This is the conclusion of a 2-part series. Read part 1 here.
American news media have gone quiet. They gladly savage Russia and Putin, but when it comes to China they put on the kid gloves as most major media companies have been keen not to offend Beijing.
There are good reporters and columnists, but there’s also the other kind. Tom Friedman has been singing Beijing’s praises for years and once said he’d like to be the Chinese government for a day so he could fix America. Indeed. Newspapers print PRC government talking points uncritically as often as not – or even accept Chinese paid propaganda, as in the Washington Post’s China Daily insert.
Bloomberg News killed a well-researched story in 2013 on CCP leadership corruption – afraid of damaging the parent company’s moneymaking data terminal operations in the PRC. And consider the fentanyl epidemic that is killing more Americans each year than died during the worst days of the Vietnam War. American media rarely mention that China is the source of most of the drugs – and could turn the pipeline off in a minute.
Beijing benefited from US administrations being too afraid to challenge Chinese restrictions and harassment of American reporters. And this while Chinese reporters and media companies operate freely in the US. The Americans convinced themselves they needed the PRC’s help with climate change, transnational crime and North Korea – even though the help never came. It’s not Beijing’s fault if Americans are gullible.
With a few exceptions, Hollywood practically gives the word “whoredom” a bad name. Money has always been king, but there’s so much Chinese money around that patriotism has been declared persona non grata – along with “human rights.”
As for American universities, Beijing correctly calculated the price of academia’s principles: That’s X number of Chinese students paying full tuition. A visa, a business class ticket and a seminar invitation to the PRC work well, too.
The Washington think tanks have always been rattling the tin cup for money, but some have fallen prey – willingly in most cases – to PRC blandishments and cash.
They, of course, claim they are still objective. But read carefully and it’s more often an attempt to sound objective while not offending Beijing.
Recently a DC think-tanker noted that “Taiwan gets better treatment from the PRC when Beijing’s relations with Washington are smoother.” In other words: Give the CCP what it wants and it’ll strangle Taiwan more slowly.
His advice to Taipei: “Work something out with Beijing.”
Do-gooder NGOs such as Greenpeace? They’re intimidated, speechless and cowering while China destroys South China Sea reefs, vacuums the oceans of fish and builds even more coal-fired energy plants. Bother the Chinese and they might shoot you. The Americans won’t.
But how about the US military – the one organization that is supposed to be clear-sighted about threats to the nation and defending against them.
China has done rather well. Until recently – say, a year or two ago – the US military leadership largely ignored the Chinese military buildup – even refusing to refer to the PRC as an adversary.
The military ruling class was even keen to help the PLA improve and professionalize itself. One often heard the cliché: “A strong China is a good thing.”
And PACOM (US Pacific Command) commanders with rare exceptions gladly appeased China out of limitless gullibility, a desire to curry favor with the White House – or simply not being very bright.
One can’t blame the PRC for taking advantage.
More than a few senior officers happily retire and join the Track 2 dialogue racket of business class travel, five-star hotel junkets and lavish banquets in the PRC.
But certainly younger officers know the score? Maybe not. Too many young officers of all services know little history and even seem to lack critical thinking ability. Their understanding of China is based on Graham Allison’s book and the movie King Fu Panda.
Everything described here is the result of conscious decisions by well-educated, pedigreed Americans. Their tendency to explain away Chinese behavior is only surpassed by skill at explaining away their own behavior. And it’s neat, pleasing sophistry.
The argument goes something like this: What I’m doing is ok since it will lead to China liberalizing and buying into the “rules-based order.” And the more I do the more likely this will happen. The alternative is thermonuclear war. And if I make some money or get a promotion in the process, that’s a win-win.
The Trump administration is the first in decades to challenge China. But does this indicate a sea change that will roll back Chinese psyops successes?
Don’t bet on it.
The US financial industry is still hot for the China market as is too much of the US business community.
Just look at the guest list of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum held in Beijing recently: business, finance, and government heavy hitters – all happy to pose for a picture with Xi Jinping. Bloomberg himself even declared Xi is not a dictator. Really.
The Mongols are famous for their psychological operations as they swept through Russia and into Eastern Europe in the 13th century. But they had to throw a few headless bodies over the town wall and give residents a choice: “Surrender now or everyone dies tomorrow.”
The Chinese Communists have had it easier. Some combination of money, flattery and a 10-course dinner is usually all that’s needed with Americans.
You’d think they would know they are being played. Perhaps. But maybe they just can’t imagine it or just don’t care.
Regardless, sometimes you have to step back and gaze in awe at what the Chinese have gotten the Americans to do to themselves.
Grant Newsham is a retired US Marine officer and a former State Department Foreign Service officer. This article originally appeared in AND Magazine and is reused here with permission.