To many Americans, China is an exotic place, rich in history, and filled with industrious workers. Although China is run by a communist regime, many – perhaps most – Americans regard as perfectly harmless.
Over the last decade or so, however, several experts have been warning that this attitude is dangerously naïve. They argue that China is committed to overtaking the U.S. as the world’s greatest power and will use every illiberal means at its disposal to achieve that end and dominate the rest of the world.
One of these experts is Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China. A graduate of Cornell Law School, Chang frequently appears on major television and radio stations as an expert on Chinese affairs and has written for such publications as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Gatestone Institute, and Newsweek.
The Jewish Press: Is China a threat to the U.S. and, if yes, how so?
Chang: China is a danger to every country in the world, especially the United States. In May 2019, People’s Daily – which is the most authoritative [communist party] publication in China – actually ran a piece that declared a “people’s war” on the United States.
And China doesn’t believe that any other country has sovereignty. [Chinese President] Xi Jinping has been talking about the concepts that underpinned two millennia of Chinese rule [noting] that Chinese emperors believed they had the mandate of heaven over “tianxia,” which translates as “all under heaven.” So if you believe that you have the right – and indeed the obligation – to rule everything under the heaven, that makes you a threat to every other country in the world.
What, practically speaking, will the future look like if China succeeds in its aims? Are we talking about a major war? Economic pressure? What world may an American be living in 50 years from now?
We could be living in the Dark Ages again. China’s system is [incompatible] with the notion of civilization as we in the West conceive it. China has, for example, this doctrine of unrestricted warfare, which comes from the title of a 1999 book by two Chinese air force colonels; they believe they can do anything they want.
Look at what we’ve just seen over the last 18 months. We don’t know for sure where the SARS-CoV-2 – which is the pathogen that causes Covid-19 – came from, but we do know that China took steps in 2019 and 2020 to deliberately spread the disease beyond its borders.
China’s leaders only announced that this disease was transmissible from one person to the next on January 20, 2020, but they knew at least five weeks before that – and maybe even as long as five months – that this disease was highly transmissible, but they were telling the world it was not.
Xi Jinping was pressuring countries not to impose travel restrictions and quarantines on people arriving from China while he was locking down his own country. So you put those two things together – deliberate falsehoods about transmissibility plus forcing countries to accept arrivals from China – and the only conclusion is they deliberately spread this disease. This is, in other words, mass murder.
So that shows you the maliciousness of the Chinese system, and that’s why we need to look at China in a very different light.
I’ve read a Chinese expert argue that the West misreads the Chinese threat because it focuses too much on the relative strengths of the U.S. and Chinese militaries. This expert noted that some of the greatest Chinese victories in history were won, not with military might, but trickery. Can you comment?
I don’t care about how the Chinese won or lost wars in the past. I worry about what they’re doing now, and what they’re doing now is malicious to the extreme. We can lose, not only our sovereignty, our freedom, and our way of life; we can lose the world that we have today. Everything is at stake.
When Americans read about the Cold War, they learn about brilliant American scientists facing off against brilliant Soviet scientists. I recently heard a lecture on China, though, in which the lecturer said something like, “America will spend $2 billion to develop a new technology, and China will spend $200,000 to steal it.”
Absolutely true. China steals hundreds of billion of dollars of U.S. intellectual property [i.e., patents, military secrets, business secrets, etc.] each year. John Ratcliffe, when he was director of national intelligence, put the number at about $500 billion.
What makes me really angry, though, is not the Chinese. I know they’re criminals. What makes me angry is we’ve had a series of presidents who took steps that they knew were insufficient to stop Chinas’s theft of U.S. intellectual property. Some of these presidents took virtually no steps at all. So to me this is a question, not of Chinese criminality, but of the feebleness of the American political system to defend itself.
Some have argued that to counter the Chinese threat, it’s important to draw closer to Russia. What do you think?
That’s something we need to consider. We have a lot of beefs with Russia. They engage in all sorts of conduct which is anathema to us. But for our own survival, we very well may have to try to woo Moscow away from Beijing. Right now, they’re working very closely together.
Some 400,000 Chinese students were studying at American universities before the pandemic started. Some claim these students occasionally spy for China and pose a threat to us. Do you think they do?
Of course. China’s 2017 national intelligence law requires every Chinese national and entity to spy if asked to. So every Chinese national in the United States is a potential national security threat because he or she is under compulsion to spy. There are estimates that 13 percent of Chinese students at our universities are engaging in activities that are incompatible with their status as students, so that’s a problem.
But again, this is not so much a question of Chinese criminality, but of American feebleness. This is our country. If Chinese students engage in spying or other activities that are dangerous to us, it’s in part because we’ve allowed this to continue.
There’s a lot that we can talk about in terms of whether Chinese students should be on our campuses. My dad was a Chinese student, so this is a subject that’s close to my heart, but my point is that we’ve allowed this situation to develop, and we need to stop it.
We’re talking about students who were born and raised in China, correct? We’re not talking about Americans with Chinese parents?
That’s correct. These are Chinese nationals. In other words, people who hold the passports of the Peoples Republic of China who are enrolled in American universities or colleges.
What’s your view of Israel-China relations? Israel seems to get along relatively well with China. Is that smart? Not smart?
Not smart. Right now, you’ve got a situation where Beijing is backing Hamas and Iran to the hilt and Hamas is killing Israeli citizens. If I were the prime minister of Israel, I would cut diplomatic relations with China. They’re the enemy.
Presumably Israel figures that, as a small country, it has to play the international game wisely and befriend as many powerful countries as it can.
Whatever they’re thinking, it’s wrong if China is directly contributing to the killing of Israeli citizens.
Last year, China and Iran signed a 25-year partnership agreement and China is rumored to have committed itself to invest $400 billion in Iran. Why would China support Iran?
There are many reasons, but part of it is they’re disrupting the established order. I suppose [China’s leaders] also believe that the Iranians will be grateful to China and therefore support China over Russia and certainly over the United States.
In the meantime, we in the U.S. are debating how to accommodate transgenders in the military. It’s hard to imagine us defeating China long-term if that’s the kind of issue we focus on.
You’re absolutely right. We have to understand that we have a common enemy… The Chinese have been [persecuting] the Uyghurs and Kazakhs and other Turk minorities. We know that they’ve been putting them into detention camps. We know that China has been torturing them and also killing them because China has been building crematoria next to those camps. So we’ve seen policies that are genocidal.
There’s also been an institutionalization of rape and slavery and the detention of children in facilities that are called orphanages but which really are prisons. There is probably also organ-harvesting of Uyghurs and others. And they’re going to do this to the rest of the world.
So it’s Tibetans yesterday, Uyghurs today, and everybody else tomorrow if China has the ability to do it.