President Donald Trump’s administration has published the 2017 National Security Strategy, the first of this presidency. The document focuses heavily on the threat communist China poses to American influence on trade, defense, technology, and human rights.
In its introduction, the document identifies China as working to “challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Both China and Russia, it argues, “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”
Below are five specific ways the document identifies China as a threat to America’s national security:
Intellectual Property Theft
The National Security Strategy estimates that China steals “hundreds of billions of dollars” in American intellectual property through hacking, counterfeiting, and other illicit measures.
“Stealing proprietary technology and early-stage ideas allows competitors to unfairly tap into the innovation of free societies,” it warns, adding:
Over the years, rivals have used sophisticated means to weaken our businesses and our economy as facets of cyber-enabled economic warfare and other malicious activities. In addition to these illegal means, some actors use largely legitimate, legal transfers and relationships to gain access to fields, experts, and trusted foundries that fill their capability gaps and erode America’s long-term competitive advantages.
The strategy proposes to “reduce the illicit appropriation of U.S. public and private sector technology and technical knowledge by hostile foreign competitors,” suggesting Congress work with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)” to establish successful monitoring and law enforcement to target intellectual property criminals.
Human Rights and Religious Freedom
China is one of the greatest violators of human rights in the world. The country has branded Christianity a “national security threat,” has banned many peaceful Islamic activities in Uighur communities, and routinely attacks the Dalai Lama as a criminal. While not mentioning China directly on this subject, the NSS addresses religious freedom as a priority for American interests abroad.
“We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities,” the document reads. “Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage.”
China’s Role in the Opioid Epidemic
In a notable shift in policy, the NSS appears to address drug epidemics as a national security problem. In particular, the document addresses the development of public health programs and targeting of illicit drugs entering the country as a national security issue.
The document reads:
We will support public health efforts to halt the growth of illicit drug use in the United States, expand national and community-based prevention efforts, increase access to evidenced-based treatment for addiction, improve prescription drug monitoring, and provide training on substance use disorders for medical personnel.
While a host of nations, from Iran to Colombia, suffer drug woes that directly affect the American people, China’s drug industry has hit the United States hard. Chinese drug traffickers have increased their importing of fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that has become increasingly popular and deadly among American heroin addicts.
“The illicit opioid epidemic, fed by drug cartels as well as Chinese fentanyl traffickers, kills tens of thousands of Americans each year,” the NSS reads. “These organizations weaken our allies and partners too, by corrupting and undermining democratic institutions.”
China’s Bad-Faith Investment in Developing World Infrastructure
Without calling it out by name, the National Security Strategy acknowledged the threat to global stability presented by “One Belt One Road,” (OBOR) China’s economic development plan to take over the world. OBOR consists, in part, of a sprawling network of infrastructure projects between Beijing and western Europe that targets developing and economically struggling nations. Chinese contractors come in, build roads (ostensibly using local labor), and then, Beijing hopes, China would control these trade routes completely, after having trapped the nations who agreed to pay for the projects in debt.
The NSS addresses this problem, identifying Russia as another nation adopting a smaller-scale version of this tactic. “China and Russia target their investments in the developing world to expand influence and gain competitive advantages against the United States,” it reads. “China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure across the globe.”
To confront the threat, the NSS suggests that the U.S. provide:
an alternative to state-directed investments, which often leave developing countries worse off. The United States pursues economic ties not only for market access but also to create enduring relationships to advance common political and security interests. The United States will promote a development model that partners with countries that want progress, consistent with their culture, based on free market principles, fair and reciprocal trade, private sector activity, and rule of law.
The Colonization of the South China Sea
While the Silk Road Economic Belt (the belt in OBOR) is set to grant China control over the Asian heartland, the Maritime Silk Road project will facilitate its full control of the seas. China has spent millions developing illegal artificial islands in the South China Sea, in territories belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines. These islands are now equipped with missiles, fighter jets, and advanced surveillance technology.
“[China’s] efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability,” the NSS notes. “China has mounted a rapid military modernization campaign designed to limit U.S. access to the region and provide China a freer hand there. China presents its ambitions as mutually beneficial, but Chinese dominance risks diminishing the sovereignty of many states in the Indo-Pacific.”
The strategy vows that America will “help South Asian nations maintain their sovereignty as China increases its influence in the region.”