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You have heard the one about the scorpion and frog, in which a wary amphibian is talked into ferrying a venomous arachnid across the pond by the latter’s reasonable explanation that if he were to sting the frog they both would die. Halfway over, the scorpion administers a fatal prick of poison, explaining to the horrified frog, “I am, after all, a scorpion.”
The fable has a particular sting as we survey the damage done by having entrusted to Communist China the production of our clothing, handbags, electronics, cell phones, hand tools, TVs, face masks, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and 90 percent of our antibiotics.
“Wolves” abound in this world, and we are meant to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Isaiah rebuked King Hezekiah for his naïveté toward Babylonian emissaries who called on him hat in hand when he was ill, taking mental notes of all he owned so as to return a second time with battering rams (2 Kings 20). Nehemiah, more savvy, saw through the politeness of scoundrels (Nehemiah 6:12).
The misunderstanding of Communists in particular and human nature in general were topics addressed by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his 1978 Harvard commencement address, for which he was booed. Of naïveté regarding Communists he chided, “If you only knew how the youngest of the officials in Moscow’s Old Square roar with laughter at your political wizards!”
“Wolves” abound in this world, and we are meant to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Of naïveté regarding human nature the former prisoner of a Soviet Gulag said, “The tilt of freedom toward evil … stems from a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which man … does not bear any evil within himself, and all the defects of life are caused by misguided social systems, which must therefore be corrected.”
C.S. Lewis dismissed the same romantic view of progress and perfectibility of man in his essay “The World’s Last Night”: “In my opinion, the modern conception of Progress or Evolution (as popularly imagined) is simply a myth, supported by no evidence whatever. … No one looking at world history without some preconception in favor of progress could find in it a steady up gradient.”
The world history with which 2nd Lt. Clive Staples Lewis was most personally familiar was “the war to end all wars.” (It didn’t.) He could well have been referring to the 1899 Hague Convention of nations, called by Tzar Nicholas II, whose jejune goal, among others, was to prohibit the use “of projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.” So what did Germany do? It unleashed 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas on French African divisions in Ypres, Belgium, on April 22, 1915. When censured by the British, Germany replied that the French had started it. Which in fact they had.
Nadia Schadlow, who helped write Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy, recalls that when China was invited into the World Trade Organization in 2001, President George W. Bush expressed the hope that it would be a “responsible stakeholder.” It turned out that “the Chinese Communist Party used the advantages of WTO membership to advance a political and economic system at odds with America’s free and open society” (“Consider the Possibility That Trump Is Right About China,” The Atlantic, April 5, 2020).
“China’s leaders have become quite skillful at using [multilateral and international organizations that are supposed to constrain her] to pursue their own interests. President Xi Jinping has made it a priority—as he put it in a 2018 speech—to ‘reform’ and lead in the ‘global governance system,’ viewing such efforts as integral to ‘building a modern, strong socialist country.’”
When I lost my good American spatula, my husband came home from the market with one made in China. It was cheap enough but bends like taffy when I try to scrape an egg off a pan with it. Maybe now that our chickens are come home to roost it’s a good time to rethink our dependence on helpful “friends” who may be scorpions in disguise.