Mike Gallagher's China Challenge
What the new China Select Committee has on deck
In the forthcoming issue of The Spectator, I write on Congressman Mike Gallagher and his new Select Committee on China.
“As someone who thought the war in Iraq in particular was a mistake, despite having fought in it myself, I consider prudence to be part of any sound geopolitical framework,” Gallagher says. “I don’t think that if you support arming Ukrainians, you’re a neocon. To me it’s a far different thing than supporting invading a country or two in the Middle East in the naive hope that you’re going to transform it into a democracy. So I worry that the term ‘neocon’ is being misused… The irony is that skepticism of democracy promotion was a key part of one of the original formulations of neoconservatism under Jeane Kirkpatrick. It’s been totally distorted.”
Gallagher calls himself an academic “neoclassical realist,” but regardless of the academic side of things, he puts real-world stakes in stark terms. He refers to Taiwan as an example where Las Vegas rules do not apply: what happens there does not stay there, but breaks the entire US defense approach to the “first island chain” that runs from the Japanese archipelago through the Philippines and Indonesia.
“My simpler view of the world is that we’re in the early stages of a new Cold War with Communist China,” Gallagher says.“The stakes are existential, and we need to win it. It’s a military and economic and an ideological competition, but part of winning it means you have to be very judicious about your foreign policy investments. And you have to understand the primacy of hard power.”
It’s in this area that Gallagher has been most critical of the Biden approach to foreign policy, confronting representatives of the administration on their love for “integrated deterrence,” which he blames for the failure to prevent war in Ukraine. “We need to understand why deterrence failed in Ukraine and learn that lesson so that it can be applied to ensure that deterrence does not fail in Taiwan,” Gallagher says. “The Biden Pentagon goes around bragging about the success of ‘integrated deterrence,’ which is bullshit jargon designed to justify cuts to conventional power under the naive assumption you can make up for those cuts with unproven technology, allies and soft power. Tens of thousands dead, millions displaced, trillions of dollars of economic costs and the risk of nuclear war is at a higher level than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis? I would not call that a success.”
If it’s done right, Gallagher believes the costs of deterring China from invading Taiwan could be much less expensive than many contend. “I think you could actually push their invasion plans out at least five years, if not seven years, for the cost of $10 billion or less. The Pentagon is spending that money on all sorts of things unrelated to the warfighter. Look at all the things we’re spending money on — for a fraction of that cost, we can prevent World War Three.”
Some prominent members of the new generation of China hawks agree that the real question is how far this new anti-PRC consensus will go, and how long it is likely to last. While bipartisan consensus on the dangers of the CCP-compromised app TikTok is valuable, it’s relatively low-hanging fruit — multiple governors have banned the app from government phones, and Missouri senator Josh Hawley’s measure to ban it from federal government phones passed easily in December. Gallagher’s select committee must help answer the more difficult questions.
“There is a lot of consensus on the challenge that China poses, and even that it is the primary threat Americans face — but that consensus is relatively superficial,” says Elbridge Colby. “What to do and how to do it is not yet agreed. And that is a major problem because we have no time to waste. We need to make significant moves at scale now.”
Colby and others hope to see more significant screening of investments (a position backed by Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor to President Trump), improvement of manufacturing and onshoring production capacity to be prepared for a major war (backed by Democratic representative Ro Khanna of California), and military investments to prepare a denial defense of Taiwan. On this last point, Gallagher and his fellow China hawks are vociferous: they believe China will try to seize the democracy of 24 million in the near future, and that a more focused approach to deterrence is the best way to prevent it.
“The paradox with deterrence is that in order to avoid a war, you must convince the other side that you’re actually willing to go to war, and that you have the capability to prevent them from achieving their objective,” Gallagher says.
Gallagher’s rise to this role may represent the first real test for the millennial generation of American political leaders. With so many lives personally touched by the failures of utopian approaches to the Middle East, and without the blinkers of the hopes and illusions that rise from a belief in the end of history, it’s an opportunity to chart a path that leaves the political labels and restrictions of the past behind.
When it comes to China policy, it’s important to understand that the developments bringing us to this moment were not foreordained — they were almost entirely a product of Chinese choices. It seemed for a time that our business and political leaders, even average consumers, were totally willing to let the PRC continue as things stood, even at the cost of damage to the American economy and way of life. But Xi Jinping and his Fifth Generation of leadership in the CCP decided to bring the West to heel.
“Your average American sees the hypocrisy that China induces in American industry, the obsequiousness and greed of Hollywood and the NBA. And there’s this sense that they’ve betrayed our trust. We bought China’s line about their peaceful rise hook, line and sinker. They used our gullibility to take advantage of our society. They became aggressive militarily in the South China Sea, they escalated threats against Taiwan, they broke their promise on Hong Kong,” Mike Gallagher observes. “But there’s also this sense of turning us into a nation of addicts. We’re addicted to the TikTok algorithms. We’re addicted to fentanyl, whose precursor chemicals come largely from China. We’re addicted to cheap Chinese goods and cheap Chinese debt. And Americans don’t like that.”
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China’s Population Shrinks
China’s birth rate and population challenges.
The world’s most populous country has reached a pivotal moment: China’s population has begun to shrink, after a steady, yearslong decline in its birthrate that experts say is irreversible.
The government said on Tuesday that 9.56 million people were born in China last year, while 10.41 million people died. It was the first time deaths had outnumbered births in China since the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s failed economic experiment that led to widespread famine and death in the 1960s.
Chinese officials have tried for years to slow down the arrival of this moment, loosening a one-child policy and offering incentives to encourage families to have children. None of those policies worked. Now, facing a population decline, coupled with a long-running rise in life expectancy, the country is being thrust into a demographic crisis that will have consequences not just for China and its economy but for the world.
Over the last four decades, China emerged as an economic powerhouse and the world’s factory floor. The country’s evolution from widespread poverty to the world’s second-largest economy led to an increase in life expectancy that contributed to the current population decline — more people were living longer while fewer babies were being born.
That trend has hastened another worrying event: the day when China will not have enough people of working age to fuel its growth.
“In the long run, we are going to see a China the world has never seen,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine who specializes in China’s demographics. “It will no longer be the young, vibrant, growing population. We will start to appreciate China, in terms of its population, as an old and shrinking population.”
Government handouts like cash for babies and tax cuts, have failed to change the underlying fact that many young Chinese people simply do not want children.
“I can’t bear the responsibility for giving birth to a life,” said Luna Zhu, 28, who lives in Beijing with her husband. Both their parents would be willing to take care of grandchildren, and she works for a state-owned enterprise that offers a good maternity leave package. Still, Ms. Zhu is not interested in motherhood.
Births were down from 10.6 million in 2021, the sixth straight year that the number had fallen, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. China’s overall population now stands at 1.41 billion. By 2035, 400 million people in China are expected to be over 60, accounting for nearly a third of its population.
Labor shortages that will accompany China’s rapidly aging population will also reduce tax revenue and contributions to a pension system that is already under enormous pressure.
Davos: Grift, Cult, or Global Villain?
WEF can hardly be said to be a conspiracy. Davos is one of the most heavily publicized events in the world. Every conference, including this year’s, results in hundreds of articles about the world leaders, celebrities, and billionaires who attend the conference. This year’s 700-plus attendees will include heads of state, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and CEOs, including Larry Fink from Blackrock.
But the WEF has proven to be highly secretive, even as it urges corporations to disclose more information. When Public asked WEF how Klaus Schwab Foundation invests its assets, a WEF spokesperson noted that the Foundation differs from WEF and added, “Swiss law does not require financial reporting for foundations.”
WEF says its wealth is managed by an internal Investment Committee that seeks to incorporate “environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in its investment strategy to manage the foundation’s long-term strategic reserves.”
Still, WEF doesn’t engage in even the minimal amount of transparency through public disclosure that it constantly preaches to corporations and philanthropies.
WEF’s 2022 annual report also touts a relationship with an unnamed hedge fund and a portfolio of assets that includes Swiss equities, Swiss bonds, global equities, and precious metals that is in part managed by Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management.
Meanwhile, Schwab has become, without question, one of the most influential men alive. It wasn’t the head of Aspen Institute or even the Secretary-General of the United that was hobnobbing with G-20 world leaders in Indonesia last November. It was Schwab. Photos and videos from the event show Schwab palling around with the Prime Ministers of Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.
Why is that? What, exactly, are Schwab and WEF up to, and why?
HBO Just Changed The Game
My review of “The Last of Us” premiere at The Spectator.
The premiere of HBO’s The Last of Us may be remembered as the point when Hollywood’s approach to video game adaptations finally changed. In this, it’s as significant a creative development as Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was in creating a new formula for Marvel superhero movies.
For decades, moviemakers have struggled to create live-action films based on the intellectual property of video games. That’s been true even of franchises with recognizable characters that are culturally relevant and financially profitable. The movies they’ve churned out have been stupid and poorly designed, disappointing fans young and old with ham-handed versions of the characters they know and love.
The worst examples of this are also the most profitable. The messy movie version of Warcraft, directed by Duncan Jones (yes, the son of David Bowie who also directed the excellent Moon), is the most profitable video game adaptation to date, and it’s pulling in a 29 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Most of the precious little critical acclaim has been directed at movies that adopt the style and elements of video games rather than directly work with a game franchise itself, such as Wreck-It Ralph and Ready Player One. Studios have even seemed content to slap tenuous video game branding onto forgettable movies like The Rock’s Rampage, and just count their money. Movies like Uncharted — based on another video game franchise from Naughty Dog studios, which created The Last of Us — were ruined through obvious miscasting and limp versions of memorable in-game experiences. Uncharted was more cinematic without Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, who spent two hours together with absolutely no chemistry.
What The Last of Us does right is to treat the source material the same way that directors like Zack Snyder have treated graphic novels: use the gameplay and cutscenes of the original as a storyboard for your show.
Thirty Years of “Marge vs. The Monorail”.
Items of Interest
At Davos, mood is somber for CEOs.
How Globalization is changing.
What changes as China relents on Zero Covid policies.
Russia to boost troops in the west with army expansion.
Case blocked for Canadian guards who caused woman to die over mask refusal.
Democratic allies grow frustrated with the White House response on documents.
With classified docs, divide is between powerful and the rest of us.
David Gergen: Biden risks being creamed by docs case.
Which House Republican wants to be the chief moderate?
Tom Tillis views himself as central Senate bipartisan.
Jim Banks jumps into potentially crowded Indiana Senate race.
Green energy group behind gas stove study has China ties.
Online fundraising struggles with diminishing returns.
Documents reveal FBI took no significant action on threats to SCOTUS justices.
DC poised to soften penalties on carjacking and violent crimes over Mayor’s veto.
Abortions in Texas plummet 99 percent after Dobbs ruling.
Chuck Todd gets into yelling match with Ron Johnson.
Sapir, Ketcham: How to regulate pediatric gender medicine.
Should obese kids get medicated?
Mull: Why lumberjacks are happy and you’re not.
What’s next for Tom Brady after wild card loss?
Tunison: On Sean McVay, the NFL’s suffering Millennial wunderkind.
Jeremy Clarkson to be canceled by Amazon over anti-Markle column.
Marshall: The treatment of M.I.A. should worry all musicians.
Jimmy Kimmel mocks Prince Harry’s use of mother’s lip cream.
“But even as every promise was broken, the party kept on gaining followers. Many were idealists, some were opportunists, others thugs. They displayed astonishing faith and almost fanatical conviction, sometimes even after they themselves had ended up being devoured by the party machinery.”
— Frank Dikötter