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Monday, March 1, 2021

The Threat From China is Real. Will Biden Rise to the Challenge?

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After his recent 2-hour Lunar New Year phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Joe Biden said that China may “eat our lunch.” His statement contradicts his May, 1, 2019 downplaying of the increasing Chinese threat in which Biden said: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”

Already off to a slow start in the face of multiple foreign policy challenges, with noteworthy skepticism about his longstanding record in foreign affairs, and concerning questions about his own family’s business ties to China, Mr. Biden would do well to reverse his long record of appeasement of China to pursue a much firmer approach to the serious strategic challenges that China presents to the moral, military, and material interests of the United States and our allies.

Mr. Biden would do well to reverse his long record of appeasement of China to pursue a much firmer approach to the serious strategic challenges that China presents

Let’s do a quick rundown of the Chinese record:

DOMESTIC REPRESSION

The West has long been repulsed by China’s one-child policy of “gendercide” and systematic human rights abuse against women and girls, including forced sterilizations, birth control surgeries, and the insertion of inter-uterine devices.

The Chinese regime oppresses Tibetans, Turkic Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, Muslims in Ningxia and Xinjiang, the Falun Gong faithful, and Christians in Henan province in an attempt to erase minority cultures through a virtual slave labor market based on “re-education” camps that enforce totalitarian control. Some 1 million Uyghurs are in concentration camps where victims endure food and sleep deprivation and gang rapes with electric batons.

A 13-ton shipment made out of Uyghur prisoners’ human hair was recently seized by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of New York/Newark. The shipment originated in internment camps, where political prisoners are reportedly subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, forced labor, forced organ harvesting, and death.

An ethnic Uyghur man holds his grandson as he sits outside his house in an area waiting development by authorities on June 28, 2017 in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a digital dictatorship which uses an Orwellian social credit score system to track and evaluate people and businesses for “trustworthiness and merit.” Human Rights Watch has reported the deployment of mass surveillance systems to collect biometrics including DNA and voice samples as well as real-time monitoring of individuals via cameras. Neighbors report on each other, resulting in punishment such as denial of the right to travel or attend school.

China’s control of all state media includes the denial of internet privacy, censorship of social networks, and the expulsion and arrest of journalists and dissidents like publisher Jimmy Lai and the mother of a Chinese virologist.

REGIONAL AGGRESSION

Images from U.S. naval surveillance reveal that China has a land reclamation project to place military equipment on a chain of artificial islands as it seeks maritime dominance across the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific.

Repudiating its treaty commitments, on the 23rd anniversary of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) completely engulfed the sovereignty of Hong Kong, outlawing its future independence. Reminiscent of the crackdown in 1989 at Tiananmen Square, the CCP has now criminalized dissent in one of the world’s most dynamic financial centers.

Tensions have increased throughout Asia, including across Japan and South Korea. Taiwanese hopes for continued independence now face the threat of invasion and war from the mainland. China’s recent incursion into the Lakath region resulted in a violent skirmish with India.

China has a robust military in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It has more ships than the United States Navy and is building its 3rd aircraft carrier. In response, the U.S. Naval 7th Fleet has launched area military exercises led by two U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Ronald W. Reagan, CNV ’76, and the USS Nimitz, CVN ’68.

GLOBAL CHALLENGE

China refused to sound the alarm on the coronavirus, colluded with the World Health Organization (WHO) to deny the reality of the virus’ human transmission, and ejected scientists and journalists seeking critical information for global health. The CCP covered up its role and lacked transparency even while secretly buying up protective equipment and masks on the global market. Limiting travel in China but allowing thousands of Chinese workers into Italy was a key factor in turning Covid-19 into a global pandemic and economic crisis.

China is the primary source country for the addictive drug fentanyl, collaborating on production and distribution with the Mexican drug cartel.

The many tainted food and consumer products exported from China now includes ice cream contaminated with coronavirus.

Further, China is the world’s largest emitter (some 30%) of global greenhouse emissions. Rapid industrialization has created severe pollution in Beijing and other large cities as China has failed to cooperate with international hydro-carbon emissions standards.

Smoke and steam billows from a Chinese state owned steel plant on June 2, 2017 in Hebei, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

China has been the longtime protector of North Korea, and has worked against global efforts at non-proliferation. In fact, China’s goal is to replace the United States as the global superpower and key player in the Middle East.

China’s port in Gwadar, Pakistan and its military base in Djibouti are signs of China’s strategic campaign. Gwadar and Djibouti alone will soon give China the ability to guard—or threaten—the two key choke points through which Middle Eastern oil flows.

China has long courted the high-tech industry in Israel and a trade and energy relationship with Turkey. Now, throwing the Iranian regime a lifeline, China has organized a 25-year $400 billion strategic partnership with Tehran. China seeks below-market priced oil and massive regional influence in return for propping up the Iranian tyranny.

ECONOMIC HARDBALL

China’s strong growth over the past 30 years was not accompanied by political reform. Capitalism in a communist form has meant harsh economic warfare.

China’s strong growth over the past 30 years was not accompanied by political reform.

Contentious trade negotiations in recent years resulted in U.S. tariffs, due to a massive U.S. trade deficit with China, which manipulates its currency and engages in widespread money laundering; strictly limits the rights of foreign investors; commits prolific theft of intellectual property, corporate technology, and trade secrets; and dominates the global supply chain through massive government subsidies and the dumping of cheaply manufactured (or often “knock-off”) consumer products built on what many consider to be slave labor.

China is a mercantilist power. The “Polar Silk Road Project” launched in January 2018, seeks to extract natural resources, establish its own transportation infrastructure, and convert its growing economic power into political influence.

The “Belt & Road Initiative” is designed to trap vulnerable developing nations through infrastructure loans, with the grand strategy of controlling the regional and even international marketplace. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian and African countries caught in China’s debt-trap “loan diplomacy” may see their dependency deepen.

Recently, American professors, including the Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry Department, were arrested for lying about receiving large sums in return for the unlawful theft and smuggling of U.S. taxpayer funded scientific research in fields ranging from biological nanotechnology to robotics.

Confucius Institutes place students on U.S. campuses under Chinese direction to spread communist narratives to unsuspecting American students.

Chinese lobbyists find their way inside Capitol Hill, with Chinese financial contributions and incentives all aimed at political influence. It’s well known that China relentlessly pursues corporate espionage and the acquisition of sensitive nuclear and cyber technology.

The world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, Huawei Technologies Inc., as well as ZTE Corporation, both headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, have been singled out by American officials for sanctions and bans over deep concern at their association with the PLA and the risks inherent in surveillance and spying technologies potentially embedded in cell phone and computer products.

The Huawei stand promotes 5G products at the IFA 2020 Special Edition consumer electronics and appliances trade fair on September 03, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The popular Tik Tok application may make American consumers vulnerable to the cyber theft of private information.

China’s bid for world dominance is proceeding as it races to control a virtual technological empire — the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While the U.S has dominated computer technology to date, China is now racing ahead in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the 5G internet.

THREAT TO AMERICA 

Chinese hackers are behind the major online breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the theft of data from twenty-two million current and formal federal employees.

The massive spy ring at the China consulate in Houston ended with employees burning sensitive papers throughout the night.

China has invested heavily to create a range of advocates for its interests by infiltrating into different corners of the U.S. ruling class, including Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and even the NBA. The CCP’s growing influence across our economy and culture includes a controlling interest in large corporations.  China’s growing investments in American education, entertainment, and media increasingly influence our consumer lives.

U.S. POLICY OPTIONS

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu teaches that one should know the enemy.

Unsurprisingly, China has not been gracious to President Biden, and the WHO has not changed its allegiance to China.

Unfortunately, Mr. Biden, who called limiting Chinese travel into the U.S. at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic “hysteria” and “xenophobia,” appears reticent in confronting the CCP.  His EPA administrator admitted that China will benefit from U.S. environmental policy that favors solar panels, and, appearing to mimic Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Biden is already hinting about overlooking the CCP’s most egregious misbehavior and genocide of the Uyghurs.

If the United States is to be true to our values and interests it must go on offense in our strategic competition with a rising China.

If the United States is to be true to our values and interests it must go on offense in our strategic competition with a rising China.

First, the Administration could strengthen our military alliances and diplomatic partnerships throughout Asia, including with South Korea, Japan, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and Taiwan, as per the recent sale of U.S. fighter aircraft. The American defense posture must improve our cyber-tech defense capability and pivot sharply to the South China Sea, with continuing U.S. Naval exercises in the Pacific.

Next, the State Department should stand by Chinese dissidents and suspend entry to those who are U.S. security risks. The U.S. Treasury could seize the assets of and sanction CCP officials who have abused freedom in Hong Kong. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission could enforce registration laws and promote audits, ban Swift Savings Plans from investing in China, and de-list Chinese government related firms that do not meet investor protection standards.

Our universities must resist the temptation to take Chinese money in return for the sharing of American technological assets. The U.S. will surely lose the race for dominance of quantum computing, 5G, signal encryption, artificial intelligence, and chip manufacturing if we don’t start graduating more computer science engineers.

Finally, the American people could rise up and pay a few pennies more for “Made in America” products, rather than “Made in China” (often by slave labor), to improve U.S supply-chain security, particularly in pharmaceuticals.

Perhaps a grassroots movement to support efforts to ask the International Olympic Committee to move the scheduled 2022 Winter Games from Beijing will follow Congressional support calling for a U.S. boycott.

One hopes that President Biden will establish a clear doctrine to join the human rights, domestic manufacturing, and national security communities, which all believe it is long past time for the U.S. to play much tougher with China.


Larry Greenfield is a Fellow of The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

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