China and Russia declare Cold War II against the West
Communist China, world pariah and an existential threat to the international order — that was the perception and the reality of the People’s Republic of China that Richard Nixon was determined to change. To accomplish that geopolitical revolution, Nixon contemplated a dramatic shift in the U.S. China policy.
But, he wrote in Foreign Affairs, both the premise and the objective of a new Western approach was that China itself must change in its fundamental nature — how it treats its own people and how it relates to the rest of the world. He called for “a positive policy of pressure and persuasion, of dynamic detoxification, a marshaling of Asian forces both to keep the peace and to help draw off the poison from the Thoughts of Mao.”
After more than four decades of positive engagement, limited pressure and ineffective persuasion, the “poison” that must be “detoxified” now emanates from the “Thoughts of Xi Jinping.” Yet, the world finds itself celebrating China’s hosting of the “Genocide Olympics.” While parallels to the 1936 Berlin Olympics have been common, portrayal of Xi as the Chinese Communist version of the repulsive Adolf Hitler has been less evident.
In January 2021, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially declared that what China is doing to the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang constitutes genocide under the Genocide Convention. “We are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese Party-state,” Pompeo said.
Some of the crimes against humanity over which Xi has presided in Xinjiang’s concentration camps are modeled after those perpetrated by the Nazis: forced labor, torture, rape and sexual abuse. Other techniques are modern refinements, such as abortion of “undesirable” babies, forced sterilization of some Uyghur women and forced impregnation of others to create Sinified offspring.
Pompeo’s declaration stated: “Since the Allied forces exposed the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, the refrain ‘Never again’ has become the civilized world’s rallying cry against these horrors. Just because an atrocity is perpetrated in a manner that is different than what we have observed in the past, does not make it any less an atrocity.”
The Xi regime’s messaging to the Chinese people about the Uyghurs echoes the hateful Nazi propaganda spewed to the German population about the Jews. Pompeo stated: “They are portraying Uyghurs as ‘malignant tumors,’ comparing their faith to a ‘communicable plague,’ and exhorting the Party faithful to implement a crushing blow, telling them, ‘You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one-by-one; you need to spray chemicals to kill them all.’”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken fully endorsed his predecessor’s genocide finding against the Chinese government; imposed economic sanctions against some responsible Chinese officials, though not those at the highest levels of the Chinese government; and urged other nations to meet their responsibilities under the Genocide Convention.
While allowing the U.S. team to participate in the Beijing games, the Biden administration declined to send an official delegation. Unfortunately, only eight other countries joined in Washington’s diplomatic boycott, though several of the athletes were clearly uncomfortable with being there but unable to speak out.
One head of government who was glad to be seen meeting with Xi was the former KGB official in the Soviet Union and present Russian ruler, Vladimir Putin. Facing virtually unanimous criticism from NATO and European Union countries for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Putin was relieved to have at least one independent head of state willing to endorse his actions (the subservient leaders of Belarus and Hungary don’t count).
Xi and Putin released a joint statement pledging to “respect the rights of peoples to independently determine the development paths of their countries and the sovereignty and the security and development interests of States.” Given China’s designs on Taiwan and Russia’s intention to recreate the former Soviet empire, the “white-is-black” rhetoric by both leaders was quintessentially Orwellian.
The statement goes on to assert: “No State can or should ensure its own security separately from the security of the rest of the world and at the expense of the security of other States.” That is, of course, exactly what Russia has done regarding the imaginary threats from Georgia, which it invaded in 2008, and Ukraine, which it first invaded in 2014.
The statement also deigns to lecture the world on the correct way to understand concepts such as democracy and human rights. “There is no one-size-fits-all template to guide countries in establishing democracy. … It is only up to the people of the country to decide whether their State is a democratic one.”
Not to be mistaken as an endorsement of self-determination, it goes on to warn, “Russia and China … oppose color revolutions.”
Xi and Putin mutually approved of each other’s aggression. “The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan.” Xi returned the favor for Ukraine and all future NATO aspirants: “The sides oppose further enlargement of NATO and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideologized cold war approaches.”
Curiously, national security adviser Jake Sullivan sought to minimize China’s pro-Putin endorsement. On two Sunday talk shows, Sullivan repeated: “In 5,000 words that the two leaders put down on that paper, the word Ukraine does not appear,” adding in the second interview, “which suggests that China is not so excited about cheerleading Russia on Ukraine.”
A half-century ago, Nixon said, “China must change; the world cannot be safe unless China changes.” The current China danger is a product of misguided Western engagement policies and the ongoing corporate greed evident in the sponsorship of the Winter Olympics, which an aggressive, resurgent Russia is all too happy to applaud.
The Xi-Putin statement said: “Russia and China [are] world powers with rich cultural and historical heritage.” True, but, in both cases, the leaders betray the values and aspirations of their people. That is a fatal vulnerability the West needs to exploit as effectively and peacefully as it did in the first Cold War, by placing itself clearly on the side of the people against their oppressive and dangerous regimes. The alternative — passivity and accommodation — leads inevitably to the periodic war-threatening crises China and Russia are creating now.
Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.
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