Chinese support for Syria’s demands for the return of the Golan Heights illustrates a major shift in China’s policy. Traditionally isolationist, China increasingly is taking a global approach. In the world of competing empires, trade is intertwined with politics. Trade balance, oil deliveries, arms sales, and similar high-ticket notions exist in the framework of intergovernmental relations.

Huge empires like China have traditionally tolerated lawlessness in their remote border areas. In the information age, border infringements are publicized and interpreted as weakness, diminishing the affected state’s reputation and endangering it. Suddenly, needing to secure its borders, China has to cooperate with Vietnam, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Central Asia—the world’s trouble zone. Learning from the US blockade of Japan in WWII, China works hard to secure oil supplies and diversify its export markets. The Chinese diaspora in many countries offers an opportunity to expand Chinese influence too tempting to forgo.

China will not attack the US. Neither did Japan intend to invade the Continental US when it attacked Pearl Harbor. China, like Japan before WWII, is simply a great menace. Nuclear proliferation, arms sales, pragmatic foreign alliances without regard to the consequences for other countries, oil and gas purchases from rogue regimes, the circumvention of sanctions on pariah states, and institutional hostility toward America make China dangerous.

Still, the West finances China by doing business with it, and provides China with access to international capital markets instead of cutting that lifeline. Most importantly it allows China to steal Western products and technologies. Everyone knows that China engages in the worst form of robbery—the piracy of hi-tech goods and technologies—but the West tolerates the theft. The West provides China with free access to the most valuable franchise—knowledge. Western parents and taxpayers finance universities, and Western consumers pay for corporate research by purchasing new products. China obtains the fruits of Western theoretical and applied research for the price of subscription to scientific magazines.

The West’s lamentations over its inability to counter China’s massive theft of intellectual property are unwarranted. Though China cannot be sent to conventional jail like any other thief, it could be imprisoned by economic blockade.