Monday, November 18, 2019

Welcome to the Long Game Folks

I used to quote from The Economist more here in the past than I have the last few years. Reasons are - and sad to say about a publication I have been reading for three decades - it just isn't as good as it used to be. It isn't even - at least from the American perspective - center-right anymore. It has drifted well in to the center-left. As such, what I read there doesn't supply much different opinion and perspective of the rest of my media diet.

One thing you could and still can rely on more often than not with The Economist for was it to reflect the Anglosphere "Foreign Policy Consensus." Yes, the gaggle that has, if we can be kind, a spotty record the last three to five decades.

So much of their performance and advice hasn't been malicious, just lazy and wrong. A lot of group-think and wishful thinking. Kind of like the WSJ and open boarder foolishness - they are scope locked on a pleasant theory, and not rigorous on the hard truth. As the phrase goes, they remember everything but learn nothing.

Since Nixon went to China, the blinkered view of China has been the primary example of this failure to adopt a hard-nosed vision. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, we needed a China strong - regardless of what she did to her own people - as a counter to their fellow Communists in the Soviet Union who all the smartest people in the room thought would last until the crack of doom. 

In the 1990s with the Soviet Union magically off the stage, we saw a shift when China pivoted to getting what they wanted by bribery. They soon found that a lot of business and politicians could be bought rather cheaply. Many people and nations talk a good game, but scratch the right place, and you can find those willing to be corrupt. The Chinese know how to play that game better than about anyone. Two greatest examples of that era are found with Loral and the Coffee Klatch money machine.

The last decade, while keeping bribery in their back pocket, we reached another economic power pivot point, the Chinese are moving on to economic extortion and leverage. 

While many on the outside - and a minority on the inside - have seen the Chinese for what they are (see Long Game tag here), too many leaders and influencers refuse to see it, either from lack of curiosity or habit, or simple greed. The German's 5G decision is one example.

The Chinese are getting bold. In their boldness, will they start to wake people up? The millions of Uighur in concentration camps combined with the crackdown in Hong Kong seem to be turning a few.

When The Economist is having second thoughts, perhaps we are seeing a turn;
There were moments during a recent gathering of Americans, Chinese and Europeans, invited to Stockholm to discuss China’s rise and the new world order, when Chaguan wondered whether anyone would say anything cheerful. At last, halfway through two days of doomy talk about trade wars and some scratchy exchanges about whether Westerners have a right to criticise China’s leaders, a Chinese participant sounded an optimistic note. Brexit is an opportunity for China, he enthused—once out of the European Union, Britain will need all the friends it can get.

That was as upbeat as discussions got at the Stockholm China Forum, a semi-annual meeting for politicians, officials, ambassadors, business bosses, scholars and journalists hosted by Sweden’s foreign ministry and the German Marshall Fund, a think-tank. The forum was founded to bridge transatlantic differences over China policy after a crisis in 2004, when France enraged America by proposing to lift an eu arms embargo on China imposed after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Chaguan has joined the meetings since 2008 and has seen them turn testy before, despite endless supplies of good coffee and Swedish cinnamon buns. At a forum in 2018 Americans and Europeans sparred over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. This time was different. A shared fatalism marked panel discussions and offstage conversations. There was a common conviction that China is not about to change its model of authoritarian state capitalism.
You think?

I'm not sure what it will take - but each passing year, the FP and IC community continue to fail to think in line with our reality. How many bad calls do they get passes on? Fall of the Shah? Fall of the Berlin Wall? Fall of the Soviet Union? Iraq WMD? Overthrow of Qaddafi? Mass migration?

There have been a few successes, but not enough. Some more humility would be helpful here. "There was a common conviction..."

Better late than never.

No more, "We welcome China's rise..."

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