While Washington is consumed with the political theater of impeachment, Trump administration officials have begun a vital effort to engage the American people—and the world—on the defining substantive issue of our time in national security and foreign policy: The imperative to counter the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
At last week’s annual Hudson Institute Herman Kahn Award Gala, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the guest of honor, delivered a poignant and powerful address on the unfolding strategic competition between the United States and China.
In Pompeo’s speech, dubbed “The China Challenge,” he surveyed the history of American willful blindness and consequent folly toward the totalitarian regime, acknowledging that “we accommodated and encouraged China’s rise for decades…even when that rise was at the expense of American values, Western democracy, and security, and good common sense.”
He illustrated the dichotomy whereby the CCP has created a “permanent class of China lobbyists in the United States” that has manipulated U.S. leaders while exerting complete control over the flow of information into its mainland. Therefore, while the CCP’s narrative has flourished here, our counter-narrative has never entered there.
He detailed the harmful consequences for America and the world, in the way of China’s: rampant intellectual property theft; demands that those who transact with it toe the Communist Party line; asymmetric weapons development; threats to international order and commerce on the seas where trillions of dollars in goods flow; “debt trap diplomacy”—or a “loan-to-own” plan to buy power and influence around the world—memorialized by the “Belt and Road Initiative”; coercive acts eroding any semblance of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong; and persecution of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.
The Trump administration has elucidated these issues in the past, including in Vice President Pence’s landmark 2018 Hudson Institute speech, and his recent address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Yet what was revelatory in Pompeo’s remarks was his forthright recognition of the nature of the Chinese Communist Party and its ambitions. The secretary stated plainly that: “The Chinese Communist Party is a Marxist-Leninist Party focused on struggle and international domination,” a party that “is truly hostile to the United States…”
The magnitude of these words cannot be underestimated, especially when one considers that the party controls virtually every Chinese entity with which Americans interact. Our nation has for almost 50 years failed to recognize the nature of the CCP regime, and the goals, tactics, and strategies that its nature implies. If this new and accurate understanding is to inform U.S.-China policy, in all of the dimensions of the multi-pronged struggle in which we are now engaged, it will mark an epochal shift.
It will require marshaling ideological, economic, military, and cultural forces, commensurate with the effort called for in the document at the heart of America’s Cold War strategy against the Soviet Union, National Security Council paper NSC-68.
Echoing that historic 1950 document, which suggested that the underlying conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union was in the space of ideas and values, those differences manifesting themselves in material outcomes, Pompeo announced that he will give a series of remarks in the coming months discussing “the competing ideologies and values [between the U.S. and China] and the impact that has on America and the world.”
China has been fighting this War of Ideas for decades so it could see its designs come to fruition without firing a shot. That America is entering the battle in the intellectual sphere is critical, if for no other reason than we need public support at home and abroad to thwart the CCP’s efforts at global domination.
To put a finer point on it, a sustained strategic communications offensive is crucial if the free world is to protect a system whereby sovereign nations pursue their national interests from a decidedly unfree one in which a genuinely imperialist regime wishes to prevail over us all. To the extent that the speeches Pompeo delivers can penetrate China’s “Great Firewall,” it would be all to the better. That the CCP fears such dissenting views demonstrates their value.
The Trump administration has made clear that it does not seek a confrontation with China akin to that of the Cold War; that it desires a peaceful and prosperous, mutually beneficial relationship. But as Pompeo stated, “Above all, it’s critical that as Americans, we engage China as it is, not as we wish it were.”
Speaking openly and honestly to America and the world about the totalitarian nature of the CCP, and its hegemonic ambitions, is a pivotal step towards doing so. That’s even more effective when backed by the Trump administration’s burgeoning whole-government efforts reflecting this view.