The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is intentionally disrupting and undermining the international system that made it a global power, according to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. The United States and its allies, she said, were prepared to compete vigorously to counter the effort, and to heavily sanction it for support of Russia.
“The United States has been clear that we will compete, and compete vigorously, with [China] where we should, including on trade and the economy, technology and innovation, and other areas,” Sherman said at a meeting of the Friends of Europe think tank in Brussels on April 21.
“We have also been clear that we are committed to managing this competition between our countries so that competition does not veer into conflict.”
To that end, Sherman said that the United States would cooperate with China where it was in its interest to do so, and contest the CCP when its actions ran counter to American and allied interests or otherwise undermined the rules-based international order.
Sherman said that the international order as such was the largest driving factor in China’s rise, and that the Chinese CCP was “one of the biggest beneficiaries of that rules-based international order over the last half-century.”
“Today, however, Beijing is seeking to undermine the very system that they benefited from, to return instead to a system where might makes right, and big nations can coerce smaller countries into acting against their own interests,” Sherman said.
Sherman singled out the CCP’s aggression towards Lithuania, noting how Beijing weaponized its economy to lock Lithuania out of market access as retaliation for the opening of a Taiwan representative office in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.
She also underscored the CCP’s targeting of American companies including H&M, Adidas, and Nike, which received severe backlash in the country after taking a stand against forced labor in Xinjiang, where the Chinese communist regime is accused of carrying out a genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.
Perhaps most importantly, Sherman also reiterated on Thursday President Joe Biden’s promise of “consequences” on the CCP regime should it continue to grow its de facto alliance with Russia.
She condemned the Feb. 4 announcement between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, which declared a “no limits” partnership between China and Russia that would know “no forbidden areas.”
Since that announcement, China’s tacit support of the Russian war effort has drawn international condemnation. International intelligence reports have further suggested that CCP officials knew about Russia’s invasion plans in advance and requested that the war be postponed until the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
New reports from Ukraine also suggest that state-backed hackers in China conducted a massive cyberattack on vital civilian and military infrastructure in Ukraine the day before the Russian invasion.
This, despite the fact that China previously signed a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” with Ukraine, in which it vowed to provide unspecified security guarantees to Ukraine in the event of the threat of a nuclear attack.
Chinese propaganda has also worked tirelessly to parrot Russian state misinformation, going so far as to censor social media posts that called the war in Ukraine an “invasion” and parroting Russian claims that NATO expansion caused the war.
Ukraine was not being considered for NATO membership and, even if it were, would be denied on the grounds that it does not maintain territorial integrity in Crimea.
“I could give dozens of examples of [China’s] actions that seek to undermine nations’ political autonomy, to coerce businesses’ decision-making, and more, to literally steal intellectual property and trade secrets, to hunt down and silence human rights defenders and members of ethnic and religious minorities who have left [China], to bend the rules of the international system to suit their interests at the expense of the rest of the world,” Sherman said.
The comments appeared to reference a series of high-profile espionage cases announced by the Justice Department over the past month, including alleged plots by Chinese agents to violently interfere in an army veteran’s Congressional bid in New York, and to stalk and intimidate an American Olympic figure skater and her father.
Sherman said that the continued competition between the West and China went beyond support for Russia or mere anti-Americanism, however, and represented a contest over the very character of the future world order. It was a struggle, she said, between the values of representative government and pure authoritarianism.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Sherman said. “The question all of us face in the United States, in Europe, and in nations around the world, is a simple one. What do we want the world to look like? What do we want our future to be?”
“Do we want to have societies where people are free to speak their minds, to call a war by its name and to peacefully protest, or societies where governments are free to crack down harshly on anyone who contradicts the party line?”
“Do we want to have governments that are transparent and accountable to their people, or governments that exist to consolidate their own power and control their people in turn?”