Last year, Congressman Eric Swalwell’s ties to the suspected Chinese spy Fang Fang brought Chinese espionage to the forefront of national discussion. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
And beyond espionage, the Chinese Communist Party has become increasingly belligerent globally—from fueling riots in America to encroaching in Nepali territory to celebrating COVID-19 deaths in India. What is the Chinese leadership hoping to achieve, and why do they believe—according to Chang—that they are running out of time?
Furthermore, one year on, over 3 million people have died globally from COVID-19. Beyond covering up the initial outbreak, did China’s communist leaders intentionally spread this virus beyond its borders? And if it did, what does that mean for America and the world?
In this episode, we sit down with China analyst Gordon Chang to understand the full scope of Chinese communist subversion.
Jan Jekielek: Gordon Chang, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Gordon Chang: Well, thanks Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, let’s jump right to it. The topic, of course, is China. Here’s what you said: Isn’t it about time that Americans finally got serious about defending ourselves from the unrelenting assaults of China’s regime? What’s on your mind?
Mr. Chang: China has just overwhelmed our society. They’ve overwhelmed the FBI. They’ve overwhelmed local law enforcement and local governments. We’ve got to figure out how to deal with this.
I’ll just give you one example, the representative from California’s 15th congressional district, Eric Swalwell. In 2015, the FBI told Swalwell that he knew somebody who they suspected was a Ministry of State Security agent, Christine Fang—Fang Fang.
You have to remember that she first contacted Swalwell not while he was sitting on the House Intel committee, where of course, he would be of great benefit to China. She didn’t even contact him for the first time when he was sitting in the House, where of course, he also would be important. She first contacted him when he was sitting on the City Council of Dublin City, California.
That means they were probably looking at Swalwell on the off chance that someday he might become valuable to them. This suggests that there’s more than one Eric Swalwell. There could be dozens, probably hundreds of Swalwells, which means that there are dozens and hundreds of Christine Fangs. We have got to start removing China’s influence in our society.
This is not just the Democratic Party. This is the Republican Party too, because Christine Fang had contacts with Republicans. This is across the American political system right now. If we’re going to save our country we have to, on an emergency basis, remove our contacts with China until we get to the point where we can figure out and be assured that we can deal with this.
But right now we can’t, because they have infiltrated government. They’ve infiltrated media, academia, business, you name it. If it’s an institution, China has tried to penetrate it. So all we have is our common sense.
Last year, we know that China incited violence on American streets. They also organized protesters, from what we can tell, one block north of the White House on the night of May 31. That’s not confirmed, but it does appear to be true, because it mirrors reports of Chinese protesters on American streets in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities.
These are protesters who are speaking Mandarin, acting in obvious coordination with other Chinese protesters, and actually were overheard saying things that suggested Chinese government involvement. This is just one thing after another. If we’re going to have a country, we’re going to have to start removing China’s influences because they’re overwhelming us.
We’ve got a problem in our country talking about China in realistic terms because we have a president who says, “China is a competitor.” Yes, and I suppose in a sense, they’re a competitor. But really, a better term would be adversary, and a better term than that would be enemy.
We know that China has talked about the United States in terms of being its enemy. [In] May 2019, the People’s Daily, the most authoritative publication in China declared a “people’s war” on the United States. That was a month where that was not just the only piece. There were two other pieces that talked about the U.S. in militant tones, so we know that was not an aberration. That’s the way that they look at us and we’ve got to confront that.
Mr. Jekielek: Here’s the thing of course, you don’t want a situation where basically anyone that looks Chinese—you do, yourself, a little bit—being thought of as a potential suspect, do we?
Mr. Chang: Yes, of course. Nobody should be targeted because they’re Chinese-Americans or whatever. But Chinese-Americans have got to be real. Many of them have been supporting Beijing. They’ve been more loyal to the Communist Party than they’ve been to the United States. Chinese-Americans can’t think that they can do this and not escape consequences.
So it’s important for people like me to actually talk about this. No American has an obligation to speak. In our society, you can be as quiet as you want. But unfortunately, there have been so many Chinese-Americans who have sided with our enemy. It has become, as a practical matter, necessary for Chinese-Americans to speak about this.
Right now, we have about 580,000 Americans who have succumbed to COVID-19. We don’t know for sure the origin of this disease, although it does look like it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But we do know that Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, took steps that he knew or had to know would spread this pathogen beyond China’s borders.
That means that these Americans have been killed. This is murder. This is mass murder. What does it take to get us to defend ourselves?
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s dig into this question. Mass murder—that’s, of course, a big, big statement. We do know that based on the State Department’s findings and from numerous governments now, that the Chinese Communist Party is perpetrating genocide. But you’re talking about a different kind of mass murder here. Explain it.
Mr. Chang: If China intentionally spread this disease beyond its borders, that would be murder. We know that because of not only the deaths in America, but worldwide, about 3.2 million—that’s mass murder. We’ve got to break this down. This might take a bit of time, but let’s go through it if I can.
For instance, we know that Chinese leaders knew that this disease was highly transmissible human-to-human, but they admitted that only on January 20 of last year. But doctors in Wuhan knew no later than the second week of December of 2019 that they were dealing with a highly contagious disease, and a Harvard Medical School study suggests that doctors in Wuhan knew this in August of that year.
If Chinese leaders had said nothing for those five weeks or five months, that would have been grossly irresponsible, because they have a legal obligation to say something. But we know that they tried to convince the international community that it was not transmissible. What they were doing is they were convincing people around the world, “Don’t worry about this.”
But at the same time, Xi Jinping was pressuring countries not to impose travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals from China, while he was locking down his own country. By locking down his own country, he thought that he was stopping the spread of the disease, which means that by forcing other countries to take Chinese passengers, he had to know that he was spreading the disease.
In fact, the method of transmission was people from China, and there are more, but you put those two things together and it shows that this was an intent to spread the disease beyond China’s borders. That is mass murder. We know that this is the first time in history that one nation has attacked all the others.
We haven’t been able to confront this. I think part of it is, people don’t want to talk about this. Also in democracies, we have a hard time dealing with the concept of evil, and we can’t actually say this We have to start to think about the consequences of what China did.
Mr. Jekielek: To some extent, we can’t even say that the virus originated in China.
Mr. Chang: It doesn’t matter where the virus originated. It was in China at one point and we know what China did to spread it. That’s the reason why I believe that this was a crime against humanity—against all of humanity.
Of course, I think the disease did start in China and that’s a whole other conversation because it did look like it came from a lab. But at this point, we can’t say that. We can’t prove it, but we can prove the other stuff. That’s all we need to prove.
Mr. Jekielek: There is a whole doctrine of what we call “unrestricted warfare,” which is very easy to argue and literally playing out as we speak.
Mr. Chang: Yes. This is unrestricted warfare. We, Americans, have this notion about what kinetic war is. We think of it in those terms. But China believes that it’s in a long-term struggle with the United States and is willing to do anything to weaken us. This is below the threshold of kinetic war, but this is nonetheless a struggle.
Part of it is because we Americans think, “If we’re nice to other people, they’ll be nice to us,” and all the rest of it. But we don’t understand that it has almost nothing to do with us. Basically the Communist Party looks at the United States and understands the inspirational impact we have on the Chinese people. When you run an insecure regime, this is something that they understand to be posing a threat.
This comes from Miles Yu who [teaches at the] Naval Academy, worked for Secretary Pompeo, and speaks about this in very realistic tones. That’s one of the most important things that any American public figure has said—that we have to understand that this is a struggle because of who we are—because we are a democracy and because we are a beacon.
That is something that we’re not going to give up and that means that we are locked in this struggle with China, and China will engage in unrestricted warfare.
Mr. Jekielek: Tell me a bit more about what you were saying earlier about fanning the flames of discord and the protests. What exactly happened?
Mr. Chang: Especially in 2020, but this has also [occurred] this year as well, China used its social media platforms, text messages, and all the rest of it to create chaos in the United States.
For instance, the New York Times reported that in March of last year, China took rumors [which were] started by somebody else and they spread them through their social media and text messages that President Trump was going to invoke his powers under the Stafford Act and lock down the entire country.
Of course, China knew that was not true, but they did that nonetheless. For instance, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on March 12—you’ve looked at my tweets—the official Twitter feed of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on March 12 had that tweet from Zhao Lijian, the spokesman, who said that coronavirus patient zero was in the U.S. That’s saying that the disease started here.
Then he suggested that it was the U.S. Army that brought the disease to Wuhan. Of course, they know that that’s not right. That was not just an isolated tweet, because we’re hearing in recent weeks about how the disease probably started in Frederick, Maryland, which is where Fort Dietrich of the U.S. Army is, a biological lab. So this is something that is a consistent theme.
I’ll give you one other example. The U.S. closed the Houston consulate of China in July of last year. The question is, why did they pick Houston? There were four other consulates. The State Department said China was using this for espionage.
If that’s the rationale, they should have closed all five consulates, and they should have stripped down the embassy staff to just the ambassador. They chose Houston because it was being used to support violent protests in the U.S. Radio Free Asia reported that an intelligence unit of the People’s Liberation Army actually based themselves in the Houston consulate.
From there, they used big data and artificial intelligence to identify Americans likely to participate in Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests, and then send them videos on how to riot. They did that through TikTok. That is more than just subversion. That’s an act of war.
We have seen, for instance, the China Daily’s European bureau chief on October 18 of last year in a tweet urged Americans to go on the streets and throw petrol bombs. By the way, he was not de-platformed. The point is, this is also an act of war. There have been a lot of other suspicious reports.
You add all of this together and they’re trying to overthrow the U.S. government, and we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned Europe. A lot of us have been concerned over the past months that Europe is going to take a very, very easy line on Beijing despite all these human rights violations and types of aggression that you’ve been describing. Now, it seems like there’s a hold on this investment deal that the EU has been intending to sign with the CCP. Tell me about this. Do you think this actually means something?
Mr. Chang: China would take over the world except that they’re too aggressive. This just shows you how effective they are from a tactical point of view, but really so dumb from a strategic point of view.
For instance, in December of last year, the European Union announced a memorandum agreement with China, a comprehensive agreement on investment, but it would require a year or so to actually document and sign. This was just on the eve of President Biden taking office.
Remember, President Biden was the one who was saying, we need to revitalize our alliances and we have to work more closely with our European partners. Europe basically says, “I don’t want to work with you, I’m going to work with China.”
What’s happened since then is that EU officials have realized that this is just a non-starter for a number of reasons. They know that they can’t get it through the European Parliament and other reasons and so they basically announced, “We’re putting a halt on active negotiations.”
Of course, they could still revive this, but the point is that because China sanctioned EU officials, they could not continue and go forward with this. The reason why the EU sanctioned Chinese officials was because of China’s committing crimes against humanity in what they call Xinjiang, the northwestern part of the country where the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others call East Turkestan.
You have more than a million people in detention facilities. We know people are dying in those facilities, Jan, and we know they’re dying because China is building crematoria next to these facilities. But it’s not just detention and killing of people. There are acts of genocide, There is institutionalized slavery, mass rape, this is institutionalized rape, probably forced organ harvesting, and the list goes on.
These crimes are actually, of course, the worst since World War II. They’re probably even on a level of the Third Reich before the mass extermination of 1941. So this is driving a rights-conscious Europe to a point where they realize, they can’t maintain a trade agreement with China or an investment agreement with China because this is just so offensive and so abhorrent.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re mentioning some comparisons with the Nazi regime of the 1930s. As everybody knows these days, there was an Olympics that happened in 1936. People are calling the Olympics that’s upcoming in Beijing a “Genocide Olympics.” Your thoughts?
Mr. Chang: Yes, they are. A couple of things here. First of all, there is the genocide.
Remember, the United States is a party to the Genocide Convention of 1948. That convention requires signatories to prevent and punish acts of genocide. We know China is committing genocide as defined in the convention. We need to understand that participating in the Genocide Olympics is not preventing and punishing acts of genocide.
There’s another issue here that people generally don’t talk about. In 1963, the International Olympic Committee banned teams from South Africa. The reason is because South Africa prevented minorities from participating in sport. You’ve got the same situation in China right now where you have Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Tibetans, and others who cannot participate in sport because of China’s policies.
The IOC [International Olympic Committee] should be banning Chinese participation in the Olympics going forward until these crimes end. For those two reasons, the United States must boycott the games. I hope that the IOC would move the games to a country that is not tainted by these atrocities. But if it doesn’t, we have to take that step of not participating in the games and trying to get other countries also not to participate.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, this is an interesting point actually, because you hear a lot about systemic or structural racism. It’s a big discussion point here in the U.S. In China, it’s actually structural and systemic in a highly demonstrable way, and maybe you can expand on that a little bit.
Mr. Chang: Certainly, it’s official policy. The policies that are now in Xinjiang [or] East Turkestan are basically ones that were perfected in Tibet, and probably will be extended beyond into other areas of China if Beijing is able to get away with it.
This runs through this whole notion of Han nationalism, which is a basis of Communist Party rule. They talk about this, they institutionalize this, they celebrate it, and we see this in any number of different ways. It’s not just against Uyghurs and other Turkic people.
For instance, in the China Central Television spring gala, which is perhaps probably the most watched regular television program in China and in the world, with 900 million viewers every year. In 2018 or so, they had this skit called “Let’s Celebrate Together,” which certainly showed Africans as objects of derision and also as a lower form of primates.
They had something similar this year, so it shows that they didn’t learn. This is inbred into the communist system. This is not just some mistake made by a television executive four years ago. This is something which is embedded in communist ideology.
Mr. Jekielek: Prior to World War II, the policy seemed to be appeasement until [Nazi Germany] suddenly went too far. What is the policy to prevent that exact scenario happening now?
Mr. Chang: For about five decades, the U.S. and the rest of the international community had a policy of engagement, which was to try to integrate China into the international system. “Engagement,” unfortunately, is appeasement with a better name, because that name “appeasement” just doesn’t work anymore. But what we did in engaging China was to ignore belligerent conduct.
As I said before, these are standards that Beijing had to comply with. Beijing didn’t. We didn’t do anything about it, so we gave them incentives for more belligerent conduct and it created a cycle which led to China [today]. The Chinese communists are villains, but we permitted them to be villainous. We had policies that sounded good to the ear, but really encouraged the most destructive type of conduct.
What we saw during the Trump administration, and even in this Biden administration, is really a change in attitude. The Biden team has yet to conclude a China policy review. What it’s done up to now, some of the things have been atrocious, but some of the things have been really good.
What’s occurring is that China is engaging in conduct that nobody can really abide by. It is forcing President Biden, who would love to have this cooperative relationship with his good friend, Xi Jinping, to adopt policies that are more robust.
My look at this is, we’re moving in the right direction but we’re not moving fast enough, and that’s a danger. But we are moving in the right direction. It’s just that we are much too slow right now and what China is doing can bring down our system, because we are not adopting the right posture with the right tools fast enough.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, you mentioned that there are certain policies which haven’t worked very well or you don’t think were good, and there are certain ones that are [good]. Can you briefly outline that for me? What would you recommend more of, and what would you recommend leaving behind?
Mr. Chang: First of all, President Biden, in a number of speeches, but also in his January 26 executive order [EO], had this EO on xenophobia. This is a Communist Party narrative and the president of the United States should not be repeating what China is saying, especially because what China is saying is not correct. I find that horrible.
The other thing that I didn’t like was that one of the president’s first executive orders repealed President Trump’s May 1, 2020 executive order which prohibited grid operators and utilities from buying equipment from China. This is an issue of sabotage. President Biden talks about grid reliability and that’s really a dig at the Texas governor, who happens to be the other political party from President Biden.
We have to remember what happened in Mumbai, India, in October. In all probability, it was the Chinese who turned out the lights because they were pretty upset about something that Prime Minister Modi did. China has been probing our critical infrastructure through cyberattacks, so they could do perhaps in the U.S. what they did in India’s financial capital late last year.
I find President Biden’s executive order putting on hold Trump’s EO to be inexplicable. I can understand he wants to review Trump policy. Every president reviews the policies of his predecessor, but at least he should have left the protections in place while he conducted that review. That was wrong. The list goes on and on of stuff that President Biden has done which has either no or little justification.
On the other hand, Biden has done some pretty good things. For instance, he imposed those sanctions on Chinese supercomputer companies, something that the Trump administration didn’t do, and I think that Trump should have done. I’m glad that Biden did.
Biden has this outdated notion of China and he’s being pushed in directions that he doesn’t want to go, because the American public isn’t going to put up with what he would want to do, which would be to go back to five decades of engagement. We’ll see what happens on the China policy review. It’s been mixed right now.
The one thing, Jan, which to me is just a mystery, is that Biden has given the Chinese a lot of gifts. He hasn’t asked for anything in return. I just don’t understand why he would do that. Even if he wanted to help China, at least he should get something back for it, and that’s why I think there’s a real problem there.
It’s his attitude, the way he approaches China, the way he views it, and the way he speaks in loving terms with his meetings with Xi Jinping. I don’t know why the Chinese leader has some spell over Biden.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, how does the Chinese Communist Party perceive this current administration?
Mr. Chang: I’m really worried about China’s mentality. We saw that in those well-publicized comments of the academic, Di Dongsheng onNovember 28, 2020. They were publicized across China and they were made available to the world on YouTube. Di was basically saying that China would own the U.S. political system after Biden took the oath of office.
I’m not saying that Di Dongsheng was right, but I’m saying that’s the mentality of Chinese leaders these days. It’s really, really dangerous—just the sheer arrogance. By the way, Di Dongsheng mentioned Hunter Biden. He didn’t say very much about it. But there is the laptop, there is Hunter Biden’s investment into Bohai Harvest RST, better known as BHR Partners, which have the smell of a payoff.
In one sense, I’m not too worried about it, because money always leaves a trail. We have the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wilmington, and most importantly of all, the IRS Criminal Division investigating this. I think that one way or another, we’ll get to the bottom of it.
But there’s one thing about Hunter Biden which we may not get to the bottom of and which is extremely dangerous. We know that Hunter Biden’s a troubled individual. He admits it in his book. He was on Chinese soil. If he did something compromising there, then the Ministry of State Security will have a video recording and they will have an audio recording.
Every father’s going to protect his son. We don’t know [how far] the president of the United States will go to protect Hunter. Those are types of conversations that we may never know about or find out about. So money leaves a trail and we’ll find it. This other stuff, though, we may not.
Mr. Jekielek: I want to go back to the discussion of how the Chinese Communist Party dealt with the virus or used it, as you’re arguing. One of the things that I keep remembering and keep being astounded by is how it appears to have co-opted the WHO to support its narratives, and frankly, other international institutions or multilateral institutions as well. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this?
Mr. Chang: Certainly the WHO is in our focus. There were a number of different ways that China tried to convince the world that COVID-19 was not human-to-human transmissible, but the way that they really got their message across was a January 9, 2020 statement from WHO, and also that infamous January 14, 2020 tweet.
Also, the WHO on January 10 of last year issued a statement urging countries not to impose travel restrictions and quarantines. The WHO was demonstrably slow in declaring the global pandemic, a public health emergency of international concern. These were delayed beyond what they would have done, were it not for pressure from China.
There are a lot of reasons why China had this influence in that organization. For instance, Dr. Tedros, the director general was elected to that post with China’s help. It really showed that they were able to determine outcomes at the top of the WHO. The WHO does some great work. It has wonderful doctors and technicians, but that work is really nullified by the political leadership of the WHO, which China controls.
We should not be participating in the WHO. We shouldn’t be funding it. We need a global health architecture, but that doesn’t mean we need to have the World Health Organization.
Mr. Jekielek: What about the UN? We’ve talked about this before in our interviews. Since that time, the CCP has been playing this outsized role, even in the UN Human Rights Council.
Mr. Chang: Yes. That is just hideous, because there you have the world’s worst human rights abusers. You’ve got Iran. The only one they don’t have is North Korea. This just shows the failure of multilateralism.
First of all, people can argue that the UN is just a reflection of the international community and there are a lot of human rights abusers around the world. I can understand that. But remember, [in] the UN, you have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which members are supposed to subscribe to. So I don’t think that gross human rights abusers should be sitting on the UN Human Rights Council. That is just wrong.
It’s a very complicated conversation, what the U.S. should do about this. We’ve had both approaches, both serving and not serving on the council and the commission. It’s hard to understand, but clearly, we have abandoned the field because we say, “China is okay”—and we shouldn’t be doing that.
Mr. Jekielek: With the current administration, they’re returning to the UN Human Rights Council, or hoping to. What would you recommend for the U.S. approach to be if they are going to participate?
Mr. Chang: At this stage, we should participate in the council. We saw what happened when we withdrew from his predecessor at the commission. That didn’t work. We do tend to legitimize the council by sitting on it, and it’s better that we are there.
On certain bodies which are irredeemable, we should not be funding them. Therefore, it was right for President Trump, for instance, to withdraw from the WHO. Of course, we need a global health system, but it doesn’t have to be one dominated by the UN, because I do believe that the political leadership of the WHO makes that organization unreformable.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, how do you see these assaults that you described right now? You describe them as unrelenting, and we’ve talked about a few things here. What other key areas are in focus for you right at the moment?
Mr. Chang: China engages in so much destructive conduct that it’s really hard to pick, but let’s go through these, for instance. You have Chinese troops deep in Indian-controlled territory in Ladakh. You have Chinese encroachments in India’s Sikkim. You have Chinese encroachments in Nepali territory.
You have the daily flights through Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and those very hostile naval maneuvers circumnavigating the island. You have the Chinese maritime militia in Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese claim as the Diaoyu, [Islands] in the East China Sea.
Throughout the region, you’ve got China trying to take Whitsun Reef from the Philippines. And of course, there are the dangerous intercepts of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force in the global commons. The list goes on and on.
But then, of course, you have China stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. intellectual property every year. John Ratcliffe, when he was director of national intelligence in December last year, talked about $500 billion worth of U.S. IP [intellectul property]. Some people put the amount at a little bit more, some at a little bit less, but it’s a grievous wound.
Mr. Jekielek: This has not slowed or stopped?
Mr. Chang: It’s increased. As a matter of fact, we had President Obama and Xi Jinping in the Rose Garden on September 2015. Xi Jinping agreed, apparently, with the United States not to hack U.S. companies for commercial purposes. They’ve continued to do that in the complete violation of that obligation.
Also, the other promise that was announced at that time was that China wouldn’t militarize its features in the South China Sea, which of course, it has done since then as well.
We don’t hold Beijing accountable. We come to all these agreements, understandings, [and] declarations, [but] Beijing violates them and we don’t do anything. This is really dangerous, Jan, because we have taught the Chinese to ignore our warnings.
This is what the British and French did in the 1930s with regard to the Third Reich. They issued all sorts of warnings and never enforced them. So when it came to September 1939 when Hitler was threatening to invade Poland, Britain and France said, “If you do that, we’ll go to war.” We know from the German archives that nobody in Berlin thought that the British and French would actually go to war.
So what happened? Germany invaded, and London and Paris declared war, but Germany was surprised by that. Take that whole scenario—it’s the same thing right now, but it’s only over a longer period of time. We have taught the Chinese—ignore everything we say because we’re not really serious. At some point, the Chinese will push us too far, we will have to issue warnings, the Chinese won’t believe us, and there will be tragedy.
I just hope that at some point that we do impose those costs, short of the wartime situation, but that’s where we’re heading if we don’t stop this.
Mr. Jekielek: We do know that the Chinese Communist Party is waging this unrestricted type of warfare on the U.S. and the free world. Now, you’re talking about actual kinetic war. Do you think that China is looking to do this in the near future? I’ve been reading a number of analysts, who I respect, who seem to think that is coming.
Mr. Chang: I don’t think China wants it for a number of reasons, but China is taking actions that make it probable. For instance, we talked about these intercepts of our navy and our air force. One of those could go wrong.
We were very fortunate on April 1, 2001. There was a very capable naval aviator who was piloting our [Lockheed] EP-3 over the South China Sea, and despite the fact that a Chinese fighter clipped the wing or the aerelon, he was able to rescue that plane and landed without loss of American life. But that was only by the grace of God. Should that happen again, we may not be so fortunate.
We know in the spring of 2018, China lasered a U.S. [Lockheed] C-130 [Hercules] over Djibouti and actually blinded not just the pilot, but the co-pilot. That could have been a disaster as well. These are the types of events that could lead to something.
Also, we have China taking very provocative actions around its periphery, as we talked about. On the night of June 15, 2020, in a surprise attack, China killed 20 Indian soldiers. There’s already been loss of life and law of averages says that one of these could go very wrong.
Mr. Jekielek: In talking about India, it was the most bizarre thing to see Chinese state media making fun of the death toll from COVID in India, unbelievable. What’s the idea behind this?
Mr. Chang: That’s a posting that said, “fire in China,” which showed the Long March 5B rocket lifting off from its pad, and then showed “fire in India” which was a bare field where bodies were being cremated. This made no sense. It’s in China’s interest to try to woo India, but this post undid a lot of goodwill that China had generated in the immediate days beforehand.
Remember, this was just right after Ned Price, State Department spokesman, said those words when we are denying active pharmaceutical ingredients for India. It really caused a lot of problems for the U.S. and India. What China did was erase that memory with this really inflammatory posting.
This made no sense for Chinese foreign policy, but it shows the inherent hostility of Chinese officials for India and indeed for the rest of the world. That came just a day or so after that post from the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo that showed death which was wrapped in an American flag with the Star of David. Again, it was disgusting but it shows you what they think about others.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s hard to imagine where Chinese foreign policy is going under Xi Jinping with all of this?
Mr. Chang: Yes, it makes no sense. A lot of people say, and you hear this all the time, “Chinese are long term thinkers.” If you believe that your country is going to be dominant because your economy is growing and the United States is declining, then if you’re a long term thinker, you’ll have a very friendly policy towards the United States and the rest of the world because you want historical trends to play out and that you end up at the top of the world.
But what China is doing, especially in the last couple of years, is really provoking the rest of the world into thinking, “You have to defend yourself.” That’s the problem for China right now. They have a counterproductive foreign policy. You can call it “wolf warrior diplomacy,” you can call it “military diplomacy,” you can call it whatever you want, but Beijing is doing things that are undercutting its long term goals.
Part of it is because Xi Jinping is a tough guy. He thinks this is a good idea and he is so strong that he is able to prevent Chinese diplomats and officials from actually having a discussion about whether this is a good thing for China or not. You don’t really hear dissension about it, because China is no longer this authoritarian state that people talk about. It’s really semi-totalitarian right now.
It is moving towards a one person system. Xi Jinping, we know this week, has started to use the title of “helmsman,” [Great Helmsman and Red Emperor] which hasn’t been used since Mao Zedong. That’s the way China’s going. If you have somebody at the top making counterproductive, belligerent decisions that are alienating China’s friends around the world, you can’t stop the guy.
That’s the reason why they’re coming out and saying these things which are just totally bewildering. If you’re thinking, Chinese diplomacy used to be so gentle, kind, great sounding, and it won friends around the world. There’s that mural in the Peking hotel, the Beijing hotel, which says, “We have friends all around the world.” Maybe that was true once, but it’s certainly not true now—because it’s China alone.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of this increasing concentration of power with Xi Jinping? What do the other Chinese elites and politburo think about this?
Mr. Chang: We’d like to know what they’re thinking, but this is an opaque political system. We know what has occurred in the history of the People’s Republic [of China]. There is turmoil at the top of the Chinese political system right now.
For instance, it was just a week ago when it was announced that Dong Hong, who was the former right hand man of Wang Qishan, the Vice President, was arrested for corruption, which means that probably Wang Qishan’s is in a lot of problems. Remember, Wang was an ally of Xi Jinping.
Wen Jiabao, the premier under Hu Jintao, Xi’s immediate predecessor, writes this essay, an ode to his mother who had died. In it were a couple of lines that people around the world said, “That’s criticism of Xi Jinping.” How that got played out in official media was somebody just didn’t like China’s leader. Of course, that posting from Wen has now been taken down, so maybe Wen Jiabao himself is in trouble.
Who knows, but the point is, these things don’t happen in the absence of political turmoil, so probably there’s a lot of infighting right now. We don’t see it, but it’s the nature of the Chinese system. Democracies are very good at advertising their divisions, their infighting, and all the rest of it. Systems like China are very good at hiding it.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you feel China is itself in a dominant position or is it in great risk? You suggested that it’s facing great risks, but where do those lie? That’s mostly not what people are saying these days.
Mr. Chang: If you look, for instance, at last year when China was able to come out of the epidemic faster than others because it went in first, China was in a pretty strong position. Now, you see a very different situation. Just take a couple things.
Obviously, Beijing had months of a head start in producing vaccines. They got three vaccines. None of them are particularly effective, some of them are ineffective, and none of them have been proven safe because Beijing is not showing anybody its phase three trial data.
The U.S. has two revolutionary vaccines. As a matter of fact, they’re so revolutionary, they don’t fit within the definition of a vaccine. Recently, one of the dictionaries actually had to change the definition of vaccine to include the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. This shows you the strength of the U.S.
We are going to see more and more instances of this because no society can really recover until it has vaccinated its people, and the United States is well on the road to doing that. China, by the way, is not. So China is in a difficult position.
If you step back and look at this, Chinese leaders are starting to see a closing window of opportunity. Remember, they have a demography that is on the verge of the most accelerated decline in history, absent war or disease. They’ve got an environment which is at the point of exhaustion.
Scarcity of water—despite all the flooding last year, the scarcity of water continues to plague China. China is going through severe food shortages right now. You have a restless people who are kept in place by the biggest security apparatus in the world. China is losing support around the world. The Chinese economy is recovering, but it’s still stumbling, and it is not nearly as robust as people point out.
So China has to deal with all of these problems, not one at a time, but all at the same time. I think that they do believe that they are running out of time. That is maybe one explanation why China is so aggressive right now.
People in the U.S. say, “What’s China going to be like in the 2030s and the 2040s? It’s going to dominate all of us.” I don’t worry about China in the 2030s and the 2040s. I worry about China right now. A number of people like James Fanell, for instance, have talked about the 2020s as the decade of concern. The concern is right now.
You have a belligerent leader who thinks that he is Mao Zedong, who may believe he’s running out of time, and who is doing things that are troubling everyone around the world. This is a very dangerous situation.
I can’t say that I know what’s going on, but I can say there are so many things that are going on that just are not consistent with a peaceful world scenario. China is trying to bust out of its borders and it is doing its thing that can bring down the international system.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts before we finish up, Gordon?
Mr. Chang: I’m scared. I’m scared. China has penetrated our society. It’s time for Americans to make sure that our elected representatives start defending us. We have now just suffered 580,000 American deaths. If that doesn’t get us to do something, I don’t know what will.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon Chang, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Chang: Thank you, Jan.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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