President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled his first National Security Study (NSS), and came down surprisingly hard on China. It’s about time that someone did.
Repeating a staple of his campaign rhetoric, Trump accused China of exploiting the international trading system to its advantage.
But he didn’t stop there. He declared that China is a “rival.” His National Security Study described China as a “strategic competitor” that has “subsidized [its] industries, forced technology transfers and distorted markets,” all policies of economic aggression consciously designed to strengthen China and weaken the U.S.
Spot on, Mr. President.
It has long been obvious to me that Beijing has deliberately set out to destroy entire sectors of the U.S. economy to gain a strategic advantage. This tactic is so well known in China that it even has a name. It is called, “Removing the firewood from under the pot.”
How do you build steel ships when you have no steel plants left because of Chinese dumping? How do you secure computer systems when the only chips available are manufactured by your chief adversary?
China is attempting to “erode American security and prosperity,” Trump’s NSS goes on to explain, because it is a “revisionist power” determined to “shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.”
In other words, China wants to be the hegemon — the dominant power on the planet — and is determined to crush the only country that stands in its way.
Trump figured out decades ago that China was cheating on trade, already mentioning it in his book, The America We Deserve, published back in 2000. But China cheats on nearly everything else as well, as the President now understands from intelligence agency briefings. China has violated a long list of international agreements, from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong.
“All together, intellectual-property theft costs America up to $600 billion a year, the greatest transfer of wealth in history,” estimate Dennis Blair and Keith Alexander. China accounts for most of that loss.
China — alone among our adversaries — is in a no-holds-barred competition with the U.S. for economic, political, military, and informational dominance. Trump, unlike his predecessors, not only gets this, he is not afraid to say so.
Now it has been obvious for 20 years that China has been committing economic hate crimes against the American people. The forced transfer of trillions of dollars of wealth, technology, and intellectual property across the Pacific has long been an open secret. The shuttered factories, the millions of workers in the unemployment lines, and the wage stagnation of the middle class were starkly obvious.
China’s leaders might just as well have carpet-bombed the industrial heartland of the U.S. into rubble. The end result has been the same.
So why has no president called them out until now?
The answer is that, until now, presidents have been convinced by the American foreign policy establishment that a rising China was good for America.
This was a view that Barack Obama often championed. “I’ve been very explicit,” the former President remarked on more than one occasion, “in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China.”
Most Americans, I suspect, would prefer dealing with a “weakened, threatened China,” rather than the powerful, threatening, and aggressive bully of Asia that our feckless policies have helped to create. I know that China’s near neighbors, countries like South Korea and Vietnam, would.
But Obama’s foreign policy advisors had a different view. They were convinced that China’s opening to the West, combined with its increasing prosperity, would painlessly result in its peaceful evolution away from one-party dictatorship towards a more open political system. As more Chinese ate Big Macs, watched Hollywood movies, and vacationed in Florida, they would willy-nilly become just like us. The dangerous Chinese Dragon would be transformed into a cuddly kung-fu panda.
These supposed experts believed that a “rising China” would gradually grow more open. They even dreamed that it would eventually evolve into a pluralistic democracy not all that much different from our own. All that was required on America’s part was a couple decades of strategic patience.
This pleasant fantasy about China’s future was dead wrong — something that should have been obvious as early as June 4, 1989, when the charming Deng Xiaoping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to “shed a little blood” to disperse the tens of thousands of innocent students in and around Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing.
Those still not convinced might consider the actions of China’s current leader. The ever-smiling Xi Jinping is carrying out a multi-year crackdown on Christians, Tibetans, Uyghurs, human rights activists, dissident lawyers, and – well – just about anyone and everyone else who dares to question the People’s Democratic Dictatorship over which he — in increasingly dictatorial fashion — presides.
It is long past time to discard the idea that China’s rise is anything but a disaster of global proportions. For the disturbing truth is that the China that is rising is the precise opposite of the China of our complacent fantasies.
The People’s Republic of China is changing, all right: it is steadily marching backwards towards the totalitarianism that gave it birth.
America’s China policy of the last quarter century has been an abject failure. In fact, it may well rank as the greatest strategic failure of any great power in modern history. In facilitating the rise of China, we have inadvertently created a strategic adversary that intends to bury us.
The good news is that, in Donald Trump, we finally have a president who understands this. Trump is determined that America will not be eclipsed by China. It is in every American’s interest that he succeeds.
For if he doesn’t, China will be great and America will be … history.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of the newly published, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order (Regnery)