By: Frank Gaffney – presentdangerchina.org – July 19, 2019
On July 3rd, the Washington Post published an Open Letter under the headline “China is Not an Enemy”. It sharply criticized President Trump’s robust approach to the strategic challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party and recommended a return to the policy of “engagement” practiced by previous U.S. administrations and with which many of the 100 signers had been associated over the years. CPDC Vice Chairman Frank Gaffney critiqued “the Engagers” critique in the course of the Committee’s 7th Threat Briefing held in Washington, D.C. on July 18th. His prepared remarks are below:
On the eve of the 4th of July holiday, 100 proponents of previous administrations’ policy of “engagement” with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the nation it misrules issued an open letter in the Washington Post. Under the headline “China is Not an Enemy,” the signers sharply criticized the very different, and far more robust, approach adopted and practiced by President Donald Trump. The following analysis rebuts the signers’ most egregious statements (which appear in quotation marks below):
1) The letter starts with an implicit admission by the “Engagers”: Despite decades of giving the CCP virtually whatever it wanted, or allowing it to take cost-free what we would not willingly provide – Communist China’s behavior is actually more ominous than it was before such appeasement was institutionalized. These Trump critics evidently recognize that they cannot appear blind to the present danger from Beijing, even though that is the practical effect of their recommendations.
In their words, such behavior by the PRC includes: “[G]reater domestic repression; increased state control over private firms; failure to live up to several of its trade commitments; greater efforts to control foreign opinion; and [a] more aggressive foreign policy — raises serious challenges for the rest of the world.”
The Engagers concede that “a firm and effective U.S. response” is required. They evidently remain incapable, however, of recognizing that the one most of them have long championed is neither firm nor effective.
2) The open letter’s signatories insist that, the foregoing admissions notwithstanding, they “do not believe Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere.” Asserting that there is a “hawks vs. dove” contest for power in China, they recommend that we refrain from confronting China in order to empower the “many Chinese officials and other elites [who] know that a moderate, pragmatic and genuinely cooperative approach with the West serves China’s interests.”
In practice, this strategy has proven to be an exercise in submission, accommodation and futility as the Chinese Communists have proven to be more monolithic and increasingly hostile than their apologists in this country acknowledge.
3) The Engagers would have us believe that resistance is futile and that our allies will abandon us if we “treat China as an enemy and decouple it from the global economy.” In fact, President Trump’s generally robust, if somewhat unpredictable, policy initiatives are having a material impact on the Chinese economy. And, to varying degrees, his leadership in challenging unfair Chinese trade and other practices has actually prompted some allied nations to pull alongside.
4) The Engagers minimize “the fear that Beijing will replace the United States as the global leader,” claiming it is “exaggerated.” They even aver that, “…It is not clear that Beijing itself sees this goal as necessary or feasible.” Such statements call into question both the signers’ competence as researchers and their credibility as advocates of a redoubling of the now-discredited practice of “work[ing] with our allies and partners to create a more open and prosperous world in which China is offered the opportunity to participate.”
Rather than isolating “those Chinese intent on developing a more humane and tolerant society,” President Trump’s efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party offer them hope that such a society might actually be possible in China, rather than permanently snuffed by a regime we prop up.
5) Particularly instructive is the Engagers’ minimizing of the Chinese military build-up and their recommendation that the United States and its allies respond by eschewing the offensive, deep-strike weapons needed to respond to it. They recommend instead that we try to maintain deterrence by relying upon “defensive-oriented, area denial capabilities, resiliency and the ability to frustrate attacks on U.S. or allied territory.” They also stress the imperative of “strengthening crisis-management efforts with Beijing” – something that will surely be needed if their advice is followed as they are prescribing a formula for endless crises, if not actual attacks by a CCP and its People’s Liberation Army emboldened by our abandonment of the one U.S. national security posture that has proven to successful in deterring such adversaries: “peace through strength.”
6) The Engagers concede that “Beijing is seeking to weaken the role of Western democratic norms within the global order.” Yet, they profess with certainty that, “It is not seeking to overturn vital economic and other components of that order from which China itself has benefited for decades.” Based on this alarming mischaracterization of Xi Jinping’s “Thought” and his “China Dream,” they insist that “the United States should encourage Chinese participation in new or modified global regimes in which rising powers have a greater voice.” Their preferred business-as-usual approach has gotten us into our present, dangerous situation. Continuing that approach in the face of its evident bankruptcy will jeopardize our nation and allies, not secure them.
7) The signatories on the open letter call for “a realistic appraisal of Chinese perceptions, interests, goals and behavior; an accurate match of U.S. and allied resources with policy goals and interests; and a rededication of U.S. efforts to strengthen its own capacity to serve as a model for others.” This recommendation, at least, is unobjectionable. But the Engager’s implied contention that if we simply continue employing their utterly failed policies with respect to China in the hope of achieving different results is – with all due respect – insane.
The Engagers’ bottom line is that there is no consensus about the need to abandon their failed approach. Maybe so. But their open letter is a powerful impetus to forging one.
Many members of the Committee also signed a separate Open Letter entitled “Stay the Course” that was published by the Washington Free Beacon on July 17.
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