Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Case for Democratic Globalization

There is a quote, reputedly attributed to Lenin, which says something to the effect of 'a capitalist will sell you the rope with which you will hang him.'  That type of capitalism has no room in today's World, characterized by the tyrannies of Russia, China and Iran.  The Nixon-Kissenger opening of China was strategic and pragmatic in the context of the Cold War, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union it made little sense to continue the same policy.  The reason is that tyrannies do not play by the same rules as democracies.  Globalization, economic ties, and free trade should be the norm, but only between democracies.  Autocracies should be ostracized and isolated.

According to Google, Nixon visited China on February 21st 1972.  In 1972 Chinese GDP was $113B ($887B in 2022 dollars), by 2022 it was $18T. Yes, that's T as in trillion.  In 1972 China was a feeble Communist theocracy with Mao as Supreme Communist Ayatollah.  Under the theory of the enemy of your enemy is your friend, it made sense to open political and economic ties to China in order to counter the Main Adversary, the Soviet Union.  After the Soviet collapse in the late 80s and early 90s, however, with China becoming the World's manufacturing hub, the same levels of relations did not make sense anymore. The Western foreign policy establishment had drunk the 'end of history' Kool Aid and became asleep at the wheel.

To me it is quite obvious but bears repeating: tyrannies do not operate by the same rules as democracies. Whereas Western economic policy is generally guided by market principles, tyrannical regimes look at everything through the lens of strategic advantage. Russian intelligence uses deeply embedded illegals to influence everything from political parties to the media. China uses its Confucius Institutes to exert pressure and control on college campuses, as well as well-placed academics and scientists to achieve its industrial espionage goals.  It's asymmetrical warfare on a grand scale. Can anyone seriously imagine the Chinese Communist Party allowing anything remotely similar to CIs on Chinese university campuses.  I omitted the question mark on purpose.

Globalization and international trade was the tool through which the dictators of the Chinese Communist Party were able to achieve economic success and control, at a huge cost to Chinese civil society.  Beyond Tiananmen, China has been able to build a totalitarian state which would make Big Brother proud.  It is ridiculous that the China-Australia free trade agreement was signed in 2015, and that as of 2023 Australia does not yet have a free trade agreement with the European Union.

The solution to this problem is not Trumpist chaos nor the retrograde industrial policy of the Biden administration, even if it is more enlightened than the former.  We solve this problem by realizing that consolidated democracies must move towards ever greater economic, and eventually political integration.  Free trade agreements should only be entered in and globalization fostered with other democracies.  There should be trigger clauses that suspend trade agreements incrementally as a country falls deeper into populism, and the rule of law begins to wane.  The goal should not only be to achieve economic, military, and diplomatic superiority over despotic regimes; the goal should also be to prevent them from achieving this themselves.