The United States and East Asian allies must unify to constrain China’s “frightening, “audacious,” and “global” ambitions, said Breitbart News’s Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon on Sunday. President Donald Trump, he added, has begun ushering in an American resurgence toward this end.
Bannon’s remarks came as he headlined a J-CPAC event in Tokyo, Japan, hosted by the The American Conservative Union.
Confronting China’s ascendance and growing hegemony, said Bannon, required America and her allies to enter the “valley of decision.” Drawing on twentieth century appeasement of Nazi Germany as illustrative, he warned of the dangers of appeasing China as an ascendant competitor nation state:
We’re going through – for the next ten, or fifteen, or twenty years – the valley of decision. Now go back and study what happened in other eras [such as] the 1930s, when leaders of the world [and] leaders on the side of freedom appeased people; didn’t face reality; kicked the can down the road. All the easy decisions are decades behind us. We don’t have any easy choices. We don’t have any easy decisions. There are no easy options on the range of alternatives. There’s only hard choices. There’s only tough choices.
Donald Trump’s presidency, said Bannon, signalled a break from previous decades of American acquiescence to China’s rise. With Trump, America would cease being a de facto “tributary state” to China:
You could argue, up until [Donald Trump] became President of the United States that America was a tributary state to China. We have a $500 billion – or $485 billion – annual trade deficit with China.
Essentially, the United States had been turned into Jamestown to China’s Great Britain, and that all the high value-added manufacturing had essentially been taken by China; had been shipped to China, and the United States was really a tributary state sending China raw materials.
If you go back [for twenty and thirty years], Donald Trump’s consistency on what he has said about China has been remarkable. And now in the first ten months of his administration, he’s beginning to act on it.
American and Western elites had facilitated China’s ascendance through political negligence, said Bannon. Decades-old predictions of China’s integration into the global economy cultivating political liberalization in the communist state, he added, had not come to pass.
Chinese mercantilism and central planning, said Bannon, had been reinforced over time as a function of Western elites’ openness to China’s joining of post-WWII Bretton Woods international economic system – contrary to the aforementioned predictions from “geniuses” of inevitable democratization in the communist state:
If you think about all the geniuses in the American intelligentsia that have had to deal with China, they were ones that told us in the late – and this was, by the way, the Bush and the Clinton administrations, and what Hillary Clinton ran on in what was going to be the new Clinton administration – they told us that in the late 1990s and early 2000s [that] as China got wealthier, it would become more democratic and more free market capitalist.
Well, the exact opposite has happened. China has become more and more wealthy, and yet it has become more of a mercantilist authoritative system. Their business model is total rejection of free market capitalism. Their business model is a total rejection of the international rules-based order that American taxpayers underwrite with their dollars, and the young people in America – the working class young people in America – underwrite with their blood.
This has been an abject failure, and if you look in history, probably one of the biggest abject failures of any great power.
It’s really been a 25-year strategic holiday, in that we allowed – according to the Financial Times and Reuters, in what they call our “strategic competitor,” now; not our strategic partner but our strategic competitor – we’ve exacerbated [China’s] ability to game the system. We’ve exacerbated their ability to play by their own rules. We’ve acted as an accelerant to that.
Curtailing Chinese ambition, said Bannon, requires American leadership to avoid the Thucydides Trap; a term describing the risk of war between a rising and declining power.
Pointing to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Bannon pointed to five pillars of China’s plan for global dominance:
1. Control of industries such as advanced chip manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and robotics
2. “One Belt, One Road” plan to unify Central Asia and political agency into one market
3. 5G telecommunication rollout
4. Conversion of Yuan in petrodollars to displace the US dollar’s status as the global reserve currency
5. Advances in financial technology to decouple Western companies and banks from global capital markets and money flows.
American and Japanese decline alongside Chinese ascendance, said Bannon, were not faits accomplis. These phenomena were not inevitable functions of unbreakable “laws of thermodynamics,” he said, but failures of human agency.
The inertia of American and broader Western decline could be reversed, said Bannon, via conservative action:
There’s an energy out there among conservatives. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Japan and the United States have to decline and let China rise. Japan has every opportunity seize its destiny, to reestablish its national identity; and in partnership with the United States – a true partnership with the United States – reverse what the elites have allowed to happen.
American geopolitical resurgence, said Bannon, requires recalibration of its alliances. He described Europe, via NATO, as having become a protectorate of the United States and enjoying free-rider status through American security guarantees.
“Amorphous” multilateral treaties, said Bannon, were inferior to clearer and mutually beneficial bilateral arrangements in both trade and defense.
The “America First” ethos, said Bannon, did not amount to isolationism or retreat:
America first. It’s not America as isolationist. It’s not America alone. It’s never been that. Donald Trump’s never said that. It’s America engaged in the world as never before, but is in partnership that is also on America’s terms, not just as a part of these faceless international organizations, these globalist institutions run by people in Davos, and people in Brussels, and people in Geneva.
Watch Bannon’s speech below.