Is the Chinese Communist Party Really Trying To Take Over the World? – The National Interest

Posted: May 9, 2020 at 12:46 pm

In ablog post entitled It Is Time For aLibertarian Case Against China, Tanner Greer responds to apiece in Reason magazine by Dan Drezner, in which Dan argued that There is No China Crisis. Greer says that libertarians need to take the [China] problem with the seriousness it deserves.

Not that it matters much, but if he wants to make a libertarian case against China, is Greer even alibertarian? Kind of, sort of, maybe, but not really. He says:

I like libertarians and libertarianism. Icant bring myself to identify as one, but someone recently described me as libertarian adjacent, and Iwill not dispute the label.

But regardless of whether Greer identifies as alibertarian, the issue of how to deal with arising power that is authoritarian and looking to expand its influence in world affairs is certainly one of the biggest foreign policy challenges the U.S. government faces. We do need to take it seriously. (And if you read Dans piece, Ithink its clear that he does take it seriously, in the sense of offering thoughtful and nuanced analysis). How people in the United States (including, but not limited to, libertarians) think about this issue is extremely important. Having gotten so many of our foreign policy challenges wrong in recent decades, it would be nice to get this one right.

But in order to think about it clearly and rationally, we need to understand exactly what Chinas goals are, in particular in the global arena. This post wont answer that question fully, because it would take much longer than ablog post to do so. But we do want to push back on some of Greers characterizations, which reflect the overheated rhetoric of many China hawks. Greer says this about President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party:

What [Liza]Tobin describes as a new path to peace, prosperity, and modernity Xi has variously described as Chinese wisdom and aChinese answer to solving the problems of the mankind, a new [achievement] in the history of the development of human society, a new and greater contribution to mankind, and new advance in political civilization.[8] Notice the scope of what the Party hopes to reshape. They hope not to remake China, nor even Asia, but human society, civilization, and mankind. As Politburo member Yang Jiechi exhorted in 2018, the time has come for the Party to energetically control the new direction of the common progress of China and the world. [9]

Clearly, then, based on this language, China is out to dominate the world, right? Not so fast. First of all, relying too much on official government statements (of any government!) may be amistake, in part because governments have many audiences in mindwhen they speak (importantly, their own citizens).But if you are going to use them, you need the full context. In the first sentence that Greer quotes, Xi does, in fact, use the quoted words. But when you read them in context, you dont get the impression that the Communist Party hopes to remake, as Greer puts it,human society, civilization, and mankind. For example, the speech by Xi says this: The Communist Party of China strives for both the wellbeing of the Chinese people and human progress. To make new and greater contributions for mankind is our Partys abiding mission. That sounds like the usual generalities of agovernments public relations campaign rather than an objective of remaking the world.

And with regard to the phraseenergetically control the new direction of the common progress of China and the world, translations are difficult, and word choices between languages are not always clear, but we offer this translation of the broader passage at issue:

We (China) should have aprofound insight into the new developments in China and the world, fully understand the new connotations of Chinas relations with the world, accurately grasp the new law of interaction between China and the world, and proactively drive the new direction that China and the world are heading together.

Again, this seems like somewhat normal and expected governmentspeak.

So what are the actual goals of the Chinese government in world affairs? Thats an area where we need more analysis from unbiased experts. For security hawks, its very convenient to have found anew existential threat that can justify aconfrontational foreign policy and more military spending. But in order to craft the appropriate policy here, we need to get past the selfserving assumptions of certain members of the foreign policy establishment, and sort out exactly what we are dealing with in terms of the Chinese governments global ambitions.The case against China needs examining, but an overexcited rush in one direction could be very damaging (and has been before).

This article by Simon Lester and Huan Zhu first appeared in CATO on May 7, 2020.

Image: Reuters.

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Is the Chinese Communist Party Really Trying To Take Over the World? - The National Interest

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