Anyone observing academia from within would know that most of the research coming out of a majority of social science departments is meaningless and irrelevant. It’s a self-referential racket that squanders money on bureaucratic nonsense and on research subjects completely dissociated with normal life and policy.
Had it not been so, right now there would be scores of scholarships and funding to find out the causality behind a single puzzling phenomenon: What explains otherwise virulent, hyper-activist, and volatile Islamic countries and jihadist groups being completely subservient to China?
It is, of course, unthinkable that India, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Russia, or any European Union country would get away with what China is doing without a response from Islamic countries. After all, China is routinely, systematically, and violently attacking the Islamic countries’ fellow religious practitioners.
Islamic states and civil society are not otherwise shy about showing their displeasure and have resorted on other policy priorities to collective action via proxy forces, demonstrations, and active funding of jihadist groups. China has trade and military ties with all the major Islamic states, with major investments in Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, and the Middle East.
So how did China manage to earn the subservience, when more than 1 million Muslims are interned in Chinese concentration camps? And what does that mean for Western policy that we couldn’t manage that feat through continuous appeasement?
The West Is in Too Deep with China
China has compromised and infiltrated Western big corporates and universities. For decades since the end of the Second World War, in the West among both libertarians and conservatives, the market has been worshiped as something larger than the nation-state, and now that the market has decided China’s money is more important than Western social cohesion, the fault lines are increasingly becoming prominent.
As Jim Antle recently wrote in The American Conservative, this is the modern metaphorical version of the proverbial corporatists selling the rope to Lenin by which he plans to hang them. But China should ideally shock both liberals and leftists as well and align them with conservatives. As Matthew Walther wrote, the barbarism in China is incomparable and unprecedented but should ideally bring the left and right together. The fact that it doesn’t shows how compromised the situation is.
I cannot believe I am typing this about a man who eight years ago said he would be walking on Mars by now, but Newt Gingrich is absolutely right. Our leaders are not prepared to deal with China. Not only do they lack the cunning and the willpower — they lack the requisite bargaining tools. We are in too deep, and China knows it. Any concession we could possibly demand of them will require a corresponding one that we are unable to grant.
Besides, it is not clear to me that a substantial number of Americans particularly wants to see our relations with China change. We are happy to buy cheap water bottles and Halloween decorations and licensed cartoon merchandise and mobile phones. We want our movies shown in Chinese theaters and our sports leagues to have large Chinese fan bases. From our home in this consumer paradise hell looks impossibly remote.
Very well. That’s on us to fix. But what explains the muted reaction from the Islamic world? This is an important question. While for liberals and neoconservatives every two-penny authoritarian looks like the next Adolf Hitler, only one great power that we know of is actively running concentration camps, where reportedly more than 1 million people are enslaved with no rights or freedom, women are being raped, and Mengeleian experiments are being conducted on live human subjects.
Now, as with any news this gruesome, there is always a need for caution on how much to believe and what to ignore. But no smoke can exist without some fire, and if even a quarter of the news coming out of dissidents is true, the reality is horrific.
Why Are Islamic Leaders Silent?
The strangest part is the deadly silence from Islamic leaders. Naturally, this leads to a few questions. Are the Islamic countries afraid of China more than they are of the West? Is that because they worry about losing Chinese investment, or is that because they know that if they provoke China to the point of a war, Chinese military will not follow human rights rules during engagement?
It is unlikely that Chinese military in a war situation would follow the careful “minimal-civilian-casualty” mode of warfare or counterinsurgency the West currently practices. Is that a deterrent?
From Pakistan, to Iran, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, all the leading Islamic powers are silent about literally millions of their fellow religious practitioners being brutalized, as are the countless jihadist groups from Indonesia to Iraq. This could mean only one thing: that the Islamic states and jihadist groups are more afraid of China than they are of anyone else.
Consider any other power — the EU, the U.S., the U.K., Russia, India, or Israel — acting like China, and imagine what the reaction would be. Where are the mass protests? Where are the flag burnings? Where are the embassy attacks? Where are the jihadist bombings of Chinese economic interests in Africa and elsewhere? That question as to why there aren’t any needs to be probed for strictly strategic reasons. What did the Chinese manage to do that we couldn’t, after billions in aid, hundreds of thousands of refugees resettled, and humanitarian wars?
For liberals, neoconservatives, or Trotskyists, and anyone else who prefers values more than interests, the answer is always more universalism and internationalism. Tyranny and despotism need to be confronted forcefully at every juncture, even to the point of overstretching militarily and financially. National conservatives and realists, for example, believe in narrow realpolitik. To them, interests matter more, and only when interests are threatened.
China’s Rise Should Trouble Liberals and Conservatives
In one current case, however, everyone should agree that the rise of China should concern both conservative-realists and liberals. Liberals should be worried about human rights in Hong Kong, which Ben Domenech chronicled here, as well as the influence of Chinese authoritarianism within Western institutions. Conservative realists should be worried that China is a growing peer rival great power with hegemonic aspirations in Asia, a growing navy, and powerful research in AI and genetics unhindered by gender-diversity nonsense.
China is a power determined to hollow out the West from within. This is something the Soviets couldn’t do due to their economic model. One shudders to think, however, how much manufacturing the Western corporate sector then would have funneled to cheap Russian labor to hollow out heartland England and America, had the autarkic Soviets been more like globally integrated state-capitalist China.
Even for the sake of academic and strategic inquiry, both liberals and conservatives should focus on trying to find the answer to the question: What is the Chinese secret strategy through which they conquered the entire Islamic world and managed to earn its submissive obedience without firing a single shot or losing a single life in futile humanitarian wars, such as the ones fought with blood and treasure, since Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s?
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a senior contributor to The Federalist. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.
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