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Gordon Chang: ‘China is Not Just a Rival, But an Enemy’

Gordon Chang

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China’s presence and power have increased significantly over the last years. Beijing is “stretching its legs” throughout the Asia-Pacific region; they’re challenging American leadership worldwide and even venture into the western hemisphere.

How should America react against this threat? To put things in perspective, we interviewed Gordon G. Chang. For decades, he’s been one of America’s foremost experts on China, and his insights reveal to us an image of a serious but flawed enemy, that we can defeat by cutting ties with Beijing and putting America’s strengths in play.

Thank you very much for accepting this interview with El American. I’d like to ask you about China’s bet for power beyond its borders. Less than a decade ago, China had no aircraft carriers. Now they have two in active service, and reportedly they’re building at least a couple more. Is China getting ready to project its power globally? And will they succeed?

Well, certainly, China is trying to project power globally. They got now their first overseas military base in Djibouti; they got the Belt & Road initiative which is meant to extend China’s commercial interests, but by building infrastructure all across the world. I actually don’t think that they’ll succeed, largely because they just don’t have the resources to do everything at once, and that’s what they’re really trying to do.

Their ambitions are not to just dominate the world, their ambitions are to rule the orld. Xi Jinping has this notion of “Tianxia” (all under heaven), that the chinese ruler not only has the right to rule all under heaven, but has the obligation to do so. This goes back to China’s imperial era. Now, this may sound ludicrous but nonetheless, this is the way they think.

We see a growing Chinese influence in Latin America: They’re giving free stadiums to countries in Central America, they’re becoming the most significant trade partner for nations like Argentina, they’re backing Maduro’s dictatorship in Venezuela. Does this mean a national security threat to the United States? If that’s the case, will the Joe Biden administration act to stop China’s influence in the region? 

This is certainly a National Security threat to the U.S. In may 2019, the People’s Daily, the most authoritative publication in China carried a piece that declared the “people’s war on America”. So, China is our enemy, is more than just an adversary, more than just a competitor, and that means we have seen China take steps which are acts of war. 

For instance, last year, they were fomenting violence on American streets; they did that this year as well in connection with the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, so China means us harm and China’s presence in Latin America, close to America’s borders, is a threat; and even if it’s not a military presence is a threat. But of course, China has essentially shared facilities in our hemisphere which are military in nature, so Chinas is going full aboard against us.

And will the Joe Biden administration stop China? Or will they let the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) just do what they want?

We’ll see. The administration right now is involved in a top to bottom China review, and we don’t know how will come out. But we have some indications which are particularly disturbing. For instance, on January 20, just hours after taking the oath of office, President Biden issued an executive order that repealed President Trump’s may 1, 2020 order; and that may 1 order prohibited American operators and utilities from buying equipment made from China, in other words: equipment that China could sabotage, and that’s not just a theoretical concern. 

It was indefensible for Biden to do that, and I think that displayed a sort of mentality that “China’s not a real threat, we don’t need to protect ourselves in the interim; That’s wrong. And so we got to be concerned. Biden may think he has a policy, but for a very long time, Americans have not been driving the relations with China, the Chinese have been doing that; we’ve been reacting, so whatever policy Biden thinks he might have, the Chinese are probably going to preempt that.

Gordon Chang explains that America needs to defend itself from China's interference. Photo: El American/G. Garibay
Gordon Chang explains that America needs to defend itself from China’s interference. Photo: El American/G. Garibay
Some people see a coming Chinese global domination as a certainty; some others point to China’s structural weakness: political corruption, an aged population, etc., to argue that China cannot actually challenge the United States on a global scale. How much of a threat is China for America’s leadership and influence throughout the world? 

If you’re talking long, long term, then China is in real trouble. Just take one aspect, its demography: China’s demography is in the initial stages of the most dramatic collapse [in history] – absent war and pestilence. If present trends continue, and let’s say even China demography stabilizes -which is not anywhere in sight- China at the end of the century will be less populous than the United States. 

That’s going to be very difficult for China to navigate, but that’s of course the long term, we’re talking eigthy years out; in the interim China of course will challenge the U.S. Whether it can sustain that challenge, I don’t think so, because in the short term their economy is in trouble, just look at the disease.

No economy is going to stabilize unless the country has a vaccine which has proven to be both safe and effective. China has no vaccines that are particularly effective; they’re at best 65% effective, but they haven’t been proven safe, and China has not released the data on its vaccines, while the U.S. now has three safe and effective vaccines [those by] Pfizer, Moderna and now Johnson & Johnson.

China’s economy will not recover, because people are not going to want to go out and spend, and we have seen from data in 2020 that people in China are not consuming [as much] as we’d expect them to. The U.S. will recover, China is going to take a much longer time.

At CPAC we heard about how China’s growing interference is raising alarms in Japan or South Korea. If eventually China further disrupts the region, what should America do? What’s the best way to support America’s allies in Asia-Pacific? 

This is going to be not only rhetorical support, is also going to be working with countries in a very tangible way. For instance, [there’s] the Quad [Quadrilateral Security Dialogue], which is the informal grouping of India, Japan, Australia, and the United States. Under the Trump administration, they took great steps operation-wise in our relations with Quad members, and I think the Biden team is going to do the same because it just makes so much sense.

Those are the things that we need to do. We need to be very clear to the Chinese, not only in private, but in public, that their aggressive military moves will be met with force. It was good that the Biden administration affirmed article 5 of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty – that’s the provision which requires us to defend Japan if it’s attacked.

The Trump administration was very good at building links with Taiwan, and I hope the Biden team does the same thing because we should be saying to the Chinese that we will defend Taiwan and, again, that needs to be a public declaration. If we do that, China will back off, [because] they don’t want to take us on; if we don’t do that, they may think that they can do something like grab a few of Taiwan’s outline islands, maybe even attack the main island itself. 

We can’t afford that because our western defense perimeter would collapse if China takes Taiwan

We’re seeing how America’s corporations are becoming increasingly “woke,” supporting the so-called social justice warriors and the left radicals at home. However, those same corporations are more than willing to overlook China’s very real human-rights transgressions. What does that tells us about China’s economic power?

To start out, let’s remember: these transgressions are not only human-rights abuses; they are crimes against humanity and genocide. 

Companies that take advantage of that should be held to public condemnation, and a company that comes to mind is Nike, which lectures the American people on racism, and yet for decades was taking advantage of shoes made in essentially a concentration camp-like facility, where racial minorities were being exploited. Nike says it doesn’t know anything about it, but how could it not? because it had that relationship. So this is important for us to look at.

Finally we’re hearing about the threat of China’s communist party and we see a growing conscience amongst conservatives that something needs to be done. What should be the agenda of the conservative movement regarding China and the Chinese Communist Party?

Well, the agenda of all America, regardless of party, should be to defend our republic, which is under malicious and unrelenting attack from China, and our FBI, local law enforcement and government officials are being overwhelmed. 

From my point of view, it means that we need to cut the contacts with China. We need to close their consulates, cut -back their embassy staff to just a few people. It means no trade, no investment in China’s markets, no China’s investment into our markets. I know it sounds drastic, but the point is: we’re being overwhelmed, and until we can manage this, we cannot allow China to do what is doing in our country. Until we can manage it we need to cut our ties.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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