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Aug. 3, 2020, 6:00 a.m. EDT

Winning the cold war with China will require a stronger military and a more inventive economy

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By Peter Morici

America is in a  Cold War with China  and winning will require more from Americans than the contest that forced the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In contrast to the former USSR, China has a stronger economy and is deeply integrated into Western supply chains and prosperity. It is a formidable technological rival and increasingly behaves as the ascendant superpower,  capable of doing as it pleases with little regard to consequences the West might impose .  

Intellectuals, such as Henry Kissinger  and  Richard Haass , complain that Donald Trump will pull us into permanent confrontation with China and forgo the potential for cooperation on global threats like climate change.

However, they lack the courage to admit the failure of decades of U.S. policy that bear their fingerprints. Beijing’s conduct  regarding the  COVID-19 pandemic illustrates we cannot count on China as a reliable partner to address threats to all humankind.

In 2005, then  Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stated  American policy was to encourage China to become a  “responsible stakeholder”  in the liberal international system.

China walked through that open door by practicing aggressive mercantilism that weakened the U.S. and European economies and helped enable the election of President Trump and rise of nationalist movements on the continent.

Since the early 2000s, the Chinese Communist Party has acted on the premise that  the Soviet Communist Party’s embrace of Western liberal values precipitated its collapse .

President Xi Jinping has demonstrated through repression of  Muslims in Xinjiang,  the crackdown on  Hong Kong , the South Pacific and a string of  broken promises on trade  that he believes China has no need to conform to Western norms and should  impose its values through a China-centric system of refurbished international institutions .

China is pushing out in all directions— building naval power to enforce illegal territorial claims in the South China Sea  and project into  the Indian Ocean and Middle East , imposing  tributary relationships on smaller states  through aid and trade, and subverting the  WTOWHO  and other international institutions.

The foundation of international power is domestic economic strength—that reduces to technological leadership.

Just as China  invests in its navy  and  the Belt and Road Initiative , the  Huawei challenge  lays bare that America has let important technological assets decay. U.S. efforts at catch-up in 5G may come down to  bankrolling a European competitor—Ericsson .

For decades,  federal support for R & D has been declining , while  Xi offers more subsidies to Chinese technology c hampions.

The  JapaneseAustraliansCanadians  and  Europeans  clearly see the threat China poses to their values and security but are  intertwined with China through trade and finance . Crafting an effective Western response will require America to shoulder more of the burden than Trump or Biden might like.

The first Cold War was won, most fundamentally, by the American record of superior prosperity and stability, and the Western embrace of American exceptionalism as by our performance and values.

Unlike 20 Century America, our nation is deeply divided with  socialists gaining a foothold among our youth  and in the Democratic Party.  Demonstrations rage through our cities  questioning the founding DNA of a nation not defined by ethnicity but rather Enlightenment ideals.

We must get our domestic house in order to again be a shining example—for this century.

Leftists offer few constructive ideas through demands for social justice. The federal government, states and big cities already celebrate civil rights heroes, and lavishly prioritize health care, social services, education and affirmative-action programs that have failed to move the needle for Black communities over several decades.

All acceding to their demands would accomplish is to  denigrate our defining national heritage  and add more wealth, under the marque of Black Lives Matter, to already privileged professionals within minority communities without lifting conditions generally for America’s disadvantaged.

The  federal government must spend more on R & D —lest Huawei becomes a habit repeated throughout the technology space—and fund a bigger Navy with a base in the South Pacific to replace  Subic Bay —11 nuclear carriers are not enough, especially given our commitments elsewhere.

Address endemic racism but without kowtowing to  Robin DiAngelo’s caricatures of whites  or extortionists’ demands for a  false rewriting of history . And recognize that stronger growth to pay for it all, no matter who occupies the White House, is essential to prevailing.

Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland.

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