The U.S. is failing to compete effectively with China
On the economic, technological, cultural, and diplomatic fronts, we're failing to mount a serious effort
The Beijing Winter Olympics are underway. In addition to the typically spectacular opening ceremonies, China scored a huge diplomatic coup, releasing a joint statement with Russia in which the two great powers agreed to support each other’s interests — China supporting Russia’s demands for a partial NATO withdrawal from East Europe, and Russia supporting China’s claim on Taiwan. There’s little doubt that the China-Russia axis is now an alliance in all but name. When two of the world’s great powers align against the third, whoever is the odd man out is always on the back foot.
Meanwhile, I continue to read disturbing stories about America’s failure to respond adequately to the military threat posed by the other great powers’ modernization efforts. Stacie Pettyjohn writes that the Navy is failing to take a number of simple, cheap, low-tech steps to harden itself against possible attack in the Indo-Pacific. Dustin Walker laments that the Pentagon’s decision-making process has become slow and ossified. Mike Gallagher argues that “at present, the U.S. is on track to lose a war over Taiwan,” and lists a large number of ways that the U.S. is unprepared. And so on.
I am not an expert in military affairs, and I have little ability to evaluate the accuracy of these claims. It seems at least conceivable that these are cases of threat inflation — defense hawks exaggerating American weakness in a bid to boost defense budgets. Then again, it also seems conceivable that “Ehh, they’re just grubbing for more dollars” is a comforting fable that people tell themselves in order to avoid feeling anxious. Our record of ignoring the threats from Covid and climate change clearly demonstrate our unparalleled ability to stick our heads in the sand.
But in any case, even if we do what we need to do in order to keep pace militarily with the China-Russia axis, the battlefield of Cold War 2 extends far beyond the realm of missiles and ships. At its core, this is a struggle not over control of territory but over which set of institutions and ideas will guide the course of the world’s development. And on the economic, technological, cultural, and diplomatic fronts, the U.S. is somewhat asleep at the wheel.
Economics: There is no strategy, only flailing
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