The words “Uyghurs” or “Xinjiang” seem to dominate our media reports on China. In 2021 those two words appeared over 200,000 times in domestic publications.
While American media is fixated on this ethic minority locked up in a Chinese regional internment camp, there is little beyond hand-wringing that we can reasonably do about it.
And despite the Chinese Communist Party being unhappy with this attention, it actually benefits from the misdirection from what really matters to us in America.
We are ignoring the terrible damage the CCP is orchestrating in our country. Think termites. They can literally eat away at the foundation of a structure without the occupants having a clue. That is, until it’s too late or too expensive to remedy the damage.
One telling insight is the conviction of Harvard chemistry department chair Charles Lieber.
Lieber was convicted on Dec. 21 of lying to the government about his relationship with China. He failed to pay income taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars. He failed to disclose a $1.5 million payment to set up a China based research lab. Why was the CCP so interested in Professor Lieber?
He is a pioneer in nanoscience and nanotechnology. In 2011, Lieber was named the leading chemist in the world for the decade 2000-10. The CCP wanted the benefit of his research with much of it funded through grants to Harvard by American taxpayers. A new report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy finds that dozens of U.S. universities have partnerships with China — including with institutions linked to the Chinese military.
And China’s overall university strategy is itself just the tip of its influence iceberg in the United States.
The CCP has adopted a “Made in China 2025” mission. The objective is for China to crowd out America and become the dominant global force in 10 key technologies, including bio-medicine, aerospace and artificial intelligence. Control of technology is critical to the CCP’s higher goal of world domination.
The Chinese Thousand Talents Plan is a deliberate recruiting tool to romance experts like Lieber. The Chinese government recruited 60,000 overseas scientists and other experts between 2008 and 2016.
China has spent north of $100 million dollars since 2016 on political influence in America. Much of this has gone toward managing public opinion through the purchase of newspaper ads designed to look like legitimate reporting.
The CCP also has effective control of major market radio and TV stations that serve up a pro-Chinese spin on the news. CCP linked companies hire retired members of Congress to represent their views with their former peers. Until recently, China controlled the largest theater chain in America. It owns a major Hollywood production company. It’s easy to censor bad scripts when you are a sizable production and distribution channel.
China has also purchased or made investments in 2,000 U.S. companies. This gives it access to proprietary technology and intellectual property not available to other American companies.
China controls 97% of America’s antibiotic supply and a majority of our generic drug supply. It controls 85% of the supply of rare earth metals. These components make technology work — everything from cars to smartphones. Our recent exit from Afghanistan gave China another advantage as it seeks a deal with the Taliban for control of one of the largest world deposits of lithium used in extended life batteries.
The CCP has quietly spun a web of influence across the country, and it is strategically positioning itself to disadvantage us without most not realizing what is happening. Our focus on Hong Kong and Uyghurs is legitimate until it absorbs most of our bandwidth on all things Chinese.
Americans need a new framework of thinking about China.
The new standard for engagement for China should be that it benefits the U.S. Full stop. That will mean fewer academic and research partnerships and fewer business ties. In return, it will mean more security for America.
China is a smart opponent. We can’t win if we keep our eyes averted from the damage.
• Rick Berman is president of Berman and Co. in Washington and manages the website www.ChinaOwnsUs.com.