“Give me back the Berlin wall b52 give me Stalin and St Paul I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.Leonard Cohen By Peter Galuszka

The other night I watched Dr. Strangelove, one of my favorite movies. Then I read the headlines.

China is cracking down on U.S. journalists, especially those representing The New York Times and Bloomberg, by threatening their visa renewals if they keep reporting about the corrupt ties between Communist party officials and business.

President  Barack Obama orders two unarmed B-52s to fly smack down the middle of a “no fly” zone recently declared by China as a diplomatic move against Japan and Taiwan over some rocky islands.

Meanwhile, back in Russia, my old stomping grounds, President Vladimir Putin is celebrating Ukraine’s decision to stick with Mother Russia in an economic union that should help keep alive the memory of empire.

Gee, it sounds like old times.

As bad as it seems, I am more concerned about what’s going on with China and how it is being ignored by most Americans outside of big financial and media centers like New York. China is playing its economic hole card to force America to go along with its mossback ways involving freedom of speech and force projection.

On this score, we always give the Chinese a free pass because we like their cheap goods and also because they hold a lot of their debt. Back in the Cold War, threatening the visas of a couple of dozen U.S. journalists would have been headline news. Not anymore and that’s worrisome.

The Times won a Pulitzer last year for its coverage of the shady and endlessly complex relations between Party members, their wives and children, and various businesses. After the Party announced an internal crackdown on scams, the government last summer promptly started hassling foreign, including U.S., companies with SWAT teams of accountants and court orders for their books.

I’m not a China Hand but the tonality is very different now. It seems bitter. China’s old guard clings to control. Wealth has spawned expectations that seem to be met only with Web crackdowns and gobs of air pollution. Military threats are more common. A comeuppance seems inevitable.

What does it mean to Virginia? China is Virginia’s top importer, double the level of Brazil, the next highest. Top imports are machinery, furniture and salt. Virginia’s export – coals – far outdistances its Chinese imports in volume by many times. And China’s going to keep needing coal, especially the metallurgical type.

In terms of the defense industry, angrier showdowns with China will hurt the state, since the Navy will move assets to the Pacific from places like Hampton Roads which were major staging areas for the decades’ long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama is already putting a small contingent of Marines in Australia.

Concerns remain about China’s alleged cyberattacks on U.S. data centers and surveillance. It could be that the highly questionable scope of U.S. spying by the National Security Agency could be more directed at China than at Middle Eastern terrorists, but it’s all part of a troublesome mix.

Years  ago when I was Moscow bureau chief for a large business magazine, I was constantly annoyed when my New York editors always seemed to hold China in higher regard as a potential reformer than the Soviet Union. Money talks and I think they liked the advertising potential that never would be realized with the Russians.

History would prove them right on the money. But pre-Putin, Russians did enjoy a number of years of remarkable freedom of expression. Sadly, that’s over (as well as the lives of several of my Russian journalist friends who were either murdered or have died suspiciously).

Yet China never seems to have made all that much of a transition when it comes to freedoms. It has plenty of people in jail for saying what they think and they target websites, shutting many down.

On that score, my New York editors, it turns out, were wrong on both counts. At the moment, though, it’s back to the future.

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18 responses to “The Zany, Crazy Cold War Days Return”

  1. NewVirginia Avatar

    Coal may outdistance Chinese imports by volume, but that’s not a particularly important measure. I’m sure Chinese imports far outweigh coal by value.

  2. things could be far, far worse by a long shot:

    ” Rep. Hunter: US Should Use Tactical Nukes on Iran if Strikes Become Necessary”


    Just imagine were we’d be right now if the GOP was in control and had folks like Cheney, McCain and Lindsay Graham.. running things…

    The world is a mess and the only thing worse is having our own people running around talking about nuking the bad actors…


  3. Liberal and conservative intellectual elites seem to be in substantial agreement about the nature of the Chinese regime. Yet the American people seem oddly disengaged. I guess we can attribute that to a decade of endless war in the Middle East — and perhaps to the fact that the U.S. and China have far closer business ties than the U.S. and the Soviet Union ever did.

    My wife visited Beijing and Shanghai earlier this week. (She’s in Singapore now.) She has made many Chinese business acquaintances, some of whom have come to the U.S. They entertain her when she visits them, she entertains them when the visit us. We get to know them and we like them as people. We may despise the regime, but when we have friends over there, it’s hard to gin up a militantly anti-Chinese attitude.

  4. China is more a competitor than an arch enemy IMHO – their treatment of real or perceived political opponents – aside and compared to other much worse bad actors on the worlds stage.

    The American people are having a NeoCon Hangover and realizing that we’ve sacrificed 5000 of our young and maimed 50,000 more over the xenophobic inclinations of some within the ranks of Conservatives.

    There is a huge divide between business conservatives and ideological conservatives. The business types are fiscal conservatives who value trade and the ideological conservatives would drive us 17 trillion into debt to place us first in international testosterone whizzing contest.

  5. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    I am very concerned about China – not its people but its current leaders.

    Despite all of its wonderful gains, China remains an Autocracy. One whose power rests on shaky ground. Such Autocracy typically sooner or later turns to rampant nationalism, creating foreign enemies claimed to threaten the homeland, including its manifest destiny, as a tool to maintain power.

    Here this risk is acerbated by a confluence of several events. The abrupt rise of Chinese power to an ever more dominate position over its neighbors now combines with the real or perceived decline in US power led by a weak leader, and a Japan in transition too. This mix combines with a mercurial Chinese military leadership currently in a unstable relationship with its own civilian leaders.

    Here in many respects I am reminded of the dynamics at work in the rise of post WW1 Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. Things here are more subtle, but the mix of dynamics is quite similar to those times, including the rapid decline in prestige and power of the colonial powers in the Orient, relative to the rise of Japan.

    In such cases incidents and miscalculation can turn for the worse quite fast. Recall the madness and histrionics that surrounded air collision between a single Chinese fighter jet and US survailance plane off Hainan only weeks after Bush’s 2000 election. There the US position was far stronger and will a far better position of power to tamper matters down. It that happened today the risks would be far greater I suspect.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Correction – There the US position was far stronger. WE WERE IN a far better position of power to tamper matters down. IF that EVENT happened today, the risks AGAINST MAINTAINING CONTROL would be greater.

    2. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Given these comments, how can our Department of Defense NOW CUT BACK the US Marine Corps. How can DOD also now cut back the US Navy fleets that carry our Marines into harm’s ways. How now can DOD cut back the US Navy fleets that protect the sea lanes of transit that are essential to our survival and the survival of our long term allies in the Western Pacific.

      Why NOW cut back US Marine amphibious fighters by more that 10,000?

      Why NOW disable the critically needed research, development, and production of the Corps new advanced landing craft, a war fighting amphibious vehicle precisely tailored to counter the rising Chinese threat?

      Why NOW toss out the very warriors and war machines critically needed to defend against threats now rising to an alarming level against our US interests in the western Pacific and those interests that are now critical to assuring the survival of our long time allies along the Asian rim?

      Why NOW also cut back the US Navy’s ships vitally needed to project US power (including US Marine and Naval air) into the void of power that will now surely be opened not only be these new irresponsible cutbacks, but also by our failure to increase current forces to meet the rising threat.

      Why NOW do do we strip forces of all this critical needed power when we know full well based on history and recent events that these voids that we open will surely be filled by Chinese military power intent on hegemony. One that dominate all our critical allies along the entire East Asian Rim.

      WHY NOW?

      For a bit of history illustrating the folly of these cutbacks see: http://amphibiouslanding.com/

      1. reed fawell III Avatar
        reed fawell III

        To further understand the consequences absorbed by war fighters when their amphibious war machines are not researched, developed and put into service before hostilities commence, for the terrible consequence of that lack of preparation by reason of Congressional irresponsibility see:


        That machine, an LVT (A)1 amphibious tank, originally requested in the early 1930’s, was finally thrown together days before battle in June 1944.

        Are we now doing the same all over again?

        1. there’s a long history of snafus in the wars we have been in.

          I remember the PT boats and there are two ways of looking at it.

          one way is that we probably were sending young men to their inevitable deaths by sending them out in plywood boats to do battle with far superior war ships… same thing with the B-17s … many went to their deaths in a brutal and horrendously wasteful attempt to throw enough bombers at German so that some would get through and do grievous damage.

          I just don’t see how you can blame Congress Reed when the war was a catastrophe in so many dimensions and everyone was doing the best they could and inevitably there were mistakes made.

          Congress, the military and government and private institutions make mistakes (New Coke, Edsel ?) … Government and companies and Congress are flawed institutions because people are flawed.

          It’s the human condition… We sent 7 astronauts including a grade school teacher to their untimely deaths because we screwed up.

          We got 5000 of our young killed in 2 wars that have accomplished nothing.

          if we wanted to make a list of mistakes for Congress.. the list would be a long one… for sure.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    “The Times won a Pulitzer last year for its coverage of the shady and endlessly complex relations between Party members, their wives and children, and various businesses.”.

    I am sorry … were you referring to China or the Virginia state government?

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    New Virginia,
    This info is from two sources but the figures I have found for 2012 are these:

    Virginia exports to China are worth about $18 billion

    Chinea’s exports to Virginia are about $4 billion.

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I am not sure what the relevance of your comment is. You have some Chinese acquaintances and they are nice people so we should be nice to current regime? Huh?

    I lived and worked in Russia for six years and have many acquaintances and some very close friends. I don’t see how they relate to Gorbachev,. Yeltsin, Medvedev or Putin and their policies.

    Kinda naive on your part, isn’t it? All because there are nice CHinese people around it doesn’t excuse the current CHinese government’s behavior with prison sentences for free expression, cutting off Web sites, limiting information and on and on.

    Let’s take the argument farther. IN the 1930s, would you have said Hitler is OK because you’ve met some nice German people?

  9. Breckinridge Avatar

    Peter, meet Randy Forbes. Randy, meet Peter. Talk about strange bedfellows.

    Take the long view of history, and by that I’m talking thousands of years. The Chinese have always been aggressive, expansive. They have the same “we are a master race” ideology that infected Germany and Japan. In the short run they want to control the sea lanes and the mineral rights around those isolated islands but in the long run they seek economic hegemony. Putin is now really just another Czar and the Chinese leaders emulate their own history empire.

    In the short run our military power will keep them at bay, as long as the Japanese continue to re-arm and the Australians keep up their guard, but long run we’re doomed. MacArthur was right that we can’t win a land war, but we can control the sea and air. But that’s a short term fix. The latest report on educational achievement proves that they will do what Khrushchev wanted to do — bury us.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Good comments – see also above new comments and for a bit of history illustrating the folly of these cutbacks see: http://amphibiouslanding.com/

    2. speaking of government efforts at a “Master Race”( and Virginia):

      ” A drumbeat from both the left and the right of the political spectrum has revived outrage over eugenics, a practice designed to create an American master race by preventing people with mental illness, developmental disabilities or epilepsy from having children. State officials estimate that Virginia sterilized 7,325 people under a 1924 state law that remained on the books until 1979.”


      it was not that long ago that we thought we’d be battling the Soviet Union for another century and look what happened… so I’m not convinced we are “doomed” at all… land wars with drone weapons is a whole new world anyhow.

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    All motion ties with the Marines aside, you have to ask yourself a bunch of tough-money questions. Look at the V-22 Osprey. The program is worth about $35 billion and the marines have a couple of hundred of these helicopter-airplane hybrids. Testing took forever and the plane had an early reputation as a killer. Granted, it was intended to replace aircraft designed back in the 1950s, but it has certainly been an expensive haul. Also, it’s not as if the Marines haven’t been trying to upgrade.

    Please, when was the last time the Marines were needed for the traditional, Iwo Jima-style, straight ahead amphibious assault? Inchon? Grenada?

    From what I understand, the Marines have indeed adapted to many different roles that do not necessarily involve the old-style forms of attack.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Peter –

      I think you meant to type the word “emotion” rather than “motion.”

      I am not emotionally attached to the Marine Corps. I am emotionally attached to my freedom, and those who go in harms way to keep it alive.

  11. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    It is remarkable how events leading up to WW11 parallel events today. There was an almost complete refusal to confront the reality of what was going on in the world outside of the United States. Isolationism swept the nation. This was largely the result of the poisoned political atmosphere, engendered by a deep, festering, and long term anger of Republicans at Roosevelt’s domestic politics. Our military suffered. Congress, save for a few congressional naval sympathizers, starved the nation’s ability to defend itself. Not long before war, Congress extended the draft by only a single vote. Absent that single vote, much of the US military would have been drained of the progress made from the tiny army of a few years before.

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