In one of the great comedic routines of all time, Abbott and Costello went round and round about a baseball player by the name of Who and which base he was on. As Chinese President Hu Jintao shows up to be feted in Washington this week, the question is not whether Who's on first, but whether Hu's becoming first - the leader of a nation on a trajectory not merely to rival the United States as a "peer competitor," but to supplant it as the world's only superpower? Unfortunately, the answer may be no laughing matter.
It is well known that China has long been striving to emerge as a preeminent economic power. Using a model that is more fascist than communist, Beijing has enjoyed extraordinary success in the past three decades in: attracting foreign investment and technology; harnessing such assets, in combination with an immense and easily exploited workforce, to transform the PRC's productive capacity; and exporting the resulting abundance of increasingly high quality goods to markets around the world. This dynamic combination of factors has garnered Beijing, among other things, vast hard currency reserves.
These reserves have been used to acquire huge, and politically useful, positions in the U.S. and other foreign debt markets. And of late, Communist China has been applying them to buy up not only valuable - and often undervalued - corporations in the West. Beijing is also obtaining colonial-style control of energy and other natural resources (including, notably some 98% of the world's exports of rare earth minerals that are indispensable for state-of-the-art manufacturing for a host of commercial and military purposes). And the PRC is aggressively taking over a growing number of what amount to strategic facilities and forward operating bases around the world, from Cuba and the Panama Canal to Myanmar and Africa.
It has become increasingly obvious of late that China is also making a massive investment in revolutionizing its military in ways that will enable it to hold at risk and possibly, in the not too distant future, to neutralize the power projection capabilities of the United States. This is not an accident or unintended. Rather, the purchase or indigenous production of advanced fifth-generation stealth aircraft, nuclear submarines, anti-ship and other ballistic missiles, new generations of nuclear and conventional forces, space weapons, etc., bespeak a determination to exercise power in Asia and far beyond.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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