John Bolton’s new book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” portrays President Donald Trump as leveraging his relationship with China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping to win the 2020 election and ignoring the totalitarian dictatorship’s malicious actions.
Since virtually every person who was in the same meetings as Bolton says the former national security adviser is not telling the truth, this memoir should be considered fiction. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the book contains a “number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.” Even the national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Bolton’s accounts are inaccurate and distorted.
In reality, the Trump administration has been tougher on China than any other administration in recent history. As a candidate, Trump recognized that China was taking our jobs, stealing our intellectual property, and using the United States as its piggy bank. In the first year of his presidency, the National Security Strategy laid the foundation for the administration’s tough-on-China policy, calling the communist totalitarian country a “competitor” and a “revisionist power” that aims to “shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.”
Trump’s seriousness in confronting the problems we face with China has generated the momentum needed for the United States to mobilize and address the numerous long-standing threats China poses.This is of critical importance now more than ever because the days of China hiding its strength and biding its time are over — and they have been for quite some time.
China Wants to Lead a Global Order
Since 2012, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been promoting the diplomatic concept of building “a community of shared future for all humankind.” According to the state-run outlet Xinhua, this concept is “a fresh idea” that was “initiated by China to reform and rebuild a world order, and a new top-level design to lead global governance.”
The CCP frames this approach as if it’s centered around dialogue, inclusivity, and win-win cooperation. In practice, however, the net result of this concept is a CCP-led global order.
The CCP isn’t going to achieve this end by “reforming” and “rebuilding” the international rules-based system, nor by overthrowing the post-World War II system, as former Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale wrote in The New York Times. Rather, China will continue to exploit and leverage the international free market and rules-based system that was founded upon the values of sovereignty, freedom, and human rights.
Such values threaten the totalitarian dictatorship’s pursuit of power both domestically and abroad. Consequently, time and time again we’ve seen China attempt to manipulate the international system and attack internationally shared values to advance the CCP’s ambitions.
Consider China’s cooption of international organizations, such as the United Nations. China was appointed to a UN Human Rights Council panel in April “where it [would] play a key role in picking the world body’s human rights investigators — including global monitors on freedom of speech, health, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.”
Yet according to the UN, the CCP imprisoned more than 1 million Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang (some estimates are more than 2 million). The CCP also recently took devastating action toward suffocating freedoms in Hong Kong and has a history of punishing human rights lawyers and activists. Yet now it will have much influence over those who would investigate its transgressions.
China Is Expanding Its Influence
Then there’s the South China Sea, which Xi claimed in 2015 China did not intend to militarize, after China ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Then in 2016, an international tribunal ruled there is no legal standing to China’s claims to historic rights and resources in its so-called nine-dash line.
China, however, has still continued to strengthen its military position and exacerbate tensions with its regional neighbors. In April, China’s coast guard rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. In June, a Chinese ship rammed another Vietnamese fishing boat, forcing the 16-person crew to jump overboard. Additionally, in April, China established two new districts on the islands.
Furthermore, the $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative has been explicitly linked to the building of this so-called shared future. As part of this, China has doled out up to $350 billion in loans to countries in connection to the initiative since 2013. Approximately half of these countries are considered to be high-risk loan recipients.
Countries will likely continue struggling to make payments on loans as they economically recover following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, when Sri Lanka couldn’t pay back its loans, China seized control of the Hambantota Port for 99 years. When Pakistan couldn’t pay back its loans, it received a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
If these examples weren’t enough to indicate how disastrous a CCP-led global order would be for human rights, sovereignty, freedom, and our rules-based order, the CCP’s actions throughout the Wuhan virus pandemic should remove all doubt.
Ideally, when cooperating and collaborating with allies and partners, one doesn’t have to worry about being lied to, stolen from, or spied on. As we wrote in “Trump versus China: Facing America’s Greatest Threat,” “Using surveillance, control, deception, and cheating as methods for preserving the power of the Chinese Communist Party … Xi Jinping and the [CCP] are constructing a different kind of world that threatens the survival of our free and sovereign nation.”
It is clear the CCP does not seek to make China a regional power, but a global one. China is attacking the values of freedom, human rights, and sovereignty that the United States and other like-minded nations hold dear. Further, the CCP is exploiting the free market, rules-based system to fuel its power and further its ambitions. By subverted or manipulating these norms, China’s communist dictatorship seriously threatens the United States, our partners and allies, and our way of life.
The U.S. Must Work with Allies to Check China
However, the United States alone can’t assume the role of the world’s police to defend against this threat, nor can we prevent China from controlling critical supply chains and manufacturing capabilities that are essential for ensuring our national security. The United States alone can’t loosen Huawei’s stranglehold on the global telecommunications industry. America can’t be the only voice speaking out against the CCP’s disinformation campaigns and rampant human rights abuses.
Effective solutions to overcome this global threat will require constructive cooperation with our allies and partners. Recently, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) was established. Led by the United Kingdom, it brings together a group of cross-party legislators from around the world to “promote a coordinated response between democratic states to challenges posed by the present conduct and future ambitions of the People’s Republic of China.”
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., serve as co-chairs alongside legislators and politicians from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Establishing this coalition at the legislative level ensures longevity, as it is set up to withstand changes in governments and administrations.
The creation of IPAC is a strong, united stance against the CCP’s global attacks on our shared values and free market, rules-based system. In its short life, IPAC has already significantly increased its membership and it will continue to do so. All legislators are invited to join the effort by agreeing to the coalition’s statement and contacting the group through an online form.
Trump has been clear: “America first does not mean America alone.” IPAC’s creation is an enormously positive step, as is the U.S. proposal for establishing an Economic Prosperity Network of trustworthy countries.
It’s Time to Take Action
Foundation for Defense of Democracies founder Cliff May wrote that the network would diversify supply chains and members would not be allowed to become overly entangled with adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The Economic Prosperity Network also could, as May suggested, take on some of the responsibilities that international organizations have been failing at executing or willingly neglecting. The increase in cooperation among the Five Eyes to respond to China and the push to establish a D10 to work together on 5G technology are also strong steps.
Just as Trump has done throughout the course of his administration, the United States, our allies, and our partners must also objectively look at the international laws and organizations in place to determine if such structures are capable of overcoming the modern threats facing free societies and economies in the 21st century. We must adopt a Peter Drucker approach and ask ourselves, “If we weren’t already doing it, would we start?” This will inform how we continue, reform, or create new ways to counter the CCP’s threats.
Constructive collaboration is necessary to successfully defend against the CCP’s attacks on human rights, freedom, sovereignty, and the free market, rules-based order. We possess an opportunity to reinvigorate and strengthen our alliances, partnerships, and structures to meet modern-day challenges — and the United States and our allies should seize it.