Back in the summer of 2015, all the cleverest people made fun of Donald Trump for obsessing about China. One of them even made a video compilation of the candidate saying ‘China’ over and over again on the hustings. Ha ha ha.
It seems distinctly less funny now. There is a reason that the novel coronavirus is popularly denominated the Wuhan flu or CCP virus. As Bill Gertz observed in How China’s Communist Party Made the World Sick, ‘the world does not need to prove that the communist regime in Beijing was responsible for the escape of the coronavirus from a lab’ in order to cast a jaundiced eye upon its many malefactions. ‘It is now clear,’ he writes, ‘that decades of international engagement and cooperation with communist China was a mistake that seriously undermined fundamental American values of freedom, democracy, openness, honesty, and free markets.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. In the 1970s, under Richard Nixon, America embarked on a program of ‘constructive engagement’ with communist China. The hope was that by pursuing closer ties with China, America would mount a more effective challenge to the Soviet threat. The secondary hope was that by engaging with China, we would lure the backwards communist behemoth into the modern world. That turned out to be a fond hope. China entered the modern world all right. But instead of softening its penchant for top-down totalitarian rule, economic and military modernization made its despotism more cunning.
Consider, for example, the 370,000 Chinese nationals who have come to the United States for college. They typically pay full-freight, which makes them an important economic boon to the colleges and universities they attend. And it is still not widely appreciated that all are subject to Article 7 of the 2017 National Intelligence Law of 2017, which requires that ‘any citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with the state intelligence work’. In other words, as Brian Kennedy notes in Communist China’s War Inside America, ‘It is quite literally the law that all Chinese students in American universities are agents, or potential agents, of the Chinese Communist party and the intelligence apparatus of the P.RC.’
‘The hard reality is that no Chinese student is beyond the reach of Chinese intelligence. Indeed, they must check in on a regular basis with the Chinese consulate, where intelligence gathering takes place. Even the most well-intentioned students are pressured by the Ministry of State Security to obtain proprietary information produced in research universities, or personal information about their professors and fellow students… In addition, as much as we would like to think these students are coming to the United States to learn about freedom, liberty, and justice, we need to recognize that the majority are, in fact, the children of the Chinese Communist party’s ruling elite who themselves will be the next generation to occupy the reins of power in China’s totalitarian superstructure.’
‘Totalitarian superstructure.’ What does that mean? No less an authority than Vladimir Lenin said that communism means ‘keeping track of everything’. Just so, the Chinese have made great strides in erecting a state in which total surveillance of is the goal and, most of the time, the reality. A vast array of cameras and facial-recognition technology, combined with constant monitoring of internet and cell phone usage, electronic business transactions, and domestic travel mean that China’s citizens are like the inmates of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, subject to constant, and suspicious, surveillance. Bentham designed the panopticon as a prison — a machine for ‘grinding rogues honest’ — and the reality is that China’s citizens are de facto prisoners of an all embracing tyranny.
Just on Thursday, it was reported that poor Christians in China in must replace religious symbols in their houses with portraits of Mao and President Xi in order to receive welfare payments. ‘These are the greatest gods,’ a Chinese officials said. ‘If you want to worship somebody, they are the ones.’
And then there are the one million Uighurs crowded into a gigantic concentration complex that Chinese officials call a ‘vocational center’. They are subject to forced labor and abuse even as the government pursues a campaign of ‘demographic genocide’, cutting Uighur births by forced contraception, abortions, even sterilization. Horrific video footage covertly captured by a drone shows Uighurs sitting, ‘bound and blindfolded, waiting to be loaded onto train cars and taken — somewhere’.
Meanwhile, China is moving aggressively to militarize the South China Sea, violating a host of treaty obligations, even as it absorbs Hong Kong, in flagrant violation of its 1997 agreement with Great Britain regarding the autonomy of the city.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Pompeo issued a blistering rebuke to China, promising that the United States would stand up for international law in the face of Chinese aspirations for territorial aggrandizement. ‘The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,’ Pompeo said.
‘America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region.’
China responded that Pompeo’s tough talk was ‘disrupting regional peace and stability in the South China Sea’, which is more or less like Hitler complaining that Churchill was disrupting Europe’s peace by coming to the aid of Poland in 1939.
All the best and most connected people contemptuously rebuked and ridiculed Donald Trump for his position on China in 2015. Didn’t he understand that the era of global enlightenment required that the US allow China to enfold it in a suffocating embrace? The ideology of free trade required it, the prosperity and gainful employment of American citizens be damned.
More and more people are awakening to the minatory reality that is China. Even Joe Biden has been making some critical squeaks. Naturally, none of those beautiful people credits Trump with having been ahead of the crowd on the international menace that is China. But he was.