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During the Trump years Democrats worked feverishly to convince the public that Vladimir Putin’s Russia represents the greatest threat to the United States one might imagine, but now that one of their own is in the White House they are discovering that it is not Moscow, but Beijing, a much bigger, better armed, and far more aggressive power that they going to have to worry about.
The earlier assumption among American political and business elites that Communist China could be wooed through trade and US concessions to morph into a freer, less aggressive nation than that founded after World War II by Mao tse-tung and Chou En Lai has been proven flat out wrong. The relaxation of Maoist economic policies and apparent willingness to adopt a less aggressive foreign policy under Deng Shou Ping has proven illusory.
The Communist regime under President and Party First Secretary Xi Jinping has cracked down on her own citizens, outlawed free speech in Hong Kong, set up concentration camps as part of a genocidal campaign against Uyghur Muslims in northwestern China, staked illegal claims to ownership of most of the South China Sea, bullied her neighbors and launched a campaign designed to crush Taiwan even if it means invading the island democracy and made it clear that she views the United States as an enemy to be bested and ultimately defeated.
The Trump Administration recognized the danger posed by an increasingly well-armed and imperialistic Communist China and shifted US foreign and defense policies to counter the growing threat she represents. Recognizing the threat was long overdue, but since it came during the Trump years, Democrats attacked the new, tougher US stance as dangerous and wrong-headed. As a candidate, Joe Biden declared at one point that China represents no real threat, and that Donald Trump was simply torpedoing the friendly relations with Beijing that had taken this country so long to establish.
That was then. Since taking office, President Biden and his Administration have at least been talking like it has finally dawned on them that the Chinese threat can no longer be ignored. The President’s Secretary of State in testimony before Congress agreed with his predecessor that China is guilty of genocide and several Administration officials have underscored the continuing US commitment to Taiwan. The Pentagon is at the same time seems to be proceeding to develop plans to deal with the growing threat posed in the region and worldwide by the Beijing leadership.
The question, however, is whether this talk means anything or will turn out to be just talk like former President Obama’s drawing the red line in Syria. Even as the new Administration has been talking tough, it has taken steps that can only please the Communist regime in Beijing. The Trump Administrations’ restrictions on the so-called Confucius Institutes Beijing funds on dozens of US university campuses to disseminate propaganda have been withdrawn. The cancellation of the XL pipeline means Alberta’s oil will be sold to China rather than the United States and by rejoining the Beijing controlled World Health Organization the US seems to be signaling that we will ultimately accept Beijing’s version of how the COVID-19 pandemic began.
None of this, however, has proved sufficient for Beijing. This week, Yang Jiechi, a former Chinese Ambassador to the United States and current director of Beijing’s Office of Foreign Affairs warned Biden that the Administration must depart from “the previous administration’s… strategic misjudgment” of characterizing “China as a major strategic competitor, even an adversary. He warned that complaints about Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, China’s activities in the South China Sea or her plans for Taiwan amount to unacceptable interference in Beijing’s internal affairs and must be avoided if China and the US are to get along.
China will continue to push and test the new Administration. They think they know the new President and how to handle him. It will be up to him to prove the Communists wrong.