You Might Not Be Interested in China, But China Is Interested in You
You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-form the World by David Goldman (Bombardier Books).
In September of 2019, I was invited to a gathering of Jewish Joe Biden supporters. Rather than ask about Israel, the Iran deal, or frankly anything else Jewish, I asked Biden about China. In a nutshell, my question was: China is currently leading the US in quantum communications, quantum computing, 5G, artificial intelligence, and chip manufacturing. China was just the first country to land a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon. We are no longer a feared military adversary in the South China Sea. The Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to totally redraw the trade patterns that have been so advantageous to the US. And China has yet to be taken to task about its human rights violations. As president, what would be your China policy?
Biden began by saying that President Donald Trump correctly diagnosed that China presents novel issues for the US, but that Trump’s China policies had failed. Then he simply noted his many years of foreign policy experience and his private dinners with China’s leader Xi Jinping. He also spoke extensively about the greatness of US research universities. His answer was underwhelming to say the least.
Unfortunately, as David Goldman argues in his new book You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-form the World, Biden, like previous administration leaders of both parties and Congresses, including Trump, has no cogent China strategy.
Goldman attributes this shocking omission to American overconfidence, a bipartisan failure to understand China’s goals, and a lack of political will to establish a long-term plan to counter them. Further, as Goldman explains, if the US does not act soon, China will dominate the world; even in Israel, the Chinese are primary investors in key sectors like rail and ports. The US will not only be unable to stand up to China, but it too will be under its thumb.
Goldman is well positioned to explain what China is about and what the US and even the world should do. A columnist at the Asia Times and a former senior executive of a Hong Kong investment bank, he has traveled extensively throughout China for two decades and negotiated directly with top Chinese industry leaders. He has also written extensively on Jewish topics for a variety of scholarly and general Jewish publications. His Jewish background has been central to his approach. Goldman argues that to understand China, one has both to look at how it operates today and to examine the long-standing cultural patterns of a proud and distinct 5,000-year-old civilization.
Goldman explains that most Americans are simply wrong about China. The typical analogies whether on the left or the right are way off base. China does not have the aspirations of the Soviet Union; China does not want to militarily conquer the West, nor does it want to integrate in the existing world order. It could care less how others see the world. Nor is the Chinese economy dangerously over-leveraged. China is more stable than ever. Finally, he argues the Thucydides model — that as an emerging power China seeks to challenge the US — is not even relevant.
Instead, Goldman argues that the Chinese are an ancient imperial civilization who expect to rule under a mandate from heaven and have the confidence to do so. Moreover, as in the past, they prefer soft power that gives them maximum control to a military showdown that might bring chaos. For the Chinese, the ends justify the means.
Currently, China is implementing a concerted plan to control key industries and information to ensure world domination. As Goldman shows, it is working: most of the world has adopted the Huawei technology for 5G and Chinese signal encryption will soon eclipse that of the US. Soon the world will be totally reliant on Chinese technology and will knowingly or unknowingly share its data with the Chinese government. No Chinese Edward Snowden is likely to survive to warn us. With such power, China will dictate the terms of trade and interaction. Already the basic outlines of the existing China-US trade deal signal China’s dominance: the US buys Chinese technology and other manufactured goods and China buys meat and other agricultural goods from the US. These are the terms imperial powers dictate to their colonies.
Goldman outlines a plan for the US to maintain its world position. He insists that the US absolutely cannot leave it to the private sector. It must develop a government policy to massively support R&D at the industry and university levels. Measures will require huge investments and an overhaul of the American education system to drastically improve educational levels, and most of all, to quadruple the number of American graduates in the sciences and technology. Without these two steps, we will be under China’s yoke within the decade.
You Will Be Assimilated is an incredibly timely and important book. Goldman gives his readers a clear account of Chinese policies and aspirations with many real-life examples as well as lucid analysis. He warns us starkly: the only way to defeat the Dragon is to beat it at its own game. If not now, when?
Scott A. Shay is the author of In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism (Post Hill Press, 2018) and is chairman and co-founder of Signature Bank of New York.