The Cold War was a struggle for global supremacy between two superpowers. It ended thirty years ago this month when the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin.
People are now asking whether a second Cold War has begun. It seems to me the answer is obvious. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has made it abundantly clear that global supremacy is his goal.
The tougher question: Do Americans have the will and the energy “to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out” as President John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address in 1961, described what then appeared to be an endless contest with the U.S.S.R.?
If it turns out we’re not up for the fight, it is likely that we will leave our children a world dominated by totalitarians. Put the past (e.g., the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) aside and consider what China’s rulers have been doing lately.
They have stripped Hong Kong of its freedoms in violation of their clear treaty obligations. They’re threatening Taiwan. They’re persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, concealing vital information about a deadly virus unleashed from Wuhan, debt-trapping poor nations, stealing fortunes in American intellectual property, subverting U.N. agencies, while massively building their military capabilities.
Simultaneously and audaciously, they’re competing to win hearts and minds around the world – at America’s expense. A tweet from a Foreign Ministry spokesman last week asserted that the U.S. “wants to make democracy a tool for advancing its global strategies and geopolitical interest. This in itself is the greatest damage to democratic values.”
There’s more. My FDD colleagues, Emily de La Bruyere and Nathan Picarsic, have just published a report on what may be the cleverest and most insidious effort now being undertaken by the People’s Republic of China (PRC): “systematic campaigns” to influence American state and local governments.
Their new monograph, “All Over the Map: The Chinese Communist Party’s Subnational Interest in the United States,” details how Beijing is taking advantage of governors and mayors who prioritize trade, investment, and job creation with little concern for – and often little understanding of – national security.
Local elected officials, they write, are often unaware of the “extent to which short-term boons from economic cooperation may lead to long-term losses for the United States by hollowing out key industrial sectors and gradually offshoring jobs and economic growth.”
They cite a study by PRC think tank and university researchers finding that the governors of 17 states are currently “friendly to China, 14 have ambiguous attitudes toward China, six are tough on China, and 14 have made no clear or public statement on China.”
At the same time, many Hollywood moguls and star athletes kowtow to Beijing, presumably because they’re afraid of getting cut off from lucrative Chinese markets. The CCP also relies on American corporate leaders to assist them.
Reuters reported last month that the PRC embassy in Washington “sent letters pressing executives to urge members of Congress to alter or drop specific bills that seek to enhance U.S. competitiveness” and warning companies “they would risk losing market share or revenue in China if the legislation becomes law.”
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, which has made significant investments in China, last week apologized for making a joke about Chinese Communists. Can you imagine an American executive apologizing for making a joke about Republicans or Democrats?
While Americans play economic checkers, Mr. Xi plays chess or, more precisely, Go, an abstract strategy game. For example, the FDD report notes that, over the past decade, “China has come to monopolize the international solar supply chain, which the United States once led. China has done so in large part thanks to acquisition of expertise and technology from U.S. players, as well as domestic subsidies and preferential policies.”
Legal scholar Jonathan Turley recently pointed out that Hunter Biden helped secure “one of the world’s largest cobalt mines for China.” That mine, in the Congo, sold for $2.65 billion. Cobalt is a key component in the batteries used in electric vehicles. In other words, Professor Turley adds, Hunter Biden’s “alleged influence-peddling was used to deliver a huge strategic advantage to the Chinese in the very area of electric cars that his father was making an American investment priority” in line with White House climate-change policies.
John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate, has reportedly lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, apparently because such legislation would hinder his efforts to persuade China’s rulers to pledge to limit carbon emissions.
Sen. John Barrasso regards such pledges as worthless. “China’s emission-reduction target actually allows its emissions to increase until 2030,” he observed last week. “In 2019, China emitted more greenhouse gasses than the rest of the developed world combined.”
Ms. de La Bruyère and Mr. Picarsic add: “The CCP is shaping the incentives of U.S. political leaders and private companies, promising them short-term economic or climate-policy inducements in exchange for Beijing’s longer-term cannibalization of American industry, security, and values.”
Toward the end of the Trump administration, there was recognition of Beijing’s influence operations and the beginning of an effort to resist them. But much has been left for Mr. Biden to do – if he sees this as a vital national interest. The FDD report provides a list of specific measures. “There is no time to waste,” Ms. de La Bruyère and Mr. Picarsic urge.
In his 1961 Inaugural, President Kennedy spoke of “those nations who would make themselves our adversary,” warning: “We dare not tempt them with weakness.” That was true then. It seems to me it’s equally true now.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.
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