Just this year, the Chinese Communist Party held an election in the Great Hall of the People where Xi Jinping was voted “president for life.” The vote was 2,958 for and six against.
With this vote they proclaimed that China is now realizing its dream of national rejuvenation, and its grand strategy to restore its empire.
This move only adds to mounting evidence of Chinese economic and military ambitions that we’ve been learning about from Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper and Pat Mulloy, a longtime member of the bipartisan China Commission.
The New Emperor
“There’s no opposition in communist China, that’s the first thing to understand. They can call it an election, but in effect it’s a coronation,” said Halper.
“And if you’re Chinese, and you’re in opposition, don’t you get swept up into Xi’s ‘anti-corruption’ regime?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s the best net he has. He’s arrested about 182,000 people, that’s a lot of people, and they’re frightened to death,” he said.
Mulloy explains, “We’re going back into a period that the Chinese were very afraid of getting into again, of having a permanent emperor ruler. I think this has really caught the attention of many in the West who thought China was not going back on this kind of road,” and that the Chinese explicitly moved away from having rulers for life following the brutalities of Mao Zedong’s rule.
And just like Mao, Xi’s rule looks to be about accumulating power rather than making life better for his own people. In fact, the Chinese are ramping up East German-style surveillance of the public through “social credit scores.”
“In Beijing alone there are over 40,000 internet policemen, people who track the internet, what people are doing and saying,” said Halper.
“People now have cameras in their home, and of course on the streets, and they’re monitored 24/7. And if you have an infraction, like you’ve been crossing the street in the wrong place or against the light, that’s noted,” said Halper. “And if you get enough of these infractions, you begin to lose certain privileges and freedoms.”
“It’s 1984 writ large.”
Giant Economic Ambitions
While repressing its own people, China is busy using the money the United States pumps into its economy through a lopsided trade relationship to build its influence throughout the region and the world.
A major part of that endeavor is the One Belt, One Road policy, a project Halper calls “50 times the size of the Marshall Plan,” which was the U.S.-led rebuilding of Europe following World War II.
“One Belt, One Road is a concept that Xi Jinping advanced that would link China with India, the Near East, South Asia, Europe, and it would facilitate the movement of Chinese exports by road and rail all the way into Europe. It involves the construction of roads and bridges and railroads in order to move all of these exports, and it requires China to effect relationships with businesses across the Near East and South Asia,” said Halper.
China’s aggression leaves businesses and other nations feeling greater unease, but Beijing’s power and money leaves them with few practical options.
“So this lopsided economic relationship that we have with China is permitting them to expand their political influence through projects like this, and their economic influence, but also permitting them to strengthen themselves militarily,” said Mulloy. “Because when you transfer technology and industrial capacity to your opponent at your own expense, they can then pump money into their military capabilities, and they’ve been doing just that.”
Territorial Aggression and Trampling International Law
On the seas, China is pursuing the Maritime Silk Road, which seeks to connect ports—known as its “string of pearls”—throughout Asia and beyond in an effort to build autonomy for Chinese commerce.
But Chinese aggression on the seas goes much further, including the claiming of 100,000 square miles of the South China Sea and beyond. The United Nations ruled against China’s territorial claims, but those verdicts have been brazenly ignored.
“It is one of the most outrageous and egregious violations of international law and precedent that any of us have seen in a long while,” said Halper.
The Chinese say scraps of ancient pottery have been found in these places, proving they have a historical claim to those lands.
“If that were true, then the United States could claim the Gulf of Mexico, the French would own the Atlantic Ocean,” added Halper.
The Wake-Up Call
The U.S. and the rest of the world have been either asleep at the switch or happily complicit in the rise of Chinese power over the past 40 years.
Through rose-colored glasses, we believed that if we let China into the world trade system they’d become more liberal, democratic—more like us. We also believed that the internet was going to make China more liberal and open.
These things haven’t happened.
Instead, China now has a new emperor who is bent on becoming the dominant power on the world stage and is perfectly comfortable trampling the rights of nations and his own people.
And with Xi’s seizing of power for life, many serious leaders in the world are starting to pay serious attention to the growing behemoth it has failed to recognize and confront.
Note the word serious.
In America, the word serious doesn’t even begin to describe our media and political class. Instead, they rage on about a bankrupt Russia’s feeble attempt at election meddling—and Stormy Daniels. It would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.
It’s about time we got serious.
COMMENTARY BY Bill Walton