search icon
Live chat

Michael Pillsbury: How US Government Agencies Secretly Aided Communist China’s Rise

“I fear they’re outsmarting us over and over again,” says China expert Michael Pillsbury, director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute and author of “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower.”

Pillsbury played a key role in the United States initiating military and intelligence ties with China, starting in the 1980s. Many relationships between Chinese and U.S. agencies have continued to this day, Pillsbury says.

“Some things have been redacted, removed from [‘The Hundred-Year Marathon’]. … The CIA and FBI and DOD felt they’re telling too much about just how deeply involved we were in China,” Pillsbury says.

How did the Chinese communist regime secretly exploit America to fuel its own rise?

“They often refer to the Warring States and the tactics of the Warring States period. … Only one country got to lead the world and that country had to destroy the others or set them against each other or undermine them, steal their technology. There were a variety of techniques that were used [but] almost never war itself. Almost never war itself. It’s the most important lesson.”

Subscribe to the American Thought Leaders newsletter so you never miss an episode.

BUY Jan 6 DVD: https://www.epochtv.shop/product-page/dvd-the-real-story-of-january-6, Promo Code “Jan” for 20% off.

* Click the “Save” button below the video to access it later on “My List.”

 

Jan Jekielek:

Dr. Michael Pillsbury, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Michael Pillsbury:

Thank you very much.

Mr. Jekielek:

The most recent Chinese Communist Party Congress just ended with some very public theatrics. The past supreme leader of the Communist Party in China, Hu Jintao, walked out of the room in front of the cameras. A lot of people are speculating about what was going on here, but one thing for sure, it was very public. The other thing that’s for sure is that it was very public to the West and perhaps to the Chinese elites, but not necessarily to the Chinese people, which we didn’t see at that televised event. So, what do you make of all this?

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, like everybody else, I think I watched the video clip several times. You can interpret it as Hu Jintao making an appeal to Xi Jinping. He turns toward him, and he says something. Xi Jinping then replies very briefly. Then former general secretary, who sort of moves over to the prime minister, puts his hand on his shoulder. It’s almost as if he’s appealing to the two of them, “Do I really have to leave now?” Both of them seem to be saying, “Yes, it’s time for you to leave.”

But as you point out, Jan, to put this out on global television is really a sign of Xi Jinping’s power that even a former president can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. It’s all the more shocking to Americans who see the video that we really are dealing with enormous power in this one person, not some committee or brotherhood.

Mr. Jekielek:

This other part that I found was fascinating was that apparently according to the Chinese propaganda media, there was just some medical complication, and he had to leave so-

Dr. Pillsbury:

That’s the official statement.

Mr. Jekielek:

Correct.

Dr. Pillsbury:

He’s better. They say he’s much better now.

Mr. Jekielek:

But clearly what was very deliberately shown to the people who have access to the feed is very different to what the Chinese people are supposed to know. I just find that odd.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, it is odd, and it raises the larger question of how obscure and secretive politics are in China. We’re used to our newspaper coverage. Our president or speaker of the House does something, and it’s a front page news story. We have a pretty good idea of the president visiting Pennsylvania today, or there’s a split in the White House staff about this tax cut. We have none of that for China. We don’t know the basic policy debates that go on until later. Without fail, they’ve had really 11 big power struggles in my view. The first memo I ever wrote to Henry Kissinger was in 1973 called The 10 Big Struggles, the 10 Big Power Struggles in China, and how basically we learn about these power struggles only afterward when the survivors, the winners tell the story of how they defeated the evil challengers.

The most dramatic, of course, is the Gang of Four when Mao’s wife and the others were really going to turn U.S. policy around, and not have an opening to the United States, so we had an enormous stake in it. I remember the story of Kissinger on his second trip to China, October 1971. They had already killed off their vice president, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, quite a few military leaders, and Kissinger’s taking his motorcade to go see the Chinese prime minister. He does not know this has happened. That’s how secretive the very top of Chinese politics really is. Often, the policy issues involved are really quite chilling, but this is all obscured to the outside world.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, so you’ve given a hint to this. For those that might not be familiar, you’ve, of course, been a China hand for many decades. You’ve served in many different administrations over the years, and you’re the author of “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” the book that’s sitting with you there. Maybe very briefly tell me your background, and then we’ll go a little bit deeper, and find out what has changed with respect to our understanding of China.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, there is a process by which somebody’s supposed to become a China expert, and I went through it. You’re supposed to have a bachelor’s degree with some Asian material in it. You’re supposed to get a PhD. You’re supposed to write a thesis that’s about China. You’re supposed to have at least one year. In my case, I’m slow, so it took two full years to study Mandarin in a Chinese family in Taiwan, where you couldn’t speak English. It’s part of the agreement that this language training center has. It still exists. It’s called the Stanford Center.

Now, it’s moved to Beijing, and the pledge is still there. You must promise while you’re a student, you will not speak English. These are the various steps. In my case, the government comes to you once they find out there’s a young, maybe naive, a PhD, not quite sure if he used to be a professor or go to a think tank, or get into the government bureaucracy. The government agents come to you, and they make a pitch. “If you come with us, you’ll get this and this and this.” That’s how I got started in the China field.

Mr. Jekielek:

Right. You actually got recruited by the so-called agency. Is that right?

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, they don’t like to talk about it. Basically, my first official job was in the United Nations secretariat, that beautiful blue green building in New York alongside the river. They have something there called the Political Affairs Division, which I was recruited into. I took an oath not to take any advice from my government. All UN employees were supposed to be international. My first boss was a Russian, a Soviet. I learned that the Soviets did not abide by this pledge at all. They were running over to the Soviet-UN mission all the time, and they considered themselves agents of the Soviet Union in our little United Nations secretariat bureaucracy.

With advice from the government that I talk about in “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” it was explained to me… I was 24 years old. Is that the context? It’s explained to me that Dr. Kissinger and President Nixon are considering opening to China, but they’re afraid that this will sow anger of the Soviet Union, that Brezhnev will call off the arms controlled talks, will call off the summit that was then planned. So, we want to know what the Russians think about China. I was given a lot of CIA materials to read, which I describe in so far as I was allowed to in the book.

One of the materials was something called IRONBARK. It’s a code name. IRONBARK in capital letters is a CIA code name for a set of files that a Russian colonel was given a Minox camera, and he took more than 10,000 pages of photos of top secret Russian documents from the defense ministry. He could go into the defense ministry library whenever he wanted. Ultimately, he’s found out and executed. But before that, he had provided so much that the CIA organized it into English translations with chapter titles and an index. One of my early assignments was to go through that material, the 10,000 pages, and there was an index where it said China.

I was astonished. There were dozens and dozens of pages that covered China. I read through that material, and that was my first introduction to how the Soviets looked at China, which is that China had global ambitions to take over the communist movement first from the Soviet Union, and then dominate the whole world. I would simply ask my Soviet boss and my Soviet colleagues around me, “Is this really how you think about China?” 

You’d think they might be secretive. They might say, “We’re not going to talk about that. China’s a communist country. We know what you’re up to.”Instead, they were quite open that we hate China. China’s betrayed us in Moscow, and you’re next. They’re going to squeeze you dry, and then they’re going to turn on America.” In the book, “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” I give a quote from one of the Russians who said they want a new dancing partner. But to me and perhaps to the CIA and perhaps to Dr. Kissinger, it all sounded like sour grapes that our relationship with China went bad. You shouldn’t get involved with them, because it will go bad for you too, so we didn’t believe them.

But the key point is they made clear if President Nixon has normal relations with China, we’re not going to object. We’re not going to cancel the summit. We’re not going to take any drastic action. There’s just one thing you cannot do, because if you do, it will mean war. Of course, I said, “What’s the one thing?” Several Russians gave the same answer, “Provide military weapons to China.” Later on, Dr. Kissinger considered that, and took some steps in that direction, which are still classified, the details of what he did. I’ve noticed the provisions are that they’ll not be released until at least five years after Dr. Kissinger’s death. But I was allowed by the CIA and the DOD to put in 12 examples in chapter three of what these different programs were, where we would cooperate with China, and sell them weapons.

One of the most dramatic weapons we ever sold them was torpedoes for their submarines. Who authorized torpedoes to be sold for Chinese submarines. Well, it was President Reagan who did that.

Mr. Jekielek:

Why?

Dr. Pillsbury:

That’s chapter three in “The Hundred-Year Marathon.” When the Chinese military translated “The Hundred-Year Marathon” into Mandarin, and had a ceremony, and gave me a copy in Chinese of their translation, I said, “This is very strange. You’ve marked this that it’s secret. It’s for cadres and military officers only. Why is that? This is just a history of U.S.-China relations, and your side knows all these things, but the Americans don’t know what you are up to.” One of the generals said, “Dr. Pillsbury, you know very well. It’s what’s in chapter three.”

I said, “Yes, but that’s American-Chinese strategic cooperation, arm sales to you, sharing intelligence, doing things together in Afghanistan. What’s wrong with that?” The general leaned forward and said, “The Chinese people are not ready yet to know of this cooperation with your country.”

Mr. Jekielek::

Well, “They’re not ready.” I say that in quotes because of what you described in the book as well, which is decades of the Chinese people being taught after Tiananmen Square, that actually America all along has sought to basically subvert China as an enemy.

Dr. Pillsbury:

That’s my favorite chapter. It’s the chapter called the Great Satan. The whole chapter is how the Chinese educational ministry approves the textbooks that are used in school in China to teach about America. One of the themes, which you have to see to believe it is they say the original containment policy against China did not begin with Joe Biden or Donald Trump or Eisenhower. It began with Abraham Lincoln. A lot of these theories are being taught to the younger generation in China that America says Abraham Lincoln has been out to contain and throttle and block China.

So, this stirs up a lot of anti-American sentiment, which has to be weighed against the 300,000 Chinese who come to school in our country, and go home with master’s degrees or PhDs. They presumably know we’re not that anti-China, but the government controls the textbooks.

Mr. Jekielek:

What I want to get into here now, the thesis of A Hundred-Year Marathon, of course, is that the Chinese Communist Party has a 100-year plan to end around 2050 to basically subvert America—to take America’s role as the global hegemon.

Dr. Pillsbury:

China has a well thought through strategy for how they can turn themselves into the global superpower largely by obtaining technology, capital trade, and other goodies you might say from America. It’s a brilliant plan. It’s a long-term hope that if they squeeze the Americans for everything they can, and pretend to be America’s friend and ally, they will end up number one in the world. They often refer to warring states and the tactics of the Warring States period. One of those tactics was a win or lose. I win. You lose. Zero sum game. Only one country got to lead the world, and that country had to destroy the others, or set them against each other, or undermine them, steal their technology, their variety of techniques that were used in the warring states period.

Almost never war itself. Almost never war itself. It’s the most important lesson. There’s even a book about the new warring states era that came out in 2006 where they described how the current world and geopolitics so much resembles the warring states not to start a war but to use deception, internal discord, different kinds of maneuvers to break up opponents, coalitions against you. All of this is seen by quite a few Chinese and Xi Jinping’s own speeches as a guide to the strategy to become number one in the world once again.

The Chinese deny this. They say they don’t have a secret plan. They don’t want to replace America. They don’t have any such strategy, that they will never seek hegemony or global domination, and least of all not to replace America. So, this is a complicated thesis to argue that American-China experts are split or what to say about this book, because it’s got 60 pages of footnote and an awful lot of declassified documents that our regular mainstream China experts frankly did not know.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, I’ll just comment. You didn’t know or at least chose to look the other way for a really long time. Isn’t that right?

Dr. Pillsbury:

No. No, that’s not true. I was involved in it, but our laws prevent classified material from being discussed with outsiders, so I’d never had a conversation with an outsider saying, “We are spying on the Soviets through a set of bases we have in Xinjiang province.” I couldn’t say that. Now, you can because it’s appeared in “The New York Times,” and the security review permitted that to be in here. There’s a set of these things that I knew about I was part of, and it’s part of the reason why the Chinese military and the professors and think tank people, people in the government in Beijing, why they will see me, because they remember the ’70s and the ’80s.

When Pillsbury was part of the team to provide intelligence, weapons, advanced technology, trade, helped create agencies. We created the Environmental Protection Agency of China. We created the CDC of China. I was seen in Beijing a lot. I was there in person with government delegations, part of the program to build China into a major power. So, I cannot say I didn’t know. I was in it. That’s part of the reason why some things have been redacted, removed from the book is the CIA and FBI and DOD felt the telling too much about just how deeply involved we were in China. That’s considered still too sensitive to reveal.

As I said, the Chinese seem to feel the same way. They don’t want this relationship exposed where they got so deeply into our government. If you go to the internet website for the U.S. embassy in China, our largest embassy in the world, 2,300 people are in that embassy and our consulates. 50 federal agencies are housed in that gigantic embassy. Each of those 50 agencies cooperates with China. It’s Chinese counterpart, but “The Hundred-Year Marathon” tells the story of how it started, and the risk that was taken by Kissinger and Nixon to start security cooperation with a communist-control government, the leader of whom had killed by scholarly estimates…

Chairman Mao had killed between 50 million and 100 million people. Now, he would say it’s by accident. They didn’t kill each one with a gun, but still, Chairman Mao had quite a few sins to his credit. So why do we end up selling weapons, and opening up our economy to Chairman Mao? But it gets worse, you might say, or from the point of view of pro-China people, it gets better as time goes on, and we develop increasingly close relations with China. I remember specifically the capitalists of the world have central banks in their countries. The central banks get together twice a year, something called the Bank of International Settlements in Baron.

Well, the Chinese are like, “No, we’re not a capitalist country. We’re not going to the Bank of International Settlements,” and the U.S. prevailed upon them. You don’t understand it. You’ll get a lot of benefits if you’ll come to this. You’ll learn what all the other central banks are planning for the coming year in terms of interest rates and reserves and so forth. So, we persuaded the Chinese to go to the Bank of International Settlements. By the way, there’s a private dining room and chef. They love it. They feel sorry they didn’t understand in the beginning what a great club this would be to belong to.

We did the same thing with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. We told them that you need to be in all the UN-specialized agencies, because this is the global world order. One by one, they joined all the UN-specialized agencies. There’s about 16 of them, and then they began to take them over. They become the directors. President Trump put a stop to that, and so has Biden, but still, it gives you an example of how the U.S. showed them the way. If you want to become a great superpower, you need to do all these things. Initial Chinese reluctance, “No, we’re a communist. We’re not going to do that.”

Then we persuade them by a conscious decision in Washington D.C. by various presidents, “We’re going to bring them into the liberal world order, and we’re going to make them…” We used to have a slogan. Several presidents used it. Strong, prosperous China is in America’s interest. I believe some materials I found showed the Chinese consciously knew when we go the World Trade Organization, we’re not going to abide by the rulings. One of my favorite examples is the credit card story. Several U.S. credit card companies got together, and got the U.S. government to sue China.

In the World Trade Organization, you can sue another country. The Chinese lost. The evidence showed they were pushing their own credit card, but not letting our credit cards be used in China except in a few hotels. China said, “Basically, we’re sorry. We’re guilty. We’ll fix this.” Its in 2012. They never-

Mr. Jekielek:

Did nothing.

Dr. Pillsbury:

They never fixed it. In the meantime, this is the brilliance of what they’re doing. In the meantime, they learned from our credit card companies how to improve their global market share. So today, the world’s most used credit card is the Chinese TransUnion credit card.

Mr. Jekielek:

One of the most fascinating things I found reading a “Hundred-Year Marathon” was how often, let’s take the Tiananmen Square massacre as one of the first examples, the Chinese Communist Party showed its true face to America to the foreign policy establishment. Later, you have this example of this defector, Mr. White. He essentially tells you exactly how the CCP will respond to the accidental bombing of the embassy in Belgrade in ’99. No one believes that that’s going to happen. Then it happens exactly as Mr. White told you.

Still, nobody really believes that the CCP has been taken over by these hawks or the hardliners. This theme just keeps repeating again and again and again. So two questions, one is why that seems so crazy, and two, what was the moment when you changed your mind?

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, don’t forget the book begins with six examples of wishful thinking that I and others in the government working on China policy all shared. We had this belief that might have come from our undergraduate courses in world history that progress is the nature of civilization. All countries are moving toward progress, enlightenment, prosperity, world order, a stronger United Nations, and so China is not studied as a unique civilization in our schools or in graduate school or in our government programs. China is thought of as being part of this grand movement of all humanity toward a progressive future world in which there’s no more war, no more poverty.

The gini coefficient isn’t so mean and nasty, and so everybody who dealt with China was humored in some sense by the Chinese. They would talk this way to us. I had hundreds of conversations where they would say something like, “You need to be patient. Yes, maybe students were massacred in Tiananmen, but it’s the older generation.” Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues are in their 80s. They were frightened that this was like the cultural revolution, so the Chinese would then tell us that themselves, “Please cut us a break. Tiananmen will never happen again. The students were too extreme.”

It’s only later, many years later, that we learned that inside the Politburo, Zhao Ziyang, Bao Tong, their faction was for the students, did not want to call them an uprising, did not want to use force. Their version of events came out many years later. As I mentioned to you about Power Struggles, you don’t know the power struggle at the time, but slowly, we learned some people had lied to Deng Xiaoping that these students are in the pay of foreign forces, meaning either America or Taiwan or even people in Hong Kong. So, this is a challenge to you, a foreign aggression right here in downtown Beijing.

Before Gorbachev is coming to visit, you must take majors, strong majors, including killing people with the Chinese military, but some military refused to come into Beijing. It’s quite well known later the 38th group army commander refused to be part of the Tiananmen massacre. He, of course, gets not quite jail, but he gets put into a military version of confinement. Jim Lilley, our ambassador to China, and a distinguished CIA, the clandestine service officer. Jim Lilley, I think, put it best, “if we’d known in time about this factional struggle in Beijing, we could have weighed in. George H. W. Bush could have sent a letter and an envoy, “Don’t do it. If you crash these students, we’re going to punish you. We’re going to punish you with visas. We’re going to cut off trade. We’re going to have sanctions. You’ll never be the same again,” but we didn’t know about the power struggle.

There’s a number of these episodes I tell in “Hundred-Year Marathon,” where it’s the Chinese Communist party’s secrecy that lets them get away with so much. We will only learn later. Now, there’s a new defector I admire very much, Tai Sha. She has done an article in foreign affairs. She’s going to do a book, I hope. She’s saying the majority of the Communist party in China hate Xi Jinping and his colleagues, so this is a wake up call. What are we doing about those people? We used to have something under Trump called the Global Engagement Center at the State Department.

I’ve asked my Biden administration friends, “Please, you need to name a director of this global engagement center, and get the focus to be on China, both Radio Free Asia broadcasts into China where you explain to the Chinese people and party Members, “These are the bad things the regime has done. Here are some people who didn’t agree with it.” They have not done it. There’s still no Global Engagement Center director. There’s a lot of legislation in the House of Representatives, which Nancy Pelosi does not support. But in many cases, it would really change our China policy, but these majors are blocked unless there’s a Republican victory in the house. We’re just going to have what I call policy paralysis on how to deal with the Chinese Communist party.

Mr. Jekielek:

Here’s the question. For the longest time, you implemented a lot of very pro-China engagement policy in many decades.

Dr. Pillsbury:

That’s right.

Mr. Jekielek:

You believed you were doing the right thing.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Yes, following presidential orders in every case. There were classified decisions often called national security decision directives, sometimes two pages, sometimes 20 pages signed by the president personally. There’s a signature at the bottom of the whole thing. In “Hundred-Year Marathon,” I go over four of these under President Reagan. I got them declassified. You can see the instructions being given, “Build China into a strong power.” That’s pretty clear. It doesn’t say, “Hedge your bets or encourage a communist party of China to disappear.” No, it’s quite clear, and these directives have continued.

Mr. Jekielek:

What was the moment, or was there a moment, or was it just a very slow evolution, or was there a specific incident that suddenly changed your mind?

Dr. Pillsbury:

There were several incidents along the way. The Tiananmen incident was extremely important, because some of the students and also some of the leaders, in particular a guy named Yan Jiaqi escaped. The French helped them, some of them. Yan Jiaqi in particular, came to Paris, and they formed a Chinese Federation for Democracy. They said we’re the XL government. Yan Jiaqi is a communist party member. He was head of the Marxist-Leninist Institute in Beijing. But when he gets to Paris, he said, “We got to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party, and here’s our program.”

So, I was sent by the White House to Paris to meet with Yan Jiaqi and his team, and see what kind of money and secret support they might like. I wrote a memo, “The French are helping. Some other countries might if we go in. This is classic American values.” This is a group that wants to overthrow the Communist Party of China, and all they’re asking for is x. Father Bush, President George H. W. Bush specifically vetoed the plan. Instead, he sent Brent Scowcroft and Larry Eagleburger to have a famous toast to cooperation in the future, and the various programs. Some of the programs were stopped. The one to upgrade their jet fighters was actually stopped, and two jet fighters that they had moved to Long Island to the Grumman plant were folded up, and put on a ship, and sent back home.

We couldn’t get the torpedos back, but there was a restriction that continues to this day, “No more arm sales to China.” The European Union also agreed with that. That was one big moment. But notice what the president of the United States is doing. He’s saying, “We’re not going to support an anti-communist party organization.” The second big moment that really shocked me was 10 years later, the demonstrations around our embassy, the isolation of the ambassador’s wife back at the residence, Ambassador Sasser in the compound, rocks being thrown over, refusing to let anybody come in between these massive demonstrations over and over by groups clearly organized by the Chinese leadership to teach us a lesson.

In between those two, ’89 and ’99, there was another incident that looking back, I now realize is quite important. That’s when they fired missiles over Taiwan, four missiles. Taiwan’s sin, for which they were being punished, was to have free elections. Missile firings, series of exercises, this is all very similar to what happened with Nancy Pelosi when they were punishing her and her family a few months ago. So, you have ’89, ’95, ’96, and then ’99. One really shocking moment for me, this is very, very little known I’m sorry to say. When the P3 does the emergency landing after the hot dog Chinese pilot Wang Wei essentially commits suicide accidentally, and the plane has to go to land—emergency crash landing in Hainan.

They radio we’re coming in, but they don’t get permission. They’re basically put in a hotel, and George W. Bush says, “I want those guys back.” This is international airspace. Your guy caused this accident. I want them returned. Jiang Zemin gives a poem. He goes off on a trip to Cuba, and he reads a poem that an outstanding person should not be pressured by a bully, meaning obviously President George W. Bush. This is all over. They finally released the crew. They cut the plane up, “Let us send planes, and pick up the pieces after they’ve gone through everything.”

Then I was actually working in the Pentagon at the time. Then this bill arrives. This letter arrives, “Please pay China $1 million for food, housing, and medical care for the American air crew and prisoner.”

Mr. Jekielek:

Cut-up jet fees, right?

Dr. Pillsbury:

They didn’t ask for the cut-up fees, but the goal of gangster-like behavior combined with sending us a bill. But even then, the policy-making community began a debate that isn’t public yet. But the essence of the debate was, “Well, we can’t just pay nothing.” They were given food, “But we can’t pay a million dollars, so what should the price be?” Actually, there was a payment. It’s not just me and my awakening. It’s this team I’m in over a 30 or 40-year period, and the team is slowly waking up to, “This is not the China we hoped for that’s beginning to emerge,” but the wishful thinking never goes away.

You particularly see it in Wall Street. You particularly see the investment in China, and Wall Street firms come to Washington sometimes and ask, “Is it okay to invest in China? Is there going to be a civil war or some big crackdown, or are we safe putting…” One estimate is $2 trillion in both stock and private equity. Are we safe? $2 trillion in China. According to the people in Wall Street I’ve talked to, our government says, “No problem. It’s okay to invest in China.”

Mr. Jekielek:

On the surface, it seems there’s been a sea change in the understanding of the threat of the Chinese Communist Party, certainly around the general public. But what really has changed since 2013 when you wrote this book, and you offered some prescriptions about how to-

Dr. Pillsbury:

2016.

Mr. Jekielek:

Sorry, pardon me, 2016.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Very little has changed. The basic structure of our largest embassy in the world, 2,300 people being in Beijing, that has continued—the 50 federal agencies that are in the embassy that cooperate with China. We had more than 60 agreements at one time between the National Science Foundation and their Chinese counterpart, the Ministry of Science and Technology, that the U.S. would share quickly any new scientific discovery made by the National Science Foundation, which funds scientists and universities around the country. The Chinese, at one point… You asked me when I began to change my mind. At one point, they said, “You’ve been somewhat slow in transferring these new scientific discoveries to us.””We read about this in “Scientific American.” In this case, it was nanotechnology, and we haven’t received it yet here in Beijing.” So, the U.S. upgraded our embassy, and created a minister counselor for science and technology whose duty was to facilitate the scientific transfers to China. They signed all this in writing. Now under President Trump, Chinese came in and said, “We’d like to renew all the old education and cultural agreements.” Rex Tillerson said fine, didn’t even tell the president we renewed all these old agreements. Again, education and culture. Right? Well, the science agreements were also being renewed.

You may be surprised we’re still sharing all new scientific discoveries we make with China. We have a minister counselor in our embassy in Beijing. Yes. Has Congress looked into this? Yes, Congress asks for a study of how much of this is going on, but the study was just recently stopped, and the Republican congressman who supported it said, “This is helpful, this partial study. But if the Republicans win, we want to get the complete story on how much have federal government departments been aiding China for how long and under what authority,” because he never went to Congress to ask to do this. But I would say if you ask me what exactly has changed since the good old days, the arm sales have been cut off. We continue to encourage the European Union to maintain its arms embargo.

The rhetoric has gone way up. Secretary Pompeo talking about the communist party being evil and not the same thing as the Chinese people, that was never said by presidents or secretaries in the cabinet before. I would say the level of investment and trade is going up-

Mr. Jekielek:

I mean-

Dr. Pillsbury:

We are not punishing China through investment restrictions, or now there’s talk about more export controls, but I happen to have been involved a lot in export control decision making, the so-called CFIUS committee. This whole process is classified. It’s not open. You can’t just come in and say, “Hi, I’m from Epoch Times. I’d like to see how you decide one of these high-tech cases for Chinese investment.” No, in fact, they don’t even tell where the meeting room is. There’s a little plaque in the Treasury Department that says CFIUS, but where is the CFIUS staff? It’s been revealed over the years that it’s really the intelligence community that’s assessing what can and can’t be sold to China.

One change also is the number of specific ideas of what we can do to slow down China’s growth, if anything, and whether or not we can put limits on technology investment specific sales like advanced semiconductor design machines from Holland. Can this be done? So far, there’s a lot of discussion about it. The entity list, 300 companies in China are put on the entity list, but as has been made public in the “Wall Street Journal” and others, you can apply to continue your trade and sales to Chinese companies that are on the entity list. The Commerce Department’s been very generous with approving these relationships continuing.

I think it’s a hoax when a lot of what I call the super hawks, when they are interviewed, and they say, “China’s evil, and it’s a monster country, and we have to decouple completely. We have to break all diplomatic ties.” Your demand is so far from reality that you need to attack specific things. If the federal pension for federal employees and the military, in fact, including mine by the way, if it’s going to Chinese companies to build in the South China Sea to build the reefs, you should attack that particular thing, and make it stop. So, you need to compromise and find things that are feasible.

I doubt you could get one vote in Congress for pulling all U.S. companies out of China by law. Nobody would vote for it, but my fear is our super hawks are not focused on legislation and policies that could be changed. That would make a huge difference. They’re focused more on this feel good rhetoric, and it’s just helping the Chinese objectively speaking.

Mr. Jekielek:

What is the Chinese Communist Party’s end game in your view?

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, they’ve been pretty clear. Xi Jinping’s speech, if you read his two-hour speech last week, he is portraying the world as threatening to China, and he is calling on the communist party to help protect China from these threats—the main threat being America. He didn’t use the word America. He likes to say things like the hostile foreign forces, so he’s mobilizing the Chinese Communist Party for a world in which America is a threat that has to be neutralized somehow without stirring up the Americans even more. The Chinese debate this.

Mr. Jekielek:

Without creating, without initiating a Sputnik moment basically.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Yes, exactly. The Chinese nightmare right now, the Chinese communist leadership’s nightmare is they will overreach. They will do something that inadvertently provokes the Americans. From talking to some Chinese delegations, I’ll give you an example. “Global Times” has a very nationalistic former editor named Hu. I’ve talked with him. He writes a column saying Nancy Pelosi’s plane, if her plane is escorted by American military jets, and they’re going into Chinese territory, we should shoot down the plane. This is a worldwide story, right? China threatens to shoot down Nancy Pelosi.

I think the reaction startled the communist party leaders, because Global Times’s retired editor shouldn’t have any attention from the world press, but what he said was so outrageous and so vivid, “Shoot down Nancy Pelosi’s plane,” and she has six members of Congress with her. Well, it’s a World War I starting incident, but nobody was checking on Mr. Hu, what he might or might not write in his column. That’s the kind of thing that scares him. It did focus a lot of attention on Taiwan’s defense, and a lot of people in the Congress began to understand how in the normalization agreement in 1979, the Chinese were very specific, “America must withdraw nuclear weapons,” which we had already done by that point actually, “must have no training with the Taiwan military, must have no exercises with the Taiwan military, must basically abandon Taiwan’s military to be like orphans in the world.”

They have almost no embassies or military associates around the world. The Nancy Pelosi trip activated a wake-up call in Washington. What? Why would they think they could shoot down Nancy Pelosi’s plane? Well, because they believed Taiwan’s part of China. Well, what do we say? Then you get this strange commentary coming out of the federal government, “Well, China’s not exactly a part of China, but it’s sort of a part of China.”

Mr. Jekielek:

Right. Taiwan. Right.

Dr. Pillsbury:

The so-called one-China policy. Sorry, I meant to say Taiwan. I noticed a lot of members of Congress, and they ended up drafting this wonderful legislation called the Taiwan Policy Act. They started asking, “You mean Taiwan’s not a country? I’ve been there several times.” And members of Congress say, “I met all these presidents in Taiwan. They’re really nice to us.” No, they’re not a country according to the executive branch. Well, does Taiwan belong to China? Well, senator or congressman, it’s complicated, so this is the kind of thing that Chinese communist leaders worry about, that they see America as generally speaking asleep about the China threat beyond rhetoric.

So if they push too far, the danger they know is something really serious will be done to them such as controls on America investment in China. Do we only have two trillion in investment there? Where is it? Who approved this? There’s some legislation on that right now, and has very few sponsors.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, and there is this new activity around chip manufacturing. So, how do you read that?

Dr. Pillsbury:

It’s an example who is saying the other day that chips are like oil for the 20th century. Chips and especially the high-quality design chips induce obsolescence in cell phones or anything made with chips. So who controls the heights in the socialist theory of Xi Jinping? The height of power is to control the means of production of particularly high-tech matters, so chips of the highest quality and how they’re designed is what China wants to get its hands on, and this new Biden policy threatens that by drawing attention to it, and by implying that there are some American products and some American machinery that cannot be sold to China, even with an exception.

But the community, a business community now is sniffing around, “Are you sure there can’t be any exceptions. You know what about really old chips?” This is the current state of play in one sector of the U.S. China long-term competition. They know certain red lines we cannot cross unless we really intend to go to war with the Americans. Their most recent step in this strategy, I think, is brilliant. Our experts for decades have said China just wants to have a couple hundred nuclear weapons, the same range as France or Great Britain. They don’t believe in nuclear war.

They’re not like the Soviets who wanted to match us or even surpass us in nuclear weapons, so it got into 10,000, 20,000. These terrible numbers could easily destroy the planet. The Chinese were supposed to be noble, just and wise, because all they were going to have is 200 nuclear warheads, just enough so they wouldn’t be insulted or humiliated, which they claim they had been by us in the past. Now all of a sudden, it turns out that 40-year-old theory is wrong. The Defense Department released its report a few months ago. They estimate China will almost certainly go to 1,000 nuclear warheads in just six or seven years, but the facilities they have for highly enriched uranium and plutonium, they don’t have to stop at 1,000.

We and the Russians now have a limit of 750 or so both sides, strategic delivery vehicles. China will surpass that. They’ll be superior to both Russia and America in deliverable warheads if this DOD forecast is correct. What if they don’t stop there? What if they go to 2,000 or 3,000? They’ll be the dominant nuclear power in the world without provoking the Americans into a counter response. Congress has vetoed an upgrade in one of our nuclear weapon’s programs. So at the highest level of strategy, the nuclear balance between Russia, America, and China, that used to be no problem. It was just Russia and America.

Now, what if they surpassed both us and the Russians? This is something that as a scholar in the think tank, I’ve been exploring with my Russian friends, who were telling me when I was 24 years old, “Watch out for China.” Now, I’ve asked them, “What do you think about the Chinese going to 1,000 or more nuclear warheads?” Do you know what one of the Russians told me? I know from way back, “We told you so.”

Mr. Jekielek:

The picture that you paint, it isn’t very promising.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Perhaps you care to expand. Why isn’t it promising? Because they’re outsmarting us. It’s really very simple. “The Hundred-Year Marathon” has about 100 or more cases where the Chinese outsmarts again and again, and we never do a postmortem. We never have a commission. I had hoped that there’d be a commission set up. Instead, a lot of people who agreed with me, insiders or people who retired have written very positive book reviews. “This book discloses a lot. You should read it,” but how much it’s really impacting the majority of China officers and experts inside our government or on Wall Street is a big guess.

I’ve been speaking to Goldman Sachs and lots of the Wall Street firms. They love to hear about the book. They buy a lot of copies, and then they always ask the same question. They lean forward and say, “Is this book having any impact on American policy toward China?” What they mean is this is taken seriously. It’s going to harm the rate of return of Wall Street’s private equity and New York Stock Exchange’s listed equities. It’s going to have a big impact. So if I say, “Well no, it’s not having too much effect, they’re going to invest more in China.”

If I say, “This is changing the way we’re approaching China, it’s going to bring China to its knees, because we’re doing all these powerful things,” then they might take it easy on investment in China.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to read something that Kyle Bass wrote, “Xi’s wartime cabinet is in place. His 20th party Congress purge not only installed loyalists, but two spy chiefs and military leaders responsible for China’s reunification with Taiwan. He sacked the only three men with markets experience.” Then he goes on to say, “Today’s 10  to 20 percent crash in Chinese shares is just the beginning of the destruction of western capital invested in Chinese companies. It appears that Xi’s great struggle is also meant to inflict maximum pain to those who believed in “reform and opening.” What do you think?

Dr. Pillsbury:

I wish it were true. Kyle Bass has put a huge amount of effort into understanding China. I remember once he gave me almost a hundred color charts showing that the Chinese economy was headed for if not collapsed then a major slowdown. It’s certainly true that the leading reform candidate who’s been in the White House to meet President Trump several times, Mr. Liu He, he’s been retired. He could have served longer. That is what Kyle Bass is picking up on, that the leading reformer so well known in Washington, he’s the one who delivered the Chinese concessions to make the trade deal possible. He’s gone, and these military generals who are focused on planning to invade Taiwan, they’re elevated.

I think the newspapers of the world in the last few days have had front page stories saying just that, reformers being demoted, military focus on Taiwan being elevated, but he’s missing a big part of the picture. I’m sure he knows this. When you have foreign reserves of three trillion, the most foreign reserves of any country in the world, any country in history has ever had, when you have that, if you want to stimulate your economy, you have the means to do it. There’s a long list of China collapse assumptions. They’re going to have state-owned enterprises. They are not going to have innovation.

All of these things could be true. But with my own meetings in Beijing, what I hear from them, from the Chinese communist leaders, they know all these problems. They’re working on fixing them. They’re not going to let their big state-owned enterprises go down. So what the critics are missing is if you go back 20 years to the Forbes 500 list, the 500 largest companies in the world by capitalization, not one Chinese company was on the list. If you go this year, it’s dominated by Chinese companies. More than 100 of the top 150 are Chinese, so something’s wrong.

If there’s all these terrible things that the Chinese leadership is doing to its economy, and it’s going to collapse, which would take away the China threat, obviously, that’s one theory you might say. But the other theory is best put in a book by a guy I recommend you meet. His name is Tom Orlik, O-R-L-I-K. He’s written two books on China. One’s called “What Indicators to Follow to Understand the Chinese Economy.” He’s a Bloomberg reporter, seven years in Beijing. Now, he’s in Washington. His new book is called “China: The Bubble That Never Bursts.” He runs through all the quotations much better than I can.

He runs through all the China collapse, China slowdown quotations with the names of the people. Then he says, “Every time one of these challenges is laid out, it’s going to result in the collapse of China.” What happens? The Chinese fix it, whether it’s foreign investment or any number of others, more technology theft, but they’re very, very smart. They’re not going to let the economy collapse on them. It’s what brings the Communist Party its power. If they have to accelerate theft, getting more investment, trade exploitation of the west, they’ll do it.

He makes a powerful case by saying, “They could fail. This is not a sure thing. They could fail. They could make some decisions where Alibaba and Tencent, and the companies that they’re most proud of, Sinopec, that are on the Forbes 500, they do something. They make a mistake, and they bankrupt one of their national champions. That’s the term they used for it, national champions. There’s at least 50 of them now. They could make a mistake. This is not preordained, but from my point of view in the policy world, it’s not a policy to cross your fingers, and hope that China will collapse.

I believe unless we take really strong steps, they’re going to surpass us. The Chinese have… Some of their economists have published forecasts. They’ll be double our economy in 2049. It isn’t just easing the path a little bit. It’s doubling. When you’re dealing with a great power under a Chinese communist party control that has anti-American sentiment in the students, taught in the textbooks, and they’re double our economy, this is a very different world than we’re living in now. Somebody 30 years from now would write another book saying A Hundred-Year Marathon only told the half of the story. Why didn’t Pillsbury really scare us into action?

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, and I think of the world you’re describing is one where that book doesn’t get to get written, I think. But here’s my question, so I keep thinking about the pandemic as we’re sitting here talking. Number one, I would’ve thought that the pandemic and the CCP’s response to weaponizing COVID, however it came about allowing its spread basically, and putting a lot of effort into getting the free world to shut down its economies when we know now that wasn’t something that was necessary. You would have to think that might be a Sputnik moment, right? But somehow it’s not.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, the super hawks say it was. The super hawks say the PLA had biological weapons in Wuhan at the laboratory, and they released them to kill three or four million people around the world. Therefore, reparations are owed for this military, basically wartime act by China. That’s the so-called super hawk take on the whole thing. That makes them puzzled. Why is there no real reaction from the West? Why is there no punishment for China? Why did the WHO team go to the Wuhan laboratory, and accept their explanations without seeing the actual laboratory notes?

Why did the bill that was introduced for reparations… It was 20 trillion in the beginning, China’s entire GDP. Why did those bills go nowhere? Why did the effort to have the intelligence community produce a report? Is this a PLA bio weapon? Is it a lab accident? What’s the evidence? Instead of a clear answer, what you got is the cancellation of the study effort by President Biden. Probably because the Chinese won’t cooperate, but notice the level of wishful thinking that whatever happened in Wuhan, and the Chinese say it wasn’t them, it was the Americans who brought this virus in the previous month in October, whatever happened, what wishful thinking it is to think we can stroll in to the Wuhan laboratory and say, “Please show us your books. Please show us your samples. Please show us your experiments.”

In the beginning, the first year of pressure to do something like that, that was before it became public that the U.S. government was funding gain of function research in that laboratory, and that the U.S. embassy sent two people down to visit the laboratory, which we’d helped to build along with the French. The two visitors wrote a cable, which was leaked to Josh Rogin of “The Post.” The cable said they need more money for safety measures. This level four lab is not safe by American standards. The cable didn’t say this, but it’s well known. America has had level four lab accidents, where things get out that shouldn’t have gotten out.

So, that embassy cable showed the complicity of the U.S. government not only funding the laboratory, creating it, asking it to do gain-of-function research, and then saying it’s unsafe two years before this happened, before the outbreak happened. Then saying it’s unsafe. What do we say about it being unsafe? Do we say, “Condemn this lab. Close it down. Get a team in there to see if the PLA is making nerve gas or not?” No. The recommendation was give money to the lab to upgrade its safety. This to me proves the point. Our government officials still see China as a friend and ally.

Their reaction to what president Trump every now and then mentions as the Wuhan virus or the China virus, their reaction is to give China more money to improve the laboratory.

Mr. Jekielek:

At this point, you have a number of policy prescriptions in the book. You’ve mentioned a few things today. “Focus on very specific attainable policy directives,” that’s one of the things you mentioned. But what do you see as the immediate steps that would actually make sense to countering this marathon to slowing or stopping this marathon?

Dr. Pillsbury:

One of the recommendations, it’s almost the very first one of the 12 in the chapter on recommendations, is really very simple. It surprised me that it hasn’t taken off and been implemented. I said, “Basically, we need a White House presidential report on the competition between the U.S. and China. Who is ahead in various fields, whether it’s supercomputers, chip design, number of aircraft carriers that could be 50 or 100 indicators. But we need to understand how we are doing in this competition?” This has been resisted. This idea has been resisted.

I have a friend who’s a panda hugger who still thinks I betrayed the panda hugger cause who said, “If there were a presidential annual report on competitiveness with China, it would show the Chinese are surpassing us in a lot of areas, and that would just produce a hysterical panic, an anti-China sentiment.” I said, “Well, if it comes out that way.” He said, “You know how it’s going to come out, so we don’t want this study. We don’t want a presidential competitiveness report.” Now, that wouldn’t hurt the feelings of a communist party of China. It wouldn’t start a war. It’s an internal American study to show the Congress and the public, “This is how we’re doing. They’re ahead of us in supercomputers. They’re ahead of us in all kinds of things, and the trend is not good.”

So, short of having a Sputnik moment or a Pearl Harbor attack, a report like this could have some impact. I once asked our Secretary of Commerce, “Did you ever try to do this?” He said, “Yes, it’s very important, but I could not get agreement on what indicators to measure. Because obviously if you cherry pick things that make America look good, then the headline will be China will never surpass America.” To me, it’s an interesting exercise to see what would be the result of such a study. Are we really, really far ahead, so we can be complacent, or are they just at our heels almost run faster? I think we need to know this, but it’s quite striking to me the opposition to it.

Mr. Jekielek:

One of the themes that’s coming through in this interview for me is the pervasive nature of this, I’ll call it bureaucratic, progressive mindset, that we’re all in this together, one world. This seems to be stifling, having a realistic view of what’s going on. It strikes me that needs to be changed. How do you see that happening?

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, that’s the reason I wrote “The Hundred-Year Marathon.” I wanted to expose the wishful thinking with as many declassified government documents as I could. So by the time the reader finishes the 300 pages, they’re reaching the same conclusion you are, that we’re in a lot of trouble and what to do to fix the situation. This required an enormous effort. We might need to restructure our government. We might need to have a large capacity to deal with China that we don’t have now. If you have been around as long as I have, you’ve been to all the China offices in the Pentagon and State Department and Commerce Department and Treasury and CIA and DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], everybody’s got to sign China division.

Back when we were building them into a strong power, that was okay. You didn’t need too many people. But now that they are a strong power, it seems a little strange to me that we still have a very teeny group at the various government departments, and an even smaller group in the White House that deals with China. This was not the case in the Cold War 1947. When one piece of legislation created the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, the National Security Council, and a number of other steps in the covert action area to try to overthrow the Soviet Communist Party. We are doing none of that now with China, none of it. We have no new organization to deal with the China threat.

They’re almost our size now economically. They’re going to launch more satellites and orbit than we are this year. You pick an indicator like satellites in space used to be zero for China, several hundred for us. Fast forward this year, China’s gone from 100 satellites just a few years ago to 500 satellites. How’d they do that? I keep using this word scale. The scale of the China challenge is far beyond our capacity. The Congress doesn’t have any structure to deal with China. It’s one of Kevin McCarthy’s promises, “If I’m speaker of the house, I’m going to create a select committee on China for all the committees of the house to belong to.”

He’s talked about what he’s going to do, what he’s going to build on, and who will be the chairman of it. That’s moving in the right direction. He’s recognizing the scale of the China challenge, but the Senate has no counterpart legislation. I just don’t know how you can reorganize each one of our government departments to deal with China more effectively. President Trump made some steps in this direction, try to get interagency guidance, try to get a document. That would be the China strategy. But a lot of people, you’re referring to their category.

They wrote in a provision, “We must continue cooperation with China on epidemics and global climate change.” There’s quite a list. When you tell the American people, “China’s a real threat. Get ready. It could be terrible. It could be a war over Taiwan. They could try and take us over, but we have to keep cooperating with them on everything we can think of,” it’s not credible.

Mr. Jekielek:

That’s exactly what I was thinking. It doesn’t sound terribly credible, does it?

Dr. Pillsbury:

No.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, and the other issue is that there’s a lot of earned mistrust in our agencies and how they’ve grown. So even the idea of creating some new structure, how would this structure be free of the huge systemic problems that it-

Dr. Pillsbury:

Well, wouldn’t the panda huggers… The way I would phrase it is, wouldn’t the panda huggers all know, “Hey, we got to get control of this new structure?” That would certainly happen.

Mr. Jekielek:

Correct.

Dr. Pillsbury:

So some unspoken assumptions are that the new structure better not have panda huggers. But again, how do you do that, because a lot of people in the executive branch are masters at concealing their true political views?

Mr. Jekielek:

They’ve studied the Chinese texts from the past.

Dr. Pillsbury:

The whole issue of deception is another story that I hope to address in my next book, The Deep Chinese Cultural Study of Deception as a normal, even a superior technique to get what you want, whether it’s dating and finding your future wife. Can you deceive her? “Marry me, I’ll be the best candidate for you.” Is deception allowed there? Well, maybe a little bit, all the way over to Hundred-Year Marathon where they are knowledgeable about our wishful thinking, but they’re not beyond stimulating the wishful thinking themselves, which might be deception of a really colossal scale. That’s the essence of deception for the Chinese.

You want to know the other guy’s mindset, and you want to know what he can do to hurt you, and discourage that, and what he can do to help you, and encourage that. So to say for China to join the world order, and help you Americans, they did this with Obama. A very famous Chinese slogan I discussed in the book is called The New Model of Great Power Relations. Xi Jinping sprung this on Obama at the Sunnyland Summit in California. We, Chinese, want a new model of great power relations, and it’s really good for America. I wasn’t present. Obama allegedly said, “Well, what’s the old model of great power relations?”

Xi Jinping allegedly explained, “In the old model, it’s called the Thucydides Trap. The rising power and the dominant power get into a war that’s unnecessary. Usually, the old hegemon loses, or the rising power gets wiped out, and there’s been 19 times this has happened. We don’t want that to happen again.” At first, Susan Rice and John Kerry and Obama himself spoke out, “This was a promising concept that Xi Jinping had proposed the new model of great power relations.” But then I and others said, “Perhaps you need to explore a bit more. How will this new model work?”

I myself went to Beijing for a lot of conversations. They’re very frank, “Under the new model, America will not use force or in any way block the rise of China to prevent a war from happening between the rising power and the old hegemon.” I said, “Wait a minute. That means we would give up any diplomatic leverage over China.” They’re like, “Yes.” Ultimately, the Obama team reversed themselves, and they said, “No, we don’t… we want to…” There’s a Susan Rice speech at Georgetown where she says, “We need to explore how the new model of great power relations would work in practice, for example, with North Korea.”

It’s a brilliant Chinese deception, if you will, to say, “We don’t want World War III. We think it could happen, so could you please agree with us on this new model of great power relations?” Now, part of it also was who all is in this? Who are the great powers? Japan, India, Germany. Well, not exactly. It was just going to be America and China, so it separates us from our allies. So if you sense that I admire Chinese strategy, and that I fear their outsmarting us over and over again, that’s correct. That is my concern, but I do think we can review the past record, how we got here, and derive some lessons that might at least change a few minds.

Mr. Jekielek:

Well, Michael Pillsbury, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.

Dr. Pillsbury:

Thank you very much. I think you’ve raised some fascinating questions.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you all for joining Dr. Michael Pillsbury and me on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Follow EpochTV on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EpochTVus
Rumble: https://rumble.com/c/EpochTV
Truth Social: https://truthsocial.com/@EpochTV

Gettr: https://gettr.com/user/epochtv
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EpochTVus
Gab: https://gab.com/EpochTV
Telegram: https://t.me/EpochTV

Read More
Popular
Related Videos