I have written here previously on the Biden Administration’s policy mistakes regarding Iran, Israel, and religious freedom. However, its most consequential missteps thus far have been regarding China and its one-party system, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In subordinating other more urgent policy areas regarding China to climate change, and in laboring under the mistaken assumption that it can encourage the Chinese Communist Party to change and become a responsible stakeholder, the Biden Administration is only just beginning to put American prosperity and security at risk.
Just hours into his tenure as President, Biden gave China an extraordinary gift by rejoining the Paris Climate Accords. The United States will likely be the only nation that will actually meet its commitments, and it will only be able to do so by destroying middle class jobs, not creating them, and causing not only gas prices to massively increase, but the costs of other essential goods as well.
Our adversaries, such as China and Russia, have no desire to take action on climate change – China built three quarters of the world’s new coal-fired power plants just last year, and Russia’s main source of industry and revenue comes directly from fossil fuels. To think China, in particular, will do anything except use the Biden Administration’s focus on climate change to bargain for more leeway so that it can pursue even more oppressive policies at home and destabilizing activities abroad is foolish.
In fact, it has already started doing so – China’s FM Wang Yi said recently that “if the U.S. no longer interferes in China’s internal affairs, then we can have even smoother cooperation on climate change.” Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry (who is no stranger to getting things terribly wrong), has centered the U.S.-China relationship on climate change, subordinating such crucial policy points as religious freedom, fair economic and trade practices, and holding China accountable for the spread of the Coronavirus. The winner here is not the American middle class, even though President Biden claims that is around whom the policies are centered. The winner is China.
This focus on climate change stems from the flawed assumption that the CCP has any interest in participating in the rules-based, international system as a responsible stakeholder. It does not. The Coronavirus pandemic is the clearest example of this disregard. The CCP knew about the disease and covered it up, letting it spread to international flights and throughout the world. There is enormous evidence suggesting that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and escaped due to the CCP’s negligence, not in some wet market by accident.
The Trump Administration tried to investigate this without cooperation from the CCP or the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to help prevent such a calamity from occurring in the future. But no facts were provided, no data shared. Rather, we were denied any access to the facility, the doctors, and the important medical records kept there. The CCP refused to cooperate in the early days of the pandemic when any amount of information could have helped inform the world about infection rates, spread, and how deadly the virus could be. This was not the behavior of a nation that desires to become a responsible stakeholder in the world. It is the behavior of an insecure, authoritarian regime that cares as little for the rest of the world as it does for its own people so long as its power and political control is not threatened.
We cannot confront the challenge the CCP presents by appeasing it and encouraging it to be a “responsible stakeholder.” We can only confront the CCP by dealing with it realistically. The Chinese must be held accountable by, at a minimum, encouraging U.S. businesses to bring critical supply chains back to the U.S. to prepare for the next time the CCP acts malevolently with a virus.
When the United States opened its engagement with China nearly 50 years ago, led by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a different future was likely imagined than the reality which has developed. The reality is that China engages in predatory trade practices which harm the American worker, oppresses people of faith within its borders and is currently committing genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, and is building a military force which grows in strength every day and which it uses to threaten and coerce its neighbors. China steals the intellectual property of American businesses and uses it to strengthen both its own companies, which answer to the CCP, and its military, which actively works to infiltrate our institutions of higher learning to steal research.
The Biden Administration’s strategy to sort these problems out is to focus more on climate change and to encourage the CCP to be a responsible stakeholder within the rules-based international order. This back-to-Obama policy didn’t and won’t work – the Trump Administration understood that in order to secure freedom, we must have a strong military rather than defense budget cuts, we must form coalitions with other nations to hold China accountable rather than incentivize and encourage it to change, and we must embrace–not denigrate–our nation’s founding principles, which will always be our greatest advantage over authoritarian regimes.
At the ACLJ, we will continue to work to hold both the Biden Administration and China accountable by highlighting the ever-increasing threat posed by the Chinese regime, its dangerous partnership with Iran, and its continued persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.
Mike Pompeo is the former Secretary of State and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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