We find ourselves in another cold war, this time with an enemy far more skilled in the art of war than the Russians.
The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have long understood that the most important strategic domain is the minds of men. They see it as critically important to seize the “high ground” of ideology—boosting domestic morale while dispiriting the enemy, bolstering the legitimacy of one’s own institutions while undermining the enemy’s, and attracting allies from within the very heart of the opposition.
That’s why it ranks propaganda as the first and more important among the three “magic weapons” that it will use to defeat U.S. primacy, the other two being “united front tactics” and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
In order to defeat the CCP’s ideological offensive, America, too, must light a fire in the minds of men. We must vigorously defend American democracy and individual liberty at the same time we relentlessly attack the myriad weaknesses of the CCP. The goal is to convince peoples on both sides of the Pacific that the U.S. model of ordered liberty is superior in every respect to the CCP’s techno-authoritarian “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The Chinese communists themselves, it turns out, have conveniently identified a number of specific areas in which they believe they are vulnerable to attack. There are seven political “perils” Party members were told in an April 2013 Central Committee directive that they must resolutely guard against. These “perils” are 1. constitutional democracy; 2. human rights; 3. civil society; 4. the free market; 5. freedom of the press, along with criticism of 6. the history and 7. the ideology of the CCP.
On the principle that the CCP’s worst fears should be our policy, we must relentlessly attack these points of vulnerability at every opportunity.
Constitutional Democracy: We should insist that all peoples have a natural right to govern themselves, and that the governing apparatus imposed by force by the CCP upon the Chinese people is illegitimate. Even more effective than holding up our own example of constitutional democracy would be highlighting that of Taiwan, where 24 million free Chinese govern themselves. The attractiveness of democratic ideals is such, we should note, that even the CCP has been forced to set up a sham parliament, misleadingly called the National People’s Congress.
Human Rights: We should insist that all people have certain unalienable rights, and that civilized countries respect the rights of their citizens. The CCP regularly denounces Western notions of human rights and yet—in another example of the tribute that communist vice is compelled to pay to democratic virtue—guarantees these same rights in their sham constitution. This is another fraud that the CCP is perpetrating upon the Chinese people that should be relentlessly exposed.
Civil Society: The CCP also regards the mediating institutions of society—family, church, and other voluntary associations—as subversive, and seeks not only to control them but, in the case of organized religion, to stamp them out entirely over time. The United States should insist that the reach of government should be limited, and that people everywhere have the right to freely associate and organize outside the surveillance and control of the Party.
The Free Market: It’s often said that China has a mixed economy. The past decade, however, has seen a retreat back to socialist control of the means of production. The state-owned or -controlled sector of the economy is growing like a cancer, and the freedom and prosperity of the Chinese people are suffering as a result. America must make the case that free-market economies are inherently more prosperous, equitable, and free.
Freedom of the Press: The CCP’s efforts to control what the Chinese people see, hear, and read has reached levels of hysterical xenophobia not seen since the days of the Cultural Revolution. The United States has the ability to breach the “Great Firewall” and communicate directly with the Chinese people, and it should make every effort to do so.
CCP History and Ideology: If we want to win the ideological competition with the CCP, it isn’t enough to tout the superiority of the American political and economic system, or of free-market democracies in general. We must go on the offensive, and relentlessly expose the fact that the entire history and ideology of the CCP is a sham. It’s nothing more than a self-serving fantasy of the Party as “the vanguard of the proletariat” and as “servants of the people” that is intended to justify the continued exploitation of the Chinese people by one of the most evil and corrupt ruling elites in human history.
The CCP’s crimes against humanity, past and present, are legion. Some of the more egregious recent examples include:
- The National Security Law in Hong Kong, which crushes all dissent, punishing vague crimes with sentences up to life in prison.
- The detention of an estimated 1 million to 2 million Uyghur Muslims in internment camps, where they are subject to forced labor, torture, and death.
- The human rights violations in Tibet, including surveillance, imprisonment, and torture that have caused hundreds of Tibetans to immolate themselves to call international attention to their plight.
- The intensifying religious persecution as religions are “sinicized,” which has resulted in the surveillance, detention, and torture of religious believers and leaders, as well as the destruction or defacing of countless places of worship. Among other violations, elderly Christians are forced to deny their faith in order to receive government survival stipends.
- Forced organ harvesting has been perpetrated on an industrial scale throughout China for the past two decades, and many of those killed are Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghur Muslims.
- The forced abortion of females under the “two-child policy,” especially in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
- The mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, in which whistleblowers were silenced, people were seized and dragged out of their homes, and others were forced into quarantine and left to die, while the CCP virus itself was deliberately spread throughout the world.
For these and other reasons, the CCP should be delegitimized in the view of the Chinese people and the world at every turn. One way to do this would be by designating it as a Transnational Criminal Organization. Another would be to employ, at a level never before seen in U.S. history, information statecraft, as the Committee on the Present Danger: China has recently recommended.
The CCP, as noted above, has long regarded propaganda as its chief tool to bend not only its own people, but the world, to its will. In 2014, Xi Jinping ordered the CCP to redouble its efforts to “increase China’s soft power and give a good Chinese narrative.” A massive propaganda effort ensued: Xinhua now has 170 foreign bureaus, China Radio International (CRI) controls 30-plus radio stations in 14 countries, and the CCP has created, or has plans to create, 100-plus global think tanks.
As a result, the CCP’s information warfare against America has made significant inroads. An Oxford study shows its English-language outlets “have a substantial online audience … comparable to the BBC.” CCP propaganda is said to be gaining some traction with its current promotion of “conspiracy theories” that the coronavirus was a U.S. “bioweapon.”
A major effort needs to be made by the United States to not only counter CCP disinformation, but to further attack the seven points of vulnerability described above. The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) should actively support U.S. public diplomacy and serve as a voice of freedom to peoples who lack a free media. The central effort in this regard will fall to the Chinese language services of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, with the support of the Department of State. All language services should receive systematic counterintelligence protection services to prevent foreign penetration and sabotage.
Our counter-messaging must be continuous and robust if it is to break through the Great Firewall and push back on CCP narratives. Mere entertainment programs that do nothing to advance the mission of the USAGM should be replaced with programs that provide objective and comprehensive reporting, as well as exemplifying America’s commitment to truth, freedom, and human rights.
This effort to breach the Great Firewall will require the strengthening of every broadcast medium that the USAGM currently has access to—shortwave and medium-wave radio, television, and internet—as well as the development of new technologies to reach foreign audiences, including digital radio and satellite radio.
Reaching the Chinese people with accurate information about the deficiencies of CCP rule and the superiority of free-market democracies won’t be easy. The CCP is obviously alert to the threat posed by an accurate recounting of its bloody history and self-serving ideology. Its leaders understand that the Soviet Union imploded because no one, not even party members, subscribed any longer to the ideals of communism or believed in the legitimacy of its institutions. Determined to avoid this fate and ensure that no unapproved messages reach the Chinese people, they have, for example, recently ordered satellite dishes to be taken down from homes and offices.
The CCP understands that the day that the Chinese people have access to an honest history of the past 70 years of communist rule, as well as a clear understanding of the superiority of free-market democracies, is the day that they will demand to be free.
The United States must do all it can to hasten that day.
Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order.”
Reggie Littlejohn is the founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition to expose and oppose forced abortion, gendercide, and sexual slavery in China.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.