What U.S. National Strategy Should Look Like In The Wake of Coronavirus
If China’s actions in the coronavirus catastrophe offer any window into this communist regime, it is that the threat they represent is unlike anything America has faced.
John Poindexter, Robert McFarlane and Richard Levine
The Federalist / May 19, 2020
Review By John Fraim
“China is seemingly destined to outpace the United States in GDP during the next 20 years. Indeed, China has plausibly already overtaken the United States, if GDP is measured by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).”
During the third month of the pandemic lockdown, despite constant messages everywhere that “We’re all in this together” it is becoming increasingly apparent that “We’re not all in this together.” There is the emerging realization that some still have jobs and that these jobs are not in danger of disappearing. This group is made-up partly of the white lab-coated scientists and doctors seen on daily television, the serious and wise-looking television pundits and certainly the politicians. In effect, the group contains most of those working for the government or government related industries. They are not in this together with those working for private industry.
Of course, this division between employees of the government and private industry is a taboo topic for national media and any reference to it is avoided like – sorry – the plague. Yet it is behind much of the battles between citizens and their governors and mayors. A map published recently states desiring extended lockdowns to those who wanted to open back up. Next to this map was another map showing traditional red states and blue states. It was almost the same map: the blue states desiring extended lockdowns were the Democrat states and those desiring to open up were the Republican states.
Hovering over this division of those who are out of jobs and those who still have jobs swirl one of the grandest outpourings of conflicting information and fake news in the history of the nation. Each day doctors and scientists provide contradicting information as alternative narratives thread their way through the media. In the middle of this conflicting information, it has become a new golden age for conspiracy theories.
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In all of this, there is the constant meme that things will be different after the lockdown and batches of speculation here and there on what this difference will look like. Yet no one knows and most of the nation is not concerned about how things will look but just how they will eat and feed their families and pay their mortgages.
At this time, a very important articles appears. The article rises above the domestic battles and divisions and speaks of global concerns at a time when America is almost solely focused on domestic issues. In fact, during the entire period of the pandemic there has been little discussion of global concerns with only the occasional interview by a politician saying something like China needs to pay for the all the destruction it has caused. Few ideas on how to pay are offered though. In fact, even suggesting that China is the villain in this whole thing is something the media distances itself from. Saying the great threat to America today is China is not exactly singing to the choir.
The article is titled “What A U.S. National Strategy Should Look Like In The Wake of Coronavirus” and it is authored by three former national security advisors: John Poindexter, Robert McFarlane and Richard Levine The focus of the article is on China. The sub-headline of the article is a true call-to arms and wake-up call. “If China’s actions in the coronavirus catastrophe offer any window into this communist regime,” it says, “it is that the threat they represent is unlike anything America has faced.”
The Modern Shanghai
The article begins by asking us to imagine a world in the not-too-distant future. “As terrible as the coronavirus crisis is,” the authors begin, “we must imagine a world ten or 20 years from now, in which the People’s Republic of China’s nominal gross domestic product is 50 percent larger than that of the United States. What power would an unconstrained China wield? What force of arms would they muster to intimidate and to control?” The authors add, “If China’s actions in the coronavirus catastrophe offer any window into this communist regime’s machinations, deceitfulness, and debasement of human life, it is that the threat they represent is unlike anything America has faced.”
Partly this is because, historically, China has slipped in under the radar so to speak and never been viewed as a threat to the United States. There is the general cultural meme of the wisdom of the Chinese, the beauty of Chinese art, the dignified stoicism of the Chinese people. This has certainly been true during the past hundred years when the threats to America have been Germany, Japan and Russia. Much of the Cold War with Russia during the 50s and 60s was caused by assessments of CIA analysts who predicted the Soviet economy would surpass America’s. This calculus, the authors note, drove many costly American decisions. And, the recent attempts to blame Russia for election interference has proven to be a false flag. Recent villains of America have appeared in the guise of global terrorism and a handful of rogue states like North Korea, Iraq and Somalia.
Besides the above reasons, the authors place the rise of China on four American actions. First was the scientific aid provided to end famine in China. Second was President Carter’s diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and his commitment that the U.S. government engage with elements of the PRC. Third was President Clinton’s facilitation of the PRC’s ultimate ascension to membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and his expansion of Chinese access to dual-use (civilian/military) technology. And the fourth was President Obama’s embrace of the PRC as a non-adversarial peer state, which completed the PRC’s envelopment of America’s institutions.
Significantly, on September 25, 2015, just a little more than a month before the presidential election, the author’s note that the White House released a factsheet on U.S.-China Economic Relations noting “The U.S. side reiterated its commitment to encourage and facilitate exports of commercial high technology items to China for civilian-end users. Both sides commit to continue detailed and in-depth discussion of the export control issues of mutual interest within the U.S.-China High Technology and Strategic Trade Working Group.”
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The authors don’t get into the weeds of the question whether the virus was manufactured or not noting it is a job for allied intelligence to determine what really took place. Rather, they note that “It is logical to assume that after some initial point, Chinese political, military, and intelligence officials realized this outbreak of a new virus could be used to damage the economies of the West and thus facilitate Chinese hegemony.”
That the Chinese had control over the virus is implied by the extremely low (almost unbelievably low) death rate from the virus in China. For example, they note on May 7, the PRC recorded its dead in Hubei Provence, whose capital is Wuhan, at 4,512. This is out of 4,637 for the entire country. According to Chinese authorities, 125 fatalities occurred in all other provinces, which comprise 1.38 billion people.
This is an amazing statistic. As the authors note, “if the virus did experience exponential growth, and doubled every day, in 28 days it should have infected 268 million people. A 1 percent mortality rate would thus result in millions of deaths, not fewer than 5,000. Even if the PRC underreported its losses by a factor of ten or twenty, these figures do not make sense.”
Matt Damon in The Great Wall / Made in China by a Chinese Director With a Mostly Chinese Cast and Chinese/Western Crew
When assessing the past few surreal months, most of the attention has been on the economic damage caused by China and the virus. However, there are other forms of damage besides economic damage. Here, the authors distinguish hard power from soft power. Hard power uses force and coercion to achieve policy goals while soft power uses persuasion and attraction to achieve goals. Hard power is the military and the economy. Soft power is popular culture and media.
They note that before the pandemic, “American soft power seemed destined to remain the dominant force in world affairs even as the PRC surpassed America’s GDP.” However, after the pandemic, the authors argue that the “dominance of American soft power must be reconsidered as the as the PRC now holds sway over Hollywood and infuses its control and propaganda into our press, businesses, and universities.” They add, “Strategic purchases of U.S. businesses and the placement of Chinese companies on American stock exchanges and indexes have also given the PRC enormous suasion over the avenues of American soft power.”
For example, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission reported as of February 25, 2019 there were 156 Chinese companies listed on the three largest U.S. exchanges with a combined capitalization of $1.2 trillion. “Through investment and by direct and indirect pressure,” the authors note, “the PRC, in its various forms, has influenced America’s most important media companies. These media companies, in turn, own major news networks, services, and publishing houses.” The result is that America now faces information warfare on a level never experienced.
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Current with the rise of China’s soft power, is a program called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or new type of imperialism. The authors note that the BRI seeks to shape alliances on a transcontinental scale, which could include 65 countries that comprise 30 percent of global GDP and 75 percent of established energy reserves. Development projects must be proffered as the alternative to the PRC’s model of loan, build, seize. Ceding this ground to China can only ensure the continued impoverishment of nations experiencing the highest birthrates in human history. Cabinet officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice, supported by intelligence and other agencies, must convene interagency groups to develop a set of initiatives to undermine and to replace the BRI.
Counterintelligence must also be a priority. Chinese usurpation relies on that state’s financial power, coupled with a belligerent type of soft power referred to as sharp power. The country couples classic disinformation operations using an array of social media platforms with “or else” stratagems that relay consequences for countervailing actions to inculcate passivity.
The PRC reportedly uses artificial intelligence (AI) to support decision and game theory to prioritize its intelligence efforts. These techniques were developed in the United States, but America’s most senior leaders generally do not use them for making decisions. This must change, for with AI, the authors note, there is the potential to counterpunch in real time.
The trade imbalance with China reached $345.6 billion in 2019. While this needs to be addressed, the real unseen imbalance involves the theft of U.S. intellectual property. The authors note that IP losses far exceed $2 trillion in the last ten years. The IP theft has involved software as well as what the author’s call system compromise. They note that “The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile, along with other U.S. weapon systems, has been found to contain counterfeit parts that may reduce mission performance, if undiscovered.”
However, the authors note that efforts to eliminate IP theft need to be married with U.S. efforts to take back China’s ownership of key U.S. businesses. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is charged with the responsibility to determine if the security implications of foreign investments disqualify pending mergers or acquisitions of American companies or their operations. The Exon–Florio Amendment (50 U.S.C. app 2170) grants the president the authority to block any investment or acquisition if a “foreign interest exercising control might take action that threatens to impair the national security.”
To chart an enhanced course for CFIUS, the world’s nations should be categorized into five tiers. Kept classified, these groupings would comprise Allied, Friendly, Non-Aligned, Adversarial, and Belligerent nations. The latter two categories should generally preclude ownership or significant minority positions in U.S. enterprises. Employing this approach, the PRC could be judged an adversarial state.
The authors note that one of the things needed are political realignments. For example, America needs to become closer to India and move manufacturing that does not come back to America to India or nations other than adversarial or belligerent ones.
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The article ends by noting “the problem is not the Chinese people, nor their proud heritage that stretches back thousands of years. It is communism. We must challenge China.” The authors then list “10 Actions the United States Must Take” in the wake of the pandemic. Most of these are covered in the article with the addition of a few policy wonk actions.
- Return all production of our medicines, medical supplies, and equipment to the United States or to countries that are our allies.
- Enact severe limits on Chinese graduate students in all scientific subjects; shutter all Confucius Institutes at American universities until they be stripped of their propagandistic mission.
- Entrench principles and restrictions so that China can buy no more of our corporations, universities, or national assets.
- Help deny, across the world, the ability for China’s Huawei to deploy its 5G networks, systems, phones, and devices, as tools for espionage, industrial and otherwise, could be implanted in these systems.
- Threaten to extend tariffs substantially if the PRC does not make all virus data and sites available to our scientists, so that we may understand fully the genesis and the spread of the present pandemic; the PRC must also release any COVID-19 whistleblowers and eliminate all wet markets.
- Put into law criminal penalties for any American company or individual who shares proprietary or sensitive information with China, when such information has application to our defense, high-technology, or energy-related industrial base.
- Accelerate Freedom of Navigation passages and exercises through waters that China falsely claims, with maximum U.S. naval power expressed; in this, we should include, when possible, ships of the British, the Australian, and the Japanese Navies.
- Undertake determined efforts to deny China’s Belt and Road Initiative, especially in Africa; extend alternative terms to key nations on the brink of asset appropriation due to China’s predatory lending practices.
- Announce a new military package to reinforce Taiwan’s defensive capabilities. To this end, we should consider the sale of the F-35 due to the deployment of the advanced Chengdu J-20 fighter by China. This sale would either be as a replacement for the pending transfer of less-advanced F-16Vs to Taiwan or as a supplement to this force.
- Radically reduce IP theft. Explicate that China’s economic expansion would have been impossible without their theft of American technology; produce and distribute lists of American technologies and products stolen or copied by China; urge other free countries to do the same, so that the world will recognize this danger.
Some of these are obvious to even the most casual observers of the China-American relationship and some are beginning to be discussed but far more attention needs to be given to them. There is already discussion of returning production of critical products like medicines and medical supplies to the U.S. or its allies. And, there is developing an opposition to the introduction of 5G technology with a number of advocacy groups and recent books like The Invisible Rainbow.
One of the things that has been obvious to me for many years is the increasing education of Chinese by our leading universities. In the late 60s, I visited UC Berkeley contemplating going there for college. It was in the middle of one of its protests with students carrying signs and standing in front of the administration building. For the most part, they all looked to be American students with few foreign students. In the 70s and 80s, I ended up living near the campus and noticed it was becoming a different place than it was in the 60s. Now there were increasing numbers of Asian students on campus. Last year, on a visit to the Bay Area I again visited the campus. The protests of the 60s were gone and a few people threw a Frisbee in front of the administration building while others stared at their smartphones and others lounged in the grass studying. Almost all were Chinese.
Not mentioned by the authors in the above a program called The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP). Established in 2008 by the central government of China to recognize and recruit leading international experts in scientific research, innovation, entrepreneurship. The program was further elevated in 2010 to become the top-level award given through China’s National Talent Development Plan, a plan that was conceived jointly by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in 2010 to strengthen innovation and international competitiveness within China.
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The authors conclude the article noting that China is on the verge of becoming a peer competitor in both soft and hard power. What needs to be done is to strengthen American influence within the connectivity and informational domains it dominates. Here, the major way forward is to move towards the creation of a new, decentralized World Wide Web. The reason is that censorship on major web platforms threatens to limit personal freedom and expression. This censorship supports the Communist Party of China.
This idea is not one of just the authors. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, has joined Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, in calling for the creation of a decentralized web more resistant to government and corporate control. Such a new web architecture would constitute a great advancement for freedom movements across the globe. As Kahle says, “China can make it impossible for people there to read things, and just a few big service providers are the de facto organizers of your experience. We have the ability to change all that.”
They note that “To cower in the face of this pandemic and to not make the hard choices necessary to ensure American primacy is to be unfair to future generations.” The way America has answered this pandemic, they observe, is not repeatable. In the end, they note that this is America’s “gravest” sin. “We have shown China, Russia, and Iran, as well as terrorist actors, that our nation may be brought low if faced with a new pathogen.”
At the end of the article they offer a dire warning. “If we are not willing to act, and decisively, we are leaving the field to an unhindered, unremorseful, and ravenous state with a degree of relative economic power that we have not faced since the War of 1812. To prosper, we must reclaim America’s principles, lest we grant China victory in a great, undeclared war.”
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Americans might not be “all in this together” in their response to the Coronavirus but they need to be all together in their response to the growing threat of Chinese communism. Yet being together in anything today is difficult for a nation verging on the brink of civil war and fired up right before a historic presidential election. In the end, it is more than a little ironic that China – through its growing amount of soft propaganda power – controls a significant part of the American media machine that constantly works to keep Americans apart.
(John Fraim is the founder of Midnight Oil Studios. See the original article from The Federalist at The article )