China is way, way, way underdiscussed relative to everything else going on.
There is a recent Odd Lots episode about the chip sanctions that was pretty interesting. Also, Yglesias wrote a really great piece this morning:
T he issue is that if the U.S. sees China’s rise as threatening, then we will seek to hobble them. But if China thinks we are trying to hobble them, then China will feel compelled to overthrow our hegemony. This can lead to very negative-sum outcomes, even if absolutely everyone involved acknowledges that peaceful coexistence would be a better option. And that’s the position I find myself in, too. Reading Gregory Allen’s detailed technical report on Biden’s war on Chinese semiconductors, I am both glad that we are doing this and also alarmed by the implications. As he writes, “these actions demonstrate an unprecedented degree of U.S. government intervention to not only preserve chokepoint control but also begin a new U.S. policy of actively strangling large segments of the Chinese technology industry—strangling with an intent to kill.”
The consolidation of Xi’s dictatorship is such a huge disaster. Not only is a personal dictatorship scarier than a oligarchy, Xi is the worst leader China has had since Mao, so it’s awful (though probably not a coincidence), that it ended up being him to end up as permanent dictator. There don’t seem to be a lot of good options here. Letting China grab all of the most modern technology while their political system gets more abusive and more hostile to our interests isn’t ideal. But if we take away the carrot of tighter economic integration to induce them towards better behavior, what’s to stop them from moving on Taiwan now? I’m deeply worried that the chip sanctions are going to be a clear signal that peaceful cooperation will not get China any further along then it already is. If that’s true, and if China calculates that being cut off from cutting edge tech will make it hard or impossible to close the gap with the west, now is the ideal time to strike at Taiwan (or advance its final solution to the Uyghur problem). The combination of now (maybe) being a local maximum for their chances of Taiwan plus a new cap on the benefits of peaceful cooperation is a really scary place to be.
I’m not sure I disagree with the administration here, but I’m dumbfounded at how little attention this is getting, even among pretty news-aware people.