Comprehensive “engagement” has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy toward China since the Nixon administration.
But the bedrock of Beijing’s U.S. policy is paranoia over what Chinese leaders believe is a “peaceful evolution” conspiracy designed to overthrow the communist dictatorship via the ideological and spiritual infiltration of China’s society.
That paranoia was on display in recent weeks in a 90-minute documentary on YouTube called “Silent Contest.”
The documentary is the work of the People’s Liberation Army Political Commissars community, and it was produced by the Chinese National Defense University under the aegis of the PLA’s General Political Department.
The film depicts a sub-rosa struggle between the U.S. and China — a battle to control the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. It casts virtually all aspects of U.S. engagement policy with China — including cultural, academic, political, diplomatic, economic and military exchanges — as a conspiracy by U.S. advocates of “peaceful evolution” to control China.
All supreme communist leaders from Mao Zedong to current President Xi Jinping have perpetuated such conspiracy theories against the U.S.
Mao wrote in 1949 that “for a very long period, U.S. imperialism laid greater stress than other imperialist countries on activities in the sphere of spiritual aggression, extending from religious to ‘philanthropic’ and cultural undertakings.” He accused the Truman administration of “organizing a U.S. fifth column” to “overthrow the people’s government led by the Communist Party of China.”
Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, also harbored dark theories of the U.S. peaceful evolution. “The United States, other Western countries, are engaged in a peaceful evolution targeting socialist countries,” Deng said in 1990 in an article from his “Selected Works.”
“There is a proposal in the United States now: to fight a world war without gun smoke,” Deng stated. “Capitalism hopes to declare a final victory over socialism. In the past, it used weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, which was opposed by people of the world. But now it is engaged in the peaceful evolution.”
Deng’s successor, Jiang Zemin, was a more devout adherent to the theory: “U.S. policy toward China has always had two sides. A peaceful evolution against China is the long-term strategic goal of some people in the United States,” he wrote in his “Selected Works.”
Hu Jintao, who succeeded Mr. Jiang, carried on this mantra. “The ideological field has always been the important battle front, fiercely fought over between our enemies and us,” Mr. Hu was quoted in the documentary “Silent Contest.” “If problems appear in this battle front, it may well lead to social turmoil or even the loss of our political rule. To create chaos in a society, to overthrow a government, our enemies usually start with piercing a hole in our ideological system, i.e., to first focus on confusing people’s minds.”
Mr. Xi, who took charge last November, says in the documentary: “Western countries’ strategic calculation to contain our country’s development will never change. They will never want a socialist country like ours to carry out a smooth peaceful development.”
But the Chinese have their own logic: “President Obama claimed that the U.S. does not seek to contain China. In fact, the U.S. has always been containing China,” army Col. Liu Mingfu wrote recently. “Is it not ‘political containment’ against China to refuse to recognize China as a ‘democratic country?’ Is it not ‘economic containment’ against China to refuse to recognize China as having ‘market economy status?’”