Has the US reached a “Pearl Harbor” or “Sputnik” moment with respect to the Chinese regime?
Could it be possible that the severity of the COVID 19 reality in China was intentionally downplayed to allow for the global spread of the virus?
And with the world focused on the pandemic, how is the People’s Liberation Army becoming increasingly belligerent?
In this episode, we sit down with Gordon Chang, a political commentator, China analyst, and author of “The Coming Collapse of China.”
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Gordon Chang, so wonderful to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Gordon Chang: Thank you so much, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: I was looking through my Twitter feed this morning, and I caught quite an amazing tweet. It came from no less than Hu Xijin, who’s the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, one of the mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party. He says, “Some people said America is encountering a Pearl Harbor moment. A wake-up call. But please remember the enemy of the US is coronavirus, not China. China is a partner. Medical equipment is on its way from China. Stay strong America!” … This is the first time I’ve heard it called this. Is this a Pearl Harbor moment?
Mr. Chang: I don’t think so. Pearl Harbor was when the United States was attacked. It was the start of a war. China has been attacking our society for decades. It was last May that People’s Daily ran a piece from Global Times, which said that China had declared a “People’s War” on us. [It has] been carried by People’s Daily, the most authoritative publication in China, that’s official. It was also carried by Xinhua News Agency, the official Chinese government media outlet. So, there’s been a war for some time.
This is not the Pearl Harbor moment. I do hope that Americans wake up and understand the fundamental nature of the Chinese challenge. You might want to say, Sputnik moment. … This is a time when I think Americans are starting to realize the maliciousness of China’s challenge to the U.S. and the fundamental nature of its attack.
Mr. Jekielek: He’s saying here, “Stay strong America!” That seems friendly.
Mr. Chang: [But you have] to [know] the context of this. For instance, March 12, a foreign ministry spokesman said that the coronavirus patient zero was in the U.S., and it was the U.S. Army that spread the virus to Wuhan. That is many things, but one of them is that Chinese leaders, in their own minds, were justifying retaliation on the U.S. with intimating germ warfare. That’s an act of war. So, you [have] to look at the context.
Also, [you have] to remember that China knew about the human-to-human nature of coronavirus. They knew about it from [around] the second week of December, when Wuhan doctors were noticing that this virus was spreading, and the only way that you can account for that was that it was going from human-to-human. But Beijing did not acknowledge that until January 20, when they had a famed virologist appear on China Central Television, and it was the following day when there was the official acknowledgment of human-to-human transfer.
The reason why this is critical and why it’s relevant to the Global Times’ piece is that China knew that this virus would spread, but it tried to lull governments into not taking action. Remember that infamous January 14 tweet from the World Health Organization, which was based on China’s discussions with the WHO. WHO was saying that they didn’t see human-to-human transmission. I don’t know what was in Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler’s mind, but he probably saw how crippled China was. If he was thinking that if he wanted to cripple other societies, he would have done exactly what he did. So, when they say, “Stay strong America,” you must view it in the context of taking actions, which have ended up in the crippling of America.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s quite an astounding statement. You’re suggesting that Xi Jinping or the Chinese leadership may have deliberately said that the coronavirus isn’t transmissible from human to human, so that it would spread around the world and cripple the rest of the world?
Mr. Chang: What are the other explanations for this? If China certainly knew that this was highly transmissible, and they then said it wasn’t? Why would they say that it wasn’t? I’m not in Xi Jinping’s mind. I don’t know what his intent was for sure, but you must look at what they did. What they did would inevitably lead to the spread of this virus outside of China’s borders; it would inevitably lead to public health officials in other countries not taking the precautions that were necessary at that point.
So, the culpability here is real. You could say it’s reckless; you could say it’s intentional. But the one thing that you have to say is that the actions that the Chinese government took, led to the spread of this virus around the world. They could have warned the world–they didn’t do it. In fact, they tried to put the world off. So, don’t take it from me, just look at the facts.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re capturing my imagination here because in the Communist Party system, the Party and the survival of the Party is the top priority at all times. … Looking at forced organ harvesting, something that we’ve been talking about, human life isn’t valued very highly.
Mr. Chang: It’s certainly suggested by the facts. As I said, you shouldn’t take it from me, but just look at what in fact occurred. And it is a horrible conclusion—it’s a conclusion that we Americans don’t want to think about. Nobody wants to think about this. Nonetheless, there’s only one way you can come out on this.
Mr. Jekielek: We were speaking about the WHO being compromised by the Chinese Communist Party. There was this recent viral video of a Hong Kong journalist asking a WHO official about Taiwan and getting very strange responses. Now, we’re seeing the Hong Kong government censoring that media, saying that they did something wrong. What’s going on here?
Mr. Chang: The Hong Kong government is saying that that interview by RTHK violates the One-China principle. That interview was last Saturday. Bruce Aylward, who was the number two guy at the WHO, couldn’t deal with the issue of Taiwan at all. Obviously, this is a sensitive one for Beijing, but it shouldn’t be a sensitive one for the World Health Organization.
If you look at all the 195 or so countries in the world, the one country that’s had the most effective, the best response to the coronavirus has been Taiwan. WHO can learn a lot from Taiwan right now. So could China. But at this time, the WHO [is] acting like [a] part of the Chinese Communist Party or the Chinese central government, and it’s completely ignoring the help it could get from Taiwan. We’re in a crisis now, a crisis for humanity. And humanity needs all the help that it can, especially from the people in Taiwan.
Mr. Jekielek: And it’s not the time to play politics, right?
Mr. Chang: Not the time to play politics. … We’ve lost a lot of people; we’re going to lose a lot more people. This is a time where it’s going to be very serious for us. This is a bug which is transmissible, partially lethal, and can do a lot of damage to the human race.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned the Foreign Ministry spokesperson coming out and talking about this originating in America, perhaps with the American military. A few days later, we have the Chinese ambassador to America so-called “distancing” himself from this. There were several media articles talking about how “China doesn’t really believe that.” What do you make of these kinds of different narratives coming from CCP spokespeople?
Mr. Chang: There are several different interpretations for that. There is that Reuter’s article that talked about the split in the Foreign Ministry between the older, more senior folks who [supposedly] take a more benign view, and the younger ones who are nationalists, for instance, Zhao Lijian, the author of that March 12 tweet. But whatever it is, we have not heard the Chinese Foreign Ministry issue an apology to the United States for that inflammatory, dangerous, false tweet.
That was not the only tweet on that day. There were three tweets from the Foreign Ministry spokespeople. Until we have that apology, I think we must take a dark view of what’s going on. There are a number of different views on this. But until we get that apology, we certainly know that there has not been a fundamental change in viewpoint inside the foreign ministry, or the Communist Party itself.
Mr. Jekielek: We’re seeing right now in China, things coming back to business as usual, ostensibly … We don’t really know because there isn’t any journalist in China anymore, but that’s at least what China’s saying. At the same time, there are concerns that this may not be the situation; that the pandemic might still be raging there. What does your intel tell you?
Mr. Chang: I think we are seeing the second wave of coronavirus infections in China. … The Chinese authorities are taking actions that are consistent only with a new wave of the epidemic. For instance, last Friday, they closed all the theaters in China just a week after opening them up. [About 30] tourist attractions in Shanghai have been closed. The same thing in Chengdu [and] Anhui province. A county in Henan province was just locked down. We haven’t seen the rescheduling of the National People’s Congress meeting. The [National] College Entrance Examination has been postponed by a month. These are actions that indicate that Chinese leaders are concerned about transmissions. That would make sense because Xi Jinping, in the first week of February when the virus was raging around China, decided that it was time for China to get back to work. So, he forced workers back to their job sites, he forced the opening of all these venues. … This bug would lead to a new round of infection. I think that’s what’s occurring currently.
Mr. Jekielek: This makes me think that a lot of media in the West are taking the information coming out of China somewhat uncritically, right? The Chinese Communist Party says, “We’ve conquered it. Look how great we’ve done.” There’s reporting to exactly that effect. Even Johns Hopkins and many major media take the Chinese numbers which have recently been heavily disputed. We’ve had several articles on this as if they’re factual.
I saw another piece that explained the Chinese numbers and said that the way they’ve been counted has changed eight times since the beginning.
So, the first question is, why are we, as a society, taking a lot of these numbers so uncritically? At the Epoch Times, we don’t do that, but in general, why is that? Despite everything that we’ve seen? And secondly, do you buy the numbers?
Mr. Chang: I don’t buy the Chinese numbers because we’ve seen behaviors that are inconsistent with the reporting of low numbers of infections and low numbers of deaths. There’s been several stories showing how this could not be. The first question is the fascinating one because it goes into the mentality of others around the world. I think there’s several explanations. Some of them are benign; some of them are not so benign. But I think it’s a question of the news organizations. They’re reporting what they’re reporting, and sometimes they get sloppy. There wouldn’t be a problem if they said, “This is what China has reported. There are great questions about underreporting of infections and deaths.” But they don’t have the time to do that. What they do is they produce these charts, or they say these things without the necessary qualifications. China engages in propaganda. Why do they do it? Because it works.
Mr. Jekielek: Speaking of propaganda, one of the big pieces of propaganda right now is what was in that initial tweet that I read out, which is that China’s coming to the salvation of the world with all of its masks and other things. This is a massive propaganda push by any measure. Can you dig into that for us a little bit?
Mr. Chang: This is Beijing trying to push forward the notion that it should be the one at the center of the international system, that the US is incompetent, it’s in terminal decline, it’s not a good steward of the global financial system, etc. We’ve heard these for years, and years, and years. What’s really striking about this is that China is clearly culpable. China clearly was the source of this. But Xi Jinping is very bold. He’s like Mao Zedong in a sense, seizing any opportunity, even one where you would think that China would be a little bit bashful for what it’s done. It is trying to rewrite not just history, but as people say, it’s trying to rewrite the present.
This is combined with Xi Jinping’s notion, and the notion of previous Chinese general secretaries, that there’s only one sovereign state in the world, there’s only one legitimate ruler, and that’s China. This whole notion that the Chinese ruler is responsible for everything under the heavens, under “Tian Xia”. When you combine China’s propaganda push in terms of the coronavirus, and their general notions that they have the right to rule the world, it gets scary.
Chinese leaders haven’t been bashful about talking about “Tian Xia,” and they have been using these themes. Xi Jinping has been using these themes in the 2008 Olympics, for which he was responsible. If you look at the motto for the summer games that year, some of the things that he’s been saying recently, and some of the things he’s had his Foreign Minister Wang Yi say, very clearly pointing to the notion that everybody else is a subject of China and that we’re all vassals of the greater celestial court in Beijing.
Mr. Jekielek: This makes me think of a conversation I just had a couple of hours ago with a senior member of the administration. We were talking about the juxtaposition that emerged when thinking about how the U.S. views development versus how China views development. When the U.S. sends aid or resources to other countries, the idea behind it is to help them become self-sufficient so that they can deal with life, pandemics and anything else that happens. Whereas the China model is to create dependency, like through these loans that can’t be paid back. What do you think?
Mr. Chang: If you look at the Marshall Plan, starting at the end of World War II, and our capacity building programs around the world, we are trying to help societies [to] help themselves. China’s Belt and Road and other initiatives are meant to force nations into a dependent state. We see this across the board. I think that’s a very good generalization for the way Beijing looks at the world. Beijing views it [as] very hierarchical, with the Chinese at the top and everybody else at the bottom. … We’ve got to be concerned because a China-centric world would be so much worse. I think people around the world understand that. It’s just that China right now looks invincible, especially coming out of the coronavirus allegedly. …
Mr. Jekielek: You’ve been a big advocate of bringing manufacturing and supply chains back to America because of this threat. Can you tell us a little bit more about this whole approach? Recently, I just interviewed Rosemary Gibson about the idea that 90% of the precursors to medicines globally are sourced in China. This is powerful leverage to hold over other countries.
Mr. Chang: It is powerful leverage. China has threatened to use that leverage in connection with the coronavirus epidemic. Remember, Xinhua News Agency, the first week of March, talked about “plunging” the United States into the “mighty sea of coronavirus.” But this was more than just an idle threat. As Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, said that China nationalized the production of a U.S. factory in China, the one that was making N95 masks. Also, Maria Bartiromo of Fox News and Fox Business mentioned on air several times that China turned around a ship, which was carrying medical protective gear—gowns, masks, gloves—that were headed to New York hospitals. It turned it around because China decided it wanted it itself. So, there’s no question that China is willing to go to great lengths to use its position in the global supply chains to get what it wants. That means that we’re not left with very much choice.
As Rosemary Gibson, who is the Paul Revere in many ways, has been saying with her book and with her many public appearances: this is just crazy! But this is not just pharmaceuticals. China makes a lot of stuff that the United States absolutely needs. We need to get our supply chains out of China first, [and move] into friendly countries. In some cases, including pharmaceuticals, we need to get that stuff inside our borders because we can’t rely on anybody else. As Navarro said during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, Australia blocked the sale of 35 million doses of vaccine. So, we don’t have a choice.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re reminding me of these recent reports from Australia and a few other countries, that Chinese proxy companies were going into these countries and buying up all sorts of protective gear, masks and ventilators. I found that astounding.
Mr. Chang: It’s astounding. Buying stuff up—that’s fine. But you got to remember that at the same time, the Chinese government was telling the world not to worry in a number of different ways, by under-counting the number of infections, by making this look less severe than it actually was, and as we just talked about, by denying the existence of human-to-human transmission, which was a deeply malicious act. While Beijing was doing this, China’s agents [were] running around the world buying up all the protective gear, and the ventilators, and the equipment.
Mr. Jekielek: Something that you’ve also been pointing out recently, is yet another example of how Chinese companies themselves are fabricating their reality, their numbers. I think there was a scenario dealing with coffee that you mentioned. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Mr. Chang: You’re talking about something that was disclosed today. The stock of Luckin Coffee, the Chinese version of Starbucks, fell 80% because the chief operating officer was making up sales. This occurs around the world, it’s not just China. We’ve got our Enron. But the difference is that this is something which is prevalent throughout China. There are no or very few repercussions in China because of the nature of the system. At least in the U.S., you’ve got courts, SEC, [and other] bodies that prevent this from occurring on a regular basis.
The bigger lesson here is how much longer are we going to allow American pension funds to invest in China, including federal pension funds? I think this should be a Pearl Harbor moment, Sputnik moment. This should be a moment where we say: enough is enough, and we are no longer going to allow Americans to invest in China’s markets. There’s a lot of reasons to do that, but one of them is the Luckin Coffee reason, and that is that the numbers are bad, and you can’t make sound financial decisions on unreliable statistics, and numbers, and financial reports.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m hearing a lot of rumblings from all sorts of people about these ideas that you’re describing right now. Peter Navarro is in the process of drafting this “Buy American” executive order, and I’ve been tracking the pushback there, where some of the Big Pharma lobbyists saying, “No, this isn’t really a good idea.” You believe this is a no-brainer; Rosemary Gibson believes this is a no-brainer; I think a lot of Americans, from what I’m hearing, think it’s a no-brainer. Why would they be pushing back against this?
Mr. Chang: Because they’re making money by keeping their production in China. It costs money to move it, they got cozy relationships [and] big profit margins, so what’s not to like? What’s not to like if you’re a company. But if you’re an American citizen, there’s a lot not to like. I think [this executive order is] the subject of intense infighting at the top of the Trump administration for the reason you mentioned—the pharma lobbyists, other lobbyists. Also some members of President Trump’s team [think] that we’ve got to have enduring relationships with China.
I hope Navarro wins this one. I thought this executive order would have been issued a long time ago, and I’m a little bit concerned about this. This is something [where] I think the American people have to say to the elites who run this country, “No! You can’t do this anymore.” This hasn’t worked for four decades. It’s not going to work going forward. We’ve seen what the Chinese have been doing in the last couple months. This must not stand.
Mr. Jekielek: What would you say to Big Pharma to entice them to change as you’re suggesting?
Mr. Chang: I don’t know if there’s anything that Gordon Chang can say to entice them. But if I were the President of the United States, I would issue that executive order, and I would say to Big Pharma, “If you don’t like this executive order, I’m going to use the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 because I’m going to declare China to be an enemy—because they declared us to be an enemy. I’m going to use my powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. I’m going to make life really miserable for you.” But of course, I’m not the President of the United States.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve noticed something in your Twitter feed in terms of offering advice to policymakers, and this one hits home because I’m Canadian. The Canadian Prime Minister recently was describing Taiwan as being part of a Greater China, which Taiwan wouldn’t be very thrilled with. You have some strong thoughts on it.
Mr. Chang: Before starting this conversation with you, I was about to send out another tweet on Canada. Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, is acting in ways which are incomprehensible for a Western leader. I guess he’s trying to curry favor with Beijing. Nonetheless, this hasn’t worked for Canada, and they still have the two Michaels who have been detained now for more than a year. Canada is acting like a Chinese colony, like the 34th province of China, or part of Greater China. He doesn’t seem to be acting like a Western leader.
This has consequences because we share a pretty long border with the Canadians, and that border has always been undefended since the War of 1812. For us, this is a matter of importance that we’ve got another leftist, another sort of neo-communist running Canada. I’m sure Justin Trudeau would say that he’s not. But when you look at his actions, you have to say that they are very consistent with what Beijing wants, and they’re not consistent at all with what many people in Canada want, and more pertinent for this discussion, they’re not consistent with what the United States wants. So, we don’t need China on our border.
Mr. Jekielek: When we were speaking earlier, you mentioned that we’re in a bit of a dangerous time right now for the world. Tell me what you’re thinking.
Mr. Chang: There’re so many things that China is doing to try to achieve its very dangerous ambitions. But the one thing that has not really gotten the attention of the global community is the sharp increase in tempo of the People’s Liberation Army in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, and the southern islands of Japan. Also, China is challenging Indonesia around the Natuna Islands [right now]. That’s the South China Sea issue. Beijing is acting in ways which are extremely provocative and belligerent at a time when the political system in China might be under stress. … So, we can’t rule too much out right now. We have to make sure that we can deter China from engaging in military misadventure.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you think that China is taking advantage of this incredible self-focus of nations trying to deal with CCP Virus?
Mr. Chang: I would think that is a logical conclusion. There can be a lot of reasons for the Chinese military for this increasingly belligerent action. But I think one of them is that they can see that countries are distracted. While these countries are now flat on their backs, China always tries to take advantage of opportunities. This certainly is an opportunity for Beijing. That’s why we’ve got to be especially concerned about the Chinese military, and indeed the Chinese civilian leaders right now because they look like they’re on an exceedingly belligerent path.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk to the broader issue here. You are the author of The Coming Collapse of China. You predicted it a little early. You got some flak for that. Several people around me have been saying, this is a moment of the collapse of the Communist Party system, and this whole structure that we’ve been discussing. What is your take, given what you’re seeing? This is coming amid this trade war. How are things shaping up based on your analysis of these structural issues that the Communist Party faces?
Mr. Chang: I think the Party is in a very fragile condition right now. I’m probably the last person to talk about this because as you pointed out, I wrote a book in 2001 that predicted the failure of the Communist Party within a decade, so I’m way out of time right now. But, putting that aside for the moment, because this isn’t about me, you can see that there are real problems here. The Chinese people are white-hot angry about the way the Party has handled the coronavirus. We saw this on February 7 with the death of one of the doctors who were whistleblowers. [Immediately after] that death, [we] saw across Chinese social media platforms, not only anger, but [also] people demanding fundamental political change, wanting freedom of speech, and you heard the song “Do You Hear the People Sing”, which is that politically impactful anthem from Les Misérables. It’s the same song that people in Hong Kong have been singing as a protest of China’s rule over Hong Kong. So, people are angry.
Chinese people have gotten angry before, and there have been no consequences to it. This time though, there’re a couple things that are different. One of them is that Beijing does not have the support of a number of countries around the world, including the U.S. But more important than that, you have a Chinese economy which, because of the epidemic, in January and February, was in deep contraction. Even before the epidemic, it could have been slightly in contraction, maybe growing 1% or 2%. But clearly, in the January-February period, it was deep in contraction, and even in March where there was a little bit of uptick in activity because Xi Jinping pushed to get people back to work, it was still in the red.
The problem for the Communist Party right now is that you have a lot of angry people, you have got a party which isn’t going to get support from Brussels or Washington, and you have an economy which is in very desperate straits. I think that this is the time where Xi Jinping is vulnerable, and the whole political system itself is vulnerable. People in China are talking about Chernobyl, which is the nuclear disaster in the Ukraine, 1986, five years before the failure of the Soviet Communist Party. I think that you see all the elements in place [for] the failure of the Party, whether it occurs now or five years from now. I do think that it will happen. I’ve been wrong about timing, but I do think that the elements are there, and it’s just a question of chances to how they play out.
Mr. Jekielek: To be fair to you, I think a lot of what you outlined in the book has proven to be very, very much correct. I think perhaps you didn’t predict the level of the funding from the West that China would receive for the Communist Party to sustain itself. This is just my take. I want to be fair to you here.
Mr. Chang: I didn’t foresee a lot of stuff. I didn’t foresee multinationals not enforcing their World Trade Organization rights. The most important thing I didn’t foresee was the 2008 downturn, which for various reasons, strengthened the hold of the Party over China. But this is not going to be a question of whether I was wrong before. This is just a question for people themselves to see about what’s occurring in China right now, and the way Xi Jinping is acting, which I think portrays a sense of weakness.
The amount of elite criticism right now in Beijing has not been seen for quite a long time. I think it’s a real indication that Xi Jinping has made too many mistakes. I recognize that having made a lot of mistakes could strengthen him because it makes the Party so weak that people rally behind Xi Jinping, because they’re worried about the failure of the system. But he’s made so many mistakes in 2019 and this year, that I think that it really leaves the Party vulnerable to systemic failure.
Mr. Jekielek: The thing that’s very obvious to ask here is if the thing you were wrong about was the 2008 downturn, here we have a similar situation—we have a downturn in the West, we have a mega trillion bailout which is in some ways analogous. So, what you just described, is that enough to prevent another strengthening of the Communist Party? Or is the situation just fundamentally different?
Mr. Chang: I can see your point. I think it’s an excellent point. I do see those a little bit differently. This time, unlike 2008, it’s going to take a long period for China’s principal export markets to recover … That means China’s not going to have anyone pulling it out of the hole this time. In 2008, China had a lot of capacity to stimulate. Now, they don’t have that because of debt and a lot of other things. They built too many high-speed rail lines to nowhere; their real estate market is completely overbuilt. These are things which weren’t true to the same extent in 2008. So, they don’t have the firepower.
The U.S. has the firepower. We have a $2 trillion stimulus bill. We’re going to follow it with another big plan. We have the capacity to do that for various reasons; China doesn’t. Just look at the trajectory of the RMB—that’s a weakness which we could see, and I think that China doesn’t have a means of protecting its currency for that much longer. I think that you could see things start to slip.
Mr. Jekielek: We can see in plain sight, some of the Chinese Communist Party play right now to take control of the global system, or at least insinuate that it’s the new leader globally. What are the other elements of the CCP play here to try to achieve this dominance out of seeming potential catastrophe?
Mr. Chang: What they’re doing is they are building those links, trying to say [that] they’re the savior of Italy, they’re the savior of the Netherlands, or the savior of the Czech Republic. Problem is that when you sell defective masks, when you sell diagnostic kits that are 80 percent inaccurate, you have a little bit of a problem there with [your] image. And I think that the one thing that China has now, which is going to be difficult for them, is they’ve really irritated the senior leadership of the United States [and] the American people. The conversation in this country right now is very different than it was in 2008.
Without the support of the U.S., Xi Jinping is going to have a very difficult period. He has deinstitutionalized the Communist Party—you don’t have these rules on succession, you don’t have term limits, all the types of things that would help a leader who is in trouble because they minimized the adverse consequences of making mistakes. Those rules don’t exist anymore because when you’ve got absolute power, you’ve got absolute responsibility. Xi Jinping doesn’t have that many people to blame. So, you put those two trends together, and I think that it means a fragility of the system. So, despite China having a lot of cards to play, it has a lot of weaknesses, and we’ve got to understand those weaknesses because they limit the ability of Xi Jinping to accomplish objectives.
Mr. Jekielek: Communist systems, wherever they exist, they always need to have an enemy, a clear enemy. Is the U.S. now that target going forward?
Mr. Chang: Absolutely. Going back to this Pearl Harbor issue. [In] May [of] last year, they declared “People’s War.” I don’t know how you get closer to the word enemy than that. Beijing has decided that it’s going to go after the U.S. Xi Jinping obviously believes he can push us aside, so he’s going to see how strong America really is. And we must defend ourselves, and defending ourselves, I believe, means that we will come to a realization that … there can be no peaceful coexistence on a long-term basis with China. Either it’s the People’s Republic of China, or it’s the United States of America; not both.
Mr. Jekielek: We talked about this model of wanting to help other countries rather than make them dependent. I think this is the American ethos. So, I think a lot of American leaders, and certainly myself, could imagine a flourishing China, but obviously without the current leadership, as it exists. Should America or other Western nations be doing something to help strengthen the Chinese people—the China without the Communist Party?
Mr. Chang: Yeah, the one thing that will drive Xi Jinping and his fellow despots up the wall is if we start talking in earnest to the Chinese people. That is the one thing they cannot abide. We need to stop these conversations that we have, these buddy-buddy conversations with Xi, and start saying to him in public, “You’re going to be gone. We believe that it’s in the national interest of the United States to see the end of the Communist Party rule to China. And we’re going to do everything we possibly can.” In other words, we need to say to Xi Jinping what we said to a succession of Soviet leaders.
It took a Ronald Reagan to crystallize that after several U.S. presidents took a much softer line. But we have someone called Donald John Trump, who has given the Chinese a little bit of a difficult time, even though he sometimes uses overly generous language when he addresses Xi Jinping. I believe that there’s a leader in the White House who is unpredictable enough. The establishment wing of the Democratic Party, Chuck Schumer, minority leader in the Senate; Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House; they have a posture on China which is actually tougher than Trump’s. So, there’s no really good solution for the Chinese right now. Whoever wins in November is going to give them a hard time and that’s a good thing.
Mr. Jekielek: What would a peaceful change, a best-case scenario look like? I think you must have imagined this.
Mr. Chang: Yeah, it looks like Xi Jinping waking up one morning and saying, “Oh my God, for decades I’ve been wrong, and I’m going to hold national elections tomorrow.”
Mr. Jekielek: Ha ha, not likely, but—
Mr. Chang: If you look at political change in China, it’s had two revolutions: the 1911 revolution, and the one that was succeeded in 1949. Both of those involve great loss of life. Unfortunately, the Communist Party has made sure that in China, you don’t have those elements that could lead a peaceful change. So, we’ve got to be very concerned about how political change in China works out. But we can always hope for the best. I think the Chinese people get it, right? They want the same things we want, and they’re perfectly capable of getting there. So, we shouldn’t underestimate them. But nonetheless, they’ve got a malign political system that is going to do its best … to stay in power. So, they’re going to make this as bloody and as atrocious and as tragic as possible.
Mr. Jekielek: Before we finish up, I wanted to talk a little bit about the naming of the virus. There’s been a lot of discussion about this, both in the administration [and] on social media. We have Wuhan Virus, Chinese Virus, we have the Epoch Times’ version—CCP Virus. I’m sure you understand why. What are your thoughts?
Mr. Chang: I’m Chinese-American. You heard a lot of people say that the geographical designation, Wuhan Virus [and] Chinese Virus [are] racist. It’s not racist because you have to look at it in the context in which the President, the Vice President [and] the Secretary of State has used those terms. This is after China, [in] the beginning of February, has engaged in this campaign to target the United States on all things [related to the] epidemic. Also that March 12 tweet that we talked about earlier, saying the virus started in the U.S. President Trump was making a point in a graphic way that this virus did not start in America, this virus started in China, and we’re not going to put up with this.
So, I’m very happy to have heard him say those things because he was defending my country. And we Americans must understand that we have a common enemy. That common enemy means us harm. That common enemy has been attacking us for a very long time but has stepped up the pace and tempo in recent months. Whether people like President Trump or not, whether they’re going to vote for him in November or not, we’ve only got one president, and we need someone to defend us between now and January of next year.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon Chang, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Chang: Thank you so much, Jan. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.