On China, It’s Now or Never
The next four years are critically important for our policy on China. What’s on the line? American independence and perhaps the free world itself.
That may seem like hyperbole. While many Americans are skeptical of China — 73 percent have a negative opinion of China, according to a recent Pew poll — the average person may not believe the Chinese Communist Party is an existential threat similar to the Soviet Union.
The Chinese government is hoping to keep it that way. National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill Evanina recently made a startling revelation: "In the last year, with respect to the death of George Floyd, COVID, the vaccine, the election process — we saw foreign adversaries, including China, working diligently to expose and amplify discourse in the U.S."
The Chinese government wants Americans to be distracted with infighting because it allows them to continue to strategically operate in the shadows to extend control.
What is the bigger picture they don’t want us to see? Let’s put the pieces together.
China already controls our supply of medicine. An incredible 97% of our antibiotics are reliant on China for ingredients or manufacturing. China also has a tight grip on generic drugs. In 2018, China accounted for 95% of ibuprofen (think: Advil), 91% of hydrocortisone, and 40% of heparin, a blood thinner.
One Chinese professor signaled their leverage over us, “Should we reduce the exports, the medical systems of some western countries will not run well.” That’s an understatement. Many Americans would die.
The Chinese government is also collecting personal health data on American citizens. According to Evanina, some of this is through hacking, but much is legally acquired “through investments or partnerships with U.S. institutions that outsource their genetic sequencing to China.”
China is spying on individual Americans. The Chinese hacked personnel data of federal employees. Additionally, Chinese-owned apps may spy on our personal data, or executives at companies may be pressured to bend to the Chinese government. One example: the federal government recently charged a Zoom executive with suppressing users at the behest of the Chinese government.
Militarily, China is engaging in more aggressive behavior. The Chinese Navy is now 15% larger than the United States Navy. The Chinese navy has grown by 120 ships since 2005. The U.S. Navy has grown by two.
China has used its military growth to push around its neighbors in Southeast Asia. China is also financing the construction of ports in the Caribbean, which intelligence experts fear could be militarized. Perhaps we’ll have a Jamaican Missile Crisis in our near future.
China is also fueling our opioid crisis. According to the New York Times, 97 percent of the deadly drug fentanyl seized in the mail by the U.S. law enforcement came from China.
The Chinese have been stealing technology from U.S. companies for years. They have also legally acquired over 2,000 U.S. companies, including some in sensitive industries including aerospace. Several university professors, including the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department and one from MIT, who have benefitted from federal government funding, have been charged with secretly working for the Chinese. All of this feeds into the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” program to become the dominant technological country in the world.
There are also corrupting forces from within. Chinese influence in Hollywood and Chinese control of radio stations and TV in major markets provide propaganda opportunities for them, or their puppets, to act as if this very real threat from the Chinese government is illusory. They spend millions each year with American PR and lobbying firms to promote favorable imagery.
Put together, these pieces show the bigger picture: the Chinese government has a stealth program to achieve global dominance They are exploiting American assets to get there.
We must recognize our adversary for who they are. The Chinese Communist Party does not believe in individual or human rights. It does not believe in democracy or republics. It believes in its own absolute power — and that’s about it.
The CCP is willing to do just about anything to increase and keep that power. The U.S. State Department has formally recognized the Chinese government is engaging in genocidal actions for its treatment of ethnic minorities inside its borders. Over 1 million Chinese are believed to be held in concentration camps.
We cannot afford to look away and pretend the threat doesn’t exist. As a country, we have never been here before. It’s difficult to even conceive of the historical arc we are experiencing. Success and American independence will require a concerted, united effort across business, social, and political realms to change that history.
It starts by recognizing and pronouncing the threat. That ball is now in President Biden’s court. Will he maintain America’s role as the leader of the free world as presidents did during the Cold War — or will we become a passive player in China’s global exploitation?
Rick Berman is executive director of the American Security Institute.