U.S.-China Relations

Next 50 Years of U.S.-China Relations



HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. That music means it’s the last radio hour of the week. A very long week indeed it has been. That means the Hillsdale Dialogue is upon us.

Once a week, we try and go big—go to an issue that actually transcends the week, the month, the year, indeed, sometimes the decade. And I do it, usually, with Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College.

All things Hillsdale are collected at Hillsdale.edu. You ought to go there right now and sign up for the free speech digest, which they send snail mail, the old-fashioned way, to millions of people every month at Hillsdale.edu. Find Imprimis, sign up for it.

Watch any of their many wonderful online courses—and then, every one of our Hillsdale Dialogues dating back to 2013 collected at HughforHillsdale.com.

Good morning, Dr. Arnn. Good to have you.

LARRY ARNN: How are you doing, Hugh?

HEWITT: I’m great. We have been involved in a series—I don’t know if I want to call it serendipitous—but well-timed—on China and the United States. And we were set today to conclude that series—and we’re going to—by talking about the next 50 years in great power competition. But here we find ourselves, Dr. Arnn, with China in the grip of a deadly virus, and our friend Senator Tom Cotton urging all flights from China be shut down, and Singapore closing its borders to all Chinese.

So, we didn’t plan it this way. But it sure has worked out that the headlines in history collide again.

ARNN: Isn’t that something? And our friend Senator Cotton is once again seeing ahead.

HEWITT: He is, he’s way ahead on people on this. And it’s not because he’s an alarmist. It’s because he reads.

ARNN: I think there might be 20 cities in China that are more populous than New York.


LARRY ARNN: And this virus is rampaging through one of them, which means just—huge number of people. And—what—40 million people are quarantined?


ARNN: Think of the problem it constitutes. I know a serious doctor, a great doctor. He’s practicing at the Cleveland Clinic. And he also acts or practices for the king of Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia was going to go to Bali—the king was going to go to Bali.

And they were getting ready for it. And they had built an airstrip for his plane on that island. And then the bird flu broke out there. This is a few years ago.

And so they had doctors, fancy doctors from Saudi Arabia and other places, planning whether he could go. And they had a long, long plan. And then, at the end of it—this man is a preventive medicine doctor—we think we can protect him. And then they looked at him and they said, What do you think? And he said, 800 people are going. You have to protect all of them.


And so he didn’t go.

HEWITT: He didn’t go. By the way, I should note that, when you said a great doctor who practices at the Cleveland Clinic, you were being redundant.

ARNN: That’s right, that’s right. I think I can’t say his name, because he wouldn’t want me to.

HEWITT: Don’t.

ARNN: But I know him pretty well. And this epidemiology is a serious thing because he says, even if you protect the king, you’ve got a whole nation to protect if they all come back here.

HEWITT: I have been listening to a terrific book called The Great Influenza by John Barry—B-A-R-R-Y—on the influenza of 1918 to 1920, which killed—minimum—20 million people. Probably killed 50—five-zero—million people because of troop movements.

It began in our friend Mike Pompeo’s home state of Kansas. It started in Kansas and went via the army base there. Agriculture, pigs, cows, moved to human beings, moved to the general population, goes around the world on troop ships. And 20 million people minimum die.

They are not to be trifled with. It’s been 100 years on average. It looks like about every 100 years a plague comes. I don’t know how you can overreact to that threat.

ARNN: And the other thing is, what’s the harm of stopping all flights to China? Well, there is significant harm, but it’s not a body count. And so, if you can do it, you should do it.

HEWITT: It’s economic harm. And I mean, you have an endowment, like I do. I’m the president of the Nixon Foundation. I have to look at the endowment. And you’re the president of Hillsdale College. You’ve got to look at the endowment. We don’t want the market to get hurt.

But that’s going to happen. You just hold onto your money and you let it pass. And all those companies will rebound. So the economic kick is inevitable. But you don’t actually want to do anything that is indifferent to the threat, right?

ARNN: That’s right.

HEWITT: So we have that covered. Though that takes us back to China, where we’re supposed to go, before this arose, how were you planning to open the conversation about China as a great power competitor?

ARNN: Well, I think the most important thing to do is to look at where it is. And you can see a lot by looking at a map of China. It’s located on the sea, and it’s huge, and it’s the most populous nation on Earth.

And the great threats that have we faced in the past have come from landlocked powers, great foreign threats we’ve had. And so it changes things. And so if we think that we’re going to have a competition with them and there’s going to be hostility because of that competition for a long time—and I very much do think that—then you have to actually even begin by thinking about what would war look like, because that’s the ultimate damper.

I don’t think that they intend to attack the United States of America, although they might do it in the spirit that Japan did. But I think that they will be thinking, and we must be thinking, what would it be like if we fought them.

HEWITT: Now when you say, they might do it in the spirit that Japan did, I understand that. Will you explain that for the Steelers fans?

ARNN: Well, Japan was never deluded into thinking that it was going to conquer the United States and occupy it, or that it was even going to fight significant, continuing battles on its territory. We’re just too big and too far away.

So they attacked Pearl Harbor for the specific reason of crippling our fleet so we couldn’t mess with them in the part of the world that they wished to dominate, which—wonder of wonders—turns out to be the same part of the world that China is interested in dominating.

HEWITT: And they wish to dominate—correct me, of course—and you will, if I’m wrong—they wish to dominate because of resource constraints. They concern themselves primarily, as any ruler will, with their people. Their people needed resources. Japan was resource-constrained in the ‘30s.

And they believed that the United States was an impediment to their acquisition of the resources that they needed. Thus, they struck in a surprise at Pearl Harbor. So what you’re suggesting about China—the great threat there—is pre-emptive attack in order to allow them to go in search of the resources they need unopposed.

ARNN: And that’s the same strategic problem as Japan. And I amend what I said a little bit—Japan was not our major foe, although an extremely costly foe, in the Second World War. But Japan is a sea power. And Germany was the main one.

But add to what you said about resource constraints, you look at what kind of government you must have, to quote Churchill in the Munich speak [speech], “but you must look at the character of the Nazi regime and the rule which it implies.” So these are—Imperial Japan—and thank God, not anymore—Japan and current China are built upon a principle of domination.

HEWITT: They are—and when we come back we’re going to talk about that. I have to ask you a quick question before the break. Have you and the wonderful Mrs. Arnn gone to see Jojo Rabbit yet?


HEWITT: It is nominated for Best Picture. It is about a ten-year-old in 1945, Germany belonging to Hitler Youth. And it is excellent. And there is you will enjoy a few Churchill jokes that reflect the propaganda in Germany at the time about Winston Churchill. He was not Hitler’s favorite guy.

ARNN: No, no, they didn’t get on.


HEWITT: And so you’ll find the aside. You’ll pay very close attention to this movie. But we don’t often think of the plight of the resistance in Germany, of the honorable Germans, or of children in Germany forced into the—we don’t often think of it from that perspective. But it was pretty awful.

ARNN: Yeah, yeah. Well, Churchill called Hitler “Little Corporal Schicklgruber.”


HEWITT: That must have burned. So Jojo Rabbit is the name of the movie. Do they have theaters in Michigan?

ARNN: They do. They’re outdoor theaters because it’s so balmy up there compared to Ohio.


HEWITT: It’s balmy. I’ll be right back. Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. It’s the weekly Hillsdale Dialogue. We’re going to define for you what a great power competition is. Then we’re going to talk with you about how the United States ought best to prepare for it with the People’s Republic of China.

Doesn’t mean war. Does mean clarity. I’ll be right back with one of the people who bring clarity, Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College. All things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu. You’re listening to the Friday edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show.

Welcome back, America, it’s Hugh Hewitt. I have got to bring this up. I’m joined by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. All things Hillsdale are located at Hillsdale.edu.

I have just tweeted out the cover of The Telegraph this morning—their website. “The inside story of The Telegraph and Brexit.” It is Brexit Day. It is a day of historical significance in the history of the United Kingdom, which is very important in Dr. Arnn’s life, if only because he married a wonderful Brit, Penny Arnn.

And there is, Dr. Arnn, on this a few pictures. It says “the inside story of The Telegraph and Brexit.” It has Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage. And I can’t tell who the sixth person is. I don’t know who it would be. But this is a major day. This is the last day that Great Britain—the United Kingdom—is in the European Union.

ARNN: It’s worth commenting on the fact that there’s a lesson here. And the lesson is, the person who has made this possible—there are actually two people. Nigel Farage, who’s the head of what’s now called the Brexit Party, could never have done this on his own, because he doesn’t really even want to be prime minister.

I happen to know him. He just wants to get out of Europe. And he was not the kind of guy that they would elect.

So he needed somebody. He did put the Conservative Party in a position where they had to schedule the referendum. And the British people have done the rest.

And then, who’s going to bring it to a head? Because it turns out that, if you’re fighting a bureaucracy, it’s like fighting a marshmallow. You whack it, and your hand goes in. You can’t get it out again.

And so they just made mincemeat of Theresa May. And they couldn’t get it done. Well then, somebody came along and he just had an entire—by the way, Boris Johnson is spending the day declaring his new platform today. But he’s going to use the celebration to launch their next campaign for the next victory parade.

But Boris Johnson—basically, for about a year, he didn’t have anything else to say except, The people have voted—get out of Europe.


ARNN: And he’s resolute. And he’s like our president. He’s not the kind of guy that you elect in normal times.

And he’s different from the president. He’s very colorful, and he’s very indiscreet. And he’s very learned. And he’s got all that, too.

They call him pixyish or clownish. Prime ministers look like Neville Chamberlain.


ARNN: Except when they’re Winston Churchill.

HEWITT: Or Boris Johnson.

ARNN: That’s right. And so he’s an odd guy for this job. He just has the capacity. Victor Hanson gave a great talk on the campus this week. What is it about these great generals? He said. And he said, well, there are two things: One is, when there’s a war, they know what to do. And, when the war is over, you don’t really want them around anymore.


So I don’t know what will happen to Trump or Boris Johnson, except that they were people for this moment. And they just had a clearer view. And another thing—it takes nerve, because to bank everything on one thing and have the discipline to do that—almost nobody has that discipline.

Our college is boring in its repetitiveness.

HEWITT: Right.

ARNN: We’ve got this thing. We started 175 years ago. It’s beautiful, it connects to everything else. It lets you talk about everything else. But everything has got to start in the same place.

And that messes you up in various ways, because it means you can’t be a chameleon. Well, great politicians are like that too. Over time, as they shift on, they may change their emphasis. But, in the middle of a crisis, they’ve got one thing, and it’s connected to their abiding emphasis.

So that’s what happened there. That’s why that came to be. And nobody has ever left the European Union.

HEWITT: No, they haven’t. They have never left the European Union, until today, when they are.

And when we come back, I want to talk a little bit about Britain and France, the really first great power competition with which we as Americans were involved. And then the great power competition that looms with the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. Stay tuned.

Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. The music and the timing suggests we are in the Hillsdale Dialogue, that hour of the week in which I am joined usually by Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, or one or many of his colleagues there to discuss an issue that actually transcends the week, the month, the year.

And today we’re talking about the United States and China and the great power competition that looms in front of us for the next 50 years. And, Dr. Arnn, before I retreat to Britain and France and their long struggle through history’s many centuries, what do you mean by great power competition?

ARNN: Well, sometimes it happens in life that there are a couple—and in some occasion there’s always more than two—but a couple of powers and the preeminent power. And they have ways of becoming at odds with each other. You mentioned before the break Britain and France. That’s the classic modern one.

Rome and Carthage, Athens and Sparta, all the Greeks and Persia—you can even start there. That’s the first really well-recorded one. And what was that like? That went on for 70 years…80 years.

There was a battle, at Marathon. And then there was a war, and the Greeks won it. But that wasn’t the end of it. The Persians intervened in the Peloponnesian War, which was, by the time it was over, about 40 years after the end of the great Greek-Persian War.

And they’re great, and they’re strong, and they’re neat—near each other enough so that they come into contact all the time. The great expression for the Persian question, in Greece it was referred to for a generation before there was a war, the phobos, the fear. That’s what that word phobia means—it comes from the Greek word for fear.

The phobos is on everybody’s mind—and stayed on their mind. And, sure enough, it erupted in trouble. And it’s partly because, when they came into conflict, it was apparent that they just meant different things in the world, and they had interests that clashed. So that’s what it means.

HEWITT: Now, in terms of the modern setting, I referred to Great Britain and France. I could also have referred to the United States and Great Britain. The former Great Britain and France led to endless conflict for many centuries. The latter, where the United States was the rising power and Great Britain the falling power, did not lead to a war between the two.

There are many books about China out right now. Dr. Kissinger has On China. Graham Allison, the great professor at Harvard, has The Thucydides Trap—the title is actually Destined for War. The subtitle is The Thucydides’s Trap. Michael Pillsbury has The Hundred-Year Marathon. Robert Kaplan has Asia’s Caldron.

They’re all about China being a risen power and the United States being the dominant power and what has happened in the past. Allison said this has happened 16 times in history. They run the Thucydides Project at Harvard. Of those 16 times when there has been a great power and a rising power that challenges, 12 times there has been a great conflict.

You mentioned a few of them. Four times there has not been an armed conflict, one of those being Great Britain and the United States. Why did France and Great Britain simply find it impossible to get along for centuries?

ARNN: They really didn’t like each other.


HEWITT: If it were only that simple.

ARNN: I know.

HEWITT: By the way, during the war they would just go back and forth all the time. They would send their diplomats, and their scientists would travel unmolested back and forth between Paris and London.

ARNN: Well, that’s a very interesting pair. By the way, we should remind our listeners that we fought two wars with Great Britain and many skirmishes along the way.


ARNN: And the reason there wasn’t a great war with Great Britain is because of the attitudes of Winston Churchill, which were advanced but representative. Winston Churchill actually thought it inevitable that we were going to supplant them as the greatest power. He wanted to be our partner and make us better. And then, together, we could be the greatest power.

Why? Because there wasn’t that difference, ultimately, of the direction of the two countries. And they saw that. And that doesn’t always work, but this is a rare case where it did work. And so that’s why that didn’t happen.

And we—then, together, the great conflicts—in the two world wars, we were together in those wars. And that’s—

HEWITT: Which is why it’s so hard to understand the French and German animosity when you see a film like 1917, and the French and the British are fighting and dying by the millions together in desperate charges across tortured lands brought about by Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Kaiser. You just wonder—why does this happen? Why do great powers have to collide?

ARNN: Well, so Churchill liked to say that wars often begin on small occasions, but never for small reasons. And so, there was something going on that was an abiding problem. It’s easy to state in regard to France and Germany.

Germany, which is a modern country—it was founded in the late nineteenth century through war. And its problem—its outlook on the world was there’s a bunch of German-speaking, Germanic states, and they’re different principalities, and they’re right in the heart of Europe. They’re right in the middle, and they’re landlocked. And they’re surrounded by people who are not like them. They don’t speak the same language, and such.

And so they fear they don’t have room. They can be attacked from both sides. And so, in the nineteenth century, Bismarck and his boss, Kaiser Wilhem I—they embarked on a campaign to unite all the German states into a single power.

And they did. They succeeded. They waged war on some of the German states and on France. And they defeated it. And then they had a party in the Palace of Versailles and declared their victory in the war and the unification of Germany at the same time.

Now, these two places are now looking at each other, big strong powers side by side. And those same apprehensions drive things. They have conflicts over imperial questions, over trade. And they’re alike each other in some important ways—big land powers, lots of territory. Germany is a landlocked power, France is not.

And, by the way, that’s what drove the French fight with the British. And so, they just—they just keep conflicting. And it need not have, because that’s just the situation. That’s not going to go away.

But Churchill’s view of things like this is it could be managed. And he loved Bismarck. Bismarck was a great man. He was also a very ruthless man. And Bismarck—immediately after he conquered France, took part of its territory, which he was reluctant to do—immediately made a treaty with France and with Russia, the great power on the other side of Germany.

And he conducted himself modestly for the rest of his career against those two people. And if that had continued, there’s no reason why they would have had to fight. But come to find out the next generation, Wilhem II, the Kaiser during the First World War.

I always like to say, he’s got the classic rich kid syndrome. He inherited a whole bunch of stuff. But he didn’t have to understand how to keep it. And so, he was too aggressive.

HEWITT: Have you read Robert Massie’s Dreadnought?

ARNN: Yeah.

HEWITT: Great, great portrait of the Kaiser wanting very much the approval of his uncle Bertie. They share a grandmother in Victoria. And Bertie is her younger brother son and the king of England. And it appears to me that the Kaiser, who was born with a birth deformity on his left arm, that he always felt—this is a psychologically driven war.

ARNN: Well, great nations have impulses in them. And they’re always connected to what keeps them together. Because you just have to think, a nation is like everything that has being—we’ll have some Aristotle.

There’s something that holds it together—what it is. A rock and concrete are made of similar material. But something holds it together to make it what it is.

And nations are like that. When you see a bunch of people, and they’re a nation, you can look around and see what make these people because they’re just people. Why are these people in a nation?

And so, there’s differences of outlook and interest among nations. Lincoln—“every nation has a ‘central idea’ from which all its minor thoughts radiate.” And our idea is—

HEWITT: Freedom.

ARNN: Equality.

HEWITT: I was going to say freedom.

ARNN: Well, equality and liberty, right? In what way are we equal? Equal in our entitlement to our freedom.


ARNN: But with a very strong thing that separated us from Britain—consent of the governed. A great and civil man and wonderful man, Russell Kirk, he wrote that the Declaration of Independence was not a characteristic American document. It was really written to impress the French court. You think the king of France read that thing and thought, that’s a great idea?


HEWITT: When we come back from break, we’re going to have to talk about the essential difference between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, which—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was out talking to the Brits about today—is that they have no attachment to equality or freedom—none at all. What do they have an attachment to, Dr. Arnn, as we head into break?

ARNN: It’s like the great movie and play Fiddler on the Roof—tradition.

HEWITT: Tradition. And that tradition is not one of equality and freedom.

ARNN: It grows from family. And so it makes them a people in a different way than we are a people.

HEWITT: And we’ll talk about what that means for great power competition when we come back. Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. The Hillsdale Dialogue is underway. Don’t go anywhere, except to two different places.

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Welcome back, America. I’m Hugh Hewitt, wrapping up this week’s Hillsdale Dialogue on great power competition—the United States and China edition with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. All of these conversations are found at Hillsdale.edu.

Next week, I hope Dr. Arnn and I will be talking about the now-concluded—and hopefully it will be concluded by next week—impeachment trial of President Trump. But, this week, I want to finish with thoughts on the looming competition with China. And by competition we do not mean war, Dr. Arnn. But, clear-eyed, we do have to look at the United States versus China in the lens that we have examined great power competitions in the past. What ought the United States, and what ought you to advise your students, to think about in order to prepare for that?

ARNN: Well, the most urgent thing is to understand us, what makes us work and what makes us strong so we can be independent and keep working. And it’s more important to do that than it is to study anything else as regards temporal things.

And then the second thing is, what about them? How do they behave? What moves them? What makes them go?

And intelligent people—I believe that China is led by people who are very intelligent—intelligent people do not want big wars. They’re terrible. And they’re also terribly unpredictable.

And so I think that’s one of Michael Pillsbury, and also Bill Gertz, another guy who writes very well on China, military stuff, I think that’s what they say, right?

HEWITT: Correct.

ARNN: That’s what Churchill said about the Soviet Union—they do not want war. What they do want is the fruits of war, without fighting it. And so, if they think of themselves as the greatest people on earth—and in some respects surely they are—and then, since they’re located where they are, on the Eurasian landmass, it’s obvious—and that means 65% of the people, and add in Africa, that gets about 80% of the people in the world are near them, one way or another.


ARNN: And they’re not like the Soviet Union. They’re not trapped in the middle of the Eurasian continent. They’re on one end of it. And they can get out to sea. And they have in the past got out to sea and got around the world with naval power—military, naval power.

And so it’s just easy to see what they need to do. They need to deny us strength in Asia. And they’re too far away from Europe, on the other side of the Eurasian continent, to deny us strength there—but to deny us strength in the Pacific Rim. And that’s where most of the production in the world is now.

And so, the way they do that is they build things that keep us from projecting power near them. And that means our friends. And see, it’s just amazing how much American strategic policy, when it’s smart, has followed the British Empire’s strategic policy when it was smart. Our friends are along the coasts, of all the continents.

And it’s easier for us to get to them, and we’re a naval power. And, because of the way the world has changed—I mean, the world hasn’t actually changed—what’s happened is it’s always been true that most of the land and most of the people live in Eurasia and Africa. And now they’ve caught up a lot, and they’re powerful.

And so we need to think of ourselves as Great Britain, off the coast of the great power. And, because technology has changed so much, the oceans are not nearly as wide as they used to be.

HEWITT: No they are not. And missiles are not nearly as limited as they once were.

ARNN: And you got a kid in the navy. The navy’s important, and the air force is important, and the marines are important. Because our friends—those are the main arms of the military that we have to get to them. And, of course, the army is important, but one hopes they don’t come into play in a big way.

And that means just picture a map of Asia or the Pacific coast of Asia. Picture a map, right, and it starts down there in Indonesia or the Philippines. And then you’ve got Japan, Taiwan, and Korea,

HEWITT: And Malaysia and Singapore.

ARNN: And Malaysia and Singapore. And those are all big places in the war with Japan that we fought. And it’s the same places today. And we ought to be friends with those people, and we ought to reinforce them. And that’s the way, see, to, because—

HEWITT: And of course, the great undertaking of the United Kingdom—Australia.

ARNN: That’s it. And Australia—it’s funny, the population of Australia—it’s more dispersed now than it used to be. But it’s located on the east coast of Australia, far away from Japan and all that.

And what’s in the middle of Australia is like what’s in the middle of America, except more desert. There’s not much.

HEWITT: Not much.

ARNN: And so, it was a challenge to defend Australia and New Zealand against Japan. And yet, they, in an amazing, magnificent tribute to them, had the patience and the courage to send significant parts of their army all the way around the world to Europe to fight in the war in Europe in the beginning and the first half of the Second World War.

HEWITT: And the reason I want to end here is because Dr. Arnn’s message about great competition, if I can summarize it—it’s the allies, stupid. Am I right, Dr. Arnn.

ARNN: Yes. there you go.

HEWITT: It’s the allies. Larry Arnn is my friend and my guest. All Hillsdale Dialogue collected at HughforHillsdale.com. All things Hillsdale are found at Hillsdale.edu.

And you’ll find us here next week, talking about whatever happens today and tomorrow. Hopefully, the end of impeachment madness and the corralling of coronavirus.

Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Generalissimo. Thank you for listening. America.