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article imageOp-Ed: Why is China antagonizing the world? The Cold War is getting icy.

By Paul Wallis     Aug 11, 2020 in World
Beijing - As though the United States’ many woes and faux pas weren’t enough - The other prehistoric make-everything-worse douchebag in the global equation, China, is acting downright strange. “Mixed messages” hardly covers it.
Brattish superpowers aren’t exactly new. What’s new is the sheer number of negative issues China is generating at a time when the entire global economy is in serious danger. Also new is the media coverage, which is almost as bizarre as China’s efforts to trash its own credibility. It really is starting to look like Cold War news, if much less literate.
The coverage is truly quaint, if you use quaint as a synonym for totally grotesque issues of so many kinds. Coverage is extremely patchy, like hanging around waiting for press releases and calling it "news". It's a scrambled image at best.
“Criticism” of President Xi by PLA and others: This somewhat improbable information comes from News Corp, fountain of wisdom and one-off coverage of events which may or may not happen. According to News, senior PLA officers are criticizing Xi’s Wolf Warrior (anti-Western) style. Take this with any amount of salt. In a country where social credit is the working method of staying out of jail, someone gets away with this? Not at all likely.
In practice, while it’s true many of China’s neighbors are furious with its appalling lack of tact and even basic diplomacy, Xi is running an economy facing serious risks with trade and domestic floods, etc. He doesn’t seem to be too threatened by existential threats, however.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and constant clashes: Also making regular appearances in the headlines are actual clashes around the world. The fait accompli in Hong Kong has also produced rage, but no effective action. Less impressive is the statement that Taiwan is considered by China to be the next Hong Kong. Taiwan is now getting a lot of traction thanks to China’s flat-footed diplomacy, and support for it is growing. China maintains threats with frequent military exercises and PLAAF aircraft in the Taiwan Strait, a fact which doesn’t sit well with Taiwan or bode well for the future.
The recent violent incident in India and regular confrontations with foreign ships in the South China Sea aren’t doing much for China in practice. A stream of deaths is resulting, and relationships are getting much less friendly. Committing forces to distant areas means a lot of ongoing cost, and not much of practical value in military terms. The message being received is that China is back to Mao-era politics, hostile, and therefore likely to be aggressive at any point. It’s a very negative message, and doing China no favors in international terms. Don’t be too surprised to see many nations finding workarounds rather than doing business with a semi-sociopathic China.
Trade: As trade with the US talks drag on and China’s trade surplus gets a boost from PPE, not much else is happening. The US, now skirting the edge of a big economic black hole, didn’t do itself any favors with the trade war. That situation could change if the US market dries up due to a recession.
Elsewhere, a very angry, infuriated global market is not coping well with China’s vacillating trade policies and arrogance, which are antagonizing people on a truly inexcusable scale. Glowing reports of China’s “surging” rebound in trade are being met with more than a bit of skepticism. How does China profit from a global recession, to start with? Consumer demand is on virtual life support in the US and elsewhere. Business investment is scared, with good reason. Buying a lot of materials doesn’t equate to selling them in a Depression, either.
Free seeds, electronics and face masks? Meanwhile in the ruins of a previously healthy market with China, a rash of unsolicited goods are arriving from China. The FDA says it’s “brushing”, promoting goods, but the information required to actually deliver these things to private individuals looks more like a cross between phishing and some potentially very iffy data acquisition. Does this mean China is saying it can get this very DOX-like information, or that it already has it? As an exercise in marketing, it looks more like a threat. It’s hard to enthuse, either way.
Floods, food and devastating illegal fishing One thing that looks very wrong in the rosy picture of itself that China promotes is that things are far more mundane, and highly dangerous further down the food chain, quite literally.
Big floods have hit Chinese crops hard. These crops have been lost due to prodigious amounts of rain and recovering the croplands will take time. This is a major disaster by any standards, and some of the numbers don’t make a lot of sense when you’re talking about 54 million people uprooted. There’s not a lot of information coming from official China on this subject.
Meanwhile, China’s fishing fleet has been showing up in some strange places, with reports of violence from multiple areas, deaths of North Korean fishermen and massively destructive harvesting of fish and squid stocks. These fishing excursions include the Galapagos, the most remote fishing grounds in the world.
Why? Allowing for some greed, these fishing practices have been largely responsible for decimating fishing stocks for decades. These are truly primitive, and in fact highly cost-inefficient methods. The question remains - Does China actually need so much food? If so, why right now?
What’s odd is that the Chinese fishing fleets seem to be literally on a sudden rampage. Their fishing fleets did a lot of highly questionable fishing before, but now it’s like a plague. Japan has actually put military units on standby to manage Chinese fishing fleet incursions. (Japan’s own demands for seafood are also very high. This is a truly tough call for Japan, which does need the fishing grounds in good working order.)
This sudden need for fish at any cost, however, doesn’t sit too well with China’s supposedly surging economy, or anything else. Feeding 1.4 billion people takes a lot of resources, and China’s history is literally covered in long periods of serious famine and food shortages.
Is all not well in the People’s Penglai?
Penglai is the legendary home of the immortals. It was so famous that the original Chinese emperor, Chin Shih Huang Di, sent people to find it and get the secret of immortality. The modern Chinese Empire, for all its rhetoric, seems to have lost any sense of human aspirations, let alone immortality, in a turgid current of petty, short-sighted, geopolitics. If there’s anything immortal about this current empire, it will be a history of crassness, mindless brutality, and empty phrases. It will also be a history of missing the cues the world is sending, very much to China’s detriment.
China has at times literally outshone the world at various times in its history. Brilliant thinkers, innovations and technological breakthroughs are scattered like diamonds through a truly turbulent 40 centuries.
Now, it’s showing a dull sheen of absolute intellectual mediocrity and lack of vision at exactly the wrong time in global history. The Qing Empire, the last empire, ignored the world for so long it didn’t foresee the Opium Wars, the colonial invasions, or the huge disadvantages its own policies had created.
This isn’t the Qing Empire, but it’s starting to look like the pre-Opium War period in one way. China’s connections with the world go much further than the official connections and on-the-books trade. Those connections could drain a lot of money out of China, much as the opium trade did.
Qing China was undercut by corrupt officials, the very rich, and organized crime on a scale that made the modern Mafia look like hot dog vendors. Chiang Kai Shek made similar, fatal, mistakes, overestimating himself and his cronies and underestimating the gigantic corruption which bled China dry.
Whether it’s floods, fishing, weird marketing, or more bombastic babble, the familiar pattern of China’s worst times is all there, in one form or another. Emperors and empires come and go. To create problems and ignore risks is tempting reality, not just fate. China should reassess its relationship with the world.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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