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China is not a rising power but a faltering one. At first glance, this seems an absurd statement. Since it initiated market reforms in 1978, the Asian giant has claimed economic growth averaging 10 percent annually, rising from the world’s seventh-largest economy in 1980 to the second-largest today.

During those decades, it converted its newfound wealth into military power and geopolitical influence, asserting itself both regionally and globally. It now seems to be on the verge of realizing President Xi Jinping’s goal of creating a Sino-centric world order – one that reflects Chinese, rather than American, values and interests.

To many, the notion that China is a faltering power is laughable. It has not only risen meteorically to the commanding heights of the international pecking order, it now looks poised to ascend to the very apex of that order.

But appearances can be deceiving. While it has not yet quite peaked, all the signs are that China’s relative power is nearing the high-tide mark and will soon begin to ebb.

Whether as a result of the “middle-income trap,” the imminent prospect of “growing old before growing rich,” the suffocating effects of the ever-more intrusive and pervasive surveillance state, or all three, China will soon peak. Soon thereafter it will sputter, then fade, all long before it is able to muscle the United States aside and remake the international order in its own image.

While from an American perspective this might seem like good news, a faltering China might also be a dangerous China. For one thing, a China that realizes that its reach has exceeded its grasp is likely to do everything in its power to lock in whatever geopolitical advantages it currently enjoys, before its ability to Sino-form the world begins to wane. This includes redrawing the map in the South China Sea and Himalayas; transforming international organizations to reflect Chinese values and interests; and generally working to reorder the global balance of power in its favor.

Perhaps even more ominously, a China that sees the brass ring of global supremacy begin to recede may well respond as Germany did when facing a similar situation in 1914. German leaders saw their Russian adversary growing demographically, developing industrially, and building the kind of rail and road infrastructure necessary for rapid mobilization in time of war. This terrified them.

It terrified them so much they decided to trigger a war sooner, because then they might have some chance of defeating Russia and its allies, whereas later, after they entered a period of relative decline, they would simply be at their adversaries’ mercy. Peak China today, like peak Germany in 1914, might feel its hand similarly forced.

What, then, is to be done? History suggests a three-pronged approach aimed at preserving the current liberal order in the face of Chinese revisionism, while avoiding the prospect of war in the face of Chinese disappointment and perhaps desperation.

The first leg of this strategic stool must be to encourage and support the counterbalancing dynamic that has already kicked in across the Indo-Pacific region. China has been probing with a strategic bayonet and, where it once found mush, is now beginning to find steel. The United States should work to ensure that that continues to be the case, at least in the short-to-medium term.

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Minimally, this means building on the emerging consensus in Washington and in regional capitals like New Delhi, Canberra, and Tokyo that China is an aspiring hegemon with an ambitious vision of creating a Sino-centric order. It also means that the United States must maintain a military posture in the region that reassures its friends and allies that if they hang together with the United States they will not be left to hang separately.

The second pillar of a prudent China strategy must be a policy of containment. Such a strategy would necessarily entail preventing China from racking up wins in the arena of great power politics. It would also involve taking concrete steps to intensify the contradictions inherent in the Chinese system, largely by forcing China to do more strategically than it can sustain economically, and denying it the opportunity to mitigate its internal decline by exploiting client states or captured international institutions.

As with the containment policy George Kennan outlined at the onset of the Cold War, the goal would be not merely to limit the challenger’s geopolitical gains but to undermine the legitimacy and attractiveness of its entire political project.

The final pillar of a prudent China strategy must be to anticipate and mitigate the turbulence that will accompany China’s stalling rise. The hard-won lessons of 1989 are clear: faltering challengers like the Soviet Union, if managed wisely, can be guided to a relatively soft landing. But the hard-won lessons of 1914 are also clear: faltering contenders that are not managed wisely sometimes roll the dice and start wars—a world war in the case of Wilhelmine Germany.

American strategy, therefore, must include constructing what the classical Chinese strategic theorist SunTzu called a “golden bridge”: an “off ramp” for the CCP to retreat across. As the Chinese master put it: “Surround them on three sides, leaving one side open, to show them a way to life. Show them a way to life so that they will not be in the mood to fight to the death.”

That is how to manage a China that is not a rising power but a faltering one.

Andrew Latham is a professor of Political Science at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He regularly teaches courses in International Security, Chinese Foreign Policy, and War.



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Convicted fundraiser who tried to work his way into Biden’s inner circle sentenced to prison

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Amajor Democratic bundler, who raised large sums for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and consorted with Joe Biden, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a “mercenary” political influence scheme.

Imaad Zuberi, a Californian businessman was sentenced Thursday for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, then take millions of dollars for himself.

The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel J. O’Brien said Zuberi was “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

Among the many unsealed court records, Zuberi was seen photographed with Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they were Vice President and President. He was also pictured with former President Bill Clinton and former presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. He took pictures with former Republican Rep. Paul Ryan when he was speaker of the House as well as the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Also included in the Times report was a hacked email chain released on WikiLeaks. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook messaged colleagues saying, “I’m OK taking the money and dealing with any attacks.” Jennifer Palmieri responded saying, “Take the money!”

He also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City in 2016 as well as serving as a co-chair of The Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

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Zuberi made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations to the political committees of Obama, Clinton, McCain and others. Zuberi’s activities extended as far as a recent attempt to work his way into the Biden circle, according to Politico.  

In addition to the money he made, Zuberi also raised $270,000 for Hillary Clinton and $1.3 million for President Obama.

Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to a “three-count information charging with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)” for making false statements on a FARA filing as well as tax evasion and illegal contributions to political campaigns. He also pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier in June 2020 to a count of obstruction of justice.

“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” Assistant Attorney General for National Secretary John C. Demers said in a Department of Justice news release.

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Cruz responds to pictures of him on Mexico flight, with Texas struggling from deadly winter storm

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Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed Thursday that he flew earlier this week to Mexico with family members, following the emergence of pictures appearing to show him in an airplane cabin and at a check-in counter, as fellow residents to recover from a deadly winter storm.

Cruz said in a statement that he accompanied his daughters on a flight Wednesday night to Mexico because they had the week off with school canceled.

“Wanting to be a good dad,” said Cruz, who also stated he is returning to Texas on Thursday afternoon.

The storms has been connected to at least seven deaths in Texas and knocked out power to as many as 2.5 million residents. The number of residents without electricity as of Thursday morning was down to less than 1 million, officials said.  

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“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz also said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

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South Carolina House passes bill that would prohibit most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected

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The South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 79-35 to pass legislation that would prohibit most abortions. 

The bill must pass through a procedural vote in the House on Thursday prior to heading to GOP Gov. Henry McMaster who has indicated that he will sign it, according to the Associated Press. Two Republicans voted against the legislation while two Democrats voted for it. The state Senate passed the measure last month. 

The bill requires doctors to carry out an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and if a heartbeat is identified an abortion can only be performed in certain circumstances.

The legislation would not penalize a woman for obtaining an unlawful abortion, though the individual responsible for performing the abortion could face consequences.

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The outlet reported that other states have approved similar or even more stringent abortion prohibitions which could be implemented if the Supreme Court throws out the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. All of the other states’ abortion bans are currently entangled by court challenges and if the South Carolina bill is approved it will likely face litigation that prevents it from going into effect, according to the AP.

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