The actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are a direct threat to the national interests of the US, subverting the rules-based order, destabilizing and undermining peace and prosperity of the free world, and also a risk to the values that democratic societies around the world hold dear. The US will not be safe until Beijing changes. President Trump has started the ball rolling in pushing back, and it is now up to President-elect Biden to make sure the light of democracy is shining bright. By Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade
For decades, American policymakers and the business community held the view that as China becomes more prosperous and integrated with the rest of the world, it will open up politically and present less of a threat abroad. They could not have been more wrong.
Doing business with China is not like doing business with a normal, law-abiding country. The fundamental reason is that the ideology of the CCP is at odds with the values of democracy, of which respect for law, transparency and freedom of speech are hallmarks. The kind of engagement the US has been pursuing has not brought the kind of change inside of China that they had hoped to induce.
Instead, the CCP has engaged in a strategic plan to surpass the US as the world’s preeminent superpower by using questionable tactics, in contrary to free and fair competition, including stealing hi-tech intellectual property and trade secrets, currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks, and espionage. In the process, this has resulted in supply chains moving away from the US, taking with it, millions of American jobs.
The US realizes that the CCP is stealing American intellectual property and then uses it to compete against the very American companies they have stolen from, effectively cheating twice over. For this economic espionage, the CCP is using a wide range of actors, including not just intelligence services but also state-owned enterprises, private companies, graduate students and researchers, among others. Statistics from the Department of Justice shows that, over the past decade, economic espionage cases with a link to China increased by approximately 1,300 percent.
Globally, the CCP is seeking to destabilize and dominate key maritime trade routes, for instance, in East and South China Seas, and the Taiwan Strait, to the detriment of the US’s security and economic interests. In the disputed South China Sea, through which about one-third of the world’s maritime trade passes, the CCP ignores the ruling of an international court, asserts control on almost the whole area, builds artificial islands and installs military outposts on them, and harasses other claimants’ oil rigs and fishing boats.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a state visit to New Delhi, India in late October, said: “Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency nor to freedom of navigation — the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
So far, the actions of the CCP show that they are not interested in having a mutually beneficial relationships with the US or any other foreign country. According to Department of Justice Attorney General William P. Barr, “the ultimate ambition of China’s rulers isn’t to trade with the United States. It is to raid the United States. If you are an American business leader, appeasing the PRC may bring short-term rewards. But in the end, the PRC’s goal is to replace you.”
Defending the free world
Democracy should not be taken for granted. The fundamental Marxist-Leninist nature of the CCP has never changed. China is no closer to democracy today than it was on 4 June 1989. As it was in 1989, China is still an authoritarian, one-party state in which the CCP wields absolute power, unchecked by popular elections, the rule of law, or an independent judiciary, more so now with Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CCP, in his quest for personal power, had changed the constitution so that he can rule for life.
The first step to effectively push back against China is to be clear-eye about the true nature of the CCP, its global ambitions, and act on the basis of CCP leaders’ actions and behavior, not on what they say, which are often the case a smokescreen. The second step will be for the US to work with allied countries and form global coalitions, leveraging on synergistic efforts and combined resources, to mitigate China’s aggression.
In a sign that he will not be soft on China, President-elect Biden went on record 1 December in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times and said he will not remove the 25 percent tariffs that President Trump imposed on about half of China’s exports to the United States. He also insisted China must abide by the Phase 1 agreement that requires the CCP to purchase US$200 billion in additional goods and services for the period from 2020 to 2021, which they have fallen significantly behind on.
Biden also fired another warning shot to signal that it will not be business as usual moving forward, which should worry the CCP, saying: “The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page. It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try to get us back on the same page with our allies.”
Biden is going to consult with the US’s traditional allies in Asia and Europe and develop a coherent strategy. One would think the CCP is not too pleased to hear this, as time again, it has shown an allergic overreaction to unified attempts to curb the risks its growing influence have pose to global trade, security and human rights.