“Who lost China?”
With the fall of the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, the defeat of his armies and the flight to Formosa, that was the question of the hour in 1949.
Tragic indeed was the situation. The most populous nation on earth, for which America had risked and fought a war with the Japanese Empire, had been lost to Stalin’s empire.
In the seven decades since October 1949, millions of Chinese have perished in ideological pogroms.
Yet in terms of national and state power over those 70 years, a new China arose.
The China of Xi Jinping boasts missiles and bombers that provide a strategic deterrent against the United States. Beijing’s conventional forces on land, sea, and in air and space rival any on Earth.
Since Y2K, its economy has swept past that of Italy, France, Britain, Germany and Japan to become the world’s second largest. China is now the world’s premier manufacturing power.
Yet, under Xi Jinping, the mask of benign giant has slipped and the menacing face of 21st-century China is being revealed.
The Uighurs of west China are being forced into re-education camps to be cured of their tribalist, nationalist and Islamic beliefs. Christians are being persecuted. Tibetans are being replaced in their homeland by Han Chinese. The Communist Party’s role and rule as the font of ideological, political and moral truth is being elevated and imposed.
China now claims as sovereign territory virtually all of a South China Sea, which encompasses territorial waters of six nations. It has begun building air, naval and military bases on rocks and reefs belonging to Manila.
China has warned foreign warships to stay out of the Taiwan Strait and has built up its force on the mainland opposite the island, warning that any move by Taiwan to declare independence would be regarded as an act of war.
In its Belt and Road projects to tie China to Central and South Asia and Europe, China has lent billions to build ports, only to take possession of the facilities when local regimes default on their loans.
But not all is going well for the regime on its 70th birthday.
The people of Hong Kong have been protesting for months, demanding the liberty and independence for which American patriots fought in our Revolution, not Mao’s revolution.
Nor are the newly prosperous Chinese people fools. They relish the rising power of China and the respect their country commands in the world, but they know it was not Marx, Lenin or Mao who produced their prosperity. It was capitalism.
Among the epochal blunders America has committed since the end of the Cold War, three stand out.
The first was our disastrous plunge into the Middle East to create regimes oriented to the West. The second was the expansion of NATO to the front porch of Russia, driving the largest nation on earth, and one of its most formidable nuclear powers, into the arms of China.
The third was to throw open America’s markets to Chinese goods on favorable terms, which led to the enrichment and empowerment of a regime whose long-term threat to U.S. interests and American values is as great as was that of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
The question for America’s statesmen is how to cope with the rising challenge of China while avoiding a war that would be a calamity for all mankind. Patience, prudence and perseverance commend themselves.