Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games that begin Feb. 4, a debate is brewing over how America can constrain China's ambitions and influence.
Peter Schweizer's new book "Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win," lays out how, as the book puts it, "elites, from Washington to Wall Street, from Silicon Valley to academe, have been coopted and are helping the regime while in some cases even bolstering China's military and intelligence complex."
Schweizer recommends banning lobbying on behalf of Chinese military- and intelligence-linked companies, keeping such companies off American stock exchanges, and passing a new law to prevent American universities and businesses from aiding Chinese military and intelligence projects.
Elbridge Colby, a Trump administration defense department official, has also written a recent book, "The Strategy of Denial," that focuses on the China threat. He recommends a strategy for containing it that involves reducing American forces in Europe and focusing instead on bolstering the Asian nations that hem in China — Japan, Australia, the Philippines.
David P. Goldman, reviewing Colby's book in Law & Liberty, proposes instead a trillion-dollar U.S. investment in military technology.
China has extended its grip on Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Taiwan could be next, a Pentagon official from the George W. Bush administration, Dan Blumenthal, warned during an American Enterprise Institute panel last week.
It might not even take a Chinese military action, he said. Plenty of foreign policy hands and ordinary Americans think Taiwan, which is, at least at the moment, free, democratic, and a significant U.S. trading partner, is worth defending. Yet Blumenthal noted, "We don't even recognize it as a country."
Blumenthal advised a "counter-coercion, counter-subversion policy" on Taiwan, not just a military strategy.
More people might die in the first couple of days of a U.S.-China war than in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars put together, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Oriana Skylar Mastro, warned. She said policymakers should tackle the China challenge with creative thinking and a sense of urgency. It might require new international institutions, new trade agreements, or a different approach to North Korea, which borders China, she said.
At a Vandenberg Coalition event on the future of conservative foreign policy, a professor at George Mason University, Colin Dueck, mentioned historic events, such as the attacks on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and on September 11, 2001, that pushed "conservative nationalists" in favor of responding militarily.
What event would push Americans to react with a tougher posture against China?
If the COVID-19 virus were conclusively traced to a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which does classified research for the Chinese military, that might get people riled up. But China has refused to allow an independent investigation or even to cooperate meaningfully or transparently with international organizations probing the pandemic's source.
As it is, we've had more than 862,000 deaths from COVID, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's count. It's somehow been declared out of bounds to point out that the disease came, even if accidentally, from Communist China.
Declarations by both the Trump and Biden administrations that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a genocide against Uyghur Muslims do not seem to have appreciably changed American policy or public opinion.
The Schweizer book mentions a propaganda campaign around the 2020 election involving China-linked social media accounts, as documented by the Crime and Security Research Institute at Cardiff University. The Institute describes it as "a significant attempt to influence the trajectory of U.S. politics."
Plenty of Americans were quite upset over Russia's reported attempt to meddle in the 2016 election. China's meddling in 2020 has attracted less attention.
China is playing a role in U.S. inflation, John Authers writes in a Bloomberg newsletter: "If Chinese stuff is more expensive, and Americans still want to buy a lot of it, that means inflation will go up."
The lack of appetite for a war with China is understandable. A lot of people could die in such a war. It'd also be economically disruptive.
The Chinese make a lot of the things we use. They own more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt. We are big customers of theirs and they are big customers of ours. Better than a costly conflict would be a Cold War-style victory in which domestic and international pressure forces the collapse of a communist dictatorship.
At least with the Cold War, though, Americans realized we were in it.
Advocates of engaging China contend that the country's prosperity and growth has been beneficial for America and decreases the likelihood of war. That could be. But America has gone from being the sole superpower to one locked in a rivalry with a rising China.
How America reacts will depend less on American authors and foreign policy experts, perceptive though they may be, and more on whether the Chinese Communist Party leaders make the mistake of provoking America with an attack so brazen that it cannot be ignored.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of "JFK, Conservative." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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