The Perfectly Ironic Chinese Foreign Direct Investment

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REUTERS / Kimberly White

The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels fly by the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal story of how Chinese state bank (China Development Bank) is pumping $1.7 billion into two long-stalled redevelopment projects in the San Francisco Bay area – namely, Hunter’s Point (a Navy base until 1974) and Treasure Island (same until 1996) — is worth noting.

Both are familiar to me: as a Center for Naval Analyses analyst in the mid-1990s, I helped lead a political mobilization project for Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Bill Owens that had CNA working with local communities to avail themselves of resources freed up by base closures.  Having previously been a Sovietologist, it was an easy shift for me to enter the Bay Area political scene.  I ended up writing a primer for political activists looking to do the same elsewhere.

Why I find this to be the perfect irony:

— The U.S. long had a grand strategic approach to East Asia that saw us encourage export-driven growth and thus the “peaceful rise” of a number of economic powers there – to include (obviously) China. The deal was simple: you (Asia) take a chunk of your trade surplus and plow that money back into U.S. debt markets to keep the dollar cheap and allow us to finance our Leviathan force that obviates arms racing in the region.

— Now, of course, with China having risen so much, we naturally fear it and are engaged in a “strategic pivot” toward East Asia that sees us massing naval assets there and selling arms like crazy to everybody but China (ah shucks, sometimes grand strategies work too well!).

— Now, as our economy continues to struggle and our federal government teeters near complete bankruptcy, we desperately need Chinese foreign direct investment.  So why not have it flow into housing development projects that target old U.S. naval bases! That way, we can rebound our economy, eventually bolster our defense spending, and, on that basis, build and point more weapons at China – our most important source of new foreign direct investment in our embryonic recovery!

Honestly, you can’t make stuff like this up.

Meanwhile, back at the Pentagon, our China hawks plan their brilliant high-tech “A2AD” war against the Middle Kingdom . . .


Ah, we must continue to play the “long game,” trading our real estate for future weaponry – brilliant strategic leadership courtesy of our current political-military leadership.

And we wonder why “declinist” arguments abound . . ..