Hours of Buenos Aires | Alberto stuck between Biden and Xi
The late Republican Senator John McCain wanted to see the United Nations, which he rightly saw as a flawed organization dominated by resentful autocrats who felt nothing but contempt for basic human rights, replaced by a “league of democracies.” Joe Biden obviously finds the idea appealing, which is why he has just hosted a virtual “summit” in which representatives from around 80 countries, including Argentina, which his advisers consider to be law-abiding democracies participate virtually. .
For President Alberto Fernández, the invitation to participate came at a delicate time. While he and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner say they think democracy is a good thing and worth defending, both really want to stay on good terms with the rulers of China, Russia and a number of undemocratic regimes in Latin America and elsewhere led by people Biden would like to see docked. They must also be feeling a little nervous about the repeated determination of the US government to root out corruption wherever it is found. If that happens in Argentina, Cristina and her cronies may well have to spend all of their remaining years behind bars.
Luckily for them, cleaning up Argentina’s politics is not a priority in Washington, so the couple still have a lot of wiggle room, but to put it to good use, they should agree that the Chinese Communist Party poses an existential threat to them. what North Americans call the rules-based international order that they put in place in the aftermath of World War II and should be brought to a halt.
This is something that not only the Kirchnerites but also many of their opponents are reluctant to do. For them and for many others in the rest of the world, China represents an alternative source of credit and investment that they can play against prying American politicians and like-minded Europeans who like to take them to task for their alleged failures.
Until the arrival of Donald Trump, North Americans who were interested in foreign policy thought that as China got richer, a rising middle class would make it more democratic, so they might as well take advantage of the many business opportunities. that became available. This way of thinking now seems stupid. If it is at least conceivable that one day the Chinese Communist Party will loosen its grip on the people, a more democratic China would in all likelihood be an even more formidable enemy of American hegemony, especially if, as it almost certainly would be. In this case, its leaders have become accustomed to stirring up nationalist sentiments.
Biden’s Chinese policy is much the same as Trump’s. He has no desire to make history as a responsible man when the superpower lost its place as a leading country – an eventuality that, until fairly recently, was not everything. simply occurred to none of his compatriots. What’s more, if it were just gross national product, seeing much more populous countries overtake the United States wouldn’t be worth much concern, but if China’s per capita income is, and perhaps will be. Still, a fraction of that of the United States, Japan and many European countries, Chinese leaders already have the resources they need to launch a solid technological, and therefore military, challenge to the West.
When the Soviet Union reeled toward its deathbed, many called it “Upper Volta with rockets” – a third world backwater that had just a large nuclear arsenal. No one these days would dream of saying the same thing about China. Despite the presence of a huge underclass who have yet to reap the rewards of development, she has almost all the trappings of first-rate power and seems well on your way to acquiring those she still lacks. However, there are worrying signs that the era of frenzied economic growth may be coming to an end and, what is even worse, serious demographic problems are emerging as the birth rate collapses.
This means that Chinese strategists have good reason to feel pressed for time. To achieve the goal of “number one China”, they will need to make the most of what they have before it is too late. For them, what happened in Japan when the financial bubble burst, resulting in decades of rapid growth, and with them the sudden end of fantasies of world domination, is a warning that they cannot afford to ignore. Although Japan continues to be a wealthy country with a lot to offer the world, it is no longer the frightening economic juggernaut that sowed terror in the hearts of North American businessmen as it seemed. that she was about to swallow them all up.
While a similar fate could be in store for China, it is unlikely to resign itself to a fringe role. On the one hand, it has more than 10 times more inhabitants than Japan. On the other hand, it is doomed to grow old before it is rich enough to provide decent services to the hundreds of millions of retirees who will need them.
The sense of urgency that Chinese leaders must feel as they look to the future, and the sheer size of their country they lead makes them dangerous. President Xi Jinping is determined to reunite Taiwan with the motherland and regularly sends warplanes to probe the island’s defenses in the hope that its Democratic leaders (who to the regime’s disgust participated in the Biden summit ) will understand the message and obediently bow down to it. . Countries that gain strength quickly but fear the future are easily tempted to take serious risks while all is well.
The US response to China’s challenge has been slow to come, but it is getting more and more vigorous day by day. Like Ronald Reagan when the Soviet Union he described as the “evil empire” weighed heavily, Biden is making the most of the Chinese regime’s appalling human rights violations and willingness to flout the sovereign concerns of neighboring countries to try to persuade all democratic countries to join the crusade he is leading.
This confronts the Kirchnerite administration, which hailed the electoral victory of “Juan Domingo Biden”, with a nasty dilemma which it prefers not to be confronted with. She does not want to be forced to choose between the United States, which some Kirchnerians say is a far more evil “empire” than the Soviet Union ever was, and China, which is currently riding the money and, if willing, could give Argentina a helping hand in return for the usual concessions. All of this puts Alberto’s government under increasing pressure to come down from the fence it is perched on and make it clear which side the country wants to be on. For a number of reasons, this is something he is most reluctant to do.