Brian Kennedy: Did Communist China Miscalculate with the Hong Kong Security Law?

June 6, 2020 Updated: June 6, 2020

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In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, why has the Chinese Communist Party chosen this moment to push ahead the Hong Kong national security law?

Is it trying to send a message to the U.S. and the world? Is a more serious confrontation approaching?

And how can the U.S. put meaningful pressure on the Chinese regime?

In this episode, we sit down with Brian Kennedy, Chairman of The Committee on the Present Danger: China, President of the American Strategy Group, and senior fellow as well as former President of The Claremont Institute.

This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.

Jan Jekielek: Brian Kennedy, so great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.

Brian Kennedy: Great to be back with you, Jan. Always a pleasure.

Mr. Jekielek: Brian, you’re the head of the Committee on the Present Danger: China. We have an inordinate amount of things to talk about today. Every day, it’s amazing to me how many different things are kind of coming into the news cycle related to China. Of course, most recently, inHong Kong, the passage of the draft national security law, or let’s call it the rubber-stamping of the draft national security law, and then of course, the US response, which is Secretary Pompeo saying Hong Kong is not autonomous. What does this all mean, Brian?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, it’s a very disturbing problem that the U.S. is facing today and of course, the people of Hong Kong. We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has cost 100,000 American lives. This is an unprecedented time in American history. In the middle of all that, the PRC, the Chinese Communist Party, decides to further their crackdown on Hong Kong and to do it in a way that is bold and it seems to me, designed to provoke the United States in ways that could only further alienate our two countries from one another.

… The United States, under Secretary Pompeo, had to determine that there was no longer a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong because of everything the Chinese Communist Party was doing, especially with this proposal, the national security law, that would effectively end any kind of political dissent. When we had to declare that they’re no longer autonomous, wheels get put into motion that would actually distance the United States from Hong Kong and make Hong Kong effectively part of the PRC. In doing so there’s going to be financial penalties put on Hong Kong and the PRC over time.

We want to do that in such a way that doesn’t hurt the people of Hong Kong, but that clearly says to China, the Chinese Communist Party, that in fact, they’re going to be treated just like the rogue regime that they are, and that they’re not going to be able to enjoy Hong Kong as a remote, separate entity that enjoyed most favored nation status, effectively. That was an interesting and unfortunate development here, because it’s provocative, and it really is, in a way, closing the door on Hong Kong [for] the United States. We regret having to do this, of course, but also the people of Hong Kong are not being served by us keeping them autonomous when in fact, they’re not autonomous.

Mr. Jekielek: So Brian, the Committee on the Present Danger: China has published a statement on some of the ways in which the U.S. can respond to Hong Kong, and it’s described that it should be a response that affects the Communist Party in “material ways.” Tell me about that.

Mr. Kennedy: Well, I think the clearest way is that today, the People’s Republic of China and all of its state-owned enterprises are allowed to come to U.S. capital markets to raise money. We’re recommending as a committee that the United States effectively deregisters those companies and doesn’t let them be traded on the U.S. stock market. Some are on the main U.S. stock market, some are listed as A-share stocks that are traded on the exchange traded funds.

This is a real lifeline going from American investors to these state-owned enterprises. These are the state-owned enterprises that are both normal everyday companies, like Alibaba and what have you, but also companies that are bad actors like Hikvision that are responsible for some of the monitoring camera systems that control the camps that the Uyghurs are put in [and the] imprisonment there in Xinjiang.

The idea that a Chinese corporation could come to Wall Street, have their stock listed, and raise capital in the United States is a great concern, and it’s a free ride that we should no longer give to the PRC. It seems to me that the sooner the administration could act on that, the better. I think the Trump administration has already seen the downside of having U.S. federal employees investing in such accounts. Let’s take the next step and make sure that the Chinese corporations don’t get to enjoy the benefit of the U.S. stock market, especially since there’s an exemption within that, that allows them to not have to do covered audits, the way any American or other company would have to.

Under the Obama and Biden administration, they really got preferential treatment when it came to being able to come to the US capital markets, not have to do audits. There was a special agreement, allowing them not to have to do audits and to come here to raise capital and have their companies grow at the expense of the protection of U.S. investors. One of the things the committee is encouraging is that that practice simply ends.

One, why do we want to benefit Chinese corporations this way? And two, we want to protect the U.S. investors, who by and large are not going to scrutinize such things. They think that if they’re in the U.S. capital markets, they have the, as it were, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. [This practice] has to end.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, what I find so fascinating about this whole situation is it’s almost like they’re forcing the U.S. and, frankly, the free world to take a side here. There’s a lot of people that might have financial interests, for example, in not having what you just described happen. But given this recent encroachment on Hong Kong, given a whole lot of other activity, which I hope we discuss today during our talk, like in the South China Sea encroachment and so forth, it makes it very hard for those people to even have an argument anymore. It’s almost like the CCP is saying, “Pick a side, folks.” What do you think?

Mr. Kennedy: That’s a very good question, very insightful, because it’s pretty provocative, isn’t it? In the middle of all this, to also push on Hong Kong. Did they need to do this now, knowing that the United States would have to push back? … Secretary Pompeo and the President are not doing this arbitrarily. It’s U.S. law under the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act that we have to declare whether there’s a high degree of autonomy. They pushed us to this position, where we have to say there’s no longer this autonomy there.

I worry that the Chinese are pushing us to the point where something more than a cold war is emerging, that they’re not only drawing a line in the sand, they’re walking across it, and they’re pushing us, and they’re signaling to us their intent to no longer behave by international norms of behavior. We thought we had a good working relationship with them even with all the problems between the two countries. But have we reached a moment here where the Chinese Communist Party simply decides that they’re no longer going to sit by and they’re going to start something more provocative? Because really, why would you do [what they have done in] Hong Kong right now unless you wanted to lock down and send a signal to the people of Hong Kong that you were prepared to do other things in addition? I mean, was this a signal?

It’s a signal, I think, both to the people of Hong Kong, that they’re going to behave themselves and if they don’t, they’re going to be disciplined. It’s also a signal to the United States, that they’re not going to listen to what we have to say when it comes to Hong Kong. They’re going to do what they think is right. They’re going to do what they think is in their interest. And so we ought to take this as seriously as they are, because I think a serious confrontation may well be coming here.

Mr. Jekielek: Before I ask the scary, obvious next question, what are the implications for the U.S.-China trade war?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, you saw that the Vice Premier today in China said that he encourages us to continue along with our commercial relations. Even though we have this animosity, we ought to continue the commercial relations. I think, as a practical matter, they would like to abide by the Phase 1 of the trade deal if they can, but they also know that if they don’t want to, they’re not going to. President Trump can encourage them and they may continue that, but it looks like … they may or may not. It’s very difficult to see whether they can purchase enough to make up what we’ve lost over the first six months of this year.

But I think the bigger trade issue is really the fact that still today, the United States imports so much of our medicine from China, so that even if there’s confrontation over Hong Kong, we can’t simply prohibit all sales from China to the United States. We’re not going to have an embargo of Chinese goods to the United States when 80-90% of our active pharmaceutical ingredients and our pharmaceuticals are coming from China. That’s a consideration for the administration as well.

We’ve not fully figured out and taken the necessary steps or taken them adequately to actually decouple from China, as desirable as that may be. And so, in the short run here, we’re going to have to continue the economic relationship as we’re rebuilding our industrial base and making sure that we could be independent from the PRC.

Mr. Jekielek: Brian, I had Rosemary Gibson on this show some time ago now [discussing this],. … Building on this question that you just described so aptly, we know … there is action being taken to reshore, or let’s call it friendly shore, some of this production of pharmaceuticals, but this is quite a bit of leverage that the Chinese Communist Party seems to have.

Mr. Kennedy: Well, yes. … The Chinese are very strategic in how they operate. They’re nothing if not calculating when it comes to both their business dealings and their political dealings. And so they saw in the United States a country that was spending over 30% of our GDP on healthcare, and over time, they decided to tap into that. One important strategic way was to basically be the main production site of global manufacturing when it comes to pharmaceuticals and medicines. That was, I would say, a common sense decision on their part to be very influential with the use of medicine.

Rosemary Gibson, who is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China, has written brilliantly about the need to get American manufacturing going again in these pharmaceuticals, because it’s simply intolerable to have so much of our manufacturing base in pharmaceuticals done in a country that appears to be behaving in a hostile way towards the United States. It’s one thing if this were in England or France or Germany or Canada or Mexico or a friend. This is being held in a country, Communist China, that openly writes about unrestricted warfare against the United States. The idea that we would let our pharmaceuticals be produced there is simply crazy. It’s an example of the kind of strategic malfeasance our leaders have had up to now, and I think President Trump knows about this now and is trying to correct it. He can only do it sooner rather than later.

Mr. Jekielek: So Brian, I’m reminded of something one of the Chinese Communist Party propaganda mouthpieces published, again not too long ago in the midst of America suffering with coronavirus basically saying that America could drown in a “sea of coronavirus” by withholding medicines. They were making this suggestion. I thought that was just astounding that they would do that.

Mr. Kennedy:  Very provocative, isn’t it? I mean, that followed with everything else that had occurred with the virus itself. … Of course, everyone’s being criticized for how the government responded to the virus, but if you look at the initial outbreak of this, people around the world were seeing things in December and January. There were these stories coming out of Wuhan about the virus, and it was dramatic. You saw people in hazmat suits disinfecting the streets, stories of lockdowns in Wuhan and welding people’s doors shut.

American policymakers didn’t know what was going on. During this, the CDC, our CDC, asked to be let into Wuhan to see what was going on, and we weren’t allowed. We’ve not been allowed to this very day. … I think it was from the Global Times [actually Xinhua News Agency] that that remark came, which is an organ of the CCP [as is the Xinhua News Agency]. We were threatened with “a mighty sea of coronavirus.”

Well, I mean, the combination of all those things would have concerned US policymakers to the point where they wondered, were we in a kind of biowarfare, or biowar, with the PRC here? They do these very provocative things and they threaten us at the same time, just as they control our pharmaceutical production. The combination of all those things had to lead the US government to the view that we were in a very significant and serious position.

The world we find ourselves in today is still trying to sort out what all this means. And that should be … of great concern to both the US people and still to US policymakers, because the PRC is really doing their best to keep the United States off-balance. This is the same United States that was trying to hold the PRC to account for all their bad economic behavior over the past 20 years, and so isn’t it curious that in the fourth year of a Trump presidency, we have this amazing viral outbreak, followed by … these very provocative statements by the Chinese Communist Party.

And we’re going through an unprecedented period in our economic history. It’s something that everyone should be taking very seriously, and I applaud the Epoch Times for all the work that they’re doing on this. I think the coverage of the virus itself and the fallout in China and the fallout in the United States has just been the very best in the media. Very responsible, very informative, and I just want to thank you for all you’re doing in that regard, because I do think it’s something that everyone should be looking at.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, Brian, I appreciate you saying that, and it’s also incredible because we’ve also been attacked for that very same coverage in various ways and in various countries. But we’re going to keep plowing through and trying to get the freshest, most important information out there as it comes.

Something just comes to my mind that you wrote, building a little bit on what you were just talking about. This is kind of a provocative statement on your part, but I frankly think reasonable. You were saying well, communist China is a country that has literally killed tens of millions of its own people in recent history.

In the Hong Kong statement, you mentioned that something that we should be doing is to be impeding “organ genocide.” I assume you’re talking about this billion-dollar murder for organs industry that is under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party running to this very day. I think there was even a lung transplant [recently] that was done that looked like it must have come out of that exact system based on multiple factors. So … basically, you argue, it is hard to imagine that the CCP wouldn’t just say, “We’ll take some collateral damage here, but if we can really damage the free world or the U.S., let’s do it.” I don’t want to put words in your mouth. That’s what I read. What are your thoughts?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, on the bigger point of what the CCP was doing, we do know that they’re willing to kill their own people when it comes to achieving their political objectives. If they’re willing to kill their own people, then what would they do to people from other countries? And so, here you have the Chinese Communist Party, which is being held to account for the first time in 30, 40 years, with all of their bad behavior, all their bad economic behavior, really pushing them on human rights, and a viral outbreak occurs in Wuhan, and they let it spread around the world.

Now, is that simply the case that this was an accident… ? Even if the occurrence of the outbreak was accidental, letting it spread around the world was not. They at the … highest levels of government made a strategic decision for that to come to the United States. I believe they did so with the calculated estimation that it would reset American politics. One, it would cause an enormous economic crisis, right, if we had to shut down the government.

And they didn’t give us the information so that we could make better judgments about that, right? They didn’t tell us what was going on in Wuhan. We asked for the genomic sequence of the virus. I believe the first one they gave us was wrong, and so much of our early testing was wrong. That occurred, and so the United States had to deal with this in a very severe way, such as, as we know, locking down the whole country. Now did the PRC in their calculations believe that that would cause both an economic crisis in this country and a political crisis?

Now, if President Trump survived that, well, he survives it. But if you’re the PRC, and you can insert something into American politics, where you can take this very popular president and try to get him unseated, and put in power someone who’s going to be favorable to your point of view, i.e. Joe Biden, or perhaps any of the other Democrats, if you could do that, why would that be the worst calculation?

If you’re the CCP, do you want a world where the United States is going to put America first, where the views of the globalists, which have been so prominent for so many years, are no longer prominent, where people are putting the well-being of the American people first and foremost? Does the CCP want that kind of world? The answer emphatically is no. They don’t want that. They want a world where globalism is predominant, where they are the leader of that world, whether they do that through economic power or through intimidation. The only thing standing in their way was Donald Trump.

What could you possibly do to change that equation? I would argue that this virus, or at least the way they’ve handled it over the last five months, has been, from their point of view, a very effective way of creating a great deal of uncertainty in our politics. We don’t know what our politics even look like anymore. We’re talking about mail imbalance [with mail-in voting]. The potential for fraud is enormous. We don’t know what people are thinking about politics the way they used to.

… This may backfire on the Chinese Communist Party too, of course. Americans could be very irritated by this and decide to come vote for Trump in enormous numbers, in which case if you’re the CCP, you’ve lost nothing. But if you can get rid of Trump, that’s really where you want to be. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Everybody who cares about freedom ought to be interested in how we preserve American freedom. But I do think this has been a real threat to our freedom, our way of life, the way we think about these things. It wasn’t an accident. That part of it was not an accident.

Mr. Jekielek:  So many vantage points here potentially. I still want to talk a little bit about your approach to Hong Kong, but I want to jump into this [first]. You mentioned Joe Biden. Certainly he has … in the past administration, he’s worked in a much more positive way with the Chinese Communist Party leadership and so forth.

But recently he has very much come out and talked about a very strong line on China. We’re seeing Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, basically saying, condemning the situation in Hong Kong, coming out. And we’re seeing something which was new to me, and I think quite important, this Blue Dog Coalition of the Democrats basically calling for an investigation of the origins of the pandemic, which was something we weren’t hearing much from the Democratic side so far. So there does seem to be, to me, an increased bipartisanship [agreement about] treating the Chinese Communist Party seriously.

Mr. Kennedy: Well, there should be. This shouldn’t be a Democrat, Republican kind of issue. This should be bipartisan. When it comes to our national defense, we ought not to need to take sides here. I do hope the Democrats join with Republicans to actually penalize the Chinese Communist Party for all the bad things they’ve done. There’re the Magnitsky Acts; there’s all sorts of steps that Congress could take to make sure that the Chinese Communist Party and the PRC and its corporations more broadly are not advantaged during any of this and in fact, are penalized for the things they’re doing.

It used to be in American politics that the Democrats and the Republicans were together on national security. But I’d say in a bipartisan way myself, that very often the Republicans have looked the other way over the past 30 years. The Republicans have let Chinese malfeasance slide by, because they put the interests of profits and trade with China ahead of the interests of the American people, properly understood. Hopefully emerging out of this is a bipartisan consensus that we both have to defend the United States from the Chinese Communist Party, and we have to do these things internally, make sure that we’re strong economically and that we’re able to employ our own people and manufacture strategic goods here in the United States.

If that emerges from this, that’ll be a good thing. Again, that’s partly where I say the Chinese Communist Party may have miscalculated. They were hoping to bully us or otherwise demoralize us, I believe, with this behavior. But if there’s anything we’ve learned over time, it is that the American people are not easily demoralized, that when you push them, they’ll push back, that the American worker is the most productive worker in the world, [and] that the American entrepreneur is unparalleled. We’re the most inventive, creative people on the planet. To the extent that we can unleash the economic engine of the United States, that will be a good thing for us and not so good a thing for those countries that want to have dictatorships and a totalitarian system, like the PRC.

Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about that ingenuity. That actually brings me back to a question I had about Hong Kong, which is one of the things I noticed you have in here as a recommendation is—and this isn’t something that is being talked about so much recently; it has been in the past— building initiatives or enhancing initiatives to break down the so called Great Firewall [of China]. At the Epoch Times, we work with the Global Internet Freedom Consortium to basically help get the Epoch Times read in China, right? This is one group that’s been very effective over the past at least 15 years or something like that. Now, why did you choose this time to talk about breaking down the Great Firewall?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, I think partly that was a recognition that the good people of China, when presented with the facts about what is actually going on in the world, would choose to do the right thing and eventually get rid of the Chinese Communist Party. Getting rid of the Great Firewall is a vote for freedom for the people of China. Today, they don’t have that freedom and they’re not able to get access to the good works of the free world in ways that we thought transparently would happen over time.

I mean, … I feel like I’m getting old now, but I can remember 30 years ago conversations happening, where people would talk about communist China, and people would say, “Well, you know, yes, they’re modernizing economically, but are they ever going to modernize politically?” Because that was the great hope, right? They’d modernize economically, you’d have economic freedom, and then you’d have political freedom and that relations would be good with a country of over a billion people.

Invariably, conservative commentators would hold up a floppy disk, and they’d throw it on the desk and they’d say, “See that floppy disk?” People don’t even know what floppy disks are anymore, but those floppy disks would have all sorts of information. The Chinese people would see that information, they’d understand freedom, they’d understand what was going on in the world, they’d understand the evils of the Chinese Communist Party, and they would eventually push and demand political freedom.

Well, [after] these 30 years of these kinds of conversations, they don’t have political freedom, because they actually have not gotten access to the very information that we thought would be ubiquitous throughout China, that you wouldn’t be able to control it. But of course, what have we found out? That the Chinese Communist Party are masters in controlling information, of disseminating all sorts of disinformation, and making sure that the truth does not come from the rest of the world.

The people of China should be able to get access to the very best information. Getting rid of that firewall would allow them to be able to hear from the United States, from Taiwan, from Hong Kong, from Chinese people all around the world who really know what’s going on, from Americans, from people throughout Europe who believe in human freedom, who want to help the people of China, and want for the people of China the kind of freedom that we here in the West enjoy.

Mr. Jekielek: Brian, earlier when we were speaking, you made this suggestion, and again, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but this is what I got, is that the Chinese Communist Party may be readying for real war.

Mr. Kennedy: Well, let’s hope they’re not, but one never knows. In the history of the world countries make gross strategic miscalculations. We’ve seen what they did with the coronavirus. One of the arguments I’ve made about that is, here we are in the middle of these very sensitive trade negotiations, and there was this push in the United States between globalism and free trade and the continuance of the status quo, and then the America-first, hold China to account approach. That was going on, and we did sign a trade deal in January.

In the middle of all that, you have this viral pandemic. What goodwill China would have gained from actually saying to the United States and the world, “We’ve had this awful thing happen here in China. Why don’t you come in? Why don’t you help us figure out what’s going on here? Let’s work together as good global citizens, because inevitably, this is going to spread to the United States and the rest of the world. Let’s work together. Let’s show that globalism actually does work, and let’s fix this problem together.”

Instead, they did the exact opposite. Instead, they kept that information as we just were talking about. They kept it from us. They really forced us in so many ways to engage in this lockdown, which itself is a very provocative act on their part, to deny us information during a global pandemic, that is a way of saying to the United States, “We’re not going to behave like a good global actor. We’re not going to behave like someone who can be trusted. We’re going to behave like a hostile country.” Now, is that meant to bully us? Is that meant to lead us to war? Well, it certainly looks like it’s trying to bully us. Hopefully it doesn’t lead us to war.

When they do these things militarily, such as incursions into India, when they talk about no longer the peaceful reunification of Taiwan, but the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, when they talk about it in certain kinds of terms, are they sending signals to both Taiwan and to the United States that they are preparing for war? Because the last thing they want to do is scare us and actually get a war. …They would rather do this in such a way as to intimidate us into backing down. I think the virus was designed to intimidate us into backing down over economic issues in so many ways.

When they’re talking about what they’re doing in Hong Kong or Taiwan, or they’re building up their military in such a way, they’re doing that because [maybe] they want to prepare for war. They’re building a first class military, and I don’t think the American people fully understand that. They still think America is the most powerful military in the world, and we’re very good. But if we have to fight a war in Asia, in the Pacific, it’ll be touch and go, simply because the Chinese can deploy so many ships and aircraft against us. …These are first world type of aircraft. They have a fourth generation fighter aircraft, working on a fifth generation, military that is designed to match ours. They’re going to use that either in actual war or to intimidate us.

One way or another, we have to be prepared. We have to take seriously now these things that they’re talking about doing. When they talk about reunifying with Taiwan, by force if necessary, then we have to make calculations as the American people about whether we’re ready, about whether we have an adequate military. Now, I will say I think President Trump has done a lot to rebuild the American military, and that’s quite good. But there’s a lot of things that still have to be done. In [other] words, we Americans care a lot about human life. The PRC and the Chinese Communist Party do not. They’d be willing to lose a lot of people if it meant completely displacing the United States from Asia, which ultimately has to be one of their strategic goals. Whether they can achieve that now, or 5 years or 10 years or 20 years from now, that has to be one of their strategic objectives that they’re working for. Everything they’re doing now would suggest that that’s part of their plan.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, so let’s talk about the reality in Asia. We know obviously, what’s happening with Hong Kong, at least on the surface. … There’s been this change in rhetoric towards Taiwan. There are, of course, many other countries that are major players there: Japan, Malaysia is coming to mind, Indonesia, Philippines. Do you have a sense of what is happening in the region, what people there are thinking?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, I think they have to be making the same judgments that you and I are talking about here. They’re wondering, is China just blustering and bullying? Or do the Chinese and the Chinese Communist Party, do they mean this? Are they going to do something about it? If I’m a military planner in Japan, and I see the kind of aircraft and submarines and surface ships that China has been building, I have to take that seriously, because those are very serious military capabilities. … One has to simply assume that the PRC is doing this in order to be able to project capabilities, and they’re not going to do this lightly, and they want everybody in Asia to know, especially Japan, that they’re serious here about the things that they want.

If you’re going to take on China, you better be prepared to have a military capable of challenging them. I can tell you, I don’t think the Japanese and I don’t think the United States wants to have a war with the PRC. Now does the PRC want one with America and Japan and other nations in Asia? We don’t know. And again, this is part of making those kinds of strategic mistakes that lead you to war.

In the meantime, they’re going to take every political advantage they can, and if they can intimidate the United States and intimidate the American people to where we don’t vote for Donald Trump–because Donald Trump represents standing up for America–if we can somehow bend and vote for Joe Biden, because we don’t want to live in a world where the PRC is intimidating us, threatening us, this is the calculation the Chinese Communist Party is making, right?

Did the virus work in getting people moved away from Trump? If the answer is no, can we be provocative militarily? Can that move people away from Trump to a president that may be more amenable to China? This is the kind of politics they’re capable of playing, and it looks like that’s exactly what they’re doing here. Why be so provocative right now? What do they hope to gain?

They’ve just lost how much money annually from Hong Kong being cut off from the United States, and its most favored nation status? How much money did that cost the PRC this week? Billions and billions of dollars. It has united the Republicans and the Democrats against them, which again, may mean that this is a mistake on the part of the CCP, that they didn’t get this right. It may mean that when they make these kinds of mistakes, it could lead to other mistakes in the future, whether it’s military or economic or political.

We’re entering a period of great uncertainty here, and so we have to be mindful of the fact that a country like … communist China may make the kind of mistakes that cause real problems. I think we’ve seen one with the virus. Hopefully, we won’t see one that leads to war, but that certainly looks like where we’re going, and that’s most unfortunate. I think the American people need to be in lockstep with their political leaders who hopefully can, in a bipartisan way, hold China to account, make sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States, that we’re building a military that can defend us, that can deter communist China from thinking that these kind of machinations can work. In every crisis, there’s opportunity both ways. Hopefully, the American people wake up and understand that we can’t be pushed around this way and that we have to work together as Americans to make sure that we’re strong and defended.

Mr. Jekielek: So Brian, a couple of quick vantage points before we finish up. One of them is that the US has been, let’s say, accused of receding from the world stage. It’s certainly removing itself from certain multilateral relationships, or it appears that way. On the other hand, I’m seeing commentary, especially with the recent moves on Hong Kong, that the US is taking a leadership role globally. … How do you see the US engaging internationally right now?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, that’s a very good question. So many of these international organizations are dominated by countries that have no right being part of it. When you have countries like Cuba and China being on human rights commissions and leading human rights commissions at the UN, one kind of has to believe that something’s amiss and that those international organizations aren’t worth being part of.

You saw the President has been very critical of the World Health Organization for being part of the cover-up of the human-to-human spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan. And so, here’s a world health organization that is designed to take preventative steps for exactly this kind of situation, and instead you find them working with the Chinese Communist Party to make sure there’s a cover-up. I think in a very sensible way, the United States is examining these things.

Secretary Pompeo has been taking a hard look at America’s role in these organizations, and I think that’s a very healthy thing. In the past, we’ve just been going along because we didn’t want to rock the boat, and President Trump and his administration is willing to rock the boat. That’s a very good thing. You saw just how much leadership this administration was able to demonstrate when it came to Hong Kong. That was a big step in calling for Hong Kong to be described as no longer being able to govern itself with a high degree of autonomy, and the fact that the administration did that and Secretary Pompeo made that declaration before the Congress, I think that’s a big deal.

Other administrations would have looked at it and pretty much let it go and swept it under the rug or just downplayed what the national security law was. This administration stood up for the people of Hong Kong in ways that were, I would argue, perfectly predictable, because when you’re gonna propose a law that really does end political dissent, you are saying to the people of Hong Kong and the world, “We don’t care what you think. We’re going to do what we want to do, which is consolidate the communist hold on the people of China, and the people of Hong Kong,” and we, the United States, hope not the people of Taiwan.

But I would say, Jan, that we’re entering a period in our relations with China that are becoming very dangerous, that they’re doing the kind of things that would suggest that they’re no longer interested in peaceful coexistence, or whatever phrase professors of international relations like to ascribe to these things, that they’re entering a period where they want to be provocative and assertive. They want to push us off the international stage, and they want to see how we’ll react. They’ll want to see … will we defend Taiwan? Will we defend Japan? Will we defend our interests in Asia? Will we defend ourselves? Will we bring manufacturing back to the United States? Will we do all the things President Trump has described and are so absolutely necessary for our national survival?

Mr. Jekielek: Brian, any final words?

Mr. Kennedy: Well, I want to thank you for having me part of this again. I think these are really important conversations that I hope the people of the United States and all the people who read the Epoch Times and the people in the free world can be part of, because now is the time for making a decision about whether or not we’re going to defend the United States and the free world, or whether or not we’re going to sit idly by and let the Chinese Communist Party dictate events.

I can say, as an American who speaks regularly to a lot of the American people, that it would be a very bad idea for the Chinese Communist Party to continue down this path, because the American people still very much believe in freedom and are willing to fight and die for that freedom, because we think something matters more than money and power, and that is living as free men and women in a constitutional republic. To the extent that we can always defend that, the world will be a better place.

Mr. Jekielek: Brian Kennedy, such a pleasure to have you on.

Mr. Kennedy: Thank you, Jan. It was great to be with you.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

American Thought Leaders is an Epoch Times show available on Facebook and YouTube and The Epoch Times website
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