Steven Mosher: ‘The Swamp Is Going Crazy Over This Idea We’re in a Trade War With China’

China flag, fist
Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order, talked about China’s long-running trade war against the United States with SiriusXM hosts Rebecca Mansour and Frances Martel on Friday’s Breitbart News Tonight.

“The Swamp is going crazy over this idea that we’re in a trade war with China,” Mosher said from his vantage point in Washington, DC.

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He advised the Washington establishment to accept “the fact that China has been in a trade war with us for over a quarter century.”

“They’re just waking up to the fact that China has been taking advantage of us because Trump has called attention to it, and Trump wants it to stop,” he said. “That’s not Trump starting a trade war. That’s Trump starting to end, I think, the trade war that China has been carrying on against us for 25 years, and it’s about time, because the sand is running through the hourglass.”

Mosher said it was a mistake to fixate on day-to-day fluctuations in the stock market as a measure of how Trump’s action against the Chinese is coming along.

“Take a deep breath, step back, and understand that if Trump succeeds in having fair trade with China, the stock market will be booming for years to come,” he advised. “If he fails in this effort, I think this is the last, best hope of America to achieve fair trade with China and prevent it from becoming the dominant power in the 21st Century, which we’re now well into. If he fails, then their stock market portfolio isn’t going to go anywhere fast anyway.”

“There’s a lot riding on this from the standpoint of the future of the United States,” he judged.

“America is like a person laying on a gurney next to China laying on a gurney, and there’s a blood transfusion going on from patient America to patient China, and the blood is only flowing one way. At the end of that transfusion, China is going to get up and walk away healthy and strong, and the dominant power on the planet and America is going to be dead for all intents and purposes, in terms of its industrial might. It’s going to be reduced to a source of raw materials for China and foodstuffs for China. That’s not a place where I, or any American I think, wants to be in a few years,” he warned.

Mosher said that despite the image of authoritarian strength and unity it strives to project, China is more politically fragile than it lets on.

“There’s a lot of pent-up resistance, a lot of pent-up anger in China,” he said. “Look, the president Xi Jinping has arrested over 200,000 people for corruption. They’re in jail. They’re not being treated well. They have families, they have friends, they have colleagues, so that has impacted literally tens of millions of people in China.”

“These are not low-level players, either,” he noted. “These are county-level officials, provincial-level officials, national-level officials. He’s even arrested the grandson-in-law of Deng Xiaoping himself, the paramount leader for years, the one who started the Four Modernizations and ran China until his own death in the 1990s. So he’s made a lot of enemies who would not hesitate to turn on him if things go south in economic terms.”

Mosher noted that China has much more at stake in an economic conflict with the United States, as the U.S. sells $130 billion in goods annually, while China sells the U.S. about $505 billion.

“Let’s say we both impose a 10 percent tariff on the other. That’s 10 percent of $130 billion, about $13 billion, that China gets. Ten percent of $505 billion is $50 billion. So we win. Just simple math, we win, because they have a lot more exposure to us than we have to them,” he explained.

Martel asked if the fall of Xi Jinping would not simply lead to another authoritarian leader taking over in his place, rather than producing major changes in the Chinese system. Mosher responded that the best long-term hope for reform is the influence of Taiwan, where 24 million Chinese are experiencing true free-market representative democracy for the first time in 5,000 years.

“They’ve had now since the 1990s four peaceful transfers of power from one political party to another,” Mosher said of Taiwan. “That’s the ultimate measure of the success of democracy of course, is the peaceful transfer of power after a bitterly-fought election from one political party to another.”

“What it does, sitting there 90 miles off the coast of mainland China, is it serves as a beacon of freedom because all the Chinese people on the mainland have to do, the billion-plus of them, is to look across the Taiwan Straits and they see that their own compatriots, 24 million of them, have a full-fledged democracy. That gives them hope that they too will one day enjoy the same rights, the same freedoms that Chinese people on Taiwan have achieved.”

“This is exactly why the People’s Republic of China wants to invade and conquer Taiwan, because it wants to stamp out this beacon of freedom,” he warned. “It wants to crush this hope that Taiwan engenders in the hearts of the Chinese people that one day they may be free of the Communist Party’s boot on their face.”

Mosher said that China is working on developing an enormous marine force, ostensibly to conduct rescue missions for Chinese citizens trapped in dangerous foreign areas, but actually intended to “launch an invasion of Taiwan.”

“I believe that Xi Jinping has a timetable for that invasion,” he said. “I also believe that it is very much in our interests, the interests of the United States, to keep Taiwan de facto independent, to keep it out of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, because again they’re a source of hope, they’re a source of optimism among the Chinese people on the mainland.”

Mosher said that he lived in Hong Kong for some years and it once held great promise as a comparable beacon of democratic hope to China, but those hopes began to fade as soon as the British gave the island back to China. He recalled that the agreement was supposed to guarantee sovereignty to Hong Kong for 50 years, but “that’s all gone away now.”

“Last year the Chinese Communist Party declared that it was an inalienable part of China, and that Chinese law would predominate there,” he said. “They basically said to the young people of Hong Kong who demonstrated for freedom in the Umbrella Movement last year, ‘You’re part of China, sing the national anthem, get used to the fact that you’re under our thumb now.’”

Mosher said that President Donald Trump’s early outreach to Taiwan rattled the State Department bureaucracy, which “for 50 years has been bending over backward to avoid offending Beijing.”

“That really began in the 1970s when Kissinger went to China and met with Zhou Enlai, and Nixon went to China and met with Mao Tse-tung. They were all so eager to forge ties with China that they basically abandoned Taiwan. We withdrew our troops from Taiwan, we withdrew our embassy from Taiwan,” he recalled.

Mosher noted that even America’s dispatch of a dozen Marines to guard the unofficial U.S. embassy in Taipei left the Chinese “apoplectic.”

“They were incensed that we would send military units to Taiwan,” he said. “Now, I’m very impressed with the U.S. Marines, but a dozen U.S. Marines does not really constitute a military force worth speaking about. But China protested, and diplomats at the State Department said ‘this is a bad idea,’ but they were overruled.”

“This is the sort of resistance we get from China at every turn. I think that people at the State Department under the incoming Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo – I think he won’t put up with that kind of nonsense,” he predicted.

“I think he’s very clear-eyed when it comes to China,” Mosher said of Pompeo. “He understands that Taiwan has done exactly what we have asked all of our allies around the world to do, and that is democratize, come to respect human rights, practice fair trade. Taiwan has done those things, and ought to be rewarded for having done them.”

By contrast, Mosher said Beijing dismisses talk of human rights as a “mainland imperialistic concept that doesn’t apply to China.”

“We can’t let China’s emotions get in the way of our policy,” he urged. “We can’t let China dictate our policy. That’s what we’ve been doing for decades now. Every time China gets upset about this, that, or the other, our diplomats retreat and say, ‘Oh, China is upset, we have to placate them.’ They have to understand that China is essentially, in a very fundamental sense, implacable. That means they cannot be placated. They will not be pleased until they are the dominant power on the planet, and replace the United States in that role.”

“They’re in an all-out contest for global economic, political, and military dominance in the 21st Century,” he declared. “They see us as the only country standing in their way, and they are determined not just to replace us in that struggle, but to defeat us in that struggle.”

Mosher said the struggle for global dominance between China and the United States includes cyber warfare as well as the trade war China commenced long ago.

“We don’t want to be in a trade war. Who wants to be in a trade war? But if your enemy says you’re at war, then you’re probably at war, whether you want to be or not. China in effect declared war on us a quarter-century ago,” he said.

Mosher said it was important for American policymakers to understand that placating China merely signals weakness to “a political system that only respects strength.”

He quoted Mao Tse-tung’s famous observation that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” to illustrate that the Chinese Communist Party “only understands force and the threat of force.”

“They will only cease advancing, cease being aggressive, when they are met by an equal and opposite force. I think in President Trump they have met an equal and opposite force. It is in our interests as Americans to get behind this president. Otherwise, I think we’d better all start learning Chinese because the world of the future is going to be a very different place than the world we currently live in,” he cautioned.

Mosher challenged China’s assertion that its rising power will bring peace and harmony to the world, saying their “world of great harmony” would be a world of conquest and domination that free people would not enjoy. He portrayed China’s grand new trade project as a means of projecting imperial domination.

“I think we have to understand that China now, in building a ‘New Silk Road’ across Eurasia and into Africa, and now saying it’s going to extend the New Silk Road into Latin America – what that means is that China is going to be giving huge loans to Third World countries, loans that they’re probably never going to be able to pay back,” he explained.

“Those loans are going to be used to build railroads and ports and other shipping facilities,” he continued. “But those railroads and ports and shipping facilities aren’t going to be built by locals in Latin America or Asia. They’re going to be built by combat engineers from the People’s Liberation Army.”

“The Chinese army comes into a place like Sri Lanka, builds a port, and then it says, ‘We need to stay to maintain security in this port facility.’ When the country of Sri Lanka fails to pay back the loan, because the interest rate was exorbitant to begin with, and because the port didn’t live up to the expectations of how many containers would be coming and offloaded and so forth, China says: ‘OK, you failed to repay the loan, the port now belongs to us,’” he elaborated.

“This is a way of colonizing – a new way, a very clever way, of colonizing important parts of the world, colonizing small countries by getting them indebted to you, and then when they fail to pay back the loan the debt converts into ownership. It converts into equity. And all of a sudden, we have treaty ports – not on China’s coast, that was last century, now we have treaty ports run by Chinese where Chinese military are stationed all over the developing world. That’s the pattern that’s becoming apparent,” Mosher said.

“That’s not the way the United States has always gone about business. It will create a very different world. I do not think that China will hesitate to use force to defend its interests. It has in the recent past,” he noted.

“We’re currently in the middle of a troop standoff up in the Tibetan plateau, in the tiny protectorate of Bhutan, where Indian troops and Chinese troops are coming face to face because China is trying to push across the border of Bhutan and claim an area that historically was part of Bhutan. We see Chinese aggression, I think, in many different parts of the world already,” he warned.

“The history of the Chinese empire is a history of military expansion, and I think that will continue to be the underlying practice today,” he said.

Mosher added that Chinese expansion has featured cultural imperialism and racial undertones in the past, and is likely to retain those features in the 21st Century, pointing out that current Communist Party doctrine includes a mythology that all of the peoples of China are descended from the court of a single, possibly apocryphal emperor.

“This is nonsense, of course, because no single person living 5,000 years ago could possibly be the historical, biological ancestor of all these different groups which have existed separately for thousands of years,” he pointed out. “But this is the claim made by the Chinese Communist Party to try to create a racial solidarity, a racial identity that really doesn’t exist in reality, but is politically very useful because if we’re all descended from the same ‘Yellow Emperor,’ then we all should share a common goal.”

Mansour noted that the leaders of countries approached by China for its New Silk Road infrastructure project have expressed a wish for the United States and Europe to offer them alternative proposals, but at the moment there is no serious competition for what China intends to build.

“Fundamentally, we offer them a free and open relationship between equals, whereas China is busy recruiting tributary states,” Mosher responded. “A lot of these projects that China is engaging in really aren’t economically feasible. If you do a cost-benefit analysis, you’re never going to get your money back.”

“China is not doing it for economic reasons. They’re doing it for strategic reasons,” he stressed. “They want these ports. They want these railroads. They want these means of sending goods, and people, and maybe one day troops into different parts of the world. I think countries need to be warned, as we have started warning them, about the dangers of this.”

“I think the world will be a better place if we rein in China – if China sees that there is a strict limit to its ambitions and draws back for a while,” he predicted.

“I don’t think that the Chinese leadership, Xi Jinping and the rest – who don’t really matter that much anymore, because Xi is the new Red Emperor – they’re going to change their long-term goal. But we’re going to force their plan back, put their plan on hold for ten or twenty years. That will give a chance for these other countries to develop more prosperous, more democratic, and less likely to fall for China’s snares,” Mosher said.

“I think the great communicator, the man behind the bully pulpit, is doing a wonderful job of staying focused on a few major issues, in the same way that President Reagan did so effectively in the 1980s,” he said of President Trump’s handling of China.

“The effects could be equally dramatic. Reagan caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. I think that we will see Trump’s actions causing at the very least a postponement of the hegemonic ambitions of the People’s Republic of China for global domination, and may very well lead to fundamental change within China itself. For the first time in a long time, I am now hopeful about the future,” Mosher concluded.

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