China will be the challenge of our generation: Morgan Ortagus
Former State Dept. spokesperson Morgan Ortagus breaks down China’s growing aggression toward the West.
The Chinese communist regime is moving aggressively to expand its influence abroad, while issuing unveiled threats to other countries that might think of trying to stop it – as the U.S. is trying to rally allies to push back against the regime’s expansionist efforts.
“The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” President Xi Jinping said this week as he marked the 100 year anniversary of the party’s founding.
Xi has overseen a regime that has cemented power at home and has been cracking down on dissent and other groups that the regime sees as undesirable, while pushing its influence abroad.
China has been accused of engaging in systematic human rights abuses, including forced sterilizations and forced labor in “re-education camps”, of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. The human rights abuses have provoked international outcry and sanctions on officials by the U.S. government.
“The United States and our G7 partners remain deeply concerned by the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities and supply chains of the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors — the main supply chains of concern in Xinjiang,” a G-7 statement said last month.
China essentially abandoned what was left of the “one country, two systems” 1997 agreement for Hong Kong last year when it passed a national security law and immediately began snuffing out the territory’s already-limited freedoms and pro-democracy movement.
Recently, marking the anniversary of the Chinese crackdown, police sealed off a park where pro-democracy rallies have been held since the handover by the British. Large-scale demos have been banned and pro-democracy activists and journalists have been arrested.
Xi, however, is still claiming that his regime is upholding the “one country, two systems” framework. As Western outlets contrasted his remarks with the actions on the ground in crushing dissent in Hong Kong, Chinese state media jumped to his defense.
“‘One country, two systems’ is never something that will turn Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent place; Just the contrary; it is a security line that protects Hong Kong and its 7.47 million people from the evil hands of foreign-backed political forces and secessionists,” an article in China Daily said.
China has been ramping up pressure on Taiwan, which the regime claims is part of China but has seen fierce resistance to that claim by the Taiwanese and Washington
Taiwan and China separated amid a civil war in 1949 and China says it is determined to bring the island under its control by force if necessary. The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but is legally required to ensure Taiwan can defend itself and the self-governing democratic island enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.
With the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, China’s moves have become more aggressive — with military planes regularly flying into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The increased aggression has raised the prospect of a war in the region, but that alongside objections from the international community appears not to have deterred the Communist regime. The State Department under both the Trump and Biden administration’s has loosened restrictions on U.S. delegations to the territory – leading to trips that have angered Beijing.
“There is zero room for compromise and not an inch to give,” Chinese spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in April “We urge the U.S. side to grasp the situation, earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, refrain from playing with fire, immediately stop official contact with Taiwan in any form.”
South China Sea
China has in recent years been building up its military presence in the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea, an aggressive move as it seeks to push its claim over the international community.
An international tribunal invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling. China has built islands in the disputed waters in recent years, putting airstrips on some of them. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei all claim parts of the sea.
Fox News reported in April that around 220 Chinese paramilitary ships, manned by maritime militias, “swarmed” around a disputed reef in the South China Sea. China maintained that the vessels are simply fishing boats, sheltering in the area due to poor sea conditions — but they did no fishing and the weather has been good.
The issue has become increasingly worrisome to Western nations, with G-7 leaders referencing it in its statement in June that criticized China on a range of issue.
“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the statement said. “We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions.”
Last month, a U.S. Navy carrier group entered the waters as part of what it said was a routine mission.
“While in the South China Sea, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Belt and Road Initiative
China has been moving forward with its Belt and Road Initiative, a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure program to link China with more than 100 countries through railroad, shipping and energy projects.
The “belt” will consist of land routes connecting economies in Asia, Europe, Africa and Europe. The “road” — while not actually a road — will connect various ocean routes through these areas.
Already, China has poured massive investments into other countries as part of the initiative. Proponents say the project will strengthen ties between Beijing and emerging markets while lifting developing nations out of poverty. However, critics of the BRI say it is part of China’s desire to achieve trade dominance and control in order to compete with the United States.
It has raised concerns from the West, including President Biden – who has called for a plan to rival BRI.
The Biden administration has so far taken a less-directly confrontational approach to the threat of China than the Trump administration, instead seeking to build a coalition to combat the threat. In some ways it has even built on the Trump administration moves by not lifting Trump-era trade tariffs and even expanding other measures – like further limiting U.S. investment on firms linked to the Chinese military.
Biden’s remarks have also expressed concerns about the threat China poses to the U.S.
“Last night I was on the phone with for two straight hours with Xi Jinping,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office in February. “It was a good conversation, I know him well, we spent a lot of time together over the years I was vice president, but if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch. They have major, major new initiatives on rail, they already have rail that goes 325 miles per hour with ease. They are working very hard to do what I think we’re gonna have to do.”
In February, he announced the formation of a Defense Department China Task Force to assess the future challenge from China; meanwhile, G7 member states agreed to the initiative aimed at challenging China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also reiterated calls for an alliance and further cooperation to counter China, after speaking to NATO allies.
“When one of us is coerced we should respond as allies and work together to reduce our vulnerability by insuring our economies are more integrated with each other,” Blinken said at NATO headquarters in March.
After G-7 leaders released a statement in June criticizing China in a number of places, President Biden defended it against claims it was not strong enough.
“The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. I know this is going to sound somewhat prosaic, but I think we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century,” he said.
“I think there’s plenty of action on China,” he said.
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche, Brooke Singman, Evie Fordham, Benjamin Hall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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