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Almost two decades ago, I sat in class as a senior at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management surrounded by classmates who already had internships and jobs lined up with the businesses headquartered in Minnesota that were household names across the country: 3M, Target, General Mills, Best Buy, and Cargill. My business classes contrasted with electives in political science and history (and a dance class I’ve since memory-holed). But a common theme they shared was convincing students – the next generation of leaders – that America is on the decline and must take a submissive role to China to ease it into a more “Western” culture. Decades later, we see the results of this policy: a China that has more influence on the west than the west has on it.
But this promised American decline met an interruption by way of a global pandemic. It woke us from the dream of the Chinese Communist Party replacing portraits of Mao with those of Washington or Reagan. The COVID outbreak revealed the flaw that in China, modernized does not equal westernized. Despite our efforts to open China to a more democratic system by increasing trade and largely ignoring its political, religious, and cultural abuses, the Chinese regime has tightened its totalitarian grip.
Since Xi Jinping became President of the People’s Republic of China in 2012, he has significantly centralized institutional power. It’s true the regime has invested in modernizing its infrastructure, military, and internet capabilities. But, in true dictatorial form, Xi appointed himself to numerous leadership positions and established his Belt and Road Initiative – a vague economic trade and infrastructure policy that looks more like military expansionism and economic aggression with each passing month.
The internet is heavily censored. Facial recognition technology is used to track and monitor citizens. Instead of the invisible hand of the market, Xi rules with an iron fist, cracking down on Hong Kong demonstrators staging protests for their freedom. What little news that escapes the filters of the state is horrific: mass persecution of religious groups, organ harvesting, and reeducation camps.
This is not the democracy our globalist elites and academics promised when they talked of cheap sneakers and iPhones. Instead, we are doing business with a lying regime that employs slave labor in factories and holds the health of Americans hostage by threatening to cut off supplies of pharmaceuticals and hospital equipment.
A democratic China open for free trade with the United States was like the grand prize at the globalization carnival, except they didn’t realize the game was fixed. Just like shelling out $40 bucks for the chance to win a shoddy, giant stuffed panda, our deals came at a high cost. For cheap goods “Made in China,” we outsourced our manufacturing at the expense of American jobs. Hollywood stars who win the adoration of their peer-sheep use self-congratulatory awards shows to bleat virtue signals against Tyrant Trump while licking the boots of Chinese censors in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Democrats who staged photo-ops at the Mexican border and howled about kids in cages and xenophobic Republicans say nothing about the ethnic Uighurs persecuted for practicing their religion in the Xinjiang province or the brutal one-child policy. Anyone who claims the current administration is approaching a dictatorship might want to read up on what happens in China when a citizen criticizes the regime or makes any reference to Winnie the Pooh.
The hypocrisy is well documented, but it frightens me to witness the ease in which Americans accept the very authoritarian state established in Communist China. President Xi and his regime use state-sanctioned media to control messaging and propagate their approved narrative. Opposing voices are non-existent or have an odd way of being “disappeared.”
The US news media have done the work of Chinese propagandists. Journalists at the White House COVID briefings, network pundits, and news anchors have put their disdain for the President ahead of their duty to fairly report on the facts. Watching CNN, I wonder if they’re somehow agents in a real-life “Manchurian Candidate” scenario, except here they stoke panic and fear to drive people to seek security in the government. But the cost of security is control. Businesses are forced to shutter their doors; neighbors are snitching on each other for violating distancing rules; drones are monitoring parks and recreation areas. At work, I was asked by a lady and her daughter (wearing full face masks) if this was the new normal. “Only if we choose it,” was my reply.
The same people who predict America’s inevitable decline look to the totalitarian regime of China as a model of the future. They repeat the same claims of efficiency, order, unity, and expediency. In 2009, political commentator Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times
One party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.
So yes, they can make snap decisions about the path of the nation, but that same regime will also seal you in your apartment if you contract a highly contagious disease, then lie to the world about it. But don’t worry, the government also controls the means of production of cremation urns — nothing to see here!
American declinists said the same about the Soviet Union but America proved them wrong and won the Cold War. Democracy is messy, slow, and frustrating, but we still have our voice and our liberty. We need to give up on the idea that a modernized China equates to a more liberal China. We need to turn our attention inward and make certain, in this vulnerable time, we don’t give in to our fear and trade our freedom for a semblance of security. This too will pass, and America will come out stronger than ever, much to the chagrin of the China apologists. And I’ll believe China has been fully westernized when they fully embrace a different sort of homegrown, Minnesota company: Hormel — the maker of Spam.Published in