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OPINION

Red China is on the Ropes – Beware!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Yao Dawei/Xinhua via AP

Chicom haters (like Yours Truly) will be chuffed at the recent spate of bad news for China's hard-line communist leaders, but at the same time the world as a whole must view these developments with a certain amount of trepidation, simply because adversity is a foreign country, as it were, for many Chinese bigwigs, and how they will react to disappointment and frustration is anyone's guess.

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Most recently, the Chinese government announced that the country's population is, for the first time since the 1960s, falling. What's more, ultra-low fertility rates mean that the Chinese have reached the same demographic dead end that we face in the West: unless we import oodles of immigrants, our population levels will soon enter a death spiral, and able-bodied workers (or factory drones, as the Chinese prefer to think of them) will be hard to find.

In addition, supply chain disruptions, COVID craziness, and international mortification over Chinese tyranny have all combined to stifle China's economic growth rates, which have, as everyone knows, been incredibly robust for decades. China's GDP grew only 3% in 2022, putting the country in the same economic doldrums that we face here. This begs the question: will the Chinese people continue to accept CCP hegemony/thuggery when the party loses its trump card of never-ending and rapid improvements in the standard of living?

The Chinese leadership, in the wake of massive, nationwide protests, recently found the courage (or was it the cowardice?) to abandon its insane “zero COVID” policies, permitting the Chinese people much greater freedom. Its reward was a huge spike in COVID cases and COVID deaths. China is thus facing a reckoning with COVID, in the here and now, that most Western countries had months or even years ago. Its medical infrastructure, which was never all that strong, is straining to cope.

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Communist China is also facing unprecedented levels of criticism and scorn internationally. According to a Pew poll, 82% of Americans now view China unfavorably. Not since the era of Mao has Red China been held in greater contempt in the West. What's more, this onslaught is bewilderingly multifaceted, from the Chinese perspective. 

China's government is blamed for everything from the genesis of COVID to pollution and carbon emissions, to ravaging the civil liberties of its citizens, to exterminating the Uighurs, to pilfering Western government and corporate secrets and technology, to corrupting and/or intimidating politicians, celebrities, and opinion leaders worldwide, to threatening the peaceful people of Taiwan, and much, much more! So far, none of this criticism has led to meaningful sanctions, much less to serious preparations for military conflict, but it is leading to countermeasures against Red Chinese influence operations, espionage, property acquisition and corporate takeovers, and, perhaps most alarmingly for the Chinese themselves, it is causing some mega-corporations to question whether they want to do business so extensively within and with a country whose reputation is so checkered, and whose future is so beclouded with uncertainty and dread.

All in all, things aren't looking so hot for the Chicoms, who until recently seemed to be on one of history's greatest “rolls” of all time. For those who have tended to view the rise of China and the expected global hegemony of the Chinese Communist Party with apprehension, verging on horror, these developments seem overwhelmingly positive, at first glance. Perhaps it was always inevitable that China would come down to earth, at some stage, and probably it is for the best that it has, BUT... 

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The giant caveat to the humbling of Red China is this: a cornered animal is always a dangerous one, and thus the Chinese leadership may respond to all the aforementioned headwinds aggressively or destructively. Stripped of its legitimacy, its reputation for competency, and the aura of historical inevitability that have shielded the CCP for so long, party leaders may lash out militarily to refocus Chinese public opinion on external threats, or they may greatly intensify efforts aimed at internal repression, which could cause even greater revulsion in, and estrangement from, the world community. 

In the worst-case scenario (or is it the best case?), even the social and political stability of China could be jeopardized, with essentially incalculable, but deeply sobering, ramifications for the global economy and world peace. Lest we forget, China has enormous leverage internationally, given its financial and manufacturing strength, and it has vast arsenals of shiny new weapons, including ICBMs, which, heretofore, the Chicoms have felt no compelling urge or need to utilize. If China implodes, however, all bets are off.

One is reminded of the old saying, “May you live in interesting times”, because Red China's current stumbles are the very definition of “interesting”: indeed, the fate of all of us is bound up in the decision-making of a small band of corrupt, pseudo-Marxist, and decidedly peculiar party bureaucrats in Beijing, who – God help us! – could easily steer their massive country, and the world as a whole, into an abyss, if they and we are not very careful. 

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Fingers crossed!

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.

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