Foreign Policy Magazine: Xi’s Long March on American Democracy
Chinese President Xi Jinping is leading a Maoist Long March to achieve his dream of global power. Instead of retreating from Chiang Kai-shek’s forces, as Mao Zedong did, Xi is instead retreating from the Chinese people’s hopes for democratic reform, freedom of expression, protection of human rights, and economic liberalization. Xi is exporting his brand of colonialism with Chinese characteristics through soft power means, on a road toward achieving his hard power ends.
This was clear in Xi’s recent address at the National People’s Congress. “We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies,” he declared on March 20, “… with a strong determination to take our place in the world.” And as he embarks on a march toward lifelong dictatorship of the world’s most populous country, his strategic window of opportunity may seem boundless.
The United States must shut that window.
It was first cracked open by Deng Xiaoping, the author of China’s economic rise, who declared, “We want socialism to triumph over capitalism.” Since 1978, when Deng’s economic revolution began, China’s economy has grown at a nearly unbelievable rate.
Its export-driven model has spawned state-owned enterprises that now dwarf many of our nation’s flagship companies. It has fueled an accumulation of U.S. dollar reserves and significant purchases of our nation’s debt. Its lopsided bilateral trade balance has triggered an exponential increase in Chinese merger, acquisition, and joint venture activity within our borders, extracting intellectual property and talent along with this relentless spending spree.
This economic expansion has subsequently blanketed the globe with a cloud of Chinese Communist influence. This is influence within the international order and institutions that Americans created, influence within the innovation our economy thrives upon, and influence within the schools that educate our children.
Under Xi, China has established roots in more than 100 of our nation’s campuses. Confucius Institutes and other Chinese government-supported academic organizations are intended to spread China’s political agenda, and suppress academic debate.
China has also launched new national security laws and its Made in China 2025 initiative to inhibit foreign competition within its borders, gorged on our intellectual property to slingshot its technological advancement, ensnared our friends around the globe with debt to fund the Belt and Road Initiative, and created the Voice of China broadcast outlet to publicize Communist Party theories, guidelines, and policies globally.
The list of co-optive behavior could go on. And the list of more coercive concerns gets longer by the day.
Under Xi, China is developing military bases around the world, in Djibouti, in Pakistan, in Sri Lanka; reorganized the People’s Liberation Army, establishing the Strategic Support Force to militarize space and cyberspace; attacked U.S. websites to neutralize the First Amendment; violated the 2015 cyber-enabled theft commitment with the United States; violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; fortified its Great Wall with the Great Firewall to protect the censorship of its people; purged over a million of its citizens from government service; and granted Xi the ability to rule indefinitely.
One of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, listed in an ancient Chinese essay, avowed, “Mask your real goals by using the ruse of a fake goal, until the real goal is achieved.”
Let’s make our real goal clear. The propagation of Chinese Communist influence in the United States and around the world must end. In late March, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and I sent a bipartisan letter to universities across Texas requesting they shutter the Confucius Institutes they host. Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has done the same in Florida.
Both the House and Senate are considering bipartisan legislation to enhance the ability of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to identify and prevent Chinese subversion of our economic security, and separate legislation to prohibit federal agencies from using Chinese telecommunications services and equipment.
The president’s National Security Strategy correctly identified that past U.S. policy to liberalize China has failed, and instead we’ve seen the rise of a more capable military built on the back of a Chinese economic march aided by the influence they’ve accumulated along the way.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these facts — and facts they are — this is certainly not the Liberated [World] we fought to build up.” As we stood up against communist influence during the Cold War to tear down the Iron Curtain that imprisoned freedom-craving people around the world, let us lift the cloud of communism that China is blanketing us with and turn Xi’s Long March into a defeat for repression and a victory for freedom.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R) represents Texas’s 10th Congressional District. He is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The op-ed originally appeared in Foreign Policy, here.