Since 1980, China has been involved in a total of zero wars, zero foreign regime change missions and zero bombing campaigns against a foreign land. By contrast, the United States has made war upon, bombed or fomented regime change abroad on 19* separate occasions during that same period. Beyond this, the closest China has ever come to war since 1980 was a short and ultimately bloodless standoff with India in 1987 regarding long running border disputes. By contrast, the US has been engaged in some variety of armed conflict abroad nearly every year since 1980 and literally every year since 2001.
It is not coincidental that since 1980, China’s economy has grown, more people have been lifted out of poverty in the shortest period of time in all of human history, productivity has increased, innovation has become central to China’s industrial model and the public purse has remained generally healthy. The same cannot be said for the United States.
The US experienced economic recession and high inflation at the beginning of the 1980s, a severe stock market crash in 1987, recession in the early 1990s along with what at first was a jobless recovery, an early 2000s recession and the Great Recession of 2008. Since the turn of the 21st century, US public debt and the overall deficit has expanded greatly, while the value of the dollar remains far lower than during the era of the flawed Bretton Woods system that was ultimately replaced by something far worse after 1971.
The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history as mechanised warfare claimed millions of lives. It is not a coincidence that many of the worst conflicts of the 20th century also served to bankrupt nations whilst even more importantly, rendering once powerful currencies weaker in the aftermath of the fighting. The First World War made it clear that one cannot fight a modern mechanised war with sound money. Because the expenditure of warfare typically drains a national treasury due to extraordinary costs over and above those of peace time, Britain’s once world-dominating gold standard came to an end during the First World War and in spite of attempting to go onto a gold exchange between 1926 and 1931, the British Pound never recovered its position as the world’s reserve currency.
Because US soil (expect for the Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941) was not touched during the Second World War, the major economies of the world became reliant on a US dollar that could be converted by foreign governments into gold at the rate of $35 per ounce, in-line with the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944. While the fixed exchange rates of Bretton Woods were problematic from the beginning due to what is known as the Triffin Paradox, it was ultimately the fact that the US was spending beyond its means in order to fight the war in Vietnam that ended up breaking America’s gold standard just as the First World War broke Britain’s gold standard. Of the many victims of America’s war in Vietnam, a sound US Dollar was one such victim.
Since the end of the American gold standard in 1971, at the height of the war in Vietnam, the value of the US Dollar has plummeted. Today, as the US economy continues to wobble between market growth and rapid corrections, the confidence that the world has in the American economic system while still high, remains markedly lower than during the Bretton Woods period when at least in theory, the US currency was as good as gold.
While many commentators remark that the share prices in companies that serve the military industrial complex go up during periods of warfare, in the long term, wars make people and nations materially poorer. This eventually becomes true for military victors, just as it is more immediately true in respect of the vanquished. Wars have the effect of harming global trade, wars give excuses for government to run outrageously high deficits, wars in the 20th century ended the sound money era in Britain, the United States, Germany, France and others, wars have harmed the civilian economic sector at the expense of the military-industrial complex and in the 21st century in particular, sanctions have become a major weapon of war whose effects run antithetical to the nominal global drive towards free trade.
By refraining from engaging in foreign wars and other conflicts, China has largely insulated itself from the pangs and misfortunes wrought upon an economy of a nation at war. While there are multiple reasons behind China’s economic success since Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening Up of December, 1978, it cannot be ignored that the last war China fought in ended in March of 1979. Thus, there is a clear coloration between China turning its back on war and opening itself to a model of peace through prosperity.
Ironically, China is far better placed to finance a war today than it was during its brief war against Vietnamese forces in 1979. And yet it is for this reason that China seeks to avoid wasting its hard earned wealth on death, violence and foreign domination. China’s cooperative Belt and Road model invites partner nations to likewise reject war and embrace the peace through prosperity model that is people-centred in-line with Xi Jinping Thought, as opposed to centred on elevating the military-industrial complex over and above the genuine civilian orientated economy.
China’s rejection of the military aggression should serve as a model for those throughout the world, including in the US, who want to replace the red blood of war with the golden hue of sustainable prosperity.
*wars, regime change missions, bombings or militarised intelligence operations involving the US since 1980
1. Lebanon (1982-84)
2. Grenada (1983)
3. Libya (1986)
4.Iran-Iraq War (1980-89)
5. Contra insurgency/Iran Contra (throughout the 1980s)
6. Panama (1989-90)
7. Iraq (1990-91)
8. Somalia (1992-1995)
9. Bosnia, Yugoslavia (1992-1995)
10. Haiti (1994-95)
11. Sudan (1998)
12. Iraq (1998)
14. Afghanistan (2001-present)
15. Iraq (2003-present)
16. Pakistan bombing campaigns (2004-present)
17. Libya (2011-present)
18. Syria (2011/2014-present)
19. Yemen (2015-present)