Is China really a threat to America’s pre-eminence in the world? Brett M. Decker, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, thinks so, and what’s more, he believes President Obama is helping to make the 21st century a Chinese Century. Mr. Decker discusses how in his new book, “Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama is Hastening America’s Decline and Ushering a Century of Chinese Domination,” published Monday by Regnery and co-authored with William C. Triplett II. Mr. Decker recently talked to Jamie Weinstein, senior editor of the Daily Caller, about his new book and the threat he believes China poses:
Why did you decide to write the book?
The dominant geopolitical narrative today is about two trends: China’s rise and America’s decline. It’s a dynamic that needs to be studied more seriously, especially given Beijing’s disrespect for human rights and increasing belligerence toward its neighbors. I lived in China from 2000-2003. When living abroad, many people “go native,” a coarse term that describes what happens when someone puts on rose-colored glasses when viewing an exotic culture and is no longer able to see its faults. I had the opposite experience and came away from my time there more appreciative of American exceptionalism and alarmed at how China was becoming less free as it became more rich. The Chinese Communist Party has co-opted the wealthy entrepreneurs and the middle class, who are satisfied with an authoritarian system that benefits them to the detriment of the other billion souls suffering in poverty there. Throw in Beijing’s massive military buildup, corporate espionage, currency manipulation, Christian persecution, forced sterilizations, slave labor, human-organ trafficking and the legacy of Chairman Mao, and there’s a lot of grist for the mill.
How, as the subtitle of your book claims, is Barack Obama hastening America’s decline and ushering in a century of Chinese domination?
President Obama is running our economy deeper and deeper into the ground. We’re in debt up to our eyeballs and this guy’s only answer for every problem is to spend more taxpayer money. The nation is tapped out. We’ve spent beyond our means and are in big trouble. Beijing owns more U.S. debt than any other nation, which gives it sway in our affairs. We depend on Chinese loans to continue out-of-control spending. Without a dramatic change in direction, such irresponsible policies can only lead to national ruin.
You write that China’s growth is directly tied to our ruin? Why is that so? Why can’t both America and China prosper economically?
The biggest hitch is China’s conviction that its time has come to be the top dog on the planet. The Chinese leadership encourages a theory of national manifest destiny that is based on racial superiority similar to Imperial Japan’s and Nazi Germany’s before World War II. It’s not enough for Beijing to grow and prosper and create a better society for the Chinese people. Don’t forget this is a tyrannical Maoist state run by thugs who believe in global revolution. They want to run the whole show, and in their minds that can only come with the diminishment of the competition, most especially America.
In what ways is China harming us now?
Beijing is in the dirty business of proliferating weapons to rogue anti-American regimes such as North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela and even radical nonstate actors such as Hezbollah. This includes technology, equipment and the know-how necessary for nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction. As the lone superpower, the United States is more invested in the global status quo than any other nation. Chinese weapons sales to bad guys upset the balance of power and act as a destabilizing force all over the place. These are messes we inevitably have to help clean up.
Isn’t China ultimately headed for serious trouble, no matter what their present threat is? How, for instance, can they overcome the demographic bomb they have set into place with their one-child policy? Won’t they soon have a massive elderly population outnumbering those of working age?
It’s true that China could crack up before supplanting America as the world’s pre-eminent power, but that could pose different problems that are even more serious. Don’t forget what Imperial Japan did when it hit the wall and couldn’t procure the imported resources it needed to keep its economic machine humming; it invaded a large part of Asia to take what it couldn’t purchase. In the case of a severe global recession or depression, a desperate China could resort to similarly desperate measures. Any hiccup in the importation of materials causes immediate strain to the system that could lead to social upheaval. Lots of bombs could explode before the population bomb.
What do you believe President Obama or any administration should do to counter the threat you believe China poses?
The most important thing our leaders can do to strengthen America and counter foreign threats is get our financial house in order. The world’s largest debtor nation cannot remain a superpower for very long. An economy teetering on the brink of default cannot maintain a first-class military. U.S. policymakers need to make some hard decisions and dramatically cut back entitlements to end the cycle of deficit spending that depends on foreign loans. China can only pose a threat if the U.S. is weak. If we get the economy growing at a decent clip again, we don’t have to worry about anybody.
Do you believe President George W. Bush handled U.S.-Chinese relations better?
Yes. President Bush refused to hold a White House state dinner for President Hu Jintao to protest Beijing’s atrocious human-rights record. Barack Obama toasted Hu with $399 bottles of Cabernet. America, as the leader of the free world, has a responsibility to raise its voice against oppression. Mr. Bush was solid on that point whereas Mr. Obama bent over and physically bowed to the Chinese head of state. That encapsulates the difference in approaches pretty succinctly.
Jon Huntsman is running for president, but he just served as U.S. ambassador to China. Was he adept at his job or was he complicit in “bowing to Beijing”?
Ambassador Huntsman didn’t rock the boat much during his time as Mr. Obama’s envoy in the Middle Kingdom. A big part of that diplomatic job is to watch out for Americans looking to do business inside China. Under those circumstances, it wouldn’t have been helpful to be a loud public censurer of the regime. For that reason, the Beijing post, which lends itself to a certain coziness with Chinese counterparts, isn’t a logical stepping stone to the Oval Office, where the commander in chief needs to protect American interests by being more skeptical of and maintaining greater distance from foreign interests and policymakers.
During his flirtation with running for president, Donald Trump talked about imposing a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. Is this something you would support?
Stiff tariffs lead to trade wars that hurt all sides, but China breaks every trade, labor, health, safety and environmental law on the books and nothing is done about it. I think Beijing should play by the same rules as the rest of us - that doesn’t make me a protectionist. There also are many counter-productive U.S. policies that benefit foreign firms at the expense of domestic manufacturing. The IRS penalizes U.S. companies when they try to bring profits made overseas back home by taxing income that’s already been taxed once abroad where it was made. This forces U.S. companies to leave cash - currently estimated at over $1 trillion - sitting in foreign bank accounts to avoid double-taxation. That’s a lot of resources that should be spent here on facilities modernization or expansion, R&D and other endeavors that would improve the competitiveness of our employers.
Based on everything you know about America and China, which country would you bet on to lead the 21st century?
I would never bet against America, but right now the stakes are high and our chips are down. U.S. elected officials have stacked up nearly $15 trillion in debt, more than $1.3 trillion of which is owned by Beijing. Eventually those bills come due, but Washington seems incapable of slowing down the federal spending binge, guaranteeing more red ink in the future. All that said, China’s economy is more state-directed than ours, and their lack of transparency hides their own massive fiscal problems. Like in the Cold War, I believe the strength of our system - based on the value of the individual - will trump authoritarianism. Eventually, the American people will get fed up enough to demand fundamental change to address our national ills. That freedom doesn’t exist for the Chinese.
A longer version of this interview originally appeared in The Daily Caller on Nov. 14.