yesterday he speaks of the expansion of China's coal-burning electric plants.
China has significant deposits of domestic coal but not enough for her exploding energy needs. So just last year China became a net importer of coal. And guess where much of it comes from? Thunder Basin, Wyoming. If you live in Colorado and see all those coal trains spiraling out all over the western United States you now know that some of that product is headed for mainland China, now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If global warming is going to kill us then you may as well prepare to die. China has no intention of slowing down her economic growth to please the sensibilities of the rich lawyers in the Sierra Club.
But the biggest news--and this is always the biggest news--is what is happening in China spiritually. And here I am limited to what I can report so I will speak in generalities. The spiritual hunger in this land is ferocious. People want to know about the Bible. They want to know about the Savior the Bible speaks of. They want to know how to live better lives. They want to find purpose in the midst of all the economic mayhem. And guess where the answers are? Yes, in the faith of the followers of the simple carpenter from Galilee.
It is no great risk to say that China now has more believers than any country in the world. And that growth is only accelerating. In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the "Gospel is the power of God unto salvation...." It is the greatest power ever known. It has the power to change hearts. And I am happy to declare on this New Year's day that it is changing hearts in China by the millions. So the critics of the faith can wring their hands all they want. This is one revolution they can never stop.