NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
China’s military is engaged in an alarming buildup of forces in “every warfare area,” the chief of Navy intelligence said in recent remarks.
“The military modernization in China in general, not just in the maritime area, is one of the fastest we’ve seen in human history, [and] it goes well beyond what China needs for its defense,” Rear Adm. Michael Studeman told the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, a private group on Jan. 11. “So, what you’ve seen is a buildup in every warfare area.”
Chinese military capabilities now include advanced missiles and other long-range weapons, electronic warfare arms, innovative weapons technology and a blue-water navy armed with large warships and smaller vessels capable of “coercion around Taiwan,” he said.
Chinese naval warfare systems also are attempting to achieve “effective control” over the disputed South China Sea through patrols and other coercive means, Adm. Studeman said. China also is seeking maritime hegemony near Japan’s Senkaku islands in the East China Sea by using “pressure tactics” and have stepped up activities near the Philippines, he said. Both Japan and the Philippines have defense treaties with the United States.
Additionally, Chinese naval forces have sent task forces to the Bering Sea and Sea of Japan and the central Pacific and in waters around Australia as part of a military expansion strategy.
“This navy is one that has a global reach, and we’ll see more of the Chinese navy as they work their modern version of coaling stations,” he said.
Beijing is working to gain port access at “dozens and dozens of countries,” the admiral added, ostensibly for commercial purposes but potentially for military vessels in the future.
Adm. Studeman, who previously served as the chief of Indo-Pacific Command intelligence, also warned that the danger of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is “something we need to take seriously,” saying he has discussed with Taiwanese military officials the lessons to be learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The risk of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is a “higher likelihood than ever before,” Adm. Studeman said.
Chinese warships and warplanes have continued operations all around Taiwan in high numbers as part of a pressure campaign, he said. “So, the stakes have gone up and the danger level is something we need to take very seriously, and the Taiwanese certainly do,” Adm. Studeman said.
China official: Beijing seeks detente
A senior Chinese official said this week that Beijing is seeking to dial back its hardline communist policies and is seeking better economic relations with the West.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a key economic official considered loyal to President Xi Jinping, said during a speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland that China plans a return to its past quasi-capitalist policies.
“We must let the market play the fundamental role in the allocation of resources, and let the government play a better role,” Mr. Liu said. “Some people say China will go for the planned economy. That’s by no means possible. All-round opening-up is the basis of state policy and the key driver of economic progress.”
The remarks followed the re-imposition of quasi-Maoist policies under Mr. Xi, who came to power in 2012 and launched an ideological campaign against entrepreneurs and other business leaders regarded as insufficiently communist. The result has been a sharp slowdown in the growth of the Chinese economy which was also damaged by Mr. Xi’s harsh policies aimed at curbing the COVID pandemic.
Mr. Liu said the reality of China today “dictates that opening up to the world is a must, not an expediency.”
“We must open up wider and make it work better,” he said, noting the crash in China’s real estate market.
Mr. Liu’s message of conciliation is in sharp contrast to the harsh anti-U.S. policies of the past.
China’s government has blamed the United States for causing the pandemic and for triggering Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Analysts appear divided over the sincerity of the new detente. Some China experts say the new policy will be a major pivot back to international harmony. Others say the shift is a deception and a temporary move until China’s economy recovers.
The United States since the Trump administration has imposed restrictions on Chinese technology companies and is seeking to limit Beijing’s acquisition of advanced technology. The step back from Mr. Xi’s hardline policies also could be designed to seek a loosening of Western technology controls.,
China also is facing criticism for its support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last year, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin signed a “no-limits” agreements on closer relations.
Americans blind to danger of ideology
Americans have failed to understand the role of communist ideology in dealing with China, former top State Department policymaker Miles Yu said in a recent speech.
Mr. Yu worked at the State Department as a key China policymaker under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Trump administration.
After growing up in China where he was indoctrinated with communist ideology, he emigrated to the United States 35 years ago and underwent a “birth of freedom.”
“I am cured of my former infection with communist ideology and have strong immunity to it,” Mr. Yu said in the speech. “But I have dedicated my life to dealing with the ideological world I left behind. It is a tortured world, fundamentally motivated and inspired by ideological powers and dogmatic devotions, communistic and otherwise.”
The speech was published recently in the journal Telos.
America suffers from a severe case of the “poverty of ideology,” he said, arguing that most Americans do not view the world in terms of ideology.
“We base our worldly judgments on actions and deeds, but seldom on the ideological sources of these actions and deeds,” said Mr. Yu, now director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute.
The result: Americans in dealing with China tend to focus on Beijing’s bad deeds and human right abuses but not on the ideological reasons behind the actions.
Americans, he notes, believe in universal goodness that has blinded them to communism’s ideology.
“This Western poverty of ideology has proven self-defeating when we must deal with an ideologically charged world,” Mr. Yu said. “It has led to abject failures in our foreign policy. America’s China policy is a case in point.”
National leaders and leading U.S. intellectuals often fail to understand the fundamental ties between communist ideologies and the Chinese government’s policies and practices.
This changed during the Trump administration when the State Department in January 2021 declared China, under the Chinese Communist Party, is committing genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in western China. The regime locked up millions of Uyghurs in a massive concentration camp system not just to physically torment them but more significantly to brainwash them into Marxism-Leninism and other communist theories, Mr. Yu said.
The activities are part of Beijing’s ideological war on Islam, yet few Muslim nations recognized this.
China today remains committed to a foundational principle first announced by Mao Zedong in 1954: “The force at the core that leads our cause is the Chinese Communist Party; the theoretical foundation that guides our thinking is Marxism-Leninism.”
Instead of declining, Marxist theories gained more prominence under current President Xi Jinping.
“While the United States generally ignores ideology in foreign policy and world affairs, Marxism and its many intellectual variations are surprisingly quite popular among American intelligentsia and on American campuses,” Mr. Yu said.
Under Mr. Xi, the ruling Communist Party risked losing power and thus implemented the most rigid and fanatical Marxism-Leninism indoctrination campaign, one that required the nearly 100 million party members to return to Marxist fundamentalism.
The battle between China and the West is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of ideologies, what Mr. Yu calls a “timeless fight between freedom and democracy against the ideologies of tyranny and dictatorship.”
— Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.