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The South China Sea is more than 7,000 miles from San Diego, yet it became the sight of a showdown between China and the United States on Sept. 30, as the USS Decatur nearly collided with a Chinese destroyer bent on blocking its path. The Chinese ship came within 45 yards of the U.S. vessel and its 356 crew members in a breathtaking—and deliberate—close call.
The incident marked “the most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful U.S. Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date” by China’s navy, said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.
Experts agree that China will likely be the dominant naval force in the Pacific by 2030, and the United States is overdue in confronting its relentless aggression—militarily, economically, and in cyberspace—even if experts disagree about the best way to do that.
In an Oct. 4 speech, Vice President Mike Pence recounted a history of U.S.-China relations threatened by current Chinese policy. He noted Beijing “has taken a sharp U-turn toward control and oppression of its own people.”
Experts agree that China will likely be the dominant naval force in the Pacific by 2030.
Into this light, imagine what may happen should a flotilla of troop carriers flanked by destroyers and perhaps an aircraft carrier loom on the horizon in the Pacific. China’s navy arrives in American waters undetected. China says it doesn’t want war, only occupation. Agree to control of the U.S. mainland from Beijing, and China will not only rule the United States but provide for it, orderly and with free internet and state-of-the-art technology for all, goes the offer. A universal app then appears on mobile devices, requiring Americans to select “War”—at which the Chinese navy would commence firing—or “Accept the Offer” and the navy would withdraw, instituting its conditions via remote.
This thought exercise was conceived in the mind of a professor at a Christian college and presented this fall to his students to plumb their thinking beyond the politics of the day, to consider not only China’s place in the world but the worth of U.S. nationhood.
The answers, this professor discovered, weren’t equivocal. Most students in several classes said they would choose “Accept the Offer.” One student asked, “What reason would you have for fighting?” and the professor realized most of the class sympathized with the question.
A tough U.S.-China policy confounds Americans born at the dawn of a new millennium. They have grown up with a country perpetually at war abroad and at war with itself.
They know little of earlier upheaval, controversy over the Vietnam War, the Red Scare, and the excesses of the Nixon and Clinton years. Quiz them and you too will discover how little of the late 20th century gets taught in high school or college.
Students also miss lessons on civil rights progress, on a country righted from executive-branch excesses, or on advances made possible by uniquely inspired U.S. freedoms—not only in technology, but in feeding the world, alleviating poverty, and advancing a life-giving gospel.
What college-aged Americans in 2018 see of their country instead is its neglected infrastructure, its slow adaptation to latest technology, and its disordered government.
They see something else: Many of their peers are more kind and polite in their public discourse, more compassionate in their attempts to help the downtrodden, than those they are supposed to look up to. It’s perhaps not surprising, however naïve, some would welcome an offer of outside control, one promising order and universal goods like connectivity.
How can we shape young adult minds to think on the world in fresh but sober-minded ways? Our homes may differ little from the world’s, feeding diets of distraction. Our schools—not only public but also private, including Christian and homeschools—may teach students how to feel more than how to think, load coursework with activities to make learning relevant instead of making it meaningful.
Seeking the welfare of the city, as the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah instructs, involves not only compassion but also knowledge of the territory, including history. It means appreciating what we have and not looking starry-eyed or indifferent when would-be conquerors loom on the horizon.