The Debate

Does Competing with the Chinese Communist Party Mean ‘Kicking It When It’s Down?’

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The Debate | Opinion

Does Competing with the Chinese Communist Party Mean ‘Kicking It When It’s Down?’

No. It means American must reaffirm our commitment to investing in people, production, partnerships, and protection — and embrace our fundamental political tradition of self-examination and improvement.

Does Competing with the Chinese Communist Party Mean ‘Kicking It When It’s Down?’
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It is a critical time in the United States’ competition with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Reports this month revealed that the population of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is decreasing at an accelerating rate, Moody’s warned it may downgrade the country’s credit rating, and Italy abruptly pulled out of its flagship Belt and Road Initiative. Some may ask, “is now the time to kick the PRC when it’s down?” My answer is no – that has never been what our relationship with China has been about. But this is the time to win our strategic competition by building up our democracy, our economy, and our partnerships across the world.

America has always had an affinity for China. The impact of American culture and ideas in China has been profound and the contributions of countless Chinese Americans have greatly enriched the United States. Our nations fought alongside each other in World War II, and we ensured China would have a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But the CCP’s rise in 1949 disrupted our relationship, though optimism persisted for future cooperation – or so we thought. 

In 2000, we extended full market access through Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status when then-President Bill Clinton, said, “If you believe in a future of greater openness and freedom for the people of China, you ought to be for this agreement. 

We were wrong. On the diplomatic front, the CCP never intended to form genuine relationships with us. Instead, Xi Jinping explicitly directed the CCP to act as the “gravediggers of capitalism” and declared that “capitalism will … be destroyed.”

On the economy, we were wrong. The CCP claimed they would embrace “open, market-oriented policies,” but instead they engaged in the widespread theft of intellectual property worth billions of dollars, flooded our market with dumped goods, and caused the destruction of American businesses and jobs.

We were also wrong in our hopes for human rights in the PRC. Instead of fostering “greater openness and freedom” for the Chinese people, they constructed a surveillance state and suppressed Chinese dissidents, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other minorities. 

We must also acknowledge our misjudgment in national security. Contrary to expectations of peaceful integration into its neighborhood, the CCP has embarked on an extensive military buildup and currently threatens Taiwan, the Philippines, and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

In recognizing these mistakes and the resulting strategic competition that has emerged between the United States and the CCP, it is imperative that we take the steps necessary to show the superiority of democracy and free markets to the CCP’s expansionist techno-authoritarianism.  

There are four things that America must do to advance our interests and win this competition through what I describe as the four Ps — people, production, partnerships, and protection.

First, if we want to outcompete the CCP, we need invest in people. That means renewing our commitments to education and job training, including K-12 STEM education. We must also repair our broken immigration system to secure and retain high-skilled workers while building on our competitive advantage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research.

Secondly, we must make sure America leads in production and manufacturing technologies here at home. The CCP aims to exert control over burgeoning technologies spanning clean energy, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and life-saving medicines. We must ensure that the United States, in collaboration with allies and partners, takes the lead in both innovating and manufacturing these technologies. This includes investing in basic research, but also implementing programs like CHIPS for America.

Third, our partnerships are essential. Our allies play an important role in countering the CCP through economic, technological and security collaboration and growth. The CCP’s diplomatic sabotage and disinformation cannot break the rules-based order if we strengthen our global partnerships and coalitions. 

Finally, to win the race and revitalize America, we must protect our interests and safeguard our values. Americans are rightly concerned about the CCP’s hacking, IP theft, economic dumping, and human rights abuses. That’s why we need to aggressively use our trade tools to protect ourselves from the CCP’s unfair economic practices and abuses while ensuring that Americans are not investing in companies that are violating human rights and building up the PRC’s military.

As we mind those Ps, we also need to remember one Q: questioning. We must continue the American tradition of questioning our leaders, questioning our direction, questioning the fulfillment of our own ideals. Self-examination is not only fundamental to our differences with the CCP but also to winning our competition with it. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote nearly 200 years ago, “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

Regardless of the weakened state of the PRC’s economy, the measure of our success will never be about keeping anyone down, but rather how many people we lift. By reaffirming our commitment to investing in people, production, partnerships, and protection while embracing our fundamental political tradition of self-examination, we can win our competition with the CCP while building a bridge to a brighter future for all.