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Published: 00:53, June 06, 2023 | Updated: 10:03, June 06, 2023
US’ real national security and existential threat is from within
By Ho Lok-sang
Published:00:53, June 06, 2023 Updated:10:03, June 06, 2023 By Ho Lok-sang

I wrote a China Daily column published on April 18 titled Greatest Risk to National Security is from Within. I was then referring to China. I would say that the same applies to the United States. Yes, the US’ existential threat is not from without, and definitely not from China, but from within the country itself.

China has always considered the US a friend. But these days the US is bent on containing China, preventing its further rise, and undermining China’s interests even if this means hurting America’s own interests. The US is so preoccupied with an imagined external existential threat that it has failed to recognize that the real threat lies within its own borders. I am saddened to see that America continues raising its military spending even though the country is short of funds to repair and upgrade its badly run-down infrastructure, to fight crime and poverty, to fight climate change, to improve its healthcare system, and to address the opioid crisis, etc. Regina Ip wrote a China Daily opinion piece published on April 24, titled National Security Overreach Is US Malady. She is right: US national security overreach is the other side of the coin: The neglect of much more serious and rapidly worsening domestic problems.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government listed 20 dimensions of national security during the National Security Education Day celebration, including political security, military security, homeland security, economic security, financial security, cultural security, public security, science and technology security, cyber security, food security, ecological security, resource security, nuclear security, overseas interests security, outer space security, deep sea security, polar security, biological security, artificial intelligence security, and data security.

One can see that to China, national security does not just mean security of the country from invasion or subversion by other countries. National security also has to do with people’s livelihoods, the ecological system, the well-being of other species, and protection of oceans and outer space. In my article on April 18, I argued that the lack of critical and independent thinking among people is also a national security threat. Without critical and independent thinking, people can fall prey to fraudsters, fake news, and manipulation by those with ulterior motives. People may also fail to tell bad policies from good ones. Wrong policies may also hurt the country. Humbly and scientifically learning from past mistakes is how the Communist Party of China has managed to develop the country into what it is today.

China has always considered the US a friend. But these days the US is bent on containing China, preventing its further rise, and undermining China’s interests even if this means hurting America’s own interests

The US certainly knows that China has never occupied or overturned any other country. The same cannot be said of most of the G7 countries. These days the CPC is busy engaging other countries in development, mediating peace deals, improving its own infrastructure, managing its economy, and spearheading technological innovation. 

In October the Chinese ambassador for disarmament affairs Li Song reiterated China’s position of no preemptive use of nuclear weapons “at any time and under any circumstances”. Has the US ever made such a commitment? 

Writing in 2015, David Vine, an associate professor of sociology at American University and author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, wrote that notwithstanding the closing of hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, “the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad ...”. Military spending by the US today is greater than the total defense spending of the next 10 countries combined. But it is still keen on establishing more military bases, even at the expense of domestic needs. What is the US up to?  

“US life expectancy has declined to 76.4 years, the shortest it’s been in nearly two decades, according to December data from the CDC. ... The numbers are shocking,” said Dean Michelle Williams of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She also noted that “younger people in America are dying at higher rates than their counterparts in other high-income countries, and that that the US also has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among upper-income countries”.

China would have considered these figures as indicative of a serious national security problem. But US President Joe Biden and his cabinet apparently do not think so. All the increase in military spending will not raise America’s life expectancy. It will only feed the military industrial complex. Is the US leadership beholden to the interests of the military industrial complex?

The US badly needs leadership that will put its house in order. If one searches on the internet for “Divided States of America” one can easily find multiple entries. How strange it is, that while problems at home are crying out for help and need immediate attention, the US’ leadership seems united in the single unproductive enterprise of containing China’s rise. Enlightened entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon see China as an opportunity and not a threat, saying that they are fully committed to China.  

As I have noted before, the American Dream is really no different from the Chinese Dream, and Western civilization is really no different from Eastern civilization, since at least two millennia ago. We all want peace and prosperity. We need to work together and not to fight one another.  

The author is director of Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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