Biden may draw “purple strains” in opposition to Chinese language authoritarianism

Chinese President Xi Jinping will take part in the WEF Virtual Event of the World Economic Forum of the Davos Agenda and will give a special address via video link in Beijing, the capital of China, on January 25, 2021.

Li Xueren | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

An anonymous author, himself described as a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience in China, released an exceptional Atlantic Council strategy paper this week.

Its goal is to shape the strategy of the Biden government towards Beijing – with President Xi Jinping as the main focus.

What makes the paper worth reading, all 26,000 words, are the author’s insights into China’s internal workings and party rifts, the author’s solutions to the current lack of a coherent US national strategy towards Beijing, and the paper’s controversial demand for the Biden government to draw They “red lines” which “lead to direct US intervention if deterrence fails”.

“The list of red lines in the United States should be short, focused and enforceable,” the author writes, undermining “China’s tactics for many years … to blur the red lines that otherwise became too early to face open confrontation with.” the United States. ” Beijing’s favor. “

The paper argues that these red lines should include:

  • Any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons action by China against the United States or its allies or North Korea in which China has not taken decisive action to prevent such North Korean action.
  • Any Chinese military attack against Taiwan or its offshore islands, including an economic blockade or major cyberattack on Taiwan’s public infrastructure and institutions.
  • Any Chinese attack on Japanese forces in defense of Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands and the surrounding exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea.
  • Any major hostile action by China in the South China Sea to further retake and militarize islands, use force against other claimants, or prevent complete freedom of navigation by the United States and Allied naval forces.
  • Any Chinse attack on the territory or military property of allies of the US treaty.

The red line call is already fueling debate among China experts around the world, despite the fact that the paper wasn’t released until Thursday. The dispute affects those who believe that setting clearer boundaries would reduce Chinese aggression and those who believe that setting such red lines is an invitation to U.S. humiliation if not enforced or undesirable Conflict when enforced.

What has led to an even bigger debate, however, is the paper’s unique focus on China’s leaders and behavior, which since rising to power in 2013 has made the country more externally assertive and internally repressive, most recently tightening restrictions on private companies and has strengthened the role of state-owned companies.

“The main challenge facing the United States in the 21st century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China under President and Secretary-General Xi Jinping,” the anonymous author writes. “US policy strategy must continue to focus on Xi, his inner circle, and the China political context in which they govern. Changing their decision-making requires understanding, acting, and changing their political and strategic paradigm. All US policy aims at this starting from changing China’s behavior should revolve around that fact or it will likely prove ineffective. ”

It may seem like a simple, logical exercise that as time goes on as a country becomes more authoritarian and power is increasingly invested in a person, any strategy for managing that country must begin at the top. Experts have been approaching Putin’s Russia through this lens for some time.

However, the first debate this week after The Longer Telegram was released ranged from one former senior US official who welcomed the paper for its clear and straightforward focus on Xi, to another who feared it would be US Approach would be considered as confirmation of regime change that could only exacerbate tensions.

The author hopes his paper will be an important step “towards a new American China strategy,” which includes ten key elements outlined in the paper, from eliminating domestic economic and institutional weaknesses to fully coordinating with it important allies are sufficient so that all important action is taken in response to China being taken in unity.

The author argues that any US strategy should be based on “the four pillars of American power”: the power of its military, the role of the dollar as a global reserve currency and pillar of the international financial system, continuation of global technology leadership, and the values ​​of individual freedom , Fairness and the rule of law “despite recent political divisions and difficulties”.

It was the author’s immodest decision to name this extraordinary work “The Longer Telegram” and boldly relate it to George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram” of February 1946, which originally came off its seat as a cable labeled “Secret” was sent to the State Department Deputy Head of Mission at the US Embassy in Moscow.

This “Lange Telegram” found its place in history when it was published in July 1947 by Foreign Affairs magazine under the pseudonym “X”. Historians acknowledge Kennan for the further development of the containment policy towards the Soviet Union, which was ultimately successful, “anchored in the analytical conclusion that the USSR would ultimately collapse under the weight of its own contradictions,” the anonymous author now writes.

Kennan was guided by his knowledge of how the Soviet Union worked internally, and the author argues that US strategy must once again be based on a better understanding of what is inside China. What is different now, the author argues, is that the Chinese system “is much more adept at surviving” after learning from the collapse of the Soviets.

He rejects the Trump administration’s approach of attacking the Chinese Communist Party as a whole without mentioning the former US president. He argues that this would be “strategically self-destructive” and would only serve to enable President Xi to unite a CCP that is “severely divided over Xi’s leadership and enormous ambitions.”

What would success look like?

The author clearly replies: “Until the middle of the century, the United States and its key allies will continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all major power indices. China has been prevented from taking Taiwan militarily. It was Xi.” replaced by a more moderate party leadership, and that the Chinese people themselves have challenged and questioned the Communist Party’s centuries-old claim that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined for an authoritarian future. “

It’s hard to argue with these goals. and even more difficult to achieve.

Frederick Kempe is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and President and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States’ most influential think tanks on global affairs. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years as a foreign correspondent, assistant editor-in-chief and senior editor for the European edition of the newspaper. His latest book – “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth” – was a New York Times best seller and has been published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and subscribe here to Inflection Points, his view every Saturday of the top stories and trends of the past week.

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