Checkmate for China on the world stage


In A grand strategy: counter China, tame technology and restore the media (Brick Tower Press, 267 pages), William J Holstein weaves three major themes that emerged from his long career as a journalist.

These are the threats that China poses to the US advantage; the complicity of big technology in its own eclipse by China; and the degradation of the media, which has made it more difficult for us to understand what is going on.

In the continuation of his book of 2019 The new art of war: China’s deep strategy inside the United States, he poses the first problem from the start by “spitting out the truths that few people want to hear”, starting with:

We Americans are losing ground to a strategy orchestrated centrally by the Chinese government to deprive ourselves of our technological, economic – and therefore strategic advantage.

No war will ever be necessary. The Chinese government will have developed such technological, economic – and therefore military – power that we will not even be able to contemplate the possibility.

Our institutions have been unable to formulate a response not only because of our own intellectual confusion over the rise of China under President Xi Jinping, but also because our computer systems have been completely hacked and spies have been planted. in our businesses and government institutions.

The boobies who guided our response to China have been completely overwhelmed.

Five years ago that would have been a radical call to arms, but today it is consensual American thinking. It’s the only question that unites Democrats and Republicans.

Nevertheless, it is worth going back to the beginning to understand how a seasoned correspondent with almost half a century of experience in East Asia and the world came to his conclusions and what he thinks he needs to do. .

On mission in China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Russia, Afghanistan, several other foreign countries and back in the United States, Holstein reports on the spot developments such as the rise of Asia. from the East, the decline of American manufacturing, the rapid advancement of technology allowed him to gain a wealth of practical and enlightened experience in examining the issues of the day.

The author on a photo provided.

The new book is divided into three parts: Setting the Stage, which describes his personal development as a journalist; The Great Stories that defined our time; and The grand strategy, or what needs to be done.

It is brought to life by stories of CIA and KGB agents in China, kidnappers in the Philippines, adventures in Afghanistan, an eye-opening experience in South Africa, anti-Vietnam war protests, and even the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He had a hell of a ride.

By the end of the 1980s, the impact of the Asian economic miracle was starting to be felt. After seeing Asia and seeing the writing on the wall in America, Holstein “in a book proposal that never sold” wrote:

The upper level of well-educated, well-traveled and multicultural Americans will enjoy many years of prosperity. For them, the opportunities are enormous. My fear is that large cross-sections of other Americans do not fully understand the new rules of this global game. As a result, they will lose and continue to lose.

At the time, he was way ahead of his time.

From Michigan State Student Newspaper to stints in local and regional newspapers, many years at United Press International, a brief diversion in corporate public relations and a return to journalism at Business Week and US News & World Report, Holstein takes the reader on a tour of classic reporting. The book is worth reading for that alone.

Along the way, he developed a keen interest in the role and responsibility of the free press – and a growing sense of alarm as he was eroded by the financial consolidation of newspapers and magazines, the rise of fake news. politically motivated and the power of social networks.

He warns that the news media have abdicated their “An essential role of arbiter or guardian – to help distinguish truth from fiction, to help interpret the flood of information that exists in the world. “

Holstein has covered many great stories, but his main point ranges from chapters titled “Stumbling into China’s Modernization” to “The Great Japanese Debate” and “The South Korean Miracle” to “General Motors, Industrial Policy and globalization ”and, finally, to“ How America’s Chinese dream turned sour ”.

In this context, he discusses the largely unchecked power of big tech companies and the need for them to help us compete with China ”rather than profiting from sales to a dictatorship that intends to steal their intellectual property and eat their lunch.

Jacket image courtesy of The Brick Tower Press

The government, he said, “must establish a framework of acceptable behavior and be able to decide when Big Tech has crossed a line in the sand.”

It would be the vanguard of responsible industrial policy aimed at revitalizing the US economy and bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots.

There is more – including discussions on semiconductors, rare earths, telecommunications networks and computer systems – all in the context of a “comprehensive and coherent strategy towards China.”

Holstein’s final points are that America needs to pull itself together, organize itself to compete, stop fighting and create “a society that all participants believe in.”

“This ‘game’ will never be over. It is a multigenerational challenge that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.

William Holstein is living testimony to the fact that the flow of information and commentary has not been and probably will not be stifled, by the Chinese Communist Party or anyone else, as long as we take its warnings seriously.

Scott Foster is an analyst at Lightstream Research, Tokyo.


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