- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 8, 2021

A civilian Marine Corps official has published an opinion piece in the Chinese Communist Party’s most aggressively anti-American propaganda outlet arguing the United States would lose a war with China over Taiwan.

Franz Gayl, a science adviser for the Corps and a retired Marine major who served in Iraq, wrote a recent Global Times article that “hostile forces” in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea were making a conflict with China possible, either by accident or design.

“If the U.S. elects to fight China over the island of Taiwan, then it will lose,” Maj. Gayl stated in the April 27 article which was headlined, “Why US will lose a war with China over Taiwan island,” and appeared to be derived from an earlier piece written by Maj. Gayl for the Marine Corps Gazette journal.

In that article, like the Global Times piece, Maj. Gayl used terminology also employed in Chinese propaganda, describing the self-governing island as “renegade Taiwan” and Taiwan’s ruling pro-independence political party as “separatist.”

“The U.S. could advise Taiwan’s secessionists to peaceably accept ‘one country, two systems’ and cease its ‘independence’ ambitions,” Maj. Gayl said in the Global Times article.

But Beijing’s critics say China’s “one country, two systems” narrative was shattered last year in Hong Kong when the central government began dismantling the former British colony’s separate democratic system, one that had been permitted under the 1997 agreement ending Britain’s colonial rule.

Maj. Gayl’s analysis piece comes as two U.S. admirals warned last month that a Chinese military takeover of Taiwan is a major worry for the Indo-Pacific Command.

Incoming Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. John Aquilino told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Chinese military action against the island is “much closer to us than most think.” Adm. Philip Davidson, the outgoing commander, said in an earlier hearing he is concerned a Chinese military move against the island could take place before 2030.

Mr. Gayl, who was hired as a science adviser to the Marine Corps after retiring in 2002 after a 28-year career in the Marines, did not return emails seeking comment on his article.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood confirmed that Maj. Gayl is currently a science and technology officer for the Corps, but added, “Maj. Gayl does not speak for the Marine Corps, and he did not seek review or approval from the Marine Corps regarding his recent article.”

Pentagon spokesman John Supple said Maj. Gayl “did not seek any sort of policy or public affairs clearance from either the Department of Defense or the Marine Corps” before publishing his piece.

Maj. Gayl could face disciplinary action. Federal rules prohibit government officials from writing for foreign government propaganda outlets unless given prior approval. Global Times is a subsidiary of the People’s Daily, the main mouthpiece of China’s Communist leadership. It is operated by the CCP’s Central Committee and is regarded by the U.S. government as the most outspokenly anti-American outlet among Beijing’s state-controlled organs.

For example, the outlet promoted Beijing’s allegations regarding the origin of COVID-19, falsely reporting the virus was developed in a U.S. Army military laboratory. The Army denied the virus began in a military laboratory.

Propaganda outlets

The Trump administration last June designated the Global Times, the People’s Daily and two other Chinese outlets as foreign government entities covered under the Foreign Missions Act. The action was designed to limit their activities in the United States while pressing Beijing to allow more access to U.S. and Western reporters working in China.

“The Communist Party does not just exercise operational control over these propaganda entities, but it has full editorial control over their content,” David Stilwell, then-assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs said at the time.

Press Secretary John Kirby has addressed the Biden administration’s support for Taiwan and American efforts to bolster the island’s defenses in a number of briefings. Mr. Kirby said nothing had changed regarding U.S. defense commitments to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act and three U.S.-China communiques outlining relations.

Asked about a U.S. defense of Taiwan, Mr. Kirby said: “The United States military remains ready in all respects to meet our security commitments in the region.”

The Global Times article described Maj. Gayl as a retired Marine infantry officer who now serves as a civilian official in the Pentagon. It included a disclaimer that the opinions were those of the author and did not reflect the views of the U.S. government.

But critics say a Pentagon official criticizing American defense policy in a foreign state-controlled outlet on a critical issue like Taiwan only served to legitimize China’s point of view.

Former State Department official John Tkacik said Maj. Gayl has most of the history about Taiwan wrong and said one of the reasons is that he relied on Chinese Communist sources.

“Maj. Gayl’s recommendation to abandon our commitment to Taiwan‘s defenses is comparable historically to the British and French telling Czechoslovakia in 1938 that they have to sacrifice their independence to Nazi Germany so that French and British boys wouldn’t have to defend them,” Mr. Tkacik said.

“If Maj. Gayl were serious in his policy recommendations, he would advise the U.S. to supply the latest U.S. weaponry in massive amounts, from submarines to fighter aircraft, standoff missiles, as quickly as possible so that at least Taiwanese would have a fighting chance,” he added.

Mr. Tkacik also called Maj. Gayl’s appreciation of the current realities in the Indo-Pacific elementary and his legal understanding Taiwan‘s sovereignty ill-informed.

The article also reportedly triggered feelings of outrage and disgust from several current and former Navy and Marine Corps officers.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence director, said Maj. Gayl’s article supported enemy propaganda.

“As someone who has personal experience regarding the impact of exercising free speech while working within the U.S. government, I am left dumbfounded at this ex-Marine Corps officer’s parroting of talking points from an enemy of the United States,” Capt. Fanell said. “Maj. Gayl’s actions have not only denigrated the United States and the Marine Corps, but he has demonstrated his ignorance about the history and relationship of the United States and Taiwan.”

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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