Monday, June 1, 2015

The solution to China rests in The LEGO® Movie

The LEGO® Movie, from LEGO®
If you haven't seen The LEGO® Movie already, you need to.  I grew up with LEGO® bricks and have passed on the building tradition to my kids.  I took two of my kids to the theater to see the movie, which they loved so much that we bought it.  My wife, always a skeptic and definitely not a Master Builder, had her doubts, but after watching the movie she agreed that it was awesome.

(I spoil the movie below, so don't continue reading if you want to preserve the surprise)

All in favor of stamping out the Master Builders, raise your hand
The LEGO® Movie does more than describe the battle between the creative Master Builders and Lord Business.  In an uncanny way, it gives a fairly accurate portrayal of China and the United States battling for supremacy in the Pacific.  Not only can we draw similarities to the current situation, but we can see the desired solution as well.

First, we have to remember that the Communist Party is currently in trouble.  At the beginning of the movie, Lord Business (China) finds the magical Kragle, despite the best efforts of Visuvius.  Tired of all the mixing between Lego sets, Lord Business wants to fix everything in the perfect place, arranged completely how he likes it.  Not surprisingly, the Chinese Communist Party desires its own Kragle for the Chinese people.  They want a permanent place in government and complete control over how Chinese people act, what they believe and even eat, in a China where the common person more and more doesn't identify with the Party.  Just as Lord Business sees flaws when LEGO® sets mix, the Communist Party sees a challenge to their authority from Western ideas, and will do anything to fix those flaws quickly.
The Kragle is how China fixes holes in The Great Firewall

All is not awesome below the surface.  The movie's hero, Emmet, is stuck in his surrounding's trappings.  He listens to the same music every day, buys the same coffee and works on a construction team that, with few exceptions, doesn't have much of their own personal identities.  You could paint each LEGO® figure like a Han Chinese person and their lives would be what you read in Xinhua or PLA Daily.  A little red book accessory in every LEGO® Minifigure's hand would complete the picture.
This guy could easily become a LEGO® Minifigure!
But everything is not awesome once Emmet steps out of line.  Soon he joins the ranks of the Master Builders, dangerous creative types that don't want to follow the rules.  These Master Builders like to mingle, swapping ideas and creating new sets all the time.  While the product isn't always beautiful to look at (MetalBeard is fairly hideous), the point is that the Master Builders are free to express themselves and can do so without causing harm.  At worst, Green Lantern gets on Superman's nerves just a bit too much.
Everything is awesome, unless you're a non-Chinese South China Sea claimant
Because this freedom conflicts with the master plan in Lord Business' head, it can't be allowed to survive.  The Master Builder's are rounded up and tapped for their powers.  Notice that Lord Business doesn't kill them immediately, because despite the threat their powers are still useful to him.  This coincides with Chinese economic thinking, where it is a "free market" with Chinese aspects.  Lord Business and the Chinese Communist Party would be happy if everyone just followed the instructions/rules.  This of course can't happen with free thinkers, hence the inevitable conflict.
The fate of the F-35 and Littoral Combat Ship in any future fight

Emmet has to put together a coalition to fight Lord Business.  He's not powerful enough on his own, despite being told he's The Special.  That makes the other's jealous, but because they are allowed to express themselves, they tolerate it and move on.  The coalition comes with different abilities and they do a decent job of slowing Lord Business down, but in the end it isn't enough.  Whether Emmet represents the US, some sort of ASEAN or Pacific coalition, or the average American given a daily trophy for being special is up for debate. 
Coalition operations feel a lot like this. Multiple European nations could be Unikitty and the Crazy Cat Lady.
The real solution is in bringing Lord Business into the fold, and the same is true for China.  The Master Builders could fight Lord Business all day, but even if they defeated him, some other LEGO® super villain would construct from the scattered LEGO® bricks to attack again.  By persuading Lord Business to contribute to the LEGO® world in a meaningful way, the Master Builders create a better world in the end.
Just like Emmet, working in the construction field to make a better pounding big rocks into smaller ones.
Secretary Carter said essentially the same thing on 30 May: "And that’s the theme of my remarks today: the United States wants a shared regional architecture that is strong enough, capable enough, and connected enough to ensure that all Asia-Pacific peoples and nations have the opportunity to rise – and continue to rise – in the future.  The United States wants a future in which an Indonesian fisherman, an energy executive from Malaysia, an entrepreneur from Singapore, a small business owner in California, and a Chinese businesswoman – just to name a few – have the security and opportunity to rise and prosper.  And the United States wants to protect the rights of all countries, whether large or small, to win…to rise, to prosper and to determine their own destiny."

Even if those countries are like Green Lantern.
Sometimes we let other countries play in a coalition, even when we don't want to
LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.  All pictures, minus the communist propaganda, are from The LEGO® Movie, which you need to go see.  For more information on LEGO® trademark rules, please go here.  The views above are the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the US Navy or the US Department of Defense.