One of the major differences between the influence that China wields verses the former Soviet Union relates to China’s use of monetary incentives. The US and British defectors that sold nuclear, diplomatic and other state secrets to the Russians from the 40’s until the Soviet Union collapsed were not normally paid a lot of money. Only four ever made over $1 million, and those were only the ones that sold out significant secrets, such as Aldrich Ames identifying nearly ever top US recruit in major Soviet institutions. Most of these turncoats were motivated by ideology. They truly believed in the Soviet Union, right up to the end, and were quite willing to give our enemies secrets for cheap.
China is different. You don’t have to subscribe to China’s idealogy to be on their doll. China willingly flexes its financial muscles to buy people off. Even worse, China is happy to do this quite blazenly and openly. There isn’t a more perfect example then Hollywood right now. Did you notice the nod to China in the movie Midway? Or the pandering by actors like John Cena to Chinese audiences? Sure, maybe some of these people really believe that China is better than the US, but likely most are simply gold digging, and China offers lots of gold for those that toe the line.
This is coming to a head in the Solomon Islands right now, in this week’s very underreported story. Riots (not of the “mostly peaceful” variety) are happening in the Solomon Islands, an island nation that most Americans only remember from a World War 2 battle on the island of Guadalcanal. Located just north of Australia, the Solomon Islands operated in Australia’s sphere of influence for a long time. Australia provided government support and significant economic investment in mining, forestry and other areas. In exchange, the Solomon Islands were relatively peaceful, at least with their neighboring countries.
That has changed though. Manasseh Sogavare, the current Prime Minister, oversaw the end of the Australian mission to the Solomons in 2017. Not long after, the Solomon Islands stopped recognizing Taiwan and instead recognized the PRC. Almost immediately, Australian investments started to disappear, with Chinese firms replacing them. Everything from gold mines to logging is focused on, or has been purchased by, China. Heck, even China state run media says the Solomon Islands will be a Chinese hub soon.
The point here is China is building its empire with cash. When Japan attempted to invade a large portion of the Pacific, it ultimately lost because it was difficult to pacify that large of a population. Germany had the same struggles, losing significant numbers of troops in the post-invasion peace keeping operations in places like Poland and the former Yugoslavia. China avoids paying in blood for its conquests by simply throwing cash at the problem. Buy off a government, and they’ll let you take their resources via debt diplomacy. What’s not to love? You get what you want without having to use your military power.
If war comes to the Pacific, China won’t need to pull a Pearl Harbor moment to capture territory like the Japanese did in WW2. Instead, we will be the ones paying in blood to recapture territory and resources China simply purchased outright. Sadly, we will likely be seen as invaders, and will suffer the same consequences Germany and Japan did during WW2.
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