China’s communist ideology combined with an extreme nationalism are the driving forces behind the threat posed by the People’s Republic of China, according to a major new report by the State Department’s policy planning staff.
Breaking with four decades of U.S. policy, the report argues that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has embellished its brand of Marxism-Leninism by combining it with a hyper nationalism — with the ultimate goal of maintaining power at home while achieving world domination under authoritarian rule.
“The communism that the [Chinese Communist Party] professes is more than a mode of authoritarian domestic governance,” the report said. “It is also a theory of a globe-spanning universal society, the ultimate goal of which is to bring about a socialist international order.”
The 74-page report, “The Elements of the Chinese Challenge,” was ordered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of the Trump administration’s aggressive shift in U.S. policy toward China. The new policy sought to end what critics says was unfettered economic and political engagement with China by recognizing Beijing as a major strategic competitor and adversary.
Insiders at the State Department said the paper is not an official policy paper, and it is said to lack official endorsement by senior government officials outside the pro-Pompeo policy planning staff.
Viewing China’s conduct through the ideas that inspire and shape its actions “dispels the starry-eyed optimism about the PRC that has distorted U.S. policy,” the report said. “It also encourages sobriety in cooperating with, containing, and deterring the CCP.”
Use of the word “containment” regarding China marks a major shift in American policy. For decades, Beijing has accused the United States of seeking to restrain China’s economic and military rise in ways similar to Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union.
The report attempts to makes clear the distinction first made by Mr. Pompeo, and bolstered by White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr and other senior officials in recent months that the ruling party is different from the Chinese people and should be the target of U.S. containment efforts.
“The Trump Administration achieved a fundamental break with the conventional wisdom,” the report said, one requiring the U.S. and its allies to “develop a new strategic doctrine to address the primacy and magnitude of the China challenge.”
According to the report, the current revival of communism accelerated under President Xi Jinping, who since coming to power in 2012 pressed for greater study of Marxist theory and Leninist practice.
Mr. Xi issued an edict called “Document 9” identifying constitutional democracy, human rights, free speech and free markets as among the perils facing Chinese society in the struggle for global dominance.
Mr. Xi also has ruthlessly purged all potential rivals under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign and cracked down on Chinese tycoons and the relaxed economic system launched by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, one that created a new class of communist millionaires and billionaires.
In the past, successive U.S. presidential administrations have played down or ignored China’s communist ideology in what critics say was a failed hope the regime would evolve into a less threatening, more democratic one. The report argues that many outside analysts failed to grasp the source of China’s conduct by misunderstanding CCP ideas about communism, China and the world.
“In the United States, this neglect of ideas is sometimes rooted in the supposition that all governments want the freedom for their people in which the United States was conceived and to which it remains dedicated,” the report said. “At other times, the neglect stems from an unrealistic internationalism that downplays power in politics or an unrealistic geopolitical realism that discounts the political significance of opinion, culture and tradition.”
The report identifies key goals of Mr. Xi’s leadership, including making China the head of the struggle for socialism globally and displacing the United States as the world’s leading power.
Critics note the research paper contains several contradictory statements and in places — such as the chapter on the Chinese military — reads more like an intelligence report reciting known facts rather than an analysis of the Chinese military threat going forward.
The report said the main goal of the survey is to provide a long-term view of the China threat and create a framework for “sturdy policies that stand above bureaucratic squabbles and interagency turf battles and transcend short-term election cycles.”
While warning about the growing threat from Beijing, the report also identifies what it views a “vulnerabilities” within the Chinese system that suggest that China is weaker than it appears.
“The United States’ overarching aim should be to secure freedom,” the report recommended, through policies to bolster U.S. economic and military power and strengthen U.S. alliances — a key element of the new Trump policy.
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