Dear President Trump,
Over America’s exceptional history, successive generations have risen to the challenge of protecting and furthering our founding principles, and defeating existential threats to our libertie s and those of our allies. Today, our generation is challenged to do the same by a virulent and increasingly dangerous threat to human freedoms — the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through the nation it misrules: the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Chinese communists’ stated ambitions are antithetical to America’s strategic interests, and the PRC is increasingly taking actions that imperil the US and its allies. The past 40 years during which America pursued an open policy of “engagement” with the PRC have contributed materially to the incremental erosion of US national security.
This cannot be permitted to continue.
China is not as we wish it to be. In our political system, politics is the norm and war is the exception. It is explicitly the opposite in the PRC’s worldview. Going forward, we must better understand and deal with this dangerous asymmetry.
We the undersigned are encouraged by the broad and coherent strategy of robust, alternative policies you have adopted to confront the PRC’s campaign to undermine the national interests of the US and its allies. We encourage you to stay the course on your path of countering communist China.
We acknowledge and support your robust National Security Strategy that properly sets forth why the US must counter the PRC. Opposing the advance of tyranny is fully in keeping with the founding principles of America and its rich heritage of defending freedom and liberty, both at home and, where necessary, abroad.
We note the PRC does not recognize the principles and rules of the existing international order, which under a Pax Americana has enabled the greatest period of peace and global prosperity in humankind’s history. The PRC rejects this order ideologically and in practice. China’s rulers openly proclaim and insist on a new set of rules to which other nations must conform, such as their efforts to dominate the East and South China seas and the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative,” with its debt-trap diplomacy, designed to extend such hegemony worldwide. The only persistently defining principle of the CCP is the sustainment and expansion of its power.
Over the past 40 years of Sino-American relations, many American foreign policy experts did not accurately assess the PRC’s intentions or attributed the CCP’s reprehensible conduct to the difficulties of governing a country of 1.3 billion people. American policymakers were told time and again by these adherents of the China-engagement school that the PRC would become a “responsible stakeholder” once a sufficient level of economic modernization was achieved. This did not happen and cannot, so long as the CCP rules China.
The PRC routinely and systematically suppresses religious freedom and free speech, including the imprisonment of more than 1 million citizens in Xinjiang and the growing suppression of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The PRC also routinely violates its obligations, as it does with the WTO, freedom of navigation and the protection of coral reefs in the South China Sea. Beijing then demands that its own people and the rest of the world accept its false narratives and justifications, demands aptly termed as “Orwellian nonsense.”
The PRC is not and never has been a peaceful regime. It uses economic and military force — what it calls its “comprehensive national power” — to bully and intimidate others. The PRC threatens to wage war against a free and democratically led Taiwan.
It is expanding its reach around the globe, co-opting our allies and other nations with the promise of economic gain, often with authoritarian capitalism posing as free commerce, corrupt business practices that go unchecked, state-controlled entities posing as objective academic, scientific or media institutions and trade and development deals that lack reciprocity, transparency and sustainability. The CCP corrupts everything it touches.
This expansionism is not random or ephemeral. It is manifestly the unfolding of the CCP’s grand strategy. The CCP’s ambitions have been given many names, most recently the “China Dream,” the “great rejuvenation” of China, or the “Community of Common Destiny.” The “dream” envisioned by the CCP is a nightmare for the Chinese people and the rest of the world.
We firmly support the Chinese people, the vast majority of whom want to live peaceful lives, but we do not support the Communist government of China, nor its control by the dangerous Xi Jinping (習近平) clique. We welcome the measures you have taken to confront Xi’s government and selectively to decouple the US economy from China’s insidious efforts to weaken it. No amount of US diplomatic, economic or military “engagement” will disrupt the CCP’s grand strategy.
If there is any sure guide to diplomatic success, it is that when America leads, other nations follow. If history has taught us anything it is that clarity and commitment of leadership in addressing existential threats, like from the PRC, will be followed by our allies when policy prescriptions such as yours become a reality. The PRC’s immediate strategy is to delay, stall and otherwise wait out your presidency. Every effort must be made therefore to institutionalize now the policies and capabilities that can rebalance our economic relations with China, strengthen our alliances with like-minded democracies and ultimately defeat the PRC’s global ambitions to suppress freedom and liberty.
Stay the course!
James E. Fanell is a captain, USN (Ret) and former director of Intelligence & Information Operations U.S. Pacific Fleet. This open letter was signed by nearly 140 other current and former government officials, academics, national security experts and other concerned Americans and was first published in The Journal of Political Risk (http://www.jpolrisk.com/stay-the-course-on-china-an-open-letter-to-president-trump) on July 18..
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