Originally published by Gatestone Institute
All the conditions for history’s next great war are in place. Jim Holmes, the J.C. Wylie chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College, actually talks about this period as being 1937.
That was the year in which if you were in Europe or America, you could sense the trouble. If you were in Asia in 1937, you would be even more worried, because that year saw Japan’s second invasion of China that decade.
No matter where you lived, however, you couldn’t be sure that the worst would happen, that great armies and navies around the world would clash. There was still hope that the situation could be managed. As we now know, the worst did happen. In fact, what happened was worse than what anyone thought at the time.
We are now, thanks to China, back to 1937.
We will begin our discussion in Afghanistan. Beijing has had long‑standing relations with the Afghan Taliban, going back before 9/11, and continuing through that event.
After the United States drove the Taliban from power and while it was conducting an insurgency, China was selling the group arms, including anti‑aircraft missiles, that were used to kill American and NATO forces.
China’s support for killing Americans has continued to today. In December 2020, Indian Intelligence was instrumental in Afghanistan in breaking up a ring of Chinese spies and members of the Haqqani Network. The Trump administration believed that the Chinese portion of that ring was actually paying cash for killing Americans.
What can happen next? We shouldn’t be surprised if China gives the Taliban an atomic weapon to be used against an American city. Would they be that vicious?
We have to remember that China purposefully, over the course of decades, proliferated its nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan and then helped Pakistan sell that Chinese technology around the world to regimes such as those in Iran and North Korea.
Today, China supports the Taliban. We know this because China has kept open its embassy in Kabul. China is also running interference for the Taliban in the United Nations Security Council. It’s urging countries to support that insurgent group with aid. It looks as if the Taliban’s main financial backers these days are the Chinese.
Beijing is hoping to cash in on its relationship in Central Asia. Unfortunately, there’s a man named Biden who is helping them.
In early August, Biden issued an executive order setting a goal that by 2030, half of all American vehicles should be electric‑powered. To be electric‑powered, we need rare earth minerals, we need lithium. As many people have said, Afghanistan is the Saudi Arabia of rare earths and lithium.
If Beijing can mine this, it makes the United States even more dependent on China. It certainly helps the Taliban immeasurably.
Unfortunately, Beijing has more than just Afghanistan in mind. The Chinese want to take away our sovereignty, and that of other nations, and rule the world. They actually even want to rule the near parts of the solar system. Yes, that does sound far‑fetched, but, no, I’m not exaggerating. Chinese leader Xi Jinping would like to end the current international system.
On July 1, in a landmark speech, in connection with the centennial of China’s ruling organization, he said this: “The Communist Party of China and the Chinese people, with their bravery and tenacity, solemnly proclaim to the world that the Chinese people are not only good at taking down the old world, but also good in building a new one.”
By that, China’s leader means ending the international system, the Westphalian international system. It means he wants to impose China’s imperial‑era notions of governance, where Chinese emperors believed they not only had the Mandate of Heaven over tianxia, or all under Heaven, but that Heaven actually compelled the Chinese to rule the entire world.
Xi has been using tianxia themes for decades, and so have his subordinates, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who in September 2017 wrote an article in Study Times, the Central Party School’s influential newspaper.
In that article, Wang wrote that Xi’s thought on diplomacy—a “thought” in Communist Party lingo is an important body of ideological work—Wang wrote that Xi’s thought on diplomacy made innovations on and transcended the traditional theories of Western international relations of the past 300 years.
Take 2017, subtract 300 years, and you almost get to 1648, which means Wang, with his time reference, was pointing to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which established the current system of sovereign states.
When Wang writes that Xi wants to transcend that system, he’s really telling us that China’s leader doesn’t want sovereign states, or at least no more of them than China. This means that when Biden says, “Oh, the Chinese just want to compete with us,” he’s wrong. They do not want to “compete” within the international system. They don’t even want to change that system so it’s more to their liking. They want to overthrow it altogether, period.
China is also revolutionary with regard to the solar system. Since about 2018, Chinese officials have been talking about the moon and Mars as sovereign Chinese territory. In other words, as part of the People’s Republic of China. This means that China considers those heavenly bodies to be like the South China Sea: theirs and theirs alone.
This also means China will exclude other nations from going to the moon and Mars if they have the capability to do so. We don’t have to speculate about that: Chinese officials say that’s what they’re going to do.
Let us return to April 2021. Beijing announced the name of its Mars rover. “We are naming the Mars rover Zhurong,” the Chinese said, “because Zhurong was the god of fire in Chinese mythology.” How nice. Yes, Zhurong is the god of fire. What Beijing didn’t tell us is that Zhurong is also the god of war—and the god of the South China Sea.
Is Xi really that bold or that desperate to start another war? Two points. First, China considers the United States to be its enemy. The second point is that the United States is no longer deterring China. China feels it has a big green light to do whatever it wants.
On the first point, about our enemy status, we have to go back to May 2019. People’s Daily, the most authoritative publication in China, actually carried a piece that declared a “people’s war” on the United States. This was not just some isolated thought.
On Aug. 29, 2021, People’s Daily came out with a landmark piece that accused the United States of committing “barbaric” acts against China. Again, this was during a month of hostile propaganda blasts from China.
On Aug. 29, Global Times, which is controlled by People’s Daily, came right out and also said that the United States was an enemy or like an enemy.
We Americans don’t pay attention to propaganda. The question is, should we be concerned about what China is saying? After all, these are just words.
At this particular time, these words are significant. The strident anti‑Americanism suggests to me that China is laying the justification for a strike on the United States. We keep ignoring what Beijing is saying. We kept ignoring what Osama bin Laden was saying.
We have to remember that the Chinese regime, unlike the Japanese, always warns its adversaries about what it’s going to do. Jim Lilley, our great ambassador to Beijing during the Tiananmen massacre, actually said that China always telegraphs its punches. At this moment, China is telegraphing a punch.
That hostility, unfortunately, is not something we can do very much about. The Chinese Communist regime inherently idealizes struggle, and it demands that others show subservience to it.
The second reason war is coming is that America’s deterrence of China is breaking down. That’s evident from what the Chinese are saying.
In March of 2021, China sent its top two diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang, to Anchorage to meet our top officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Yang, in chilling words, said the United States could no longer talk to China “from a position of strength.”
We saw the same theme during the fall of Kabul. China then was saying, “Look, those Americans, they can’t deal with the insurgent Taliban. How can they hope to counter us magnificent Chinese?” Global Times actually came out with a piece referring to Americans: “They can’t win wars anymore.”
We also saw propaganda at that same time directed at Taiwan. Global Times was saying, again, in an editorial, an important signal of official Chinese thinking, “When we decide to invade, Taiwan will fall within hours and the US will not come to help.”
It is probably no coincidence that this propaganda came at the time of incursions into Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone.
We need to be concerned with more than just the intensity and the frequency of these flights, however. We have to be concerned that China was sending H‑6K bombers; they are nuclear‑capable.
Something is wrong. Global Times recently came out with an editorial with the title “Time to Warn Taiwan Secessionists and Their Fomenters: War Is Real.”
Beijing is at this moment saying things heard before history’s great conflicts. The Chinese regime right now seems to be feeling incredibly arrogant. We heard this on Nov. 28, 2020, when Di Dongsheng, an academic in Beijing, gave a lecture livestreamed to China.
Di showed the arrogance of the Chinese elite. More importantly, he was showing that the Chinese elite no longer wanted to hide how they felt. Di, for instance, openly stated that China could determine outcomes at the highest levels of the American political system.
Di’s message was that with cash, China can do anything it wants, and that all Americans would take cash. He mentioned two words in this regard: Hunter Biden.
Unfortunately, President Joe Biden is reinforcing this notion. China, for instance, has so far killed nearly one million Americans with a disease that it deliberately spread beyond its borders. Yet what happened? Nothing.
We know that China was able to spread this disease because of its close relationship with the World Health Organization. President Trump, in July of 2020, took us out of the WHO. What did Biden do? In his first hours in office, on Jan. 20, 2021, he put us back into the WHO.
In February, he had a two‑hour phone call with Xi. By Biden’s own admission, he didn’t raise the issue of the origins of COVID‑19 even once. If you are Xi, after you put down the receiver, your first thought is, “I just got away with killing hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Then there’s somebody named John Kerry. Our republic is not safe when John Kerry carries a diplomatic passport, as he now does. He’s willing to make almost any deal to get China to sign an enhanced climate arrangement.
Kerry gave a revealing interview to David Westin of Bloomberg on Sept. 22, 2021. Westin asked him, “What is the process by which one trades off climate against human rights?” Climate against human rights?
Kerry came back and said, “Well, life is always full of tough choices in the relationship between nations.” Tough choices? We Americans need to ask, “What is Kerry willing to give up to get his climate deal?”
Democracies tend to deal with each other in the way that Kerry says. If we are nice to a democracy, that will lead to warm relations; warm relations will lead to deals, long‑standing ties. Kerry thinks the Chinese communists think that way. Unfortunately, they do not.
We know this because Kerry’s successor as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in February 2009, said in public, “I’m not going to press the Chinese on human rights because I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” She then went to Beijing a day after saying that and got no cooperation from the Chinese.
Even worse, just weeks after that, China felt so bold that it attacked an unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance vessel in the South China Sea. The attack was so serious that it constituted an act of war. The Chinese simply don’t think the way Kerry believes they do.
All of this, when you put it together, means the risk of war is much higher than we tend to think. Conflict with today’s aggressor is going to be more destructive than it was in the 1930s. We have news that China is building something like 345 missile silos in three locations: in Gansu, Xinjiang, and in Inner Mongolia.
These silos are clearly built to accommodate the DF‑41. The DF‑41 has a range of about 9,300 miles, which means it can reach any part of the United States. The DF‑41 carries 10 warheads. This means China could, in about two years, as some experts think, have a bigger arsenal than ours.
China has built decoy silos before. We’re not sure they are going to put all 345 missiles into these facilities, but we have to assume the worst because Chinese leaders and Chinese generals, on occasion, unprovoked, have made threats to nuke American cities.
This, of course, calls into question their official no‑first‑use policy, and also a lot of other things. China will not talk to us about arms control. We have to be concerned that China and Russia, which already are already coordinating their military activities, would gang up against us with their arsenals.
In July 2021, China tested a hypersonic glide warhead that circled the world. This signals that China intends to violate the Outer Space Treaty, to which China is a party. It also shows that in hypersonic technology, which was developed by Americans, China is now at least a decade ahead of us in fielding a weapon.
Why is China doing all this now? The country is coming apart at the seams. There is, for instance, a debt crisis. Evergrande and other property developers have started to default. It’s more than just a crisis of companies. China is basically now having its 2008.
Even more important than that, it has an economy that is stumbling and a food crisis that is worsening year to year. They know their environment is exhausted. Of course, they’re also suffering from a continuing COVID‑19 epidemic.
To make matters worse, all of this is occurring while China is on the edge of the steepest demographic decline in history in the absence of war or disease.
Two Chinese demographers recently said China’s population would probably halve in 45 years. If you run that projection out, it means that by the end of the century, China would be about a third of its current size, with basically about the same number of people as the United States.
These developments are roiling the political system. Xi is being blamed for these debacles. We know he has a low threshold of risk. Xi now has all the incentive in the world to deflect popular and regime discontent by lashing out.
In 1966, Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic, was sidelined in Beijing. What did he do about it? He started the Cultural Revolution. He tried to use the Chinese people against his political enemies. That created a decade of chaos.
Xi is trying to do the same thing with his “common prosperity” program. The difference is that Mao didn’t have the means to plunge the world into war. Xi, with his shiny new military, clearly does have that ability.
So here’s a 1930s scenario to consider. The next time China starts a conflict, whether accidentally or on purpose, we might see that China’s friends—Russia, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan—either in coordination with China or just taking advantage of the situation, move against their enemies.
That would be Ukraine in the case of Russia, South Korea in the case of North Korea, Israel in the case of Iran, India in the case of Pakistan, and Morocco in the case of Algeria. We could see crises at both ends of the European landmass and in Africa at the same time.
This is how world wars start.
* * *
Question: Why do you believe China attacked the world with coronavirus?
Chang: I believe that SARS‑CoV‑2, the pathogen that causes COVID‑19, is not natural. There are, for example, unnatural arrangements of amino acids, like the double‑CGG sequence, that do not occur in nature.
We do not have a hundred percent assurance on where this pathogen came from. We do, however, have a hundred percent assurance on something else: that for about five weeks, maybe even five months, Chinese leaders knew that this disease was highly transmissible, from one human to the next, but they told the world that it was not.
At the same time as they were locking down their own country—Xi by locking down was indicating that he thought this was an effective way of stopping the disease—he was pressuring other countries not to impose travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals from China. It was those arrivals from China that turned what should have been an epidemic confined to the central part of China, into a global pandemic. As of today, more than eight million people have died outside China. What happened? No one imposed costs on China.
For at least a half‑decade, maybe a little bit longer, Chinese military researchers have been openly writing about a new type of biological warfare. This was, for instance, in the 2017 edition of “The Science of Military Strategy,” the authoritative publication of China’s National Defense University.
They talk about a new type of biological warfare of “specific ethnic genetic attacks.” In other words, pathogens that will leave the Chinese immune but sicken and kill everybody else, which means that the next disease from China can be a civilization killer.
Remember, Xi must be thinking, “I just got away with killing eight million people. Why wouldn’t I unleash a biological attack on the United States? Look what the virus has done not only to kill Americans but also to divide American society.”
A lot of military analysts talk about how the first seconds of a war with China are going to be fought in outer space. They are going to blind our satellites, take them down, do all sorts of stuff. Those statements are wrong.
The first day of war against the United States occurs about six months earlier, when they release pathogens in the United States. Then we are going to have that day in space. The war starts here, with a pathogen—a virus, a microbe, a bug of some kind. That is where it begins.
Question: You mentioned 1939. Taiwan is the Poland of today. We get mixed signals: Biden invites the Taiwanese foreign minister to his inauguration, but then we hear Ned Price, his State Department spokesman, say that America will always respect the One‑China policy. Meaning, we’re sidelining defending Taiwan?
Chang: The One‑China policy is something many people misunderstand. Probably because Beijing uses propaganda to try to fuzzy up the issue. China has a One‑China principle: that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China, full stop.
We have a One‑China policy, which is different. We recognize Beijing as the legitimate government of China. We also say that the status of Taiwan is unresolved. Then, the third part of our One‑China policy is that the resolution of the status of Taiwan must be with the consent of people on both sides of the Strait. In other words, that is code for peace, a peaceful resolution.
Our policies are defined by the One‑China policy, the Three Communiques, Reagan’s Six Assurances, and the Taiwan Relations Act.
Our policy is difficult for someone named Joe Biden to articulate, because he came back from a campaign trip to Michigan, and he was asked by a reporter about Taiwan, and Biden said, “Don’t worry about this. We got it covered. I had a phone call with Xi and he agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement.”
In official U.S. discourse, there is no such thing as a “Taiwan agreement.” Some reporter then asked Ned Price what did Biden mean by the Taiwan agreement. Ned Price said, “The Taiwan agreement means the Three Communiques the Six Assurances, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the One‑China policy.”
Ned Price could not have been telling the truth because Xi did not agree to America’s position on Taiwan. That is clear. There is complete fuzziness or outright lying in the Biden administration about this.
Biden’s policies on Taiwan are not horrible, but they are also not appropriate for this time. decades, we have had this policy of “strategic ambiguity,” where we do not tell either side what we would do in the face of imminent conflict. That worked in a benign period. We are no longer in a benign period. We are in one of the most dangerous periods in history.
We need a policy of “strategic clarity,” where we tell China that we will defend Taiwan. We also say we will extend a mutual defense treaty to Taiwan if it wants it, and we will put American troops on the island as a tripwire.
Question: You think he is not saying that because he has no intention of actually doing it, so in a way, he is telling the truth?
Chang: The mind of Biden is difficult to understand. We do not know what the administration would do. We have never known, after Allen Dulles, what any administration would do, with regard to Taiwan. We knew what Dulles would have done. We have got to be really concerned because there are voices in the administration that would give Taiwan, and give other parts of the world, to China. It would probably start with John Kerry; that is only a guess.
Question: You mentioned earlier the growing Chinese economic problems. Would you use taking action on the enormous trade deficits we run with China to contribute to that problem?
Chang: Yes, we should absolutely do that. Go back to a day which, in my mind, lives in infamy, which is January 15th, 2020, when President Trump signed the Phase One trade deal, which I think was a mistake. In that Phase One trade deal, it was very easy for China to comply, because there were specific targets that China had to meet in buying U.S. goods and services. This was “managed trade.”
China has not met its obligations. As of a few months ago, China had met about 62 percent of its commitments. That means, they have dishonored this deal in a material and significant way. If nothing else, China has failed to meet its Phase One trade deal commitments.
We should be increasing the tariffs that President Trump imposed under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Remember, those tariffs are meant to be a remedy for the theft of U.S. intellectual property. China has continued to steal U.S. IP. As matter of fact, it has gotten worse: for instance, these Chinese anti‑lawsuit injunctions, which they have started to institute.
We need to do something: China steals somewhere between $300 to $600 billion worth of U.S. intellectual property each year. That is a grievous wound on the U.S. economy, it is a grievous wound on our society in general. We need to do something about it.
Question: As a follow‑up on that, Japan commenced World War II because of the tariffs Roosevelt was strapping on oil imports into Japan, do you think that might well have the same effect on China, where we do begin to impose stiffer tariffs on American imports?
Chang: That is a really important question, to which nobody has an answer. I do not think that China would start a war over tariffs. Let me answer this question in a different way. We are Americans. We naturally assume that there are solutions, and good solutions, to every problem. After three decades of truly misguided China policy, there are no good solutions. There are no solutions that are “undangerous.”
Every solution, going forward, carries great risk. The current trend of policy is unsustainable. There will be no American republic if we continue to do what we are currently doing and if we continue to allow China to do what it does.
I do not think that enforcing a trade deal will start World War III. The point is, we have no choice right now. First, I don’t think the Chinese were ever going to honor the Phase One agreement . This was not a deal where there were some fuzzy requirements. This deal was very clear: China buys these amounts of agricultural products by such and such date, China buys so many manufactured products by such and such date. This was not rocket science. China purposefully decided not to honor it.
There are also other issues regarding the trade deal do not think that we should be trying to foster integration of Wall Street into China’s markets, which is what the Phase One deal also contemplated. Goldman Sachs ran away like a bandit on that. There are lot of objections to it. I do not think we should be trading with China, for a lot of reasons. The Phase One trade deal, in my mind, was a great mistake. Do not take it from me, just look at their failure to comply with very simple, easy‑to‑comply-with requirements. It was a mistake.
Question: Concerning cybersecurity, as we saw in the recent departure of a Pentagon official, ringing the alarm on how we are completely vulnerable to China’s cyberattacks. From your perspective, what would an attack look like on China that would hurt them? What particular institutions would be the most vulnerable? Is it exposing their secrets? Is it something on their financial system? Is it something on their medical system or critical infrastructure? What does the best way look like to damage them?
Also, regarding what you mentioned about Afghanistan, we know that China has been making inroads into Pakistan as a check on American hegemony in relationships with India and Afghanistan.
Now that the Afghanistan domino is down, what do you see in the future for Pakistan’s nuclear capability, in conjunction with Chinese backing, to move ever further westward towards Afghanistan, and endangering Middle East security?
Chang: Right now, India has been disheartened by what happened, because India was one of the main backers of the Afghan government. What we did in New Delhi was delegitimize our friends, so that now the pro‑Russian, the pro‑Chinese elements in the Indian national security establishment are basically setting the tone. This is terrible.
What has happened, though, in Pakistan itself, is not an unmitigated disaster for us, because China has suffered blowback there. There is an Afghan Taliban, and there is a Pakistani Taliban. They have diametrically‑opposed policies on China. The Afghan Taliban is an ally of China; the Pakistani Taliban kill Chinese.
They do that because they want to destabilize Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Beijing supports Islamabad. The calculation on part of the Pakistani Taliban is, “We kill Chinese, we destabilize Islamabad, we then get to set up the caliphate in Pakistan.” What has happened is, with this incredible success of the Afghan Taliban, that the Pakistani Taliban has been re‑energized—not good news for China.
China has something called the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of their Belt and Road Initiative. Ultimately that is going to be something like $62 billion of investment into Pakistani roads, airports, electric power plants, utilities, all the rest of it.
I am very happy that China is in Pakistan, because they are now dealing with a situation that they have no solutions to. It’s like Winston Churchill on Italy, “It’s now your turn.”
We should never have had good relations with Pakistan. That was always a short‑term compromise that, even in the short term, undermined American interests. The point is that China is now having troubles in Pakistan because of their success in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is important to China for a number of reasons. One of them is, they want it as an outlet to the Indian Ocean that bypasses the Malacca Strait—a choke point that the U.S. Navy—in their view—could easily close off, which is correct.
They want to bypass that, but their port in Gwadar is a failure in many respects. Gwadar is in Pakistan’s Baluchistan. The Baluchs are one of the most oppressed minorities on earth. They have now taken to violence against the Chinese, and they have been effective. Pakistan is a failure for China.
The best response would be if we hit them with everything at once because China right now is weak. If we were going to pick the number one thing to do, I would think trade.
Trade is really what they need right now. Their economy is stalling. There are three parts to the Chinese economy, as there are to all economies: consumption, investment, and net exports. Their consumption right now is extremely weak from indicators that we have. The question is can they invest?
China now has a debt crisis, so they are not going to invest their way out of this crisis, which means the only way they can save their economy is net exports. We should stop buying their stuff.
We have extraordinary supply chain disruptions right now. It should be pretty easy for us to make the case that we must become self‑sufficient on a number of items. Hit them on trade. Hit them on investment, publicize the bank account details of Chinese leaders. All these things that we do, we do it all at the same time. We can maybe get rid of these guys.
Question: In the Solomon Islands, they published China’s under-the-table payments to political figures. Should we do the same thing with China’s leaders?
Chang: Yes. There is now a contest for the Solomon Islands, which includes Guadalcanal. China has bought the political establishment in the Solomon Islands, except for one brave man named David Suidani. Recently, somebody got the bright idea of publishing all of the specific payments that Beijing has made to Solomon Islands politicians. This was really good news. We should be doing this with payments to American politicians, we should be doing this across the board.
Why don’t we publish their payments to politicians around the world? Let’s expose these guys, let’s go after them. Let’s root out Chinese influence, because they are subverting our political system.
Similarly, we should also be publishing the bank account details of all these Chinese leaders, because they are corrupt as hell.
Question: Could you comment, please, on what you think is the nature of the personal relationships between Hunter Biden, his father, and Chinese financial institutions. How has it, if at all, affected American foreign policy towards China, and how will it affect that policy?
Chang: There are two things here. There are the financial ties. Hunter Biden has connections with Chinese institutions, which you cannot explain in the absence of corruption.
For instance, he has a relationship with Bohai Harvest Partners, BHR. China puts a lot of money into the care of foreign investment managers. The two billion, or whatever the number is, is not that large, but they only put money with people who have a track record in managing investments. Hunter Biden only has a track record of being the son of Joe Biden.
There are three investigations of Hunter Biden right now. There is the Wilmington U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI—I don’t place very much hope in either of these—but the third one might actually bear some fruit: the IRS investigation of Hunter Biden.
Let us say, for the moment, that Biden is able to corrupt all three of these investigations. Yet money always leaves a trail. We are going to find out one way or another. Peter Schweizer, for instance, is working on a book on the Biden cash. Eventually, we are going to know about that.
What worries me is not so much the money trail—and of course, there’s the art sales, a subject in itself, because we will find out.
What worries me is that Hunter Biden, by his own admission, is a troubled individual.
He has been to China a number of times. He has probably committed some embarrassing act there, which means that the Ministry of State Security has audio and video recordings of this. Those are the things that can be used for blackmail. We Americans would never know about it, because blackmail does not necessarily leave a trail. This is what we should be most concerned about.
Biden has now had two long phone calls with Xi. The February call, plus also one a few months ago. We do not know what was said. I would be very worried that when Xi wants to say something, there will be a phone call to Biden, and it would be Xi doing the talking without note takers.
Question: Please tell us about the China desk over the 30 years, the influence of the bureaucracy on politics; what can they affect?
Chang: I do not agree with our China policy establishment in Washington, in general, and specifically the State Department and NSC.
This a complicated issue. First, there is this notion after the end of the Cold War, that the nature of governments did not matter. You could trade with them, you could strengthen them, and it would not have national security implications. That was wrong for a number of reasons, as we are now seeing.
What bothers me is that, although their assumptions about China have demonstrably been proven wrong, American policymakers still continue with the same policies. There is, in some people’s mind, an unbreakable view that we have to cooperate with China.
You hear this from Blinken all the time: “We’ve got to cooperate where we can.” It is this formulation which is tired, and which has not produced the types of policies that are necessary to defend our republic. That is the unfortunate thing.
This is what people learn in international relations school when they go to Georgetown, and they become totally stupid. We Americans should be upset because we have a political class that is not defending us. They are not defending us because they have these notions of China. George Kennan understood the nature of the Soviet Union. I do not understand why we cannot understand the true nature of the Chinese regime.
Part of it is because we have Wall Street, we have Walmart, and they carry China’s water. There are more of us than there are of them in this country. We have to exercise our vote to make sure that we implement China policies that actually protect us.
Policies that protect us are going to be drastic and they will be extreme, but absolutely, we have now dug ourselves into such a hole after three decades of truly misguided views on China, that I don’t know what else to say. This is not some partisan complaint. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, all have truly misguided China policies.
I do not know what it takes to break this view, except maybe for the deaths of American servicemen and women.
Question: Is the big obstacle American businesses which, in donations to Biden, are the ones stopping decoupling of commerce, and saying, “Do not have war; we would rather earn money”?
Chang: It is. You have, for instance, Nike. There are a number of different companies, but Nike comes to mind right now, because they love to lecture us about racism.
For years they were operating a factory in Qingdao, in the northeastern part of China, that resembled a concentration camp. The laborers were Uighur and Kazakh women, brought there on cattle cars and forced to work.
This factory, technically, was operated by a South Korean sub‑contractor, but that contractor had a three‑decade relationship with Nike. Nike had to know what was going on. This was forced labor, perhaps even slave labor.
Clearly, Nike and Apple and other companies are now, at this very moment, trying to prevent Congress from enacting toughened rules on the importation of forced‑labor products into our country.
One of the good things Trump did was, towards the end of his four years, he started to vigorously enforce the statutes that are already on the books, about products that are made with forced and slave labor. Biden, to his credit, has continued tougher enforcement.
Right now, the big struggle is not the enforcement, but enhancing those rules. Apple and all of these companies are now very much trying to prevent amendment of those laws. It’s business, but it’s also immoral.
Question: It is not just big Wall Street firms. There are companies that print the Bible. Most Bibles are now printed in China.
When President Trump imposed the tariffs, a lot of the Bible printers who depended on China actually went to Trump and said, “You cannot put those tariffs in because then the cost of Bibles will go up.”
Chang: Most everyone lobbies for China. We have to take away their incentive to do so.
Question: What are the chances that China’s going to invade Taiwan?
Chang: There is no clear answer.
There are a number of factors that promote stability. One of them is that, for China to invade Taiwan, Xi has to give some general or admiral basically total control over the Chinese military. That makes this flag officer the most powerful person in China. Xi is not about to do that.
Moreover, the Chinese regime is even more casualty‑adverse than we are. Even if Beijing thinks it can take Taiwan by force, it is probably not going to invade because it knows an invasion would be unpopular with most people in China. It is not going to risk hundreds of thousands of casualties that would result from an invasion.
The reason we have to be concerned is because it is not just a question of Xi waking up one morning and saying, “I want to invade Taiwan.” The danger is the risk of accidental contact, in the skies or on the seas, around Taiwan.
We know that China has been engaging in hostile conduct, and this is not just the incursions into Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone. There are also dangerous intercepts of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force in the global commons. One of those accidents could spiral out of control.
We saw this on April 1st, 2001, with the EP‑3, where a Chinese jet clipped the wing of that slow‑moving propeller plane of the U.S. Navy. The only reason we got through it was that George W. Bush, to his eternal shame, paid China a sum that was essentially a ransom.
He allowed our crew to be held for 11 days. He allowed the Chinese to strip that plane. This was wrong. This was the worst incident in U.S. diplomatic history, but Bush’s craven response did get us through it. Unfortunately, by getting through it we taught the Chinese that they can without cost engage in these dangerous maneuvers of intercepting our planes and our ships.
That is the problem: because as we have taught the Chinese to be more aggressive, they have been. One of these incidents will go wrong. The law of averages says that. Then we have to really worry.
Question: You don’t think Xi thinks, “Oh well, we can sacrifice a few million Chinese”?
Chang: On the night of June 15th, 2020, there was a clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers in Ladakh, in the Galwan Valley. That was a Chinese sneak attack on Indian-controlled territory. That night, 20 Indian soldiers were killed. China did not admit to any casualties. The Indians were saying that they killed about 45 Chinese soldiers that night.
Remember, this was June 15th of 2020. It took until February of 2021 for China to admit that four Chinese soldiers died. TASS, the Russian news agency, recently issued a story reporting that 45 Chinese soldiers actually died that night.
This incident shows you how risk‑averse and casualty‑averse the Chinese Communist Party is. They are willing to intimidate, they are willing to do all sorts of things. They are, however, loath to fight sustained engagements. Remember, that the number one goal of Chinese foreign policy is not to take over Taiwan. The number one goal of Chinese foreign policy is to preserve Communist Party rule.
If the Communist Party feels that the Chinese people are not on board with an invasion of Taiwan, they will not do it even if they think they will be successful. Right now, the Chinese people are not in any mood for a full‑scale invasion of Taiwan.
On the other hand, Xi has a very low threshold of risk.
He took a consensual political system where no Chinese leader got too much blame or too much credit, because everybody shared in decisions, and Xi took power from everybody, which means, he ended up with full accountability, which means—he is now fully responsible.
In 2017, when everything was going China’s way, this was great for Xi because he got all the credit. Now in 2021, where things are not going China’s way, he is getting all the blame.
The other thing, is that Xi has raised the cost of losing a political struggle in China. In the Deng Xiaoping era, Deng reduced the cost of losing a struggle. In the Maoist era, if you lost a struggle, you potentially lost your life. In Deng’s era, if you lost a struggle, you got a nice house, a comfortable life.
Xi has reversed that. Now the cost of losing a political struggle in China is very high. So there is now a combination of these two developments. Xi has full accountability. He knows that if he is thrown out of power, he loses not just power. He loses his freedom, his assets, potentially his life.
If he has nothing to lose, however, it means that he can start a war, either “accidentally” or on purpose. He could be thinking, “I’m dying anyway, so why don’t I just roll the dice and see if I can get out of this?”
That is the reason why this moment is so exceedingly risky. When you look at the internal dynamics inside China right now, we are dealing with a system in crisis.
Question: China has a conference coming up in a year or so. What does Chairman Xi want to do to make sure he gets through that conference with triumph?
Chang: The Communist Party has recently been holding its National Congresses once every five years. If the pattern follows—and that is an if—the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party will be held either October or November of next year.
This is an important Congress, more so than most of them because Xi is looking for an unprecedented third term as general secretary of the Communist Party.
If you go back six months ago, maybe a year, everyone was saying, “Oh, Xi Jinping. No problem. He’s president for life. He’s going to get his third term. He will get his fourth term. He will get his fifth term, as long as he lives. This guy is there forever.” Right now, that assumption is no longer valid. We do not know what’s going to happen because he is being blamed for everything.
Remember, as we get close to the 20th National Congress, Xi knows he has to show “success.” Showing “success” could very well mean killing some more Indians or killing Americans or killing Japanese or something. We just don’t know what is going to happen.
Prior to the National Congress, there is the sixth plenum of the 19th Congress. Who knows what is going to happen there. The Communist Party calendar, as you point out, does dictate the way Xi interacts with the world.
Question: Going back to the wing-clip incident, what should Bush have done?
Chang: What Bush should have done is immediately demand the return of that plane. What he should have done was to impose trade sanctions, investment sanctions, whatever, to get our plane back.
We were fortunate, in the sense that our aviators were returned, but they were returned in a way that has made relations with China worse, because we taught the Chinese regime to be more aggressive and more belligerent. We created the problems of today and of tomorrow.
I would have imposed sanction after sanction after sanction, and just demand that they return the plane and the pilots. Remember, that at some point, it was in China’s interests to return our aviators. The costs would have been too high for the Chinese to keep them. We did not use that leverage on them.
While we are on this topic, we should have made it clear to the Chinese leadership that they cannot kill Americans without cost. Hundreds of thousands Americans have been killed by a disease that China deliberately spread.
In one year, from 2020 to 2021, nearly 80,000 Americans died from fentanyl, which China has purposefully, as a matter of state and Communist Party policy—sold to Americans. China is killing us. We have to do something different. I’m not saying that we have good solutions; we don’t. But we have to change course.
Question: Biden is continuing this hostage thing with Huawei, returning the CFO of Huawei in exchange for two Canadians. Have we taught the Chinese that they can grab more hostages?
Chang: President Trump was right to seek the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies. Biden, in a deal, released her. She did not even have to plead guilty to any Federal crime. She signed a statement, which I hope we’ll be able to use against Huawei.
As soon as Meng was released, China released the “two Michaels,” the two Canadians who were grabbed within days of our seeking extradition of Meng Wanzhou. In other words, the two Michaels were hostages.
We have taught China that any time that we try to enforce our own laws, they can just grab Americans. They have grabbed Americans as hostages before, but this case is high profile. They grabbed Americans, and then they grabbed Canadians, and they got away with it. They are going to do it again.
We are creating the incentives for Beijing to act even more dangerously and lawlessly and criminally in the future. This has to stop.
Question: On the off-chance that the current leader does not maintain his position, what are your thoughts on the leaders that we should keep an eye on?
Chang: There is no one who stands out among the members of the Politburo Standing Committee. That is purposeful. Xi has made sure that there is nobody who can be considered a successor; that is the last thing he wants.
If there is a change in leadership, the new leader probably will come from Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai Gang faction. Jiang was China’s leader before Hu Jintao, and Hu came before Xi.
There is now a lot of factional infighting. Most of the reporting shows that Jiang has been trying to unseat Xi because Xi has been putting Jiang’s allies in jail.
Remember, the Communist Party is not a monolith. It has a lot of factions. Jiang’s faction is not the only one. There is something called the Communist Youth League of Hu Jintao. It could, therefore, be anybody.
Question: Double question: You did not talk about Hong Kong. Is Hong Kong lost forever to the Chinese Communist Party? Second question, if you could, what are the three policies that you would change right away?
Chang: Hong Kong is not lost forever. In Hong Kong, there is an insurgency. We know from the history of insurgencies that they die away—and they come back. We have seen this in Hong Kong. The big protests in Hong Kong, remember, 2003, 2014, 2019. In those interim periods, everyone said, “Oh, the protest movement is gone.” It wasn’t.
China has been very effective with its national security law, but there is still resistance in Hong Kong. There is still a lot of fight there. It may not manifest itself for quite some time, but this struggle is not over, especially if the United States stands behind the people there. Biden, although he campaigned on helping Hong Kong, has done nothing.
On the second question, I would close China’s four remaining consulates. I would also strip the Chinese embassy down to the ambassador and his personal staff. The thousands who are in Washington, D.C., they would be out.
I would also raise tariffs to 3,600 percent, or whatever. This is a good time to do it. We have supply chain disruptions. We are not getting products from China anyway. We can actually start to do this sort of stuff.
The third thing, I would do what Pompeo did, just hammer those guys all the time verbally. People may think, “Those are just words.” For communists, words are really important, because they are an insecure regime where propaganda is absolutely critical.
I would be going after the Communists on human rights, I would be going after them on occupying the South China Sea, on Taiwan, unrelentingly—because I would want to show the world that the United States is no longer afraid of China.
We have taught the world that we are afraid of dealing with the Chinese. State Department people, they are frightened. We need to say to the Chinese regime, like Dulles, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m going after you, and I’m going to win.”
This article is based on a recent address to Gatestone Institute.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.