Let me share with you the two most important insights about China that I have gained over the decades.
1) I was blessed to have a professor, mentor, and friend, now long deceased, who taught me valuable life lessons. He was one of the brightest people I have ever known, having taught both physics and three modern languages at the college level. He was also schooled in practical skills, having built his family’s house—a house in which I was privileged to be a guest resident during my senior year. Jean, the son of missionary parents, had been raised in China long before World War II and the subsequent rise of Mao Zedong.
When this man retired from teaching in the mid-1980s, I suggested that he write some articles about China for the newspaper I was writing for at the time. He humbly declined, telling me that he felt he didn’t understand the Chinese sufficiently to write about them, since he had lived there “only 18 years.” That such a brilliant man would say that made a huge impact on me. It was a lesson both in humility and in conveying to me the complexities involved in truly understanding China and the Chinese.
2) In 1980–81, while I was earning my master’s degree in economics, my landlord, Paul, was a retired Presbyterian missionary. He had spent 35 years in East Asia. Thirty of those years were in China, including a couple of years in a communist prison where he and his cellmates were habitually mistreated and tortured.
Those of you of a certain age may recall that, in 1980, one of the major stories in the world was Japan’s rapid, seemingly unstoppable economic growth. One evening, the reverend and I had a serious conversation about the direction of the world. He surprised me when he confidently stated, “It’s not Japan that America needs to worry about, but China.” That may not sound particularly insightful now, but you have to remember that in 1980, the average per capita GDP in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was only a couple hundred dollars per year.
Paul told me that the Chinese were immensely practical people—far more than the Japanese; that the Chinese would jettison the impractical, unviable ideology of orthodox Marxism; and that inevitably, they would adopt economic policies that would lead to tremendous economic progress. The good reverend nailed that prediction.
During the 1980s, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China changed its policies and became the fastest-growing major economy in the world. It also emerged as an aggressive player in the global geopolitical arena. By the late 1990s (if not earlier), some U.S. leaders began to recognize China as a potential threat and enemy. In response to China’s emergence, a congressional committee published a report in 1999 documenting some of China’s hostile tactics—the Cox Report.
Its formal title was “Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China,” and its findings were unanimously endorsed by the bipartisan committee.
In the foreword to the Cox Report, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated, “Communist China’s long march against the United States is as tenacious as it is diverse—from campaign contributions used to buy influence in the White House, to purchasing an interest in American corporations, to high-tech spying,” as well as “stealing or buying our technology, opposing and blocking our foreign policy actions, and trying to displace American influence in Asia and the Pacific region.”
The Cox Report is now 20 years old. What has changed over the past two decades? Nothing—in terms of the general direction and tenor of China’s policies. Rather than abating or subsiding, the threat has grown.
Consider the following:
Industrial espionage by Chinese actors and agents is rampant. The Epoch Times published a disturbing special report on Dec. 13, 2018, outlining Huawei’s key role in implementing the sinister agenda of the Chinese communist regime.
A friend of mine here in Pennsylvania, who runs a small engineering firm, told me that a Chinese customer bought just one unit of a specialized product, reverse-engineered it, and has been selling pirated copies without paying a penny of royalties ever since.
The U.S. Navy currently describes itself and its private-sector partners as “under cyber siege” by Chinese hackers, and that the hacking “appears to be preparation for great power conflict.”
In the diplomatic area, just recently there have been reports of two sinister official actions taken by the Chinese regime. One is that China has blocked the U.N. Security Council from designating Masood Azhar as a terrorist.
Azhar is the founder of the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the February ambush that killed at least 40 Indian soldiers in Kashmir. U.N. sanctions would subject Azhar to a travel ban and restrict his ability to move money around to commit more mayhem. That hardly seems like an unreasonable request for any peace-loving regime to support, but China remains unmoved. Instead of supporting this reasonable request to help protect innocent lives, the Chinese regime has adopted the pernicious policy of running interference for Azhar and the Pakistani government that allows Azhar and his band of terrorists to use Pakistan as its base of operations.
The other recent example of the Chinese regime’s ruthless cold-heartedness is its March vote to torpedo a U.N. resolution that denounces Venezuela’s fraud-riddled 2018 presidential election and calls for both a new election and humanitarian aid to the grievously suffering Venezuelan people. Utterly devoid of human compassion, the regime has sided with the brutes who are tyrannizing and devastating millions of their own citizens.
Sadly, China’s contempt for the well-being of other peoples and territories goes back decades. Just ask the Tibetans, the Mongolians, and today, the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang Province. The Uyghurs are being treated like cattle. The Chinese communist regime, dispensing with due process of law, has taken a million or more Uyghurs from their homes and placed them in “re-education” programs. Now, the government is razing entire Uyghur neighborhoods in its campaign to annihilate their culture.
A new Cold War has already started. One difference from the previous Cold War is that China is in a much stronger economic position to project power than the economically feeble Soviet Union ever was. With its One Belt, One Road initiative and “Made in China 2025” master plan, the Chinese communist regime is bent on world domination.
One can only hope—not only for our own sake, but for the sake of people around the world—that Democratic and Republican leaders can set aside partisanship enough to forge a tough, united, long-term strategy to counter China’s aggressive ambitions.
Mark Hendrickson is an adjunct professor of economics and sociology at Grove City College. He is the author of several books, including “The Big Picture: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Climate Change.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.