How China exploits globalism to its advantage

Intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles in a military parade in Beijing, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang/Getty Images)

In this economically integrated world, in which goods traverse continents in a day and ideas in an instant, globalism is here to stay. But the globalism to which the United States and Europe have signed on must be rethought. For, while worldwide trade, engagement, and collaboration have contributed to global prosperity and scientific progress, the free world has become more vulnerable to predations of hostile powers. Globalists have justified generous commercial deals and enabling strategic compromises with brutal and aggressive regimes as only befitting an enlightened world that accepts cultural and political differences. In so doing, they allowed the deterrent posture and human rights stance of America and its allies to deteriorate.

Globalism and the mindset that accompanies it contributed greatly to China’s dramatic rise and has roots in the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. A bill that granted China permanent normal trade relations with the U.S. and paved the way for China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization was pushed through by the administration and the Senate without consideration of the hard line China had recently taken in political and military matters and without human rights or national security conditions. Supplemental legislation that would have required annual reviews of China’s missile technologies and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and would have penalized China for violating nonproliferation treaties, was rejected.


Relativistic de-emphasis upon American power and ideals was part of the globalization matrix. The mantra of Clinton’s first presidential campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid”— implied that the U.S. didn’t stand for anything terribly important in the world. Accordingly, on his 1998 trip to China, Clinton apologized for America’s imperfect realization of universal rights and praised the communist government for “reform.” In addition, the president stressed that the U.S. “does not support independence for Taiwan” or “two Chinas” or Taiwan’s membership “in any international bodies whose members are sovereign states.” Human rights advocates and dissidents expressed dismay at Clinton’s remarks. The two weeks following the president’s visit were described by a Hong Kong monitoring group “as one of the government’s toughest crackdowns on democracy activists in recent years.”

Nevertheless, with the vast markets and massive profits of globalism at hand, Western policymakers and business leaders, perhaps believing what they wanted to believe, generally embraced the idea that global trade and engagement would help bypass the problem of tyranny and aggression. Surely, once China saw the economic benefits of opening up to the West and interacted with sympathetic Westerners, more political freedom and less military ambition would follow. China’s reformers, it was postulated, would put China on a path of dealing fairly with the West, and moving away from authoritarian, one-party rule.

Globalism is obviously beneficial insofar as it counteracts isolationism and protectionism, enables citizens of divergent countries to connect, and fuels mutual economic growth and learning. But China gamed the system, reaping economic spoils while increasing oppression and putting profits into state-dominated companies and weapons of war. And China used collaboration with U.S. corporations and universities to steal advanced U.S. technology, with which it expanded its military and increased censorship and surveillance. From 2001 to 2021, China’s economy grew by 1,200%, and China became the world’s largest exporter and industrial power. But China’s dramatic rise and domination of manufacturing paralleled surging imperial ambitions, a massive military buildup, and, eventually, a return to Maoist-level repression.

Economic dependency

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s recent engagement efforts and search for “guardrails” in the U.S.-China relationship betray a Clinton-esque willingness to compromise certain security contingencies and essential democratic principles for the sake of better relations. While the administration’s pledge to “de-risk” rather than “de-couple” does include reducing dependency on Chinese goods and inhibiting Chinese advances in sectors tied to the military, the administration has been backing away from great power competition and disagreements on human rights. In an April 6 meeting of top U.S. security officials, arguments in favor of prioritizing economic engagement with China apparently prevailed. The administration decided to “move beyond” the spy balloon incident and reduce pressure tactics while requesting high-level meetings with Chinese officials.

The requests, including a request by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, were often rebuffed or mocked. If anything, China doubled down on anti-U.S. rhetoric. Li railed against the U.S. for “hegemony of navigation” and “sowing discord.” China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said America’s Indo-Pacific strategy was “doomed to fail” and warned U.S. officials to “recalibrate” Indo-Pacific strategy. Xi Jinping and other elites continued to accuse America of “bloc confrontation,” “Cold War mentality,” and “meddling” in China’s “internal affairs”: code for U.S. objections to the Chinese Communist Party’s extreme human rights violations and designs on Taiwan.

More menacing than the words was China’s behavior. A Chinese fighter jet flew directly in front of the nose of a U.S. RC-135 in the South China Sea, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence. A Chinese warship nearly hit a U.S. destroyer that was on a joint mission with Canada in the Taiwan Strait. “We have seen an alarming increase in the number of risky aerial intercepts and confrontations at sea by [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft and vessels,” the Pentagon said. A Chinese-sponsored hacking group targeted critical infrastructure in the U.S., including Navy telecommunications systems in Guam that are key to Pacific defense. In the meantime, China expanded its imperialistic reach in numerous diplomatic, economic, geopolitical, and military ways.

Indicative of China’s propensity to continue aggression while reaping the economic and technological-military rewards of commercial relations, China did, however, send Commerce Minister Wang Wentao to meet with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Moreover, while hedging for months on whether it would agree to a state visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, China enthusiastically welcomed Bill Gates, with Xi calling him an “old friend.” Appallingly, per Reuters, Xi told Gates he “welcomed U.S. firms including Microsoft bringing their AI tech to China.”

Ultimately agreeing to Blinken’s visit while still ramping up anti-U.S. rhetoric, China showed that engagement would be on its timing, its terms. In the Wall Street Journal, Lingling Wei and William Mauldin suggested reasons for China finally hosting Blinken: China is paving the way for Xi to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco this November and is working to prevent Asian and European countries from sanctioning Chinese companies. China wants to demonstrate justenough reasonableness to wrest concessions from U.S. leaders and to maintain advantageous global relationships.

Globalism enthusiasts should note that, under Xi, the “integration of development and security” is official policy. From the Belt and Road Initiative leading to new strongholds with ports, bases, and surveillance technology, to China’s implicit and explicit threats to companies that object to CCP atrocities, to China’s race for resources and assets that advance its drive for global supremacy, China’s economic and military goals are combined.

The price the Biden administration is paying for a reset in U.S.-China relations is, therefore, too high. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) complained in a June 14 letter to Blinken, “On May 19, I requested a variety of documents related to reports that Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman and Deputy Assistant Secretary for China and Taiwan, Rick Waters, ‘held back human rights related sanctions, export controls, and other sensitive actions to try to limit damage to the U.S.-China relationship.’ To date, the State Department has failed to provide any portion of the document request. Moreover, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink canceled his scheduled June 14 testimony before the Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, suggesting that the Department refuses to provide answers on these issues to Congress as Secretary Blinken prepares to depart for a trip to China.”

A significant June 16 report by Dan De Luce, Carol E. Lee, and Courtney Kube for NBC News reinforces McCaul’s concerns: “The Biden administration has delayed punitive economic measures against China and played down Beijing’s intensifying intelligence-gathering to avoid jeopardizing its efforts to revive diplomatic talks … according to former U.S. officials, congressional aides, Western diplomats, and regional experts. From planned restrictions on investment in China to declassifying intelligence about the origins of the coronavirus, the administration has been ‘slow walking’ certain decisions in recent months as officials have sought to mend relations with Beijing, the sources said.” The NBC reporters noted that the Biden administration had been expected to follow up on export controls on chipmaking tools that could be used by the Chinese military with export restrictions on semiconductor technology and with an executive order on any American investment linked to China’s defense industry but had “yet to move ahead.”

Reducing or delaying hard power pressure, human rights statements, and enforcement of sanctions in order to meet with Chinese officials, U.S. officials too often project weakness in those very meetings. After raising concerns about China’s “provocative actions” in the Taiwan Strait, Blinken offered while in Beijing: “We do not support Taiwan independence.” What a statement at a time like this, when China bullies and threatens neighbors, dangerously harasses U.S. forces, launches cyberattacks, commits genocide against Uyghurs, imposes techno-totalitarian control, mercilessly subjects Hong Kong and Tibet, aligns with Russia, Iran, and bad actors around the globe, expands its military at an alarming scale and pace, and makes explicit preparations for war and conquest of Taiwan. Blinken notably returned from China without a coveted Chinese agreement to set up a military-to-military communications channel.


Deterrence and resolve

It’s never a good idea to underestimate an adversary. Nor is it wise to overestimate the fruits of engagement. Even discussion of China’s economic difficulties could become an excuse for responding inadequately to China’s threat to the free world’s security and way of life.

There’s nothing wrong with engagement with China, except when it throws America off a principled and prudent foreign policy course. Globalism has led business, policy, and academic elites to ignore atrocities. It has fostered utter dependency on Chinese goods and supply chains and incentivizes insufficient deterrence and resolve. The lucrative economic relationship obfuscates discomfiting moral, geopolitical, and military realities, including the massive theft of U.S. technology. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) recently told CNBC that he no longer believes in the “general consensus” that as long as China is integrated with the global economy, “everything’s going to come along.” Indeed, globalism must be redefined.

This article was published by The Washington Examiner on July 6, 2023. Read full article here.