In Tablet, Lee Smith writes,
Americans became prey to an anti-democratic elite that used the coronavirus to demoralize them; lay waste to small businesses; leave them vulnerable to rioters who are free to steal, burn, and kill; keep their children from school and the dying from the last embrace of their loved ones; and desecrate American history, culture, and society; and defame the country as systemically racist in order to furnish the predicate for why ordinary Americans in fact deserved the hell that the elite’s private and public sector proxies had already prepared for them.
For nearly a year, American officials have purposefully laid waste to our economy and society for the sole purpose of arrogating more power to themselves while the Chinese economy has gained on America’s. China’s lockdowns had nothing to do with the difference in outcomes. Lockdowns are not public health measures to reduce the spread of a virus. They are political instruments, which is why Democratic Party officials who put their constituents under repeated lengthy lockdowns, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, are signaling publicly that it is imperative they be allowed to reopen immediately now that Trump is safely gone.
…For my last column I spoke with The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman about an article he wrote more than a decade ago, during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency. His important piece documents the exact moment when the American elite decided that democracy wasn’t working for them. Blaming the Republican Party for preventing them from running roughshod over the American public, they migrated to the Democratic Party in the hopes of strengthening the relationships that were making them rich.
In the more than 10 years since Friedman’s column was published, the disenchanted elite that the Times columnist identified has further impoverished American workers while enriching themselves. The one-word motto they came to live by was globalism—that is, the freedom to structure commercial relationships and social enterprises without reference to the well-being of the particular society in which they happened to make their livings and raise their children.
…It started with Bill Clinton’s 1994 decision to decouple human rights from trade status. He’d entered the White House promising to focus on human rights, in contrast to the George H.W. Bush administration, and after two years in office made an about face. “We need to place our relationship into a larger and more productive framework,” Clinton said. American human rights groups and labor unions were appalled. Clinton’s decision sent a clear message, said then AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, “no matter what America says about democracy and human rights, in the final analysis profits, not people, matter most.” Some Democrats, like then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, were opposed, while Republicans like John McCain supported Clinton’s move. The head of Clinton’s National Economic Council, Robert E. Rubin, predicted that China “will become an ever larger and more important trading partner.”
…Apple, Nike, and Coca Cola even lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. On Trump’s penultimate day in office, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has “determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” That makes a number of major American brands that use forced Uyghur labor—including, according to a 2020 Australian study, Nike, Adidas, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and General Motors—complicit in genocide.
…The Central Intelligence Agency openly protected Chinese efforts to undermine American institutions. CIA management bullied intelligence analysts to alter their assessment of Chinese influence and interference in our political process so it wouldn’t be used to support policies they disagreed with—Trump’s policies. It’s no wonder that protecting America is not CIA management’s most urgent equity—the technology that stores the agency’s information is run by Amazon Web Services, owned by China’s No. 1 American distributor, Jeff Bezos.
China had cultivated many friends in the American press, which is why the media relays Chinese government statistics with a straight face—for instance that China, four times the size of the United States, has suffered 1/100th the number of COVID-19 fatalities. But the key fact is this: In legitimizing CCP narratives, the media covers not primarily for China but for the American class that draws its power, wealth, and prestige from China. No, Beijing isn’t the bad guy here—it’s a responsible international stakeholder. In fact, we should follow China’s lead. And by March, with Trump’s initial acquiescence, American officials imposed the same repressive measures on Americans used by dictatorial powers throughout history to silence their own people.
Eventually, the pro-China oligarchy would come to see the full range of benefits the lockdowns afforded. Lockdowns made leading oligarchs richer—$85 billion richer in the case of Bezos alone—while impoverishing Trump’s small-business base. In imposing unconstitutional regulations by fiat, city and state authorities normalized autocracy. And not least, lockdowns gave the American establishment a plausible reason to give its chosen candidate the nomination after barely one-third of the delegates had chosen, and then keep him stashed away in his basement for the duration of the Presidential campaign. And yet in a sense, Joe Biden really did represent a return to normalcy in the decadeslong course of U.S.-China relations.
Yellen says that “China is clearly our most important strategic competitor.” But the pro-China oligarchy is not competing with the country from which it draws its wealth, power, and prestige. Chinese autocracy is their model. Consider the deployment of more than 20,000 U.S. armed forces members throughout Washington, D.C., to provide security for an inauguration of a president who is rarely seen in public in the wake of a sporadically violent protest march that was cast as an insurrection and a coup; the removal of opposition voices from social media, along with the removal of competing social media platforms themselves; the nascent effort to keep the Trump-supporting half of America from access to health care, credit, legal representation, education, and employment, with the ultimate goal of redefining protest against the policies of the current administration as “domestic terrorism.”
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