"Part of what Pillsbury sees as America’s naiveté on the issue derived from fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of Chinese culture.
Pillsbury now believes that since the time of Mao Zedong, China has been engaged in an effort to establish China as the world’s premier superpower by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Communist Revolution.
The reason this has been so little known, he says, is that the Chinese consider physical battles just one minor aspect of warfare. China’s main weapon, he says, is deception — the constant appearance of achieving less than they really have and needing our help more than they actually do.
As Deng Xiaoping came to greater power in China in the late 1970s, America rejoiced, believing him a reform-minded moderate. Pillsbury, though, says that behind the scenes, he was far more hard-line.
Believing that China had erred in following the Soviet economic model and that the country had “failed to extract all they could” from the Soviet relationship, “Deng would not make the same mistake with the Americans.”
“He saw that the real way for China to make progress in the Marathon was to obtain knowledge and skills from the United States,” Pillsbury writes. “In other words, China would come from behind and win the marathon by stealthily drawing most of its energy from the complacent American front-runner.”
In the decades to come, Pillsbury believes, America helped build China’s economy and military while unknowingly following the Warring States script. (He admits that it was he, in a 1975 article in Foreign Policy, who first “advocated military ties between the United States and China,” and that the idea had been proposed to him by officers in the Chinese military.)
Following a Warring States philosophy of tricking your opponent into doing your work for you, Deng knew that technology would be the driver for building the Chinese economy and “believed that the only way China could pass the United States as an economic power was through massive scientific and technological development. An essential shortcut would be to take what the Americans already had.”
Meeting with President Jimmy Carter in 1978, Deng arranged for what would become 19,000 Chinese science students to study here, and Deng and Carter reached an agreement for the US to provide China with “the greatest outpouring of American scientific and technological expertise in history.”
Under President Ronald Reagan, for whom Pillsbury served as a foreign policy adviser, the Pentagon agreed to “sell advanced air, ground, naval and missile technology to the Chinese to transform the People’s Liberation Army into a world-class fighting force,” later including “nuclear cooperation and development . . . to expand China’s military and civilian nuclear programs.” Reagan also assisted in China’s development of industries such as “intelligent robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, lasers, supercomputers, space technology and manned spaceflight.”
“Before long,” Pillsbury writes, “the Chinese had made significant progress on more than 10,000 projects, all heavily dependent on Western assistance and all crucial to China’s Marathon strategy.” Similar assistance has continued to this day.
Looking ahead, Pillsbury quotes a RAND Corporation study as saying that China will have “more than $1 trillion” to spend on their military through 2030. This “paints a picture of near parity, if not outright Chinese military superiority, by mid-century.” Gene Gregorio