RealClearWorld | Responding to the Complexity of China's Challenge
Crafting U.S. policy toward China is one of the most complex challenges we face today. Strategic competition from China on the world stage is growing in every possible dimension -- diplomatic, political, informational, military, and economic.
Particularly troubling is Beijing’s strong-armed approach favoring regional dominance over cooperative regional growth and security. This is evidenced by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s continued efforts to centralize political power at home, such as by abolishing the term limits of his office during the most recent session of the National People’s Congress. This session showed China’s phony democratic processes in action and revealed their true nature, that of a single-minded socialist ideology.
Through Xi’s increased authoritarianism and disregard for international norms, the Chinese communist leader is working to build the regime into a world threat rather than a responsible nation contributing to regional peace and security.
In recent testimony before members of the House Armed Services Committee, John Garnaut, former senior adviser to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, revealed Chinese Communist Party covert interference in the Australian government. Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command, recently testified regarding China’s disturbing diplomatic, economic, and military ties to Iran, which will continue to further its Belt and Road Initiative.
China’s brazen construction of artificial land formations in the Spratly and Paracel Islands has threatened international freedom of navigation as well as other sovereign nations’ territory in critical areas, while increasing its own military force projection capability. China has also expanded its ability to project military forces outside the region through the establishment of an overseas military base in Djibouti and by gaining access to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. China’s newest contribution to Pakistan’s ballistic missile capabilities shows how it is intentionally provoking India and the United States.
As recent estimates such as the Nuclear Posture Review have demonstrated, China’s own military capabilities continue to advance at an alarming rate, including in space and cyberspace, and through both its nuclear and conventional arsenals. China’s military build-up has been achieved through theft of intellectual property, espionage through cyberspace, and other nefarious means.
Technological innovations created in free societies, including our own, are being exploited by China, whose trajectory continues in a dangerously wrong direction. Xi’s state-owned enterprise system is responsible for present threats to our national security. Thankfully, recent actions by the Trump administration, such as blocking Chinese investments in U.S. technology and telecommunications firms, demonstrate a willingness to stop this dangerous foreign direct investment in order to protect critical infrastructure.
The Trump administration acknowledges this strategic competition from China. The most recent National Security Strategy addresses the need to “raise our competitive game to meet that challenge, to protect American interests, and to advance our values,” and defines a broad approach. The strategy wisely reflects that the United States historically viewed national relationships in simple binary terms: “either ‘at peace’ or ‘at war’ when it is actually an area of continuous competition.” Recognizing the implications of strategic competition with China and putting the right policies into action, with long-standing allies and emerging partners, are the challenges we must face with courage and clarity.
The next steps should be to develop tangible legislative and executive actions across the U.S. government with measurable objectives to curb China’s unchecked, illegitimate and provocative course. We must clearly demonstrate what we stand for: Economic freedom, responsible governance, and capable and ready armed forces. We must also help others in the Indo-Pacific region work toward the same goals, and prove that the socialist Chinese state-owned enterprise system is a failed approach.
America’s commitment to our allies, strong defense, and stable, free economies will continue to stand in stark contrast to the authoritarian socialist regime that is China.