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.