Skip to main content

Op-ed, Harvard International Review: The China Challenge

One day as I gathered in the White House situation room for an NSC meeting, President Clinton’s National Security Advisor asked, “Where is our China strategy?” Today, we are still searching.

My article in the Harvard International Review (link), underscores how, for far too long, our elected officials have failed to take seriously the challenges China poses to our country and to a rules-based world order. I am running for President to unite this country and to convene the world in a global concord that addresses the challenges China poses to our collective good. We need a President who understands these risks, and who has the global experience and knowledge to keep our economy thriving and our country safe by leading and working alongside our friends and allies. I am that President.

My Harvard International Review article outlines what I have been writing about and saying for years, and now, as the only candidate in the race who fully understands the military, economic, geopolitical and technical threat the People’s Republic of China represents, I want to bring about the strategy that can meet the challenge to the values we have upheld around the world.

I have long believed that dealing with China is the chief strategic imperative of the 21st century, and recent developments — concerning the 5G internet, the expansion of China’s military footprint around the world, their “belt and road initiative,” and human rights violations from Xinjiang to Hong Kong — have only reaffirmed that belief.

When American policymakers and the news media discuss China these days, they are typically talking about President Trump’s trade war. This sole focus is a distraction from the larger geo-strategic issues at play (in which fair trade does have an important part) in Sino-U.S. relations and China’s inexorable drive to become a world power eclipsing the United States.

Throughout the world, China has embarked on an ambitious and comprehensive global development plan known as the “Belt and Road Initiative,” which involves building an array of infrastructure projects in nearly every country on the planet. According to Chinese sources, the government has now signed cooperative “Belt & Road” agreements with at least 126 countries and 29 international organizations.

At the same time, China is using its economic influence to spread its military reach, including by illegally building artificial islands in the South China Sea to establish naval dominance in the region — and according to the U.S. military commander of the Pacific, China now has command of the Western Pacific. It is the first loss of command of the seas by the U.S. Navy anywhere in the world since World War II. 

China has opened an overseas naval base in the African nation of Djibouti, with a second on the way in Cambodia. It is projected that Djibouti has public debts worth about 88% of its annual GDP, with China owning most of it. The naval base is part of their payment. Likewise, debt incurred by Sri Lanka forced them to sign over to China its stake in a newly constructed port in the country for 99 years. This is debt-trap diplomacy, plain and simple.

But the biggest threat China currently presents to the world comes from their domination in the arena of 5G wireless infrastructure. China makes every country that signs up for Belt and Road agree to add China’s 5G service as well. Everything will flow through Chinese technology — from virtual business meetings to personal email accounts, artificial intelligence data to intelligence gathering — so they will be able to have eyes on everything. 

They will also be able to damage critical infrastructure, from our electrical grid to nuclear power plants to dams that can drown entire cities. We need to launch a public-private effort, much like the Eisenhower administration did with the Interstate Highway System, to produce American-made 5G technology and lay the necessary infrastructure to support it — globally, for our security and the world’s.

There are many other issues that make China the biggest threat we face geopolitically, from human rights violations against Muslim Uighur citizens to unfair trade policies. Yet neither the President nor those seeking the Democratic presidential nomination understand this. No one else in the field of Democratic nominees understands the breadth of China’s challenge China or how to respond to it — otherwise, they would be addressing it in depth and breadth. 

Link to article: here