On March 13, 2020, in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) propaganda that blamed the U.S. military for the CCP virus pandemic, I expressed my deep concern in an article I wrote for The Epoch Times about the purpose and risks of such loaded propaganda. It struck me as rather alarming that Beijing would venture down such path when it implied that a war with the United States would be the only proper response.
In “China Goes on Propaganda Offensive” the final paragraph reads:
“Inflammatory messaging, that is, telling a lie so big that it can’t be withdrawn, can drive regimes to engage in contrived acts of revenge to justify their lies and preserve their positions of power. Escalation often follows, which can quickly lead all of us down a path that would be better for everyone if it were avoided.”
Painting Themselves Into a Corner?
By that I simply meant that if Beijing (and Tehran, for that matter) continued to promote the lie to its people and the world that the U.S. military is responsible for the pandemic that began in Wuhan, the CCP risks painting itself into a very tight political corner.
There would seem to be very few options in that corner.
On the one hand, if China is truly the victim of biowarfare attack on its own soil by the U.S. military, as it has been insisting in its propaganda, then the United States is guilty of killing thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of Chinese.
Such an attack, if it happened, would demand a reaction, a military response, from the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), would it not?
Why the Propaganda?
Is that what the propaganda campaign is intended to do? To justify a military response? Is the campaign preparing the Chinese people—and the rest of the world—for an attack on the United States in some manner?
That may seem far-fetched, but for what other purpose would the Party continue its propaganda campaign? The longer it continues, the more such an outcome seems likely to occur.
On the other hand, if the CCP continues to push the propaganda and yet does nothing in response, where does that leave the Party in the eyes of the people?
If it failed to respond to a mass casualty attack on the homeland, the CCP leadership would risk appearing as unable—or unwilling—to stand up to a foreign attacker. The Party’s very authority as defender of the people would be largely nullified.
Failures Driving the CCP to War?
Given the past failures and crises in China the past couple of years—from food shortages, inflation, rising unemployment, the disastrous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road), a debt-ridden financial system in danger of collapse, the festering Hong Kong crisis, the highly damaging trade war with the United States, and its mishandling of the pandemic—the Party can scarcely afford to risk losing any more credibility.
In fact, it may well be because of those past failures—and the current ones—that the CCP feels compelled to act against the United States.
There are other very powerful aspects to this logic. As I’ve written about several times recently, the trade war with the United States has inflicted enormous damage upon the Chinese economy. Much more, in fact, than China is willing to admit.
Bet even before President Trump put tariffs on over $500 billion dollars of Chinese goods, global supply chains were already leaving China for less intrusive countries in Asia, where there is less political risk as well. The trade war simply accelerated that process.
But in addition to the tariffs, the United States exerted tremendous pressure on China’s other major trading partners to shun Huawei for their 5G network installations. The United States accused the Chinese networking and telecommunications supplier to the world of adding spyware to its hardware. That would allow China to spy on users, and by extension, industry and governments at will.
U.S. pressure has cost Huawei billions in business and severely damaged China’s reputation abroad.
Internally, China faces more than one demographic time bomb. Its aging population will soon become an unbearable financial burden for the Chinese economy. Due to the combined impact of the CCP virus (novel coronavirus) pandemic and the tariffs, China’s GSP is expected to contract by 10 percent or more in 2020 alone.
But there’s more bad news on the demographic front. Due to the One Child policy, there are hundreds of millions more young men than women in China. A generation of unmarried and unemployed males can be a powder keg unless given a way to vent both personal and professional frustrations.
A military adventure abroad may help alleviate that pressure. China’s increased military activity in the South China Sea may indicate that it’s the targeted area for a potential attack against U.S. forces. Such an attack may undermine defense agreements between the United States and Taiwan, as well as cast doubt on the U.S. commitment to the region.
Perhaps more to the point, a potential war with China may seriously damage Donald Trump’s chances for re-election. Trump’s presidency has thwarted China’s foreign policy goals and crippled its economy. It’s eminently plausible that the CCP sees attacking the United States as a sure way of getting Trump out of office and the tariffs removed.
In the midst of the greatest health-cum-economic crisis the world has seen in almost a century, is China really preparing for an attack against the United States?
It’s certainly not a foregone conclusion, but neither is it inconceivable. China is not only seeming to make the case for doing so, but is in a race against time and against itself, both economically and demographically.
And, with the United States still in the throes of the pandemic, China’s relative power vis-à-vis the United States is likely at its peak. There may not be a better time than now.
James Gorrie is a writer and speaker based in Southern California. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.