By: Rich Berdan
During the Cold War, The Soviet Union and the United States clashed in numerous wars for global supremacy through proxies around the world -Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Angola being most notable. Today, Russia has been relegated to the junior proxy position with China now taking the lead for the East to dethrone the US as the reigning force in the West. Russia’s invasion into Ukraine is now America’s and China’s proxy war.
The war in Ukraine is a small nick on the sidebar chart in China’s 100-year plan to become the world’s ruling superpower. While the Russian invasion into Ukraine was never part of the design, China pivoted and capitalized on a gold-plated cloak and dagger snare to further expedite America’s military and economic decline and its ability to exert its power in the latter part of China’s blueprint.
In the three weeks leading up to Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering his forces into Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Putin at the Beijing Winter Olympics in a meeting that concluded with a 5,000-word joint statement declaring a “no limits” partnership between the two nations.
Yang Jiechi, foreign affairs chief of the Communist Party declared, “The Chinese side is willing to work with the Russian side to continuously implement high-level strategic cooperation between the two countries, safeguard common interests and promote the development of the international order in a more just and reasonable direction. The relationship between the two countries has always been on the right track, and both sides firmly support each other on issues relating to their core interests.”
Ahead of the two leaders meeting again during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from September 15 to 16, Li Zhanshu, the CCP’s No. 3 official met with Putin in Vladivostok on September 9. Li was quoted as saying, “We see that the United States and its NATO allies are expanding their presence near the Russian borders, seriously threatening national security and the lives of Russian citizens. We fully understand the necessity of all the measures taken by Russia aimed at protecting its key interests, we are providing our assistance.”
The assistance is most evident in China disregarding Western sanctions and bankrolling the Russian economy to continue the war with the purchasing of discounted oil and gas. China’s crude oil imports from Russia has sored 55% from a year earlier, while liquified natural gas imports are up 22% for the year. These actions presented an opportune moment for China to indirectly attack the United States by further bleeding out the US treasury and depleting weaponry required to fight another war while creating a boon for Chinese refineries expanding their margins on heavily discounted oil.
Russia has now taken back the top ranking of suppliers to the world’s oil importers, indicating that Moscow is able to find buyers for its oil despite Western sanctions. It should be noted that India, who purchases most of its military arms from Russia, has stepped in to fill the gap of Russian oil cut off to Europe with the greatest growth of oil imports increasing from less than a million tonnes in the first quarter of the year to nearly 8.5 million tonnes of oil in the second quarter. While India’s actions may be out economic expediency, one must question where their allegiance lies whereas the axis line of support running from China, Iran, and North Korea is not in question.
While Xi may respect the legitimacy of Russia’s actions to protect their national interests and security in the face of external forces, he has a greater interest in having a bird’s eye view of China’s two greatest threats inflicting considerable costs on the war -human life, their economies, and perhaps most importantly the psychological exhaustion of the people’s will to fight once China decides to uphold their territorial claims to Taiwan and elsewhere. Xi’s indirect approach against the US through its Russian proxy became a necessary evil to see his two main rivals dislocate each other.
The 100-year marathon requires a strategy to find the means to subdue the enemy through a patient maze of distractions and tactics that will eventually overwhelm America’s will to resist with the smallest amount of economic and human loss to itself. In the art of war, Sun Tzu’s principle to avoid large losses was clear: The perfection of strategy would be, therefore, to produce a decision without any serious fighting.
Moving directly against the US in a war is unpredictable and would cause considerable domestic and internal strife, and therefore a flexible plan was devised like that of sprawling branches bearing fruit in numerous directions. The goal is to create conditions where the US is forced to conclude defeat is inevitable before shots are fired.
Rather than facing raw power, China cajoled America to align their economies following President Nixon’s seismic 1972 visit known as “the week that changed the world” and largely altered the balance of power between the US, China, and the Soviet Union.
While Nixon, a shrewd strategist, sought to leverage the Chinese as a powerful new ally in its efforts to thwart the Soviets, the CCP had their own reasons to open relations with America. China was worried that the heavily militarized Soviet neighbor was planning to expand their territory across Asia.
Nixon’s intentions to pit China against the Soviet Union in creating the third corner in the triangle of power essentially became the accelerant that ignited China’s silk road to Superpower status. The first order of business would be a supporting role to neutralize the Superpower on its northern border while patiently understanding their American partner’s weak points.
The US became smug in its reigning position by believing China required a special trading nation status with minimal import duties in their naïve notion to democratize a country stuck in the economic backwoods. Fast forward in the 100-year plan and China has nearly caught up to the American economy following the 2008 Financial Crisis, the compounding debt ceiling collapses, and overextending themselves in multiple theatres of war throughout the Middle East and Asia.
China’s next indirect tactical move was to purchase large amounts of American debt where they could now peg the yuan to the American dollar; and subsequently reap the benefits with global markets willing to trade in a stable Chinese currency. China’s purchase of American treasuries further inflated the dollar and in return provided American corporations and consumers more buying power to purchase massive amounts of cheap Chinese goods to supercharge their economy. The West became reliant on China’s huge and inexpensive labor market to supply the world with virtually all their demands in finished products, medicines, technology, and raw materials for production.
The windfall provided the CCP with the capability to all but buy out the world’s poorest country’s natural resources, build out trading routes, condense their mass population into manufacturing hubs, facilitate the currency markets, and hold multi-national corporations and countries hostage to one’s future prosperity by setting the rules of engagement under the domineering rule of the regime.
China now has more purchasing power than the United States, and by 2030 they are expected to surpass the US and become the dominate economic superpower. The hammer came down hard following the unleashing of the coronavirus across the planet; where the US wildly printing money for the American Rescue Plan and for the war in Ukraine causing a merciless spike in the CPI inflation rate that will choke America’s ability to service the incredible debt load. One can add the self-inflicted wounds and distractions of the acutely divided political discourse throughout the country, crime and drug issues, and an increasingly inferior education system failing to produce the skills required in the future.
On military readiness, China is well on their way to compete with the US. Their build-out of naval bases, advanced technology, and training exercises has increased their capability where it is now likely too late for America to declare war. On the other side, the US military budget is failing to support necessary growth and maintenance. The missions abroad; whether the failed withdraw from Afghanistan leaving a vacuum for China to fill or the billions of dollars being sunk into Ukraine, are dragging on American resolve. The US naval warships now number only 296 with 39 scheduled for decommissioning whereas China has increased their fleet to 355 ships and expanding to 420. China’s capability is now far reaching with technology to attack America’s electrical grid or satellites providing eyes in the sky, and missile advancements to take out American carriers.
Is America’s fate as a declining Superpower no different than the historical cycle of Superpower predecessors that eventually overextend and collapse under their own weight as it was with the Soviet Union or the British Empire? Is China’s 100-year plan to subdue the enemy succeeding while Russia and the US deplete themselves in Ukraine? Will America rally itself to find a way back or is it too late?