Eighty years ago today, invading German forces had destroyed Poland’s air force and surrounded what was left of its army in but a week of battle. By the end of the month, Warsaw surrendered, and the term blitzkrieg (lightning war) made its way into our lexicon.
Nine months later, France fell, and England stood alone. One year to the day after German Chancellor Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, German Jews were ordered to wear yellow stars for identification.
By the time Victory in Europe Day arrived (May 8, 1945), more than 51 million were dead, and the world was just starting to learn the horror of the Holocaust.
Such was the price Western democracies paid for appeasing Hitler when he was weak and instead had to face him in battle at his strongest.
Yet here we are — again staring an enemy in the face and again refusing to see.
It’s not Russia, North Korea or Iran. That enemy in front of us now is the Communist-controlled People’s Republic of China.
While it’s acknowledged that outgoing President Barack Obama warned incoming President Donald Trump in November 2016 of the urgency of the North Korean threat, I find no reporting on the urgency of the China threat.
At the core is the China 2025 industrial strategy that the Council on Foreign Relations defines as “a state-led industrial policy that seeks to make China dominant in global high-tech manufacturing. The program aims to use government subsidies, mobilize state-owned enterprises and pursue intellectual property acquisition to catch up with — and then surpass — Western technological prowess in advanced industries. ...For the United States and other major industrialized democracies, however, these tactics not only undermine Beijing’s stated adherence to international trade rules but also pose a security risk.”
While it’s well-known that President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, beginning the gutting of U.S. industry to foreign nations, it’s not common knowledge that it was that same president who also made the case in March 2000 for allowing China into the World Trade Organization when he extolled, “By joining the WTO, China is not simply agreeing to import more of our products, it is agreeing to import one of democracy’s most cherished values, economic freedom. The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people — their initiative, their imagination, their remarkable spirit of enterprise. And when individuals have the power, not just to dream but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.”
Ironically, in that same speech Clinton warned: “A vote against (permanent normal trade relations) will cost America jobs as our competitors in Europe, Asia and elsewhere capture Chinese markets that we otherwise would have served.”
Thinking that the Communist Party power structure would “liberate” anything under its control was as naive as Neville Chamberlain expecting Hitler to honor his “peace in our time” piece of paper.
Over the now almost two decades passed, not only were hundreds of thousands of American jobs lost and communities decimated as multinational corporations rushed for the gold that was cheap Chinese labor, but in a sick twist, Americans provided the hundreds of billions in cash that allowed the Communist government to advance its military and space programs beyond their wildest imaginations.
For the sake of cheap consumer goods and higher corporate profits, three American presidents allowed multinational corporations to sell the American soul.
One can debate whether Trump’s tariffs are the best way to stop China’s unfair trade practices and to force it to finally honor its WTO commitments, which it has ignored since the beginning. But one cannot debate the future danger to America that comes from continuing the status quo.
The narrative is that “Trump’s trade war” is hurting farmers and costing consumers, but that ignores the context of soybeans and corn prices already in the dumps in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Yes, we need more exports, but thinking China is a panacea is wishful at best.
And that $600 to $1,000 a year in added costs to consumers that keeps gets bandied about?
That doesn’t consider how much could just be done without or purchased from another country of origin. The choices are there; they can be made.
Considering the sacrifices made on the home front during World War II, Americans today going without some discretionary consumer goods or paying a few bucks a month more for them is hardly a compelling argument to revert back to appeasing the Chinese.
If you don’t want war tomorrow, the time to stand is today.
Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.