Why the US should up its game against China’s aggression
Whether the United States and its allies can sustain freedom in the 21st century or China will replace it by imposing totalitarianism on the world is the dispositive question of our time. China’s message is coming to the forefront as the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th Party Congress is set to begin on Oct. 16, as evidenced by recent comments by deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu that China will continue to promote its “core interests” over the next five years.
We argue that China is a threat to the free world for two reasons. First, China is a one-party dictatorship based on communist ideology of democidal violence and terror to achieve its goal. The CCP seeks to perpetuate its rule against domestic or international critics, who are perceived as existential threats to the party, and to perpetuate its hegemonic ambition, which is anchored in the belief of communism’s superiority and the inevitable death of capitalism.
This ideology explains why the CCP perceives the U.S. as the major obstacle to its goals. Chinese leader Xi Jinping advances what we term the “Xi Doctrine,” or “Xi Jinping Thought” — a new China-centered world order based on socialism with Chinese characteristics, or Sinicized communism. Xi has boldly advanced his aims of achieving a hegemonic China by 2049. The CCP’s ideology and Xi’s ambitions make China uniquely dangerous; we see this demonstrated by China’s past democidal actions against its own people and its current genocidal behavior. China is a growing threat to the U.S. and the free world. It seeks a confrontation, and thus America’s current cold war with China may turn hot.
To understand the China threat requires us to see through China’s deception, both in actions and rhetoric. China has dressed up Xi as the savior for China and the world, claiming that his goodwill and benevolence points the right way for common prosperity and a “community of shared future for mankind.” Xi sweetens this with economic enticement. These falsehoods have lured many, including a number of Western elites, but the evidence shows that China under Xi is, as the Chinese saying goes, “all mouth and no trousers.”
Second, the relative balance of power is changing in China’s favor at the expense of the United States. China is becoming wealthier, in absolute terms and in relative terms, compared with the United States. Thus, China has gained power to challenge the free world. This fight may not be one of America’s choosing, but it is one that the U.S. must win. Were China to successfully supplant the United States, authoritarian governments and exploitative economics would become dominant models, and human rights abuses would accelerate with no superpower with the interest and ability to stop them.
To prevent the CCP’s triumph, the U.S. must maintain its position in international politics. The CCP is fond of boasting that it has lifted more than 745 million people out of poverty. In fact, it is the Western economic system that has done so.The liberal order created by the United States did this, and the U.S. should not be reluctant to call attention to its accomplishments. Washington must comprehend the fundamental advantages it possesses, including its ideology and economic system and its allies around the world.
If the world is forced to adapt to China’s ideology, it will become more difficult to advance fundamental Western concepts of free trade, individual liberty, human rights, and the importance of developing cultures that support the rights of women and minorities. Most Western elites have yet to consider fully what would be lost if China becomes the world’s dominant state.
There are steps the United States must take to stop China’s aggression:
- Acknowledge China as a hostile, revolutionary state intent on defeating the U.S.;
- Place greater emphasis on ideology as a central component of why the U.S. must win the competition for the world’s hearts and minds;
- Employ trade as a weapon to cut off China’s lifeline for becoming a superpower;
- Launch an international movement to aid China’s Muslims in Xinjiang and other religious minorities;
- Call international attention to China’s arms race and unwillingness to advance an arms control agenda. The West should require that China curb its nuclear and conventional armaments;
- Strengthen the U.S. deterrent posture in the Indo-Pacific and, in conjunction with allies, be prepared to defend Taiwan;
- Defend the U.S. leadership position in technology; and
- Promote a free and open internet to defeat China’s Great Firewall and close the global digital divide.
The Chinese people could be the greatest ally of the United States in its fight against the CCP, and their support will be more effective the greater the voice they possess. As the start of the 20th Party Congress approaches, the U.S. should exploit the CCP’s vulnerability by helping the Chinese people to envision freedom and overcome authoritarian rule.
Lianchao Han is vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China. After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, he was one of the founders of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars. He worked in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, as legislative counsel and policy director for three senators. Bradley A. Thayer is director of China policy at the Center for Security Policy. They are co-authors of “Understanding the China Threat.”