Communist China’s military and rhetorical escalation against Taiwan is testing the Biden Administration’s response to America’s most dangerous geopolitical adversary. While speculation runs rampant about President Xi Jinping’s next move and breathless commentators discuss the possibility of war over the island nation, the CCP continues advancing a truly global strategy.
America has ‘shiny object syndrome’ when it comes to foreign policy, and China knows it. Our media outlets love the intrigue and suspense of a possible U.S.-China standoff. Our hapless politicians never miss an opportunity to fixate on a single issue while ignoring broader perspectives and bigger problems.
For all the talk about Taiwan, there is little discussion or action over China’s incursions into the Western Hemisphere, where the CCP is eroding American influence right in our backyard.
We’re used to thinking about communist power in this hemisphere as isolated in places like Cuba or Venezuela. The Chinese have quietly changed that, doing things that never make a Presidential debate or the nightly news. Their military power, debt-trap diplomacy, and economic coercion are spreading like a virus.
In July, former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís cautioned in an op-ed that “Central America seems particularly fertile ground for Chinese expansion.” He warned of the Chinese capitalizing on the region’s division between the Nicaraguan dictatorship, compromised states like Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador teetering on the brink of autocracy, and the effects of COVID-19 and systemic issues in several other nations.
Since 2007, Chinese private and state investment in Central America has amounted to more than $2.3 billion in Mexico, $2 billion in Costa Rica, and $500 million in Panama. The Chinese are dumping money into Honduras, Guatemala and this year announced a $550 million infrastructure deal with El Salvador.
On the telecom front, Huawei controls 37% of the cellular market in Costa Rica and is also a major player in Belize. China does not separate business and political objectives. Even so-called private enterprises are utilized to advance political agendas.
Moving into South America, the People’s Liberation Army has constructed and controls a space command center in Argentina. According to Reuters, the station played a “key role in China’s landing of a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon” in 2019. Argentina signed a cooperation agreement in 2015 that could lead to the CCP building military bases there.
Both Columbia and Peru have purchased Chinese military hardware, and the new Marxist regime in Peru is likely to strengthen ties with Beijing.
Among China’s principal goals is controlling strategic minerals. They’ve made large investments in ownership of lithium mines critical to producing electric vehicles, renewable energy, and wearable tech. China is also investing in the energy sector in Chile, Brazil, and Peru.
China recently announced a massive all-cash deal involving a lithium brine operation in Argentina amounting to more than $770 million.
In each of these scenarios, whether the CCP’s activities involve mining, energy, military, or aid in the form of loans or grants, the regime is buying influence even with traditional US allies.
Certainly, there are signs of structural cracks in the China juggernaut: mounting debt, lower productivity, and an energy crisis. But the Biden administration shouldn’t expect that to impact China’s global strategy. Unlike Soviet Russia, China has bought a lot of friends to help them weather the storm and grow their influence, even as economic growth slows with Mr. Xi’s tightening grip on society.
The United States leaned into its anti-Soviet, anti-communist strategy during the first Cold War, and it needs to do the same now. Taiwan may be a sexy story for our digital age soothsayers, but it’s one shiny object. A weak Joe Biden and Washington in disarray will continue to ignore the CCP’s reach at their own peril. So far, we’ve been like a moth to a flame, unaware of the mortal danger that lies ahead.
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” and “Wake Up America Weekend” on Newsmax Television, author and former Bush Administration official.