It’s an interesting theory–that by opening trade relations with China, America gravely miscalculated and unleashed monster of its own doing–but unsupported by evidence.
At any rate, Scientism on Twitter had a good elaboration of what it means that “we got China wrong”. What did USG really think? Was it just the latest iteration of the Whig theory of Democratic Development, whereby democracy happened because of the rising incomes in the 19th century empowering the bourgeoisie into fighting against the royal houses of Europe for political rights? No, of course not. Nobody reads history anymore. Certainly not people in the American corridors of power. Whig history is stupid; but our ruling class today doesn’t know Whig history anymore. What they know is a degraded version of Whig history as remembered by the guys on Wall Street, who have some faint recollection of reading about it in Harvard; but that was a long time and many many hangovers ago.
America, at least compared to Brazil, is not really a democracy anyway. It’s more like a corporatist managerial state, with SJWs as the defacto ‘secret police’, which shares similarities to China, but China does not have an SJW problem and China does not have elections.
Regarding U.S.-China relations, three things:
China’s growth benefits America in the form of increased exports (from America to China), which benefits U.S. firms. The trade is symbiotic in that both economies benefit from increased trade. Rich Chinese buying up American-made stuff, such as real estate and intellectual property, makes Americans richer. It’s obvious, yet some people have this hidebound, mistaken belief that the growth of one economy must come at the cost of another, in other words, that the global economy is zero-sum; it’s not. Imagine you have a firm and now you have this huge influx of upper-middle class Chinese who want to buy your stuff–your handbags, your movies, your software, etc.–of course it will make you and your firm richer.
Second, despite cultural differences, there is no hostility. Look how Trump , for example, was able to secure the release of those shoplifters a few month ago. The Chinese love Trump. If Bill Clinton is “America’s first Black president,” then I think Trump is America’s first Chinese president in how he shares so many similarities with Chinese culture. As stated above, China’s export-based economy is dependent on the U.S., so China has much more to gain by maintaining amicable relations and much to lose by not. The Chinese are infatuated with America, overall, such as American culture (such as those blockbuster action movies, which do really well in China). Or how rich, smart Chinese are buying up all of America’s expensive Bay Area real estate and attending America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Surely these are not the actions of a group that despises us. It’s America’s far-left who hate America, not the Chinese.
But what about China’s authoritarianism–their ‘great firewall’, the absence of elections, or their reverence for Mao? They can turn it around and do the same for America: what about our death penalty, sky-high incarceration rate, huge wealth inequality and homelessness, and preemptive wars of aggression?
The actual motivation to trade with China was making money short term. Lots of money. Many in the Western elite have made huge amounts of money with the China trade. Money that conveniently was funneled to whichever political channels it had to do in order to keep the China trade going. Even without Whig history, even without the clueless idea that China would never become a political great power, the short-term profits to be made were big enough to capture the political process in the West and push for it. Countries don’t have interests: people do.
The ability of elites to make money with Chinese trade is in part constrained by the size of China’s economy. Elites know they will make more money the bigger China gets.
There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true.
Ironically, Marxism generated way more conflict and violence in the 20th century than the supposed ills of capitalism, making it sorta a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Third, Chinese military culture has historically been defensive, unlike the British for example, who are much more militaristic and imperialistic. It’s much more likely America will initiate a war with China than the other way around.