Joe Biden received a great deal of pushback with his stance on China. In being asked about the potential threat, he said, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system…I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”
This received a great deal of unfavorable reaction from both sides of the aisle. Bernie Sanders attacked him over the loss of manufacturing jobs. Republicans on the right have pointed out possible corrupt business practices and connections to China as well as the military threat they pose in the South China Sea.
But I think Biden has a point, it was just badly stated without proper detail which makes him the one-eyed man and king in the land of the blind. I’m from a school of thought that doesn’t fearmonger about China. I’m so convinced that we should be unconcerned with the rise of China that I wrote an entire book about it. I said they have dragon’s claws that look scary, but feet of clay which implies they aren’t really a threat.
Those who fear China point to their government’s ability to dictate and control their economy. But there is a danger in straight-line projections, and economy by fiat leads to far larger bubbles than seen in more free and responsive economies in the West. As a result, China has produced a mother of bubbles and rampant corruption that suggest long-term trends are not healthy for them. China still has millions of people living in caves, so they have a long way to go before matching the economic might of the United States.
China’s One-Child policy leads to severe demographic challenges that will present social challenges and high costs for elderly care which, much like in the U.S., will be increasingly difficult to pay for. China’s one-child policy, urbanization, and pollution are leading to recruiting challenges of pampered and overweight candidates with chronic respiratory problems. They are hemorrhaging mid-career military officers, and unit leaders have a practice of deferring key decisions to higher units. They have little combat experience among senior officers, no combat experience for most soldiers, and don’t have experience in joint operations between services. All of these factors suggest China will have significant problems performing and making decisions on the future battlefield, despite American media outlets peppering the news with the latest purported super-weapon. And all of their fancy weapons systems likely won’t be employed properly or will be countered by the better-trained Americans with upgraded countermeasures like lasers mounted on aircraft.
This is assuming that China even wants to fight a war with the U.S. Most of the concerning articles assume that China wants conflict and portrays their actions in sinister terms. As analysts recently said about Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chou, if she was Elaine Smith with business connections to England instead of China it would be a non-story. (I stroke my imaginary beard with a fake accent, but the evil and mysterious Chinese deserve extra scrutiny.)
There are many things that China does which should be properly assessed. Their militarization of the South China Sea is particularly concerning. But with knowledge of their history and consideration of economic and social factors, like Biden said, they won’t steal our lunch anytime soon. They have their share of problems and Biden was correct to state a position that wasn’t fearmongering. He didn’t do a good job of articulating the case, which as my book shows is very robust. But he won’t get credit for that position from fearmongering politicians on either side that uses China as a convenient boogey-monster.