Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Don't Do Stupid Stuff

Regarding China, Don’t Do Stupid Stuff
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, July 11, 2023, p. A5

We are all interconnected citizens of Planet Earth.

Tiny particulate matter from 500 Canadian fires, capable of causing chronic respiratory disease, moved south and into Iowans’ lungs and bloodstreams.

The U.S. and China produce nearly 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is Pakistan that suffered putrid water over a third of the country and 1500 deaths.

The good news? Instantaneous global communication between international and multinational organizations, governments, businesses and people, ease of transportation, and access to news from around the world.

Ford cars and trucks come from 64 plants in 13 countries. The “Texas” Norton Rose Fulbright law firm now has offices in 64 cities in 36 countries.

The greatest danger in the world?

According to recently retired Richard Haass, 20-year president of the Council on Foreign Relations, it’s no longer his former concerns -- Russia, China, climate change or a global pandemic. “It’s us,” he says, referring to the U.S. political instability and poor example of democracy. Among “democracy countries” the U.S. has dropped to 36 on the list.

Have you ever found yourself having to deal with an extended family member, neighbor or workplace colleague with whom you have less than zero in common? The best strategy? Desperately try to think of a compliment, while heading off conversations likely to end in violence. [Photo: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China on June 18, 2023. Photo credit: State Department photo by Chuck Kennedy/Public Domain, via wikimedia.com]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” The same principle applies to “promoting prosperity while going to peace.”

At a minimum you follow President Obama’s advice to his staff: “Don’t do stupid stuff.”

Which brings us to the current relations between China and the U.S.

Call me naive, but four-star General Mike Minihan’s prediction of war with China by 2025, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s publicized trip to Taiwan, the provocation of displaying our Naval might near China, and our president announcing that China’s President Xi Jinping is a “dictator,” all strike me as “stupid stuff” – a schoolyard bully looking for a fight.

Are there differences in our two countries’ history, governments and sociology? Some things to be proud of, others to regret? Demands of China, or the U.S., that shouldn’t be agreed to? Of course.

We can’t transform China any more than marriage partners can transform each other, or China could force all Americans to speak Mandarin. As anthropologists have taught us, there are many patterns of culture that work. Or as Rumsfeld might have said, “You participate in global trade with the countries you have, not the countries you wish you had.”

China and the U.S. have built not one, but the two strongest economies in the world. Continuing to increase global understanding and cooperation can enrich us all. Stupidly flexing our military muscle, like a beach bully, only postpones that day while enriching the weapons manufacturers.

Nicholas Johnson prefers peaceful prosperity to strategies of stupid stuff. mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

China – General “China,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China

“China,” The World Factbook, June 15, 2023, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/china/

Ana Swanson, “The Contentious U.S.-China Relationship, by the Numbers; From movie theaters to military spending, here’s how one of the world’s most important economic relationships stacks up,” New York Times, July 7, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/07/business/economy/us-china-relationship-facts.html (“the world’s two largest economies, which together represent 40 percent of the global output, remain integral partners in many ways. They sell and buy important products from each other, finance each other’s businesses, provide a home to millions of each other’s people, and create apps and movies for audiences in both countries.”)

Alan Rappeport, “Yellen, in Beijing, Criticizes China’s Treatment of U.S. Companies; Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s concerns reflected continuing tensions between the two countries,” New York Times, July 7, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/07/business/yellen-china-companies-meetings.html (“An official from China’s ministry of finance expressed hope on Friday that the meetings with Ms. Yellen would improve economic relations and suggested that the United States needs to take steps to make that happen. The official added that neither country benefits from “decoupling” and disrupting supply chains.”)

Air Pollution from Canada. Julie Bosman, “Smoky Air From Canadian Wildfires Blankets Midwestern Skies; Chicago residents were warned to stay indoors or wear masks, and the popular paths along Lake Michigan were quiet,” New York Times, June 27, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/27/us/midwest-chicago-smoke-air-quality.html .

Tiny Particulate Matter. “Air Quality Alert,” AccuWeather, Iowa City, Iowa, June 29, 2023, 9:23 AM, https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/iowa-city/52240/air-quality-index/328802 (“Fine Particulate Matter are inhalable pollutant particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers that can enter the lungs and bloodstream, resulting in serious health issues. The most severe impacts are on the lungs and heart. Exposure can result in coughing or difficulty breathing, aggravated asthma, and the development of chronic respiratory disease.”)

U.S. & China carbon emissions. “Which Countries Are The World’s Biggest Carbon Polluters?” Climate Change News, Climate Trade, May 17, 2021, https://climatetrade.com/which-countries-are-the-worlds-biggest-carbon-polluters/ (“However, most of this pollution comes from just a few countries: China, for example, generates around 30% of all global emissions, while the United States is responsible for almost 14%.In the ranking below you can find the 10 countries that produce the most emissions, measured in millions of tons of CO2 in 2019. China, with more than 10,065 million tons of CO2 released. United States, with 5,416 million tons of CO2”)

“Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data,” Greenhouse Gas Emissions, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (undated, but probably 2014), https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data (“’Emissions by Country’ – China 30%, U.S. 15%)

Pakistan. Raymond Zhong, “In a First Study of Pakistan’s Floods, Scientists See Climate Change at Work; A growing field called attribution science is helping researchers rapidly assess the links between global warming and weather disasters,” New York Times, Sept. 15, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/15/climate/pakistan-floods-global-warming.html (“The southern part of the Indus River, which traverses the length of the country, became a vast lake. Villages have become islands, surrounded by putrid water that stretches to the horizon. More than 1,500 people have died. Floodwaters could take months to recede.

The deluges were made worse by global warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, scientists said Thursday, drawing upon a fast-growing field of research . . .. The floods in Pakistan are the deadliest in a recent string of eye-popping weather extremes . . .: droughts in the Horn of Africa, Mexico and China; flash floods in West and Central Africa, Iran and the inland United States; searing heat waves in India, Japan, California, Britain and Europe.

Scientists have warned for decades that some kinds of extreme weather are becoming more frequent and intense as more heat-trapping gases get pumped into the atmosphere.”)

One-third of Pakistan. Manuela Andreoni, “Why Pakistan was hit so hard; Floods have killed at least 1,100 and submerged about a third of the country. We explain the factors making it so bad,” Climate Forward Newsletter, New York Times, Aug. 30, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/30/climate/pakistan-floods.html

Sample of International Media. The one listed that may be least familiar: “South China Morning Post,” About Us, https://corp.scmp.com/about-us/

Norton Rose Fulbright offices. “Global Coverage,” Norton Rose Fulbright, https://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/en/global-coverage

Ford suppliers’ countries. J.B. Maverick, “Who Are Ford’s Main Suppliers?” Investopedia, Nov. 29, 2021, https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/052715/who-are-fords-f-main-suppliers.asp (“Ford’s Key Suppliers,” • Flex-N-Gate Seeburn - Ontario, Canada: door hinges and arms. • NHK Spring - Shiga-ken, Japan: suspension stabilizer linkages. • U-Shin Europe - Komárom-Esztergom, Hungary: steering columns. • Valeo Electric and Electronic Systems - Czechowice-Dziedzice, Poland: starter assemblies. • Webasto Roof & Components - Schierling, Germany: sliding sunroofs. • Summit Plastics - Nanjing, China: instrument panel components.

• Dee Zee - Des Moines, Iowa: running boards. • Warn Industries -Clackamas, Oregon: axle assemblies. • Chaidneme - Bogota, Colombia: mufflers and exhaust systems. • Autoliv - Stockholm, Sweden: airbags”)

“[Ford] Worldwide Locations,” (Assembly, 30 plants in 12 countries (8 in China) (Argentina, Canada, Germany, China (8), Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United States); Engines, from same country list plus United Kingdom (17); Forging (4), Stamping (6), Transmission (7) (from same country list). Total 64 plants in 13 countries.) https://corporate.ford.com/operations/locations/global-plants.html

Richard Haass. Peter Baker, “To Foreign Policy Veteran, the Real Danger Is at Home; Richard N. Haass says the most serious threat to global security is the United States,” New York Times, July 1, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/01/us/politics/richard-haass-biden-trump-foreign-policy.html (“’It’s us,’ he said ruefully the other day.

That was never a thought this global strategist would have entertained until recently. But in his mind, the unraveling of the American political system means that for the first time in his life the internal threat has surpassed the external threat. Instead of being the most reliable anchor in a volatile world, Mr. Haass said, the United States has become the most profound source of instability and an uncertain exemplar of democracy.”)

U.S. and China ranking as democracies. “Ranking of Countries by Quality of Democracy; Complete Ranking: Total Value Index 2020 (Context Measurement),” Universitat Wurzburg, https://www.democracymatrix.com/ranking (Top 4 Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden (“Working Democracy”); The U.S. ranks 36 (“Deficient Democracy”); China 172 (“Hard Autocracy”).)

“Democracy Countries, 2023,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/democracy-countries (within: https://worldpopulationreview.com/ ) (8 Top: Norway to Ireland, 9.91 to 9.05; U.S. 25th, 7.92; The United States scored 7.92 in 2020 and again landed in the "flawed democracy" category, where it has resided since falling from "full democracy" in 2016. Intolerance of COVID-19 restrictions, distrust in the government, bipartisan gridlock, and especially the increasing ideological polarization between democrats and republicans are all cited as contributors to the lower score.)

China’s economic accomplishments. Google search: “What are China's biggest economic accomplishments?”

U.S. attacks/criticism on China. Anna Mulrine, “In His Memoir, Donald Rumsfeld Admits Five Mistakes, Sort Of,” Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 9, 2011, https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2011/0209/In-his-memoir-Donald-Rumsfeld-admits-five-mistakes-sort-of/The-Army-you-have (“While Rumsfeld was visiting US troops headed to Iraq in 2004, a soldier pleaded for more armored vehicles. Rumfeld’s response – “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time”)

[Reference in text was deleted for space reasons, but thought it still worthwhile to include here.] James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_the_economy,_stupid (“a phrase that was coined by James Carville in 1992. It is often quoted from a televised quip by Carville as "It’s the economy, stupid." Carville was a strategist in Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush. His phrase was directed at the campaign's workers and intended as one of three messages for them to focus on.”)

Mike Allen, “‘Don’t do stupid sh--' (stuff),” Politico, June 1, 2014, https://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/dont-do-stupid-shit-president-obama-white-house-107293 (“The phrase – as “Don’t do stupid stuff,” with a demure disclaimer that the actual wording was saltier and spicier than “stuff” — appeared in the Los Angeles Times at the end of Obama’s Asia trip this spring, was reprised in the lead story of Thursday’s New York Times.

But the West Wing hit the jackpot Sunday when it was used twice in The New York Times — once in the news columns, and once in a column by Thomas L. Friedman, who had been part of an off-the-record roundtable with Obama on Tuesday.”)

General. Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains, “Air Force general predicts war with China in 2025, tells officers to prep by firing 'a clip' at a target, and 'aim for the head;' ‘I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025,’ said Gen. Mike Minihan in a memo sent to the officers he commands and obtained by NBC News,” Jan. 27, 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/us-air-force-general-predicts-war-china-2025-memo-rcna67967 (Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command) – “General Mike Minihan is a Four-Star General who commands the Air Mobility Command for the United States Air Force.” Buddy Blouin, “WAR WITH CHINA: THE MEMO FROM FOUR-STAR GENERAL MIKE MINIHAN ON CHINA IS ALARMING.” MyBaseGuide, undated, https://mybaseguide.com/mike-minihan

Pelosi. Jude Blanchette, Charles Edel, Christopher B. Johnstone, Scott Kennedy, Victor Cha, Ellen Kim, and Gregory B. Poling, “Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit: Implications for the Indo-Pacific,” CISI (Center for Strategic & International Studies), Aug. 15, 2022, https://www.csis.org/analysis/speaker-pelosis-taiwan-visit-implications-indo-pacific ) (“U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan beginning August 2 triggered stark opposition from Beijing and sparked concerns within the United States and around the Indo-Pacific about the impacts of the visit and the Chinese military response on regional security. Following the visit, Beijing launched large-scale military exercises, raising discussion of a possible Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.”)

US ships. “List of current ships of the United States Navy,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_ships_of_the_United_States_Navy (“The United States Navy has over 485 ships in both active service and the reserve fleet; of these approximately 60 ships are proposed or scheduled for retirement, while approximately 90 new ships are in either the planning and ordering stages or under construction, according to the Naval Vessel Register and published reports.”)

“United States Navy Military Ship Tracker/Live Ship Tracking Map,” https://www.cruisingearth.com/ship-tracker/united-states-navy/ (“United States Navy currently has 94 trackable ships.”)

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, “The United States Seventh Fleet,” https://www.c7f.navy.mil/About-Us/Facts-Sheet/ (“Who we are:

• Seventh Fleet is the largest of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed fleets.

• At any given time there are 50-70 ships and submarines, 150 aircraft, and more than 27,000 Sailors and Marines in Seventh Fleet.

• Commanded by a 3-star Navy Flag officer, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, since July 8, 2021.

Where we operate:

• Seventh Fleet’s area of operations spans more than 124-million square kilometers [47,876,668 square miles], stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.

• Seventh Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50% of the world’s population, including:

- The five largest foreign militaries: China, Russia, India, North Korea, and the Republic of Korea

- Five U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty Allies: the Philippines, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand”)

Biden. Trevor Hunnicutt and Ryan Woo, “China hits back after Biden calls Xi a 'dictator,'” Reuters, June 21, 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/biden-calls-chinese-president-xi-dictator-2023-06-21/ (“China hit back on Wednesday after U.S. President Joe Biden referred to President Xi Jinping as a "dictator", saying the remarks were absurd and a provocation, an unexpected flare-up following attempts by both sides to reduce friction.

Biden made his comments just a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken completed a visit to China aimed at stabilizing relations that Beijing says are at their lowest point since formal ties were established in 1979.”)

China and Taiwan. David Brown, “China and Taiwan: A really simple guide,” BBC News, April 6, 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-59900139 (“China points to this history to say that Taiwan was originally a Chinese province. But the Taiwanese point to the same history to argue that they were never part of the modern Chinese state that was first formed after the revolution in 1911 - or the People's Republic of China that was established under Mao in 1949.” Chart: “Taiwan dominates the global production of computer chips; Global foundry market share, by country and company 2021” Taiwan 65%, South Korea 18%, China 5%, Other 12%)

Lindsay Maizland, “Why China-Taiwan Relations Are So Tense; Differences over Taiwan’s status have fueled rising tensions between the island and the mainland. Taiwan has the potential to be a flash point in U.S.-China relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 18, 2023, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-taiwan-relations-tension-us-policy-biden (“Summary • Taiwan has been governed independently of China since 1949, but Beijing views the island as part of its territory. Beijing has vowed to eventually “unify” Taiwan with the mainland, using force if necessary.

• Tensions are rising. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, whose party platform favors independence, has rebuked Beijing’s efforts to undermine democracy. Beijing has ramped up political and military pressure on Taipei.

• Some analysts fear the United States and China could go to war over Taiwan. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island in 2022 heightened tensions between the countries. Introduction “Beijing asserts that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it. It views the PRC as the only legitimate government of China, an approach it calls the One-China principle, and seeks Taiwan’s eventual “unification” with the mainland.

Beijing claims that Taiwan is bound by an understanding known as the 1992 Consensus, which was reached between representatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT) party that then ruled Taiwan. However, the two sides don’t agree on the content of this so-called consensus, and it was never intended to address the question of Taiwan’s legal status. For the PRC, as Chinese President Xi Jinping has stated, the 1992 Consensus reflects an agreement that “the two sides of the strait belong to one China and would work together to seek national reunification.” For the KMT, it means “one China, different interpretations,” with the ROC standing as the “one China.”

“[Taiwan] President Tsai, who is also the leader of the DPP, has refused to explicitly accept the consensus. Instead, she has attempted to find another formulation that would be acceptable to Beijing. In her 2016 inaugural address, Tsai noted she was “elected president in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China,” which is a one-China document, and said she would “safeguard the sovereignty and territory of the Republic of China.” Tsai also pledged that she would “conduct cross-strait affairs in accordance with the Republic of China Constitution, the Act Governing Relations Between the People of [the] Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and other relevant legislation.”

“Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip maker and the top supplier for Apple and other U.S. companies. It is one of only two companies in the world (the other is South Korea-based Samsung) that has the technological know-how to make the smallest, most advanced chips, and it manufactures more than 90 percent of them.”

“The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War; United States make clear that it will not change Taiwan’s status, yet will work with allies to plan for Chinese aggression and help Taiwan defend itself,” U.S. Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 2021, https://www.cfr.org/report/united-states-china-and-taiwan-strategy-prevent-war (“Robert D. Blackwill, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, and Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia White Burkett Miller professor of history.   

In a new Council Special Report, The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War, the authors argue that the United States should change and clarify its strategy to prevent war over Taiwan. “The U.S. strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence—without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan.”)

China economic achievements. “The World Bank in China; Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged over 9 percent a year, and more than 800 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. There have also been significant improvements in access to health, education, and other services over the same period.” The World Bank, https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/china/overview

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