Gordon Chang, an expert on China, columnist at The Daily Beast, and author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World, joined Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Tonight co-hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak on Wednesday, describing China’s political leadership as pursuing a geopolitical ambition of “world domination.” The country’s leadership, he added, views China as “the only sovereign state in the world.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to supplant the Westphalian international order of sovereign states with a global Chinese empire, said Chang.
Mansour asked Chang about China’s intentions. “When we look at the One Belt One Road initiative, it seems as if China is moving in and expanding in all sort of places. They’re making gestures in the Middle East, and you see their presence more in Latin America and various places all over the globe. What do you think is their endgame? What is their ambition with all of this?”
“It’s world domination,” Chang stated. “Although that might sound ludicrous, Xi Jinping has been talking in that direction for about a decade, but he’s become much more explicit about China’s goals recently. This is not just [about] replacing the United States as the world’s most powerful nation in the current international system. The Chinese have been talking about actually overthrowing the current system. … People have been discussing Xi Jinping’s theory of international relations as replacing the Western theories of international relations for the last 300 years. Well, if you subtract 300 years from today, you get to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 that establishes the international order that we see today of sovereign states competing with one another. When China says that they want to replace that system, it means they want to go back to their imperial system of where they governed all under heaven. This is breathtaking. This is ludicrous, but, nonetheless, this is the way Chinese are talking these days, and we’ve got to understand the nature of the challenge – not just to the U.S., not just to our friends and allies, but to the whole concept of the world as we see it today.”
China’s foreign minister echoed Xi Jinping’s expressed desire to overturn the Westphalian international order and unify the world under a new Chinese empire, said Chang.
“That is the inevitable conclusion when you look at what [Chinese political leadership] have actually been saying,” said Chang. “Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, wrote an article in Study Times, which is the Central Party School’s newspaper, which is an authoritative publication [in which he] said that Xi Jinping’s thoughts on international relations supersede and transcend Western thoughts of international relations for the last 300 years.”
He continued, “Xi Jinping has actually been talking about everyone as one family under heaven. When you put those two statements together, the inevitable conclusion is that the Chinese see themselves as the only sovereign and that everyone else should be paying tribute to them. … This is an illustration of China’s ambitions these days. China’s not just content with the world as it is; it actually wants to overthrow the international system.”
Xi Jinping is becoming dictatorial, according to Chang. “China is moving in all of the wrong directions, and it looks extremely dangerous. It’s not only just a question of Xi Jinping making himself a dictator; he’s now using the language of the imperial era, which suggests that he believes that there is only one sovereign state in the world, and that is China.”
Chang lamented what he described as a “willful blindness” across America’s political establishment regarding threats to American national security and the global order posed by China’s ascendance. Decades of predictions of China’s democratization and liberalization had not come to pass, he added. “There certainly is a willful blindness [that] cuts across the U.S. political spectrum, and it goes back decades, where American leaders have sought to integrate China into the international system, really believing in the end that China would be more like us [and] become democratic [and open up] free markets.”
Instability in China is rising via a growing tension between attitudinal liberalization among Chinese and an increasingly authoritative Chinese state, said Chang. The Chinese state is further using belligerency towards its neighbors and America — combined with an “ugly nationalism” using race-based appeals — to bolster its legitimacy among its subjects, he added.
Steven Mosher, China expert and author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order, similarly described China’s state-run nationalistic messaging as based in ethnicity and race.
“Although the Chinese people may be becoming more like us, their political system is moving back to something Mao Zedong would find familiar, or even worse, something that China’s imperial rulers, for two millennia, would find familiar,” stated Chang. “That really is the problem where the Chinese political system is moving one way and Chinese society is moving another. That makes China quite unstable. It also means that as the Communist Party looks at the Chinese people, it realizes it needs to be more coercive in its political system and needs to bolster its legitimacy by being more belligerent and provocative towards its neighbors and the United States.”
Chang went on to say that “the communist party understands these days that it can no longer assure the delivery of prosperity, so the only remaining basis of legitimacy for the party is nationalism, and that’s an ugly nationalism. We’re also seeing in China appeals to the Chinese people based on race, and this has caused consternation in other countries that understand what the Chinese leadership is doing,” he said, adding, “This is what we have seen in the 1930s in Japan, and there are even shades of what the Germans were doing in terms of race-based appeals. China is moving in extremely dangerous directions. We have not been paying attention to it, or we have been trying to minimize what we see going wrong.”
China’s increasing authoritarianism weaponizes the law as an instrument of control, Chang said. “Legalism has a distinct meaning, which is really different from what we would normally think when someone uses the word ‘legal.’ This is a concept that the Chinese rulers set the law, and that is what the Chinese people must follow. There is no rule of law; there is rule by law. The law is used as an instrument of coercion.”
China undermines American society via infiltration of both secondary and post-secondary education across the country, said Chang, pointing to the Confucius Institute as a de facto arm of the Chinese state.
“We need to have the political will to impose costs on China for clearly unacceptable behavior,” said Chang. “We need to make sure that we remove Chinese communist influence from our college campuses. These are the Confucius Institutes. There are 105 of them on American universities and colleges. There are about 500 Confucius classrooms in secondary schools, and there are more than 100 of these Chinese students’ and scholars’ associations on U.S. campuses.”
Elaborating, Chang said, “All of these institutions are run essentially by the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, and that is basically the organization that conducts ‘political warfare.’ We need to be able to defend ourselves. You go through everything in our society [and] there is a China challenge to it, even the opioid crisis. China basically wants to undermine American society. We can’t allow them to do that if we want to live the way we do, to live in freedom [and] have free markets.”
President Donald Trump is breaking from his predecessors by more accurately ascertaining the threat posed by China, said Chang.
“[The Trump administration’s] national security [and] national defense strategies … are clear indications that they see China in a very different light because instead of calling China a partner or a friend, these two important documents label China [and] Russia as rivals and as malign influences, and that’s an important rhetorical shift,” said Chang.
“We are seeing policies on the part of the administration which are dealing with China in a very different [and] much more resolute fashion,” he went on. “We have a long way to go … but, nonetheless, we are starting to move in the right direction. We have to remember that China is posing an existential challenge to our way of life, and we see this in so many ways. … It’s not only acting more belligerently; it’s trying to attack democracy [and] our society, and it’s been quite successful, so far. We need another Ronald Reagan to understand the comprehensive nature of China’s challenge.”
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