China is still a mystery to many of us, however a fascinating one. Michael Pillsbury recounts his own involvement with China which pre-dates the famous Nixon trip to meet Mao Zedong. In fact he played a small role for that trip, but now looking back almost fifty years of contact feels America was deceived.
He depicts China as deceptive, cheating foes and determined to be number one in the world. His arguments are convincing, even more so in the years after publication.
China felt humiliation at the hands of Britain, America and Japan, but had a long range plan to reassert what they feel is their rightful place in the world. After the 1949 Revolution China declaring itself a Communist nation and realized Russia was predominant in their sphere. They were not without some fear over Soviet intentions. America was seen as an enemy for many reasons (Taiwan for one example) but saw America as a counterpoint to Russia. America also saw China as a counterpoint to Russia.
Humiliation is I believe the core problem. Not dealt with as
thoroughly it deserved. The Chinese had the oldest continuing tradition of
civilization. Opium forced on them because British wanted much from China, but
China did not see enough they wanted to trade for.
One thing not mentioned in the text was that Pierre Trudeau had made overtures to China beforehand. It seems logical that a connection was made more acceptable by Canadian moves or even concern that Canada was getting a trade advantage denied to American farmers and businesses.
China assessed that they could be temporary friends with U.S. and lull Americans into complacency. Both sides aware of some sensitivity of the other. The Chinese agreed to not make an issue of Taiwan and the Americans gave defensive reassurances regarding Russian aggression and even supplied information regarding Indian troop movements towards Pakistan who was being given support by China. Each side thought they could use a new partner to deal with Russia.
Decades of Republican and Democratic administrations felt it was in their interest to help prop up China so they would join democracy and capitalism in a western sense. Those in charge of China had a different agenda. Develop trade, steal information, build up their strength without alarming the Americans.
It became clear after awhile that they had a few sensitive concerns. The Dalai Lama was universally admired (very much personally), but represented a rebellious part of China. Taiwan was considered an integral part of China, but eventually they developed a relationship, but one where China thought they could win Taiwan from the inside.
They promised to loosen up their economy and adopt western practices. Not quite what happened as the state owned almost half of the businesses and were subsidized. Part of their strategy was to be non threatening and to grow their strength by deception and theft.
The author gives an example of China's power with a popular American movie, "Gravity." I saw it and am reminded of some components that seemed innocent at the time. Sandra Bulloch was endangered because Russians had exploded one of their satellites which was causing debris and shock waves. Later she was saved as she gained access to a Chinese space station. The author points out that Russia has never shot down one of their satellites, but China without warning has done so (to test their anti-satellite capability) plus that Chinese space stations are not compatible with American technology. These facts were obviously known to the producers, but they likely did not want to jeopardize the huge Chinese movie market.
The book was copyrighted in 2015. Have we learned much since then? Today I heard commentators talk about the future dominance of G5 technology which is being led by China. Read in a New York Times supplement that Chinese are using face recognition technology to track Uighars who they consider dangerous. China in the past few years has stirred up tension by their actions in the China Sea where other nations (Vietnam, Philippines, Japan and Taiwan) have claims. There is still demands to ostracize the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan freedom efforts. Trump has talked very tough on China, but seems willing to have his family do business with Chinese businesses. Hauwei with Canada forced to detain Chinese CEO by orders of the Trump administration. China has made friends in Africa where they have identified needed resources and prospective friends. The Chinese in general are making efforts to build their strength. They still seem to feel they can conquer economically, but are gradually building up their military strength wasting less resources than Americans.
My own experiences with Chinese were mostly dealing with pet products. One small company was offered a big sale if we would share the formula. Another company that recruited me for pet beds and furniture had promised my boss exclusivity, but in the field I learned of a competitor. selling the same line. When the Canadian owner unfortunately died I dealt directly with the Chinese manager for a brief time, but I think he figured out I didn't have the resources he wanted. Also with still another company they learned to compete economically they had to accept Chinese manufacturing. None of these deals worked to my advantage.
What should we do? The first step might be to improve our understanding of China. This can involve more intense intelligence efforts, but also academic study and personal contact. Can we hope that they will change their views and join us as true partners or not?
Contact is important. Most Chinese citizens know only what the government wants them to know about. Some approved citizensare allowed to be tourists while many others have studied at universities in America and other western countries.
America beat off Russia during the Cold War with bi-partisan support. We need to support dissidents and demand release of political prisoners. They need to know our relations hinge at least in part of human rights. We need to not bend when we are requested to participate
Strengthen relations with Asian countries in particular, but also the rest of democratic countries. The Pan Pacific Agreement would have been important to maintain economic alternatives to Chinese. Taiwan is awkward as is the Dalai Lama . U.S. forces on Okinawa--Japanese constitution re self defense South Korea North Korea can be expected to line up wth China
We have to set a better example recognizing that Chinese propaganda can find and distort aspects of our culture. Credibility can only be manufactured so far.
The Chinese are oncerned over inflaming own population and now Uigar Muslims. There are still protesters who are not always silent. Terrorists are a minor concern, but one they share with the rest of the world.
A good start is to read Michael Pillsbury's book and visit his website http://michaelpillsbury.net/ He is described as a Chinese hawk and an advisor to Donald Trump, nonetheless he has a viewpoint that is well worth knowing. His history with the Chinese is very instructive as he describes how he and the governments of both parties were deceived.