October 19, 2022

Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for accelerating the building of a world-class military while touting the fight against COVID-19 as he kicked off a Communist Party Congress by focussing on security and reiterating policy priorities. Xi, 69, is widely expected to win a third leadership term at the conclusion of the week-long congress that began on Sunday morning, cementing his place as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.” Reuters

Many on both sides argue that President Xi’s authoritarian instincts present a serious risk to US strategic interests:

“Mr. Xi has stifled dissent, reimposed Marxist-Leninist indoctrination, subjected the populace to systematic surveillance, purged the party itself of potential opponents, and subjugated Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the latter through a genocidal campaign of forced labor and mass imprisonment of the Muslim Uyghur population…

“Half a century after President Richard M. Nixon’s opening to China, two decades after President Bill Clinton pushed Chinese most-favored-nation trading status through Congress, with bipartisan support, it is evident that the United States cannot guide China’s rise compatibly with U.S. strategic interests, much less in harmony with the rules-based international order, as many architects of past Western engagement efforts — governmental, corporate, scientific and intellectual — had hoped.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“In a decade Mr. Xi has crushed all dissent, imposed a vast censorship regime, and created [an] intrusive surveillance regime beyond anything the East German Stasi imagined. He has erased the autonomy for 50 years that China had promised Hong Kong and made Xinjiang province a prison camp for the Uyghurs… He has occupied and militarized disputed islands in the South China Sea, though he had promised not to. He has fanned disputes with India, Australia and Japan, and he is menacing Taiwan militarily…

“[China] is the most formidable [foe] the U.S. has faced since World War II, with economic and military power backed by ideological conviction and nationalist ambition. The West has been slow to recognize the seriousness of the threat, but perhaps the coronation of Mr. Xi will be the catalyst for a bipartisan awakening… The U.S. must rally its confidence and resources, and soon, if it doesn’t want a world dominated by Xi Jinping thought.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“[The US should] continue to strengthen new partnerships in the region, as well as its traditional alliances in Europe and East Asia. It should speed up efforts to improve Taiwan’s defenses and its own ability to thwart a Chinese invasion of the island, but avoid symbolic gestures that may trigger needless crises. Open conflict would only help Xi divert attention from his policy failures…

The US would also be wise to strengthen its defenses against economic disruptions. Xi is gambling that party control over the economy will yield greater gains than unleashed entrepreneurialism. China’s own record would suggest that bet is likely to fail. The US and its friends should thus continue efforts to reduce their dependence on mainland supply chains. They should also embrace the strengths of their more open systems rather than trying to emulate China’s command economy. Any controls on high-tech exports or investments should be narrowly targeted at specific threats, as should immigration curbs.”

The Editors, Bloomberg

The United States excels at comebacks… During my boyhood, the United States caught up in space but bogged down in Vietnam and blazed with protest. In the 1970s, we were made to dance like puppets by Saudi oil sheikhs, watched the economy flatline and sagged into a national malaise. The United States was held hostage by Iran at the start of the 1980s and was fearful of falling behind Japan by the end of the decade. By the turn of the century, a guy in a cave was making videos promising to defeat us…

“Lately, it’s China that’s going to outpace America — if we don’t have a civil war first. More than 60 years of threats and setbacks — and guess what? The United States is still the superpower on which friends rely and by which rivals measure themselves… As Putin’s fiasco teaches: An autocrat is his own worst enemy.”

David Von Drehle, Washington Post

From the Right

“This is not the Chinese military of even just a few years ago. Xi has transformed his armed forces into something that could wage war against America in Asia — and would have a chance to win, something unthinkable just a decade ago…

“Beijing’s top military minds have talked about a ‘bolt from the blue’ attack in which China launches a massive missile assault on US satellites in the sky, communications nodes, air bases and naval assets all over Asia if war looks imminent…

“While the US military battles about pronouns, China’s only goal is ensuring it can wipe out our forces if war comes. Beijing is investing billions of dollars [in] armed forces, building game-changer technology related to artificial intelligence, blockchain, cyberweapons and much more. Until the Biden administration can truly get serious about the threat China poses, our own military’s capabilities will degrade more and more.”

Harry J. Kazianis, New York Post

The U.S. defense industrial base is inadequately prepared for the wartime environment that now exists… In nearly two dozen iterations of a Center for Strategic and International Studies war game that examined a U.S.-China war in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. expended all its joint air-to-surface standoff missiles and long-range precision-guided antiship missiles within the first week of the conflict. These missiles are critical because of their ability to strike Chinese naval forces from outside Chinese defenses…

“Solving these problems will take time… That means we have to begin now. One step is for the Pentagon to reassess total munition requirements for one or more major wars… The Pentagon also needs to focus on targeted investments in key munitions and weapons systems, such as long-range precision strike and integrated air and missile defenses. These investments should include signing multiyear contracts.”

Seth G. Jones, Wall Street Journal

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