The rise of progressivism in the United States has consequences far beyond the profound changes it is causing to American society. It has provided the Chinese regime with a weapon of political warfare to be used against the United States to undermine its foreign policy and its society.
A dose of reality—the recognition by progressivism of the profoundly different systems and future offered by the United States and by China—is needed before any more damage is done.
Historically, the United States has advanced liberal principles in its foreign policy and in political warfare. It has sought to advance the tenets of liberalism: liberal democracy, free trade, free and competitive elections, freedom of the press, religion, and respect for human rights. Liberalism defined American identity, justified its political system and the ideas and values it sought to advance in global politics.
However, progressivism’s rise means that the United States is going through an ideological revolution, the foreign policy consequences of which will be harmful to traditional U.S. interests. Inevitability in revolution, there are opportunities upon which an enemy will capitalize.
However, progressivism’s focus on racism and the ills of U.S. society has provided the Chinese regime with a potent weapon in political warfare. Not unexpectedly, Beijing uses statements by U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and documents to demonstrate that America is a racist and flawed society by U.S. officials’ own admission. In the effort to transform the ordering principle of the United States, progressivism has introduced two major vulnerabilities for China to exploit against America.
First, the United States itself has stated that it is a flawed society with structural racism. From America’s own admission, Beijing hopes the next logical step in its political warfare syllogism will be for the world to respond with doubt that it is a fit global leader or ally. Additionally, it hopes for a return of the public doubts of the 1970s regarding U.S. foreign policy in the wake of Vietnam. Beijing’s expectation is that the U.S. population will not support engagement in global politics as the United States has self-confessed that it is culpable of great abuses, including imperialism, and thus is no more fit to advance its values than other of the failed imperial powers of the last two centuries.
Second, the Chinese regime advances the message that the U.S. global narrative, since the Washington Consensus of 1989 has been liberal democracy and free markets, is inherently flawed. Again, by its own admission, the U.S. narrative possesses structural imperfections. Thus, it is inferior to the Beijing consensus of free markets and authoritarian government, or the contemporary “common destiny of mankind” dominant global narrative advanced by Beijing.
This emphasis on the flaws of ideology is necessary because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fully understands that its incoherent ideology is its Achilles’ heel. The ideology is based on a completely false assertion that the CCP rules in the name of the “workers-peasants alliance,” which provides the Party with self-justified authority to rule over 1.4 billion people without their consent. The CCP’s ideology is the force that unifies and provides cohesion for the Party and its supporters within China and internationally.
With progressivism’s focus on structural racism, America has provided the CCP with the ability to undermine the legitimacy of liberalism as the political ideology of the United States and, thus, its historical principles of government, history, culture, and position in global politics. As it has already, the Chinese regime will exploit this to weaken the U.S. global position.
Thus, the United States should expect that Beijing will advance the message for global audiences that the history of U.S. global diplomacy has been hypocritical. The United States advanced freedom and human rights, but denied them to African Americans and other minority Americans; clearly it did so before the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement, but also after and, indeed, does so today. A consequence of this is the fact that the United States did transform its laws, culture, society, and politics to provide full civil rights to African Americans and shortly thereafter to women, as did all Western societies. That transformation provides the United States with a prodigious advantage over China in political warfare.
In actuality, Chinese performance in the Global South is defined by ruthless exploitation of people and the environment. The Chinese regime’s treatment of its ethnic, religious, women, and sexual minorities is atrocious. Illuminating China’s human rights violations in these areas is important to improve its human rights record as well as a great advantage for the United States in political warfare, and among potential allies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
However, while these dangers are significant and will hurt the stability of the United States and its position in global politics, due to the rise of China and the possibility that it can supplant the United States, progressivism must pivot to embrace the recognition that the United States has had flaws and has corrected them.
Were the United States to lose its dominant position, progressives must be cognizant that they would lose the ability to use U.S. power to advance progressivism in global politics, including the ability to pressure allies, international organizations, and even foes to adopt its principles and to be judged by them.
Unlike in the West, even progressives are compelled to acknowledge that China has made no changes to its treatment of its minorities or women, or cultural attitudes to darker-complexioned people.
Fundamentally, what must be especially worrying for progressives is China’s radically different ideology. This includes the deeply rooted racialized worldview of racism and Han-supremacy that informs China’s domestic and foreign policies, as well as the manner in which the government treats the non-Han. This is particularly the case for the minority groups in the country that directly or indirectly challenge Han-supremacy—notably the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang.
In essence, how the Chinese communists see the world is heavily informed by Han-supremacy, and even race-based and eugenicist beliefs. Whether or not they know it, progressivism will have to confront the Chinese regime. That should compel progressives to support the United States in its struggle with that regime.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.