Posted On: Saturday - May 22nd 2021 3:23PM MST
In Topics:   Trump  China  Books  World Political Stupidity
Peak Stupidity mentioned that we'd have a review of this book Chaos under Heaven*, by Josh Rogin, a few weeks back in our post Mandate straight outta Hell. I read most of the book back then, but I am just now going over the last chapter, on the Kung Flu, so I'll discuss it later in a separate post.
The author of this book is a long-term journalist of the Lyin' Press magazine departments (Newsweek, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg View, the Washington Post, and so on) along with TV department CNN. He calls himself a "Neoliberal" and "Constructionist". I've never heard of the latter, and heard of the former term plenty but have no idea what a Neoliberal is supposed to be. What Mr. Rogin IS, however, is a Neocon, though he doesn't know it. He's got this definition in an explanation of the difference between a Neocon and a "Conservative Hawk" [p. 155], as he wrote:
Bolton was not actually a neocon like Pence. Ideologically, he was more of a conservative hawk, like Pompeo. (The difference between neocon and conservative hawk -- often overlooked even in DC -- had to do with how much one felt the factors of democracy, freedom, and human rights should factor into America's foreign policy and its use of hard power. That distinction most often surfaced when policy makers were talking about bad governments that the United States worked with, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Neocons wanted them to change; conservative hawks wanted them to stay close allies.)First of all, if John Bolton is not a neocon, nobody is. I see this distinction of the author's, but then that makes Josh Rogin a Neocon anyway, from what I read here.
Chaos under Heaven, as the sub-title relates, is a story of high-level relations between the US and China during the Trump administration. Mr. Rogin wrote this book from a position of in insider in the Trump Administration. It's his journalist posting, I guess, but this guy sounds like he was in on all these meetings, or at least talked to the important people in all of them. The book is mostly about meetings in fact, ones within the Trump Administration, ones between Trump and President-for-Life Xi, Trump officials and Chinese officials, and anything else - meetings, meetings, meetings.
The "Chaos" in the title refers to President Trump's ways. The author's take on Trump's China policy, in general, is explained right in the prologue [p. xxi]. It's a combination between "flailing" and his "love affair with China's dictator-for-life" (and I can believe both), and a different narrative in which Trump wanted to set his various advisors against each other in order to get competing opinions. It's hard to tell what Josh Rogin thinks of President Trump in general, but it's not all a negative view.
The reader may recall, as I do now that I read about it again in this book, that the first big interaction between the two powers with Donald Trump on-board was a deal about Trump's taking a congratulatory phone call from the Taiwanese President Tsai in early December '16. Well, the Chinese diplomats were bound to get their panties in wads over that one. Peak Stupidity has reported on their pushing of the 3 big airlines left in the United States to change the maps in their in-flight magazines** in Western airlines bow down to China Commies' petty whims. and Airline Taiwan-nomenclature brew-haha prequel. Josh Rogin mentions this very incident, from a few years back.
Besides a few minor flaws in Mr. Rogin's truth-telling abilities, of which I'll get to later, he wrote a fairly interesting book, considering it's as policy-wonky as one can get. I could keep track of a couple of handfuls of the main diplomatic characters on the American side, but not all of these people. Mr. Rogin breaks down the 4 years of policy making and negotiation with the tough-ass Chinese into the diplomacy realm (just getting along with them), the trade realm, and the human rights realm. It's that the latter was important to the author and the Trump officials at all that makes them Neocons.
We've discussed the situation regarding Hong Kong and Taiwan in that "Mandate straight outta Hell" post linked-to above. The gist of that is "none of our business anymore", "We're broke here." and "Let 'em take care of themselves." This pushing of China about the Uighurs is Neoconnery, as I guess the author would put it. No doubt, the Chinese government has done a lot of evil to these people. It's a voluntary genocide on the Uighur people (either become culturally Chinese or bust). It's just not our business though. This kind of talk only encourages the CCP to mouth off often about Americans and their racism and xenophobia (AS IF!). Yes, that's hard-core lying, while there's a lot more truth in the Chinese being genocidal to these Uighers. I still recall the lefties back in the mid-1980s, when discussing El Salvador and the Commies there- "We can't be the policemen of the world." When's the last time you've heard that one? It's been a while, and I'd suggest Conservatives start appropriating that line.
Let the Chinese deal with those Moslems as they see fit. That brings up the material that Mr. Rogin goes into regarding American diplomacy and Uighur activists in America [p. 208]. There's a bunch of trouble, with Mike Pompeo even involved, for this particular guy, one Bahram Sintash "from Chantilly, Virginia". (Oh, a "Virginia man", I see.) Yeah, his Dad was catching hell out there in Xinjiang for resisting Chinese oppression. Yeah? Listen, we can't keep importing people from all over that end up recruiting the US Feral Gov't to solve their damn family problems. Go home and take care of it, Virginia man! We've got big problems here already. Secondly, why have another diplomatic liability to have to bargain something else for?
One could substitute any other country for Xinjiang in the paragraph above. As evil as the governments of the Middle Kingdom have been to their countrymen, they still want to keep the same countrymen at least, and they make a big effort to control who lives there***. (Yeah, I know Tibet was a separate country before and Xinjiang was only claimed by China since the1700s, a moment ago in China-time.)
Enough of the "human rights" stuff. Let me first point out a piece of pure stupidity on the Mr. Rogin's part and then get to the important meat of this book. As the author discusses the inroads the CCP has been making with a cultural invasion of US institutions****, he has a section in Chapter 12 ("Waking Up") called "Political Tools". On page 215-216 he writes:
The Chinese government sponsors language programs, education exchanges, and research, much of which is constructive or benign. Independently or through these programs, hundreds of thousand of Chinese students study at American universities, bringing value to these schools and taking a better understanding of the United States back to China. The vast majority of these students have no connection to the Chinese state and are simply trying to get an education and better their lives. They are the victims both of their own government's abuses and of Americans' discrimination and racism, which are exacerbated by some of Trump's statements and policies.I almost said "fuck it" and stopped reading right there. It's just that this is roughly 2/3 into the book, and this review needed to be written. Thankfully that paragraph of stupidity above is by far the worst in Chaos under Heaven.
Oh, but that doesn't mean I won't answer this bullshit. No, the "bringing value" may have been very true in the 1980s, when America really got a very few of the best and brightest rather than "deals" like the Chinese Visiting Scholar Scam that we "get" now. They are not victims of anybody. They didn't have to come over here to begin with, and that last (bolded) part is just downright ridiculous. Americans are as tolerant as anyone of foreigners. We are way too tolerant, in fact. The Chinese don't have millions of students, post-doc hangers-on, and family members on all types of visas, so shut the fuck up,
Back to the meat of the book, the story of the trade dealing. The important thing for America is to get out of this American-politician-caused unfair deal - see The Chinese are not happy with their > 20 year-long unfair! trade deal with America. A lot of this book covers these negotiations, which is the interesting part to me. If you wonder why President Trump couldn't get things done, this book describes the reasons. These reasons could apply to other areas of policy just as easily. Again, Peak Stupidity emphasizes that you don't start out by hiring people who are not on your side.
I can't recall every back-and-forth bit of deal-making on trade between our countries that the author covered, even a few weeks later. There's a lot to read about it. This book will disabuse one of the notion that President Trump didn't try hard or do anything, as it did me. The Chinese are in the cat-bird's seat though, now. This book covers a lot of the arrogance of the Chinese government officials, at least, and I don't chalk that up to the Neoconnery of Mr. Rogin.
This is not the 1990s when the Chinese wanted America's help in building up their manufacturing, and we still had an economy an order-of-magnitude bigger. That's all over. They don't need us for this. (I mean, they have millions of Chinese here, just fraction of a percent of whom they could have send them whatever information they do need.) The Chinese play hard ball politics. Chinese President-for-Life Xi Jinping is not one of Trump's American politician golfing buddies. Sure, they may disagree, but they're both Americans, and they can talk to and understand each other. Xi Jinping is not your buddy, Donald Trump. He is pushing for whatever is good for the CCP and China, which in and of itself is fair enough. He and his CCP are devious and will not compromise unless it's part of a trick. There is plenty of this type of thing described in this book. Let me put it this way: From this book I have learned that there's another book that I absolutely DON'T want to read. That would be Donald Trump's Art of the Deal. From all the information in this book (just from the facts, not the Neocon opinion), Donald Trump sucks at deal-making!
Yes, Donald Trump thought Xi Jinping would just be on the level with him, once they got to know each other and all. As Zhou Bai Dien could even tell him, were he not probably compromised by his son, "C'mon, man!" The book title aside, it was not all chaos, and President Trump meant well. However, now we don't even have someone who means well, so we are really and truly screwed.
* The subtitle is: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century.
** Lotta damn good that did them, as those in-flight magazines are a thing of the past, I'm almost sure (they are still gone right now). The Kung Flu PanicFest was the last straw due to "Surfaces!! Eeek!", but this was coming anyway, with passengers having too much to view on the electronics to pick these things up.
*** There's a short post I want to write about this, from a personal anecdote, coming next week, now that I recalled it.
**** This was discussed in more detail in a book Peak Stupidity reviewed last year - We Have Been Harmonized, by Kai Strittmatter. We wrote a 4-part review: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4,