The Heritage Foundation released a thorough report titled “Winning the New Cold War: A Plan for Countering China” on March 28. In an address to introduce the plan, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., declared that the report will “help us to wake up and to realize that we are not just in a competition; we’re in a conflict.”
“It is time to acknowledge reality: The United States is in a New Cold War with the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” Heritage President Kevin Roberts wrote, expressing a sentiment espoused throughout the report.
This foregrounding of the stark reality of the geopolitical competition with China characterizes Heritage’s expert analysis, cutting through the typical attitude of the corporate media and President Joe Biden.
For decades, America has followed a bipartisan and naïve policy of unfettered engagement with China, which has allowed the Chinese Communist Party to entrench and enrich itself within the international system while facing no consequences for its aggression abroad or totalitarianism at home. China now uses its wealth and technology to supercharge a policy of civil-military fusion, linking economics and military strategy.
One of the biggest challenges presented by China as compared to the USSR is the depth of the Chinese penetration of America’s economy, politics, culture, and society. The Heritage plan leaves no stone unturned when discussing these malign activities, advocating a “whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort” to counter them.
1. Ban Dangerous Chinese Apps
TikTok and other CCP-linked apps are incredibly popular, especially among American youth. These apps threaten personal privacy and national security. Heritage recommends an outright ban of TikTok and a more aggressive, risk-oriented approach to assessing foreign-owned information technologies in the U.S.
This would take very little in terms of new law, and the federal government has processes in place to monitor or ban these apps. Congress is already debating this issue, so the prognosis looks good.
2. Ban the Import and Sale of Chinese Drones
Although a lesser-known issue, CCP-linked drone manufacturers, specifically Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), dominate the commercial and recreational markets. As with TikTok, all information collected by those drones is stored on CCP-accessible servers.
Local, state, and federal agencies have used DJI drones — some given as free “gifts” during the pandemic — to “monitor every aspect of life in these cities,” including “the precise location of critical infrastructure and other sensitive information.”
Bans on these drones can be included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) or implemented via executive order. Educating non-federal officials about the drones could reduce the threat at the state and local levels.
3. Risk-Manage Inbound Investment
China’s direct investment in American firms peaked in 2015, but its national security implications remain. Often funneled through middlemen who camouflage Chinese involvement, CCP-linked investment still reaches into the billions annually.
The federal government has the tools to properly manage and review this. The 2018 Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) enabled the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to scrutinize these investments more.
Expanding definitions in FIRRMA can empower CFIUS to address all forms of Chinese investment, even through intermediaries, while direct legislative language can force reviews when agencies decline to use the power granted by law.
4. Reject Damaging ESG Policies
So-called environmental, social, and governance policies have been a debacle for investors and a sop to Chinese-linked firms, which control the supply chains for ESG-mandated renewable energy. ESG weakens the U.S. while strengthening its greatest foe.
Congress can end this damaging strategy through legislation, which it indeed did before President Biden vetoed it. Congress should continue pushing to end ESG through law and work to advance the understanding of ESG’s danger in the corporate sector.
5. Increase Munition Production and Arm Taiwan
This issue is paramount to countering China, particularly as the CCP has advanced its aggression toward Taiwan. The Heritage report acknowledges the trade-offs inherent in the decisions about arms sales and transfers and proposes an augmentation of our defense-industrial base to overcome these scarcity issues going forward.
Today, we can prioritize Taiwan by sending critical munitions, ensuring that capabilities sent elsewhere do not overly affect the defense of Taiwan, drawing down our own stocks in accordance with the law, and facilitating arms purchases from other nations.
6. Foster Innovation in the U.S. Maritime and Shipping Sectors
America’s “uncompetitive and outdated shipbuilding and shipping sector diminishes U.S. competitiveness, undermines the resilience of the economy, constrains the nation’s ability to mobilize and sustain a wartime economy, and meet the U.S. Navy’s global responsibilities,” according to the report.
The major stumbling block to reform is the restrictive Jones Act, which should be repealed and replaced with a law focused on promoting innovation in the maritime sector. The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, mandates that U.S.-made and U.S.-owned vessels transport goods between American ports, and that U.S. citizens operate the vessels.
Free-market solutions will allow the creativity of American industry to excel, developing novel methods of transportation, growing our shipbuilding and shipping capacities, and backstopping American naval power.
7. Expand Export Controls
The U.S. policy of engagement with China had allowed the chronic export of technologies used to advance China’s military aims. Legislation has since limited certain “foundational technology” exports, but the federal bureaucracy has failed to implement controls by refusing to label these technologies.
Congress must exercise its oversight power and force executive branch agencies to make these determinations in line with the law, so as to cease the transfer of critical security technology to the CCP.
8. Hold China Accountable for Covid-19
Regardless of the pandemic’s specific origin, a great deal of evidence has shown the CCP deliberately covered up the virus, allowing it to spread unchecked. Since then, the CCP has stonewalled investigations into its behavior, using its leverage at the World Health Organization to avoid accountability.
The U.S. government should cease funding the WHO until it conducts a thorough investigation of China’s involvement in the pandemic, end all financing of Chinese biomedical research, and propose unbiased international standards by which pandemics can be detected and limited without interfering with national sovereignty.
9. Prioritize the Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands are often overlooked in the geopolitical competition with China. Many small island nations comprise the region, but it is strategically important to maintain a U.S. presence in the Pacific, especially through its links to Asia and Australia.
China has focused on this region, seeking to cut off the U.S. from its Indo-Pacific allies.
“Winning the New Cold War” suggests the U.S. compete on the same turf by renewing existing diplomatic and security agreements, exploring the expansion of those accords to other nations, and engaging diplomatically through high-level visits and summits.
10. Establish a Quad Select Initiative
The Quad — the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan — is one of America’s most important initiatives to counter China. It links the key players in the Indo-Pacific and builds bridges for future cooperation.
Expanding this multilateral format by selectively inviting other nations to join for military, economic, or planning purposes would allow the U.S. to enhance regional alliances and foster broader anti-CCP cooperation.
This would not require any legislation but merely a change in the executive posture. Creating a more open architecture for the Quad would serve as a significant counter to Chinese regional aggression.
These 10 points are the plan’s low-hanging fruit, and the federal government could adopt these policies tomorrow if it had the will. Heritage’s “Winning the New Cold War” aims to bolster that resolve. Time will tell if it succeeds, but the plan is an excellent start.