“I hear prominent Americans, disappointed that China has not become a democracy, claiming that China poses a threat to the American way of life,” Jimmy Carter wrote on the last day of 2018 in a Washington Post op-ed. That claim, Carter tells us, is a “dangerous notion.”
There is nothing more dangerous than a notion from the 39th president, even on China. China, despite what he said, threatens not only America’s way of life but also the existence of the American republic. Chinese ruler Xi Jinping has, in recent years, been making the extraordinary case that the U.S. is not a sovereign state.
The breathtaking position puts China’s aggressive actions into a far more ominous context.
Carter, and almost all others who comment on Chinese foreign policy, see Beijing competing for influence in the current international order. That existing order, accepted virtually everywhere, is based on the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which recognizes the sovereignty of individual states that are supposed to refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs. Those states now compete and cooperate in a framework, largely developed after World War II, of treaties, conventions, covenants, and norms.