Unless you are from Mars, you know China and India recently engaged in armed fighting on their isolated frontier. 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
You also know that China is about the pass a security law which will be the de facto end to Hong Kong´s independence and will secure the mainland´s power to stop political opposition.
Finally, you also know that China dispatched ships to the Senkaku area after Japan passed a measure changing the designation-status of the disputed islands.
Those three events happened in less than a week. They are only the latest display of growing Chinese bellicoseness.
Our prior post placed the cause of Chinese aggressiveness squarely on the shoulders of one man and one man alone: Henry Kissinger. Our post showed how his stunning ignorance of the most basic foundation piece of foreign affairs, coalition building, coupled with his unending desire to get even with North Vietnam for having outsmarted him at the Paris Peace Talks, created the saber-rattling China we are witnessing today.
Why kick a dead horse? some readers wonder.
"All that happened a long time ago."
Ahh, noooo.... Kissinger continues to meddle in U.S.-Chinese affairs with potentially disastrous results for both nations and peoples -- indeed, for the entire world.
The pro-Beijing South China Post (2017):
"US elder statesman Henry Kissinger urged greater cooperation with Beijing on its Eurasian infrastructure investment plan, arguing that Washington needs to acknowledge that the world’s centre of gravity is shifting.
Speaking at a conference that featured China’s vice-premier Liu Yandong as a keynote speaker, Kissinger said the only alternative to positive relations between Washington and Beijing is global destruction."
The only alternative. Here Henry exposes what is obvious: before becoming Secretary of State the Harvard man´s primary experience in politics consisted of bickering over free parking for the faculty. His top Washington slot was handed to him on a silver platter by Richard Nixon, congenital liar and political hack cum laude. Why should it come as a surprise to anybody that Kissinger was totally unprepared to deal with men like Mao, Marshal Tito, and Ho Chi Minh who had to shoot their way to the top?
If you doubt that Kissinger´s secret inner essence was that he let personal whims dictate his thoughts and actions -- that his defeat in Vietnam stuck in his craw -- I know somebody who disagrees with you: Henry Kissinger.
According to a declassified, top secret State Department memo, this is what Kissinger told the Government of Thailand in a reunion in 1975:
"We don´t mind Chinese influence in Cambodia to balance North Vietnam."
Before continuing, a word in Kissinger´s quote may have caught your eye: Cambodia.
In 1975-79, the genocidal Pol Pot ruled the country. To show the astonishing lengths to which Kissinger was prepared to go to punish Vietnam for winning the war with the United States, he told the Thailand Government:
“I am personally embarrassed [sic] by the Vietnam war. I believe that if you go to war, you go to win and not lose with moderation.
We are aware that the biggest threat in Southeast Asia at the present time is North Vietnam [sic]. Our strategy is to get the Chinese into Laos and Cambodia as a barrier to the Vietnamese… You [the Thailand Government] should also tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won´t let that stand in our way. We are prepared to improve relations with them.”
Kissinger wanted to be friends with the “murderous thug” Pol Pot. There it is! If Kissinger is ever tried for war crimes, look for the quote you just read to be Exhibit 1.
In the end, a personal feeling -- not a realpolitik analysis of objective circumstances -- ultimately lay behind "Kissinger´s Folly," i.e., the United States/China coalition that Kissinger sought at any price and obtained at any price.
A TOP SECRET document recently declassified makes clear he was fully aware of what he was doing. He told Chairman Mao, “As between you and us, even if we sometimes criticize each other, we will co-ordinate our actions with you, and we would never participate in a policy to isolate you.”
"The Kissinger Kicker" is the ruinous high price Kissinger made America pay China for forming that coalition. Start with 57,000 factories gone and 5.5 million jobs lost (Professor Peter Navarro, "Death by China").
Why did Kissinger so desperately want a coalition with China? Why was he willing to pay such an absurdly high price -- The Kissinger Kicker -- for it? You just saw the answer: he was determined to get even with Vietnam for playing him for a sucker in the Paris Peace Talks.
Outsmarted and outmaneuvered. Styleless and guileless.
Apart from vengeance, Kissinger had another personal feeling that guided him...
Mao "radiates authority and deep wisdom" Kissinger wrote in a top secret document to President Nixon.
We have all seen that awe of the Orient before, many times: Kung Fu, Zen Buddhism, The Karate Kid, I Ching, Taoism, Charlie Chan
What is wrong with Kissinger´s fawning over Mao is what lurks behind it:
Any extreme always indicates the presence nearby of its opposite, usually in latent form. That presence is what makes the first extreme an extreme -- gives it its energy -- in the first place.
"Radiates authority and deep wisdom" is an obvious over-compensation.
Over-compensation for what?
You, dear reader, already know.
Scratch the surface and you will find the same old, gut-wrenching, mind-wobbling xenophobic Yellow Peril.
Once again, we have seen all that before. Europe´s idealized Dream Woman of the Middle Ages gave way to the burning of real women as witches. Chinese readers: take note.
Tragically, the story does not end with Kissinger´s puerile longings to get even with North Vietnam for beating him.
Mark my words; mark them well. If a world war between America and China breaks out -- if nuclear bombs start falling on Los Angeles, New York, Chicago --"Kissinger´s Folly" will finally be recognized for what it is and consigned where it belongs: The Greatest Infamy.
I am not saying that war with China is inevitable. I am saying that as a consequence of one man´s ignorance of basic power relationships and his petty vindictiveness, with every passing day the evitability is less.
Will Trump do what Kissinger failed to do -- take a realpolitik approach and construct enduring alliances with Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and yes, Vietnam, to balance China?
The White House and Pentagon believe that surrounding China with lily-pad military installations can make up for the lack of enduring alliances. Military emplacements on rock piles in the ocean are a no-fuss-no-muss fix.
In other words: a gimmick.
It is important to point out that if you add up all the populations of the Southeast Asia nations just mentioned, the total (642 million) does not come to even half of the 1.4 billion inhabitants of China. Kissinger sycophants and State Department bureaucrats will smugly assert that, as a consequence, all those nations together aren´t big enough to form a coalition that will balance China. In case you are wondering, adding Japan (126 million), South Korea (51 million) and Taiwan (23 million) still falls far short of equaling China´s population.
Well, if we reduce power to warm body counts as the CIA and NSA are inclined to do -- we´ve said it before, they have no analysis -- there is one nation in the neighborhood that comes close to equaling China: India with 1.3 billion population. Speaking of coming close, India borders China; territorial disputes are on-going.
We are not talking about tearing China down. No Bad Neighbor policy here. We are talking about building something else up. The White House, CIA, FBI, NSA and Pentagon have yet to learn that the real purpose of competition is not to destroy your opponent; rather, competition helps you improve your performance.
There is only one exception: if you are corrupt, competition tears you down.
Make that, all the way down.
I note in passing that it is a waste of time proclaiming and defaming to the stars above that China is "unfair" or "cheating." All China did -- and is doing this very moment -- in playing Kissinger for a useful fool is what America should have done but did not do: protect its own national self-interest.
For America, what is to be done?
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
Stop listening to Kissinger and his sycophants. Stop looking for solutions from the man who created the problem and who enormously profits from it economically. His consulting firm helps businesses get established in China.
Tragically, the possibility that Washington will stop digging is somewhere between Slim and None. And Slim just left town.
The Trump Administration will not stop listening to Henry Kissinger. You will see, for domestic political reasons, Trump continue to bark at The Kissinger Kicker and the socio-economic pain and devastation it caused America. For their part, the Chinese will nod and wink at Trump´s "American First" effusions. Excellent hand-to-hand fighters, they know a perfume left and a powder-puff right when they see them. "Yes, Henry, you`re SSSOOO right. Yes, Henry, only good relations with China can save the world. There is no other option.
Yes, Henry, you old senior statesman you: you´re a great man."
* * *
President Nixon famously proclaimed his 1972 visit to China to be "the week that changed the world."
If Kissinger´s China Folly is allowed to stand, Nixon´s words may come back to haunt the world in a way neither he nor anyone else ever imagined.
Assuming, of course, there is anybody left to haunt.
* * *
In case you missed it, here is how our prior post presented the real picture of what is involved in Southeast Asia. We are still waiting for Henry and his minions to quit ducking and hiding, to step out from behind the curtain and refute it.
Our basic premise: if Washington doesn´t get it right on China, the rest won´t matter much.
I am about to show how Kissinger created Chinese aggressiveness, bullying....
I also promise that in six minutes and 35 seconds, you will understand international relations better than Henry Kissinger did in 70 years.
The overtime, overdrive American agit-prop machine picturing Kissinger as a great international statesman has associated -- almost as an involuntary reflex -- his name with realpolitik.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Realistic, pragmatic: Kissinger was neither.
What follows is a warning not only to Americans but also to China.
Indeed, to everyone.
* * *
Would you like to see what authentic realpolitik in international relations looks like?
For 99% of American readers, it will be the first time.
Forget personalities. Forget hate, vengeance. Forget love, misty water-colored memories. Forget any personal bias or preference. Forget ideology. Realpolitik is the exact opposite of what Kissinger and his coterie in Washington did and are still doing.
The core of realpolitik in international relations is coalition-building. The China menace cannot be understood apart from it.
I learned about coalition-building the hard way, in the trenches. I was chief of staff to the Majority Floor Leader (Democrat) in a mean-as-snakes state House of Representatives. 11 conservative Democrats defected and formed a coalition with the Republicans to take control of the House, 36-34. If the Floor Leader wanted to get anything accomplished, we had to make coalitions on every piece of major legislation. About 2,000 bills were presented in each legislative session; that is the ground on which I make the following case: we made more coalitions in 60 days than Kissinger ever imagined, read about or heard of, much less built.
To understand coalition building requires a type of logic which is unfamiliar to most Americans. That political tone-deafness is readily understandable; it is the upshot of a two-party political system in which coalitions are rarely up front. Such is decidedly not the case, however, in countries with multiple political parties, e.g., Ecuador, Norway, South Korea and Spain.
Hence, for Americans to understand what is involved in coalitions -- and why Kissinger was so utterly incapable at building them -- a concise but crucial introduction is required.
You will find a basic presentation of coalition building in William Riker, "The Theory of Political Coalitions," Yale University Press, 1962. Riker employed game theory. I seriously doubt Kissinger read Riker´s book. If he did, he didn´t understand it.
Before proceeding, set your stopwatch for the six minutes 35 seconds mentioned above.
Riker´s basic premise: the coalition which wins is the minimal one required to take control.
An illustrative example:
Let´s assume a country has a five-party political system.
A general election takes place. The morning after, the distribution of the parties in the national legislature is as follows:
Party A: 5. Party B: 40. Party C: 26. Party D: 25. Party E: 4. Total: 100 representatives.
51 members are needed to form a majority and take control.
There are three possible winning coalitions:
Parties B and C = 66 representatives. Parties B and D = 65 representatives. Parties C and D = 51 representatives.
Let us assume also that (i) power will be divided according to strength within the coalition, and that (ii) the parties will prefer the largest relative size within a coalition. The result is that the coalition Parties C and D with 51 members will be the winning coalition.
Party B, the largest, is locked out.
First, I underline something that is counter-intuitive:
In a situation of fragmentation of power, it is not necessarily an advantage to be the biggest, most powerful party. If you occupy that position, as does America in Southeast Asia and President Mariano Rajoy did in Spain, you had better know what to do with it ... or else.
And second, political realities temper Riker´s premise. Most importantly, the five-party model shown above assumes the parties are impregnable blocks. In practice, if worked properly, you can usually break off a few members. That is what we had to do in the House of Representatives where I worked. However, the opposition will play the same game, which is why, in any moment, you may be in for a shrewd awakening.
Tradition, distrust, family relations, hurt feelings, opposing economic interests, personality conflicts, long-standing feuds, ethnic/racial prejudices and ideological disputes can prevent party leaders from doing the "rational" thing and coalescing for control. We will show in a moment an astonishing example of how the personal spite of one man gravely -- perhaps irredeemably -- fostered a menacing China, jeopardized America´s national self-interest and endangered world peace.
Despite its deficiencies, Riker´s analysis is sound where it counts: it makes you think objectively and creatively. I always kept a copy in my office in the State Capitol Building.
Which brings us to our main point.
Here is where Kissinger went catastrophically -- and completely naively -- wrong on China:
To lay bare the underlying power dynamics in U.S.-China relations, we return to the above model.
Indisputably, the two biggest and most powerful players in Southeast Asia are the United States and China.
Let us assume the U.S. and China are Parties B (40 members) and C (26 members) respectively.
Obviously, if they formed a coalition they would dominate the region. However, there would be no rational reason for the United States to form a coalition with China:
(i) A U.S.-China coalition would result in far more power -- 66% -- than the United States needed to dominate Southeast Asia. The U.S. could build the 51% minimum to take control by coalescing with smaller nations.
(ii) Because it had a lot to offer, the price which China would, could, and should demand for making a coalition with the U.S. would be high relative to the price demanded by smaller Southeast Asia nations.
In a word: if China had 26% of the power, it would reasonably demand 26% of the action.
(iii) From a realpolitik standpoint, any China/United States coalition could only be temporary.
Assuming China obtained the high price it wanted, it would be advantageous for it to coalesce with America -- but only as a holding action. The reason is that
(iv) even if the United States paid the 26%-price China demanded, China would still, over time, build its own coalition with smaller nations that would ask far less than the 40% the United States commanded. Indeed, only 25% more and China takes control.
What was said, then, about America coalescing with smaller Asian nations applies equally to China. By coalescing with them, Number 2 (China) becomes Number 1.
That is precisely what is happening now. China is practicing realpolitik; the United States is not.