Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum WEF Virtual Event of the Davos Agenda and holds a dedicated address via video link in Beijing, the capital of China, January 25, 2021.
Li Xueren | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
An anonymous author, who described himself as a former senior government official with deep Chinese expertise and experience, published an extraordinary strategy paper from the Atlantic Council this week.
The aim is nothing less than to shape Biden’s government strategy towards Beijing – with President Xi Jinping as the main focus.
What makes the article worth reading, all 26,000 words, are the author’s insights into China’s inner workings and party gaps, the author’s solutions to the current lack of a coherent US national strategy towards of Beijing, and the newspaper’s controversial appeal that the Biden administration draw “red lines” that “if the deterrence fails, will cause direct US intervention.”
“The list of red lines in the United States should be short, focused and enforceable,” writes the author, “undermining China’s tactics for years … to blur the red lines that could otherwise lead to open confrontation. with the United States too early for Beijing likes. “
The paper states that those red lines should include:
- Any action involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons by China against the United States or its allies, or by North Korea, where China has not taken decisive action to prevent such North Korean action.
- Any Chinese military attack on Taiwan or its offshore islands, including an economic blockade or major cyber attack on Taiwanese public infrastructure and institutions.
- Any Chinese attack on Japanese forces in defense of Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands and the surrounding East China Sea Exclusive Economic Zone.
- Any major Chinese hostile action in the South China Sea to further reclaim and militarize islands, to use force against other claiming states, or to prevent full freedom of navigation by the United States and allied naval forces.
- Any attack by China on the sovereign territory or military assets of allies of the US treaty.
The call for red lines is already sparking debate among China experts around the world, even though the paper was only published on Thursday. In the dispute are those who think that setting boundaries more clearly would reduce Chinese aggression, and those who believe that setting such redlines is an invitation to either American humiliation, should they not be enforced, or lead to unwanted conflict. if they are enforced.
However, sparking even more discussion is the paper’s particular focus on the Chinese leader and his behavior, who since his rise to power in 2013 has made the country more assertive and internally repressive from the outside, recently pushed the restrictions on private companies. and the role of state-owned enterprises.
“The major challenge facing the United States in the twenty-first century is the emergence of an increasingly authoritarian China under President and Secretary General Xi Jinping,” writes the anonymous author. “US policy strategy must remain laser-focused on Xi, its inner circle, and the Chinese political context in which they rule. Changing their decision-making requires understanding, acting within, and changing their political and strategic paradigm. Changing China’s behavior would be around to turn this fact around, or it will likely prove ineffective. ”
It may seem like a simple exercise in logic that as a country becomes more authoritarian over time, with more and more power invested in one person, any strategy to manage that country must start at the top. Experts have been approaching Putin’s Russia through that lens for a while.
The first debate this week that followed the publication of ‘The Longer Telegram’ ranged from a former senior US official who welcomed the paper for its clear and crisp focus on Xi, to another who feared such an American approach would be considered . as an endorsement for regime change that could only exacerbate tensions.
The author hopes his paper would be an important step ‘towards a new US China strategy’ that would contain ten key elements outlined in the paper, ranging from addressing domestic economic and institutional weaknesses to full coordination with key allies, so that all major action is taken in unity in response to China.
The author argues that any US strategy should be based on “the four fundamental pillars of US power:” the strength of its military, the role of the dollar as a global reserve currency and mainstay of the international financial system, sustained global technology leadership, and the values of individual freedom, fairness and the rule of law “despite recent political divisions and difficulties”.
It was the author’s indiscreet choice to call this extraordinary work ‘The Longer Telegram’, ” Boldly associated with George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram” of February 1946 originally sent to the State Department as a cable marked “Secret” from his position as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Moscow.
That “Long Telegram” took its place in history when it was published in July 1947 by the Foreign Affairs magazine under the pseudonym “X”. Historians credit Kennan for advancing the containment policy towards the Soviet Union that was ultimately successful, “anchored by the analytic conclusion that the USSR would eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions,” the anonymous author now writes.
Kennan was guided by a knowledge of how the Soviet Union functioned internally, and the author argues that US strategy should be based again on a better understanding of China’s inner workings. What’s different now, the author argues, is that the Chinese system is “much more convenient at surviving” after learning from the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He opposes the Trump administration’s approach, without mentioning the former US president, to attack the Chinese Communist Party as a whole. He argues that this would be “strategically self-destructive” and would only serve to enable President Xi to unite a CCP that is “significantly divided between Xi’s leadership and its enormous ambitions.”
What would success look like?
The author replies clearly: “That the United States and its main allies in the mid-century continue to dominate regional and global balance of power across all major power indices; that China has been prevented from taking Taiwan militarily … that Xi has been replaced. by a more moderate party leadership, and that the Chinese people themselves have questioned and questioned the Communist Party’s centuries-long thesis that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined for an authoritarian future. ”
It’s hard to go against those goals; and even harder to reach them.
Frederick Kempe is a bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States’ most influential think tanks on global affairs. He spent more than 25 years at The Wall Street Journal as a foreign correspondent, assistant editor and as the longest-serving editor of the European edition of the newspaper. His latest book – “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth” – was a New York Times bestseller and has been published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and sRegister here to Inflection Points, his look every Saturday at the top stories and trends of the past week.
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