Yes, there’s a new Cold War — and China started it
At this month’s National People’s Congress, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang reached a new height of hypocrisy, even by the Chinese Communist Party’s lofty standards, when he threatened that “if the U.S. side does not put on the brakes and continues down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can stop the derailment and rollover into confrontation and conflict.”
President Xi Jinping’s stalking-horse diplomat doth protest too much. We need to remove the scales from our eyes: It is China who has launched a Cold War against us.
Consider the overwhelming evidence.
China deliberately concealed the outbreak, origin and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused millions of deaths. Precursor chemicals manufactured in China to produce fentanyl, which has killed hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, are freely flowing to Mexico’s narco-cartels for export to the north.
China is militarizing the South China Sea, including three airfields and over 60 outposts capable of supporting military operations in the Spratly Islands. Violating the norms of freedom of navigation, China has deliberately blocked oil exploration by other countries and interfered with international trade.
Having declared it would build the world’s strongest military by midcentury, China is modernizing its armed forces with hypersonic missiles, two new aircraft carriers and the world’s fastest-growing arsenal of nuclear bombs. Beijing says it plans to have at least 1,000 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2030.
Falsely claiming Taiwan as a “breakaway province,” China menacingly deploys its warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and conducts combat readiness drills designed to be prepared for an invasion by 2027.
Allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship and projecting power in the Middle East to secure oil and natural gas imports, China also preposterously claims to be a “near-Arctic state” with plans for a “Polar Silk Road.” Enjoying particularly close ties with Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, China is a rising economic and diplomatic force in Latin America.
China is buying up U.S. farmland, including over 100,000 acres around the Devils River conservancy in Texas, land that would enable intelligence collection on U.S. border security operations, critical infrastructure and the nearby Laughlin Air Force Base.
China operates Confucius Institutes, billed as cultural outreach posts, and dozens of “police stations” in the U.S. and Canada that, in reality, are used for surveillance of dissidents, propaganda and spying operations.
Having hacked into the personal records of government employees held by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management in 2015, China is mounting devastating cyber-attacks against businesses as well as our federal, state and local governments. The FBI says it is opening two new China-related counterintelligence investigations every day.
Congressional estimates put the cost of the U.S. China’s theft of intellectual property at an estimated $500 billion per year. In one notorious example, China used stolen U.S. high technology to build its J-35 carrier-borne stealth fighter jet.
The People’s Liberation Army is also weaponizing space, which it uses to augment its military, intelligence and economic power.
According to the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment, “China leads the world in applying surveillance and censorship to monitor its population and repress dissent. Beijing conducts cyber intrusions that are targeted to affect U.S. and non-U.S. citizens beyond its borders — including journalists, dissidents, and individuals it views as threats — to counter views it considers critical of CCP narratives, policies, and actions.”
Focused on “competition, not conflict” with China, the Biden administration should not hesitate to lay the blame for this century’s Cold War squarely on Beijing, where it belongs. Beyond maintaining military superiority to deter Chinese aggression with a “peace through strength” strategy, an approach necessary to resolve myriad contentious issues through dialogue, we should take three specific steps.
First, playing to our soft-power advantage, we should call out China’s state-sponsored tyranny and efforts to export its brand of authoritarianism around the world. Especially in the Middle East and Africa, there should be a focus on China’s encroachment on the independence of other countries through debt-trap diplomacy, human rights abuses such as the genocide against the Uyghurs, and massively one-sided trade practices.
Second, our intelligence agencies should loudly and repeatedly share warnings about China’s espionage efforts, including using TikTok as a megaphone to broadcast propaganda to its 150 million-plus U.S. users and to collect sensitive personal data. Banning TikTok outright in the U.S. would provide the Biden administration with a propitious opportunity to educate the public on China’s threats.
Third, the innovative and robust U.S. private sector, our greatest comparative advantage, is under siege from China‘s ubiquitous espionage attacks. We need a comprehensive plan to defend our companies, especially the defense industrial base on which our military relies and our vulnerable commerce in cyberspace, which China continues to exploit.
If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Democrats and Republicans are, as Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto recently put it, singing from the same choir sheet on the China threat these days. It’s time to harness the power of that bipartisan consensus, or our national security will suffer the gravest of consequences.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.