U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated the United States will work with allies to hold the Chinese regime accountable. But at the same time, the Biden administration seeks to cooperate with the Chinese leadership in areas like the pandemic and climate change.
But does this really make sense?
In this episode, we sit down with China analyst Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” to discuss President Joe Biden’s recent executive orders and the future of US-China relations.
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon Chang, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Mr. Chang: Thank you so much, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, it’s been a little bit of time since we last spoke. We are into a new U.S. administration, the Biden administration, which has been talking about holding China accountable. It has also been talking about cooperating with China on a number of issues. From what I know, you have some concerns about the concept of cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party. Tell me what you’re thinking.
Mr. Chang: First of all, the Chinese Communist Party is working to overthrow the government of the United States. It did that last year, inciting violence on American streets. It did that this year in connection with Denver’s riots. I have to question how can we cooperate with a government that means to overthrow us? It just doesn’t seem to make sense.
The Communist Party has been very clear. They say that if you don’t cooperate with us on everything, we’re not going to cooperate on anything. The Biden administration says, well, you know, there are issues like climate change, pandemics that we can work with China on, and we can compete in other areas. And Beijing has made it very clear in a number of instances over the last two and a half weeks or so, that no, that’s not the case, that is either all or nothing. And to me, it means nothing.
Mr. Jekielek: How is it possible even to discuss this sort of cooperation in your mind, or what is the way to actually elicit any semblance of that?
Mr. Chang: The first thing we have to do is to deter China. Xi Jinping has been talking with increasing frequency about war, that China has got to be ready for war at any second, he said. We know that Chinese troops are deep into Indian-controlled territory, and not only in Ladakh, but in Sikkim. There are these increasingly provocative incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, into Japan’s territorial waters around the islands in the East China Sea, that the Japanese call Senkakus, and the Chinese call the Diaoyus.
On January 23, Chinese nuclear capable H-6K bombers practiced a run against the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. That was indeed provocative and belligerent behavior. So the most important thing for us is not to talk cooperation. Because when we do that, we embolden Xi Jinping to take even more hostile measures. We just need to deter him. [If] we deter him, maybe there’s some sort of accommodation we can work out with China. I actually don’t think so, for a number of reasons. But the point is, the first issue has to be deterrence.
Mr. Jekielek: This is an interesting question. A top priority, as we know, for the Biden administration is climate change and addressing climate change. And as far as I can tell, this is a huge bargaining chip from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party. I’m wondering if you could comment on it.
Mr. Chang: The Biden team talks about an enhanced climate deal. And John Kerry has been reportedly thinking that climate is such a catastrophic issue, that it overrides everything else. Now, in later comments he says, “No, we’re not going to bargain away national security.” But the question is the Chinese are on the same planet that we are. So they’ve got the same interest in preventing climate change, to the extent that it’s occurring. So we don’t need to give them anything for it.
To the extent that we think climate is an overriding issue, we should stop buying stuff from China, because ocean transport is one of the most polluting activities on Earth. There are these reports that 15 of the largest container ships pollute as much as all the world’s cars. So my answer is, if you think climate change is that important, stop buying products from China and start manufacturing in the United States. Because that way, we’ll do a lot for the climate in addition to having, of course, some other very critical knock-on benefits for us.
The point is, if it’s climate, yes, we’ll make our stuff here. By the way, my favorite ad from the Super Bowl was from company WeatherTech. Their message was, look, we don’t have to bring back production from overseas, because we’ve never left. I thought that was a great message. Now, this is not an endorsement of their products, but it is an endorsement of manufacturing in the United States.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, one of the headlines from today that I’ve been seeing is that the group that was invited by the Chinese Communist Party to investigate the origins of coronavirus or CCP virus, as we here at the Epoch Times call it, is basically saying it’s unlikely to have leaked from the Wuhan lab. They’re basically dropping that angle of the investigation, despite the fact that the U.S. intelligence community sees that as probably the most likely scenario.
Mr. Chang: Yes, this just shows you why we should not be rejoining the World Health Organization. This mission to Wuhan was heavily negotiated with conditions that were really essentially designed so they’re not going to find out anything. So they’re there for a month, two of which are quarantined. And they go to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for three and a half hours, and they’re making these pronouncements. This is intensely political.
This is after China sent its top biological weapons expert, General Chen Wei, to head the P4 biosafety unit at the Wuhan Institute. That was at the end of January of last year. I’m sure she was there to clean up the facility to make sure that there was no evidence of a lab leak, and no evidence of a biological weapons program. So I don’t know how WHO members can say that after such a cursory examination. This really is intensely political.
We can see this from something else, Jan. For instance, the WHO said a likely source of transmission of coronavirus was the pathogen on frozen food packaging. Now, experts will tell you that, yes, the coronavirus can survive on frozen food packaging, but nobody in any responsible position outside China thinks that it was a likely source of transmission. This is a parroting of a Beijing narrative. There is really no evidence for this at all to say that it’s a likely source of transmission. This just shows you that the WHO mission is completely worthless. Actually, it is worse than worthless, because it’s throwing people off the trail.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon at the Wuhan lab that we were just discussing, there was actually quite a bit of research being done on these gain-of-function type experiments on coronavirus very specifically, with a lot of funding.
Mr. Chang: Well, certainly. Think about the odds. Most diseases in China arise from southern portions of the country, Guangdong Province, Yunnan. So here you have a coronavirus pandemic, it starts in the middle of China, and it starts a couple miles away from the country’s only P4 biosafety lab that, as you point out, was engaging in these risky gain-of-function experiments on coronaviruses.
So what are the odds? It just seems to me that we have seen the WHO make a political decision. Indeed, one of the members of the mission, Peter Daszak, who’s an American-based scientist, actually admitted last month that in January 2020, he started a campaign against the lab leak theory for the sole reason of protecting his colleagues at the Institute of Virology. This was an admission of that political motivation. This really stinks to high hell.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, this is an interesting question. Secretary Blinken has been talking about holding the People’s Republic of China accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific across the Taiwan Strait, undermining the rules-based international system. And this whole situation with the politicization or apparent politicization of the WHO, and now the US coming back into the WHO feels like a difficult situation to manage for everyone.
Mr. Chang: Yes, certainly we’re not holding the WHO accountable, and we’re not holding China accountable. I think that this pathogen was stored at the Wuhan Institute, and there was an accidental leak. But regardless of the origin, we know that Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, took steps to deliberately spread this disease beyond China’s borders. He lied about the contagiousness about this for at least five weeks. He knew it was highly contagious. He tried to tell the world it was not.
The way he got his message out to the world, a false narrative, was through the January 9 statement of the WHO, and of course, the infamous January 14 tweet. Then the method of transmission was passengers from China. Xi Jinping, while he was locking down his own country, was pressuring other countries not to impose travel restrictions or quarantines on arrivals from China. That’s how the disease escaped his country.
So he thought that travel restrictions and quarantines were effective, because he had those measures in place internally. Yet the WHO was helping China make sure that these restrictions were not put in place [globally]. So you put those two things together, lying about contagiousness and pressuring other countries to accept arrivals from China, and there’s only one conclusion that fits the facts—that this was a deliberate spread of the disease beyond China’s borders.
What Xi Jinping did was he took a pathogen, which may or may not have started out as a biological weapon, but he turned it into one. We need to hold them accountable. Just one more thing, if I can say it. This is not the last pathogen to come from China. We’ve got to establish deterrence, because if we don’t do that, Xi Jinping will think that he can spread another disease in the future.
Mr. Jekielek: So this is the question. Very recently there were representatives of the Chinese Communist Party that are, again, talking about the origins being somewhere else outside of China. I’m not seeing a lot of pushback against this, and it’s almost hard to believe.
Mr. Chang: Yes. We’ve heard the Foreign Ministry, Global Times, and China’s ambassador to the US say, “Well, look, it wasn’t us. It was India, Italy, or might have been Spain. No, of course, it was the United States.” They’re just throwing crap against the wall and seeing what will stick. The United States needs to come out and much more forcefully rebut these narratives, because they’re dangerous. We heard it from Ambassador Cui Tiankai just a couple days ago, in that interview with Fareed Zakaria suggesting it was the U.S. So this is just flat out dangerous.
Mr. Jekielek: Speaking of ambassadors or representatives speaking out, there’s this whole question about the 2022 Olympics that are coming up very rapidly here. Of course, this is all in the context of genocide in Xinjiang province, at least in Xinjiang province, perhaps elsewhere as well. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of appetite. While there are some political leaders and various countries that are talking about a boycott, you have the editor-in-chief of the Global Times propaganda mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party coming out and saying, “We’re going to sanction any countries that boycott the Olympics.” This is just bizarre.
Mr. Chang: Yes, first of all, there are a couple things going on here. The International Olympic Committee should move the games to a country that is not tainted by atrocities. But the IOC should do something else, and that is, athletes from South Africa were banned from participating in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Summer Olympics. The reason was, there was a substantial portion of the South African population that was not permitted to participate in sport.
So the same thing should be done with China. We have the crimes against humanity; we have the atrocities and genocide. A lot of these crimes actually prevent Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others, perhaps even Tibetans from participating in sport. For instance, you have the mass interments, you have the genocide which prevents people from being born. Also you have kids taken from their parents and being housed in facilities that look like prisons. So the IOC should do what it did in 1964 and say, “Okay, we’ll hold the 2022 Olympics someplace other than China, and China’s athletes will not be allowed to participate, because significant populations in China are not allowed to participate in sport.”
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, I have to talk about this. There has been a genocide designation by the State Department, that this is actually happening. We can agree there’s at least this as a crime against humanity and multiple others happening in China as we speak. This is, I believe, common knowledge now. Everything that we’re talking about is in the backdrop of a general knowledge by both the United States, governments of multiple countries, and the EU that really, really horrible things are happening. Yet, at the same time, we’re talking about trade deals. The EU is talking about a trade deal that has very few accountability measures. Everything you’re talking about is about accountability. How is this actually going to work?
Mr. Chang: The way it should work is the International Olympic Committee should take the games away from China and ban the participation of Chinese athletes. How will it work? Well, we know the IOC has been very China-friendly. There’s going to have to be a lot of pressure put on the international sporting community to move these games. But if we can’t move them, we have to boycott them.
There is genocide going on. It was Secretary Pompeo’s January 19 determination. It’s a determination that the Biden administration has signaled it will also make. Biden, when he was running for president said it was genocide. Janet Yellen, prior to her confirmation, said it was genocide. Antony Blinken, during his confirmation hearings, said it was genocide. Yes, it’s genocide.
The 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both China and the United States are parties, requires us to stop the genocide. That’s how serious this crime is. The least we can do is move the games away from China. That’s not sufficient, but that is a necessary precondition. We do not need another 1936 Olympics. We don’t need another 2008 Olympics, which basically promoted totalitarianism with those ghastly displays. We do not need to do this again.
Mr. Jekielek: I don’t like to make the comparison to Nazi Germany. I’ve never liked to over the years, knowing full well what was happening in China—the organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and something very close to genocide against the Tibetan people. We already knew that even earlier. I’ve never wanted to make this comparison. But here it is, right now.
We actually have Jewish leaders in the UK who are explicitly making this comparison, as they try to push forward this genocide amendment in the UK, which would also make a determination in this area. This is really serious business. It’s hard to watch the world community refuse to take some kind of steps for accountability.
Mr. Chang: China’s atrocities are comparable, maybe even worse than those of the Third Reich, prior to the mass exterminations that began in 1941. When you make these historic comparisons, there are going to be differences. The point, Jan, is that we are more and more talking about this. I would like to have seen the international community take action a half decade ago, but it didn’t. It just takes time.
We’re going to see more and more people come to the conclusion that something must be done. We won’t do it in time, but we will get there. And when we get there, we will be taking the severest of measures against China, because what China is doing shocks the conscience. They can get away with it for a little while, but they can’t get away with it for long, for various reasons.
Mr. Jekielek: You’ve been critical of some of the executive orders that have come out over the past weeks from President Biden. For example, in one case, it’s letting Chinese equipment back into the electrical grid, which is one of the things which stunned me personally. So again, with this kind of a backdrop, what are your concerns with respect to some of these executive orders, and what can be done to make this better now?
Mr. Chang: First of all, President Biden has used his pen more than any other president, so we’ve seen a lot of activity. Although he talks about extreme competition with China, although he talks about holding China accountable, we have seen in those executive orders, a flood of measures that Beijing just absolutely loves, including the one that you’ve talked about.
That one about letting China sell equipment for the U.S. grid is indefensible. There is no explanation for it. Even if you wanted to review President Trump’s executive order on the subject, which banned Chinese equipment, you would have left the ban in place while you’re conducting the review. That’s not what the Biden executive order does.
Now we can go through the list of these things, like rejoining the Paris Agreement, it’s another win for China. Rejoining the World Health Organization, as we talked about, it’s another win for China. Even the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is going to end up in benefiting China. You just go through all of this stuff. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of the things that the Biden administration has done so far benefit China, and many of those things do not benefit the United States.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s pick the Keystone pipeline example. How does that benefit China?
Mr. Chang: Well, Canada’s got to sell its oil someplace. If it’s not selling it to the U.S., because the pipeline is not put in place, it’s going to be sold to China. China’s going to know that it can get a low price for it, because there are fewer takers in the world. Now, I hope one way or another, that doesn’t happen. But clearly, that is one of the more probable results.
And [there is] one other thing about this. Biden has kept on saying that he’s going to repair relationships with our allies that were eroded or broken during the Trump era. Yet, on the first day in office, without consulting Ottawa, he cancels the Keystone XL pipeline, which of course has made Canada upset. This is just really bad policy across the board. We hurt our relations with the country with which we have an undefended border of thousands of miles, and we benefit China, our enemy. This to me makes no sense at all.
Mr. Jekielek: I wanted to talk a little bit about another kind of backdrop to all of this. I mentioned this Global Times editor’s commentary about the Olympics, and how it’s a no-go zone. Of course, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, was talking about how the new administration needs to lead the U.S.-China relationship back on track and do not cross the so-called red lines that they’re describing. What is the CCP saying to the Biden administration? What is its goal here?
Mr. Chang: Beijing is trying to establish the areas that they’ll talk to us about, which are becoming fewer and fewer, because everything’s becoming a red line. The other narrative that’s important, and we’ve heard this from the foreign ministry and the Global Times, is you can’t just cooperate with China in limited areas, because the Biden team is talking about cooperation on climate, on pandemic, and talking about competition in other areas.
China’s position is [that] you can’t do that. You either have good relationships with us on everything, or on nothing. So that’s the other narrative that is coming out of China. As we talked about before, if we’re given that choice, it should be nothing. China is trying to constrict those areas where we can have a constructive discussion. I believe you can’t have a constructive discussion with them in the first place. But what they’re saying is, “Well, you can’t talk to us on very much because everything to us is critical.”
Mr. Jekielek: You started talking about this earlier. What is the solution to dealing with a regime that does exactly what you’re just describing?
Mr. Chang: The way that we should be approaching this is to cut all ties with China, because China uses every point of contact with the United States to undermine our society, and overthrow our government. Right now, we’re being overwhelmed. We’ve got perhaps hundreds of, thousands of collectors of information that China has in our country. It’s not just their Ministry of State security agents. It’s their tourists. It’s their business people. It’s their students who are interviewed when they go back to China.
They collect information. The “one thousand grains of sand” approach, it’s called. We’re just being overwhelmed. So until we get this situation under control, we need to cut contacts so that we don’t have any. Then if we think that we can establish them again, without harming our society, that’s a conversation we can have at that time.
But that’s not the conversation now. The conversation now is we need to cut trade, and we need to cut investment. We need to end all of these technical sharing cooperations and partnerships that we’ve got. We need to end these cultural exchanges, and sister-city relationships. You name it, we need to junk it.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re describing a lot of the connectivity that’s there. I also know that you’ve been critical of the relationship between members of what you would call the American elite and Chinese officials, the Chinese elite. This is a very, very tight relationship, very unlike anything that existed between the Soviet Union and the U.S. back in the day, where there was clear thinking about the threat of the Soviet Union. It’s hard to imagine. What you’re describing is, even to me, who’s been watching this develop over 20 years, difficult to imagine. How would you achieve that?
Mr. Chang: Well, think about it. If you go back to 1972, when Nixon went to Beijing, it was hard to conceive of robust relations between China and the United States. So yes, we just have to have a little bit more imagination. But the point is, if we don’t do this, we very well may not have a country. This is a matter of necessity for us. I’m not saying that this is likely right now. I can understand the way you see this, and the way virtually everybody else sees it. But I’m saying this is what we should do. This is what we’re going to have to do if we’re going to maintain our freedoms and our society. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.
Mr. Jekielek: So, ultimately what is China looking to do, under the Chinese Communist Party with respect to the U.S.?
Mr. Chang: China intends to overthrow our government. We know that because last year and this year, they were inciting violence on our streets. This is going beyond subversion, Jan. This is an act of war. We know that China with its troll operations has been doing the same thing. We know what their ultimate goal is, because they tell us. They tell us that they believe that the world should not be run under some Westphalian system of competing sovereign states.
It should be the situation where the Chinese emperors believed that they had the right and the obligation to rule everything under heaven, “Tianxia,” All under Heaven, Mandate of Heaven. Indeed, we have heard Chinese officials in the last three or four years also talk about the Moon and Mars as sovereign Chinese territory, that they intend to deny that to other countries. This is where they’re going. It’s the absolute rule of this planet, and it’s the absolute rule of everything else.
Mr. Jekielek: I hear you loud and clear when it comes to the approach that you’re recommending to be taken, given the tight relationships, financial ones with Wall Street especially, and some of these other relationships around the elites. What are the steps that you think are realistic steps to take immediately, given the current political realities we’re in?
Mr. Chang: I don’t know if anything that I recommend is realistic under the current definition of what’s realistic, but we’re going to find that we will be decoupling our supply chains for various reasons. China, because it’s so belligerent, and because it’s so hostile is going to take steps that will force us to consider and actually adopt measures that were inconceivable, let’s say, six months ago.
The conversations that we’re having today about China, no one in the mainstream would have been having these conversations a year or so ago, especially before the coronavirus. I think that as we learn more about what’s happening, it’s going to confront us. As we’re talking about crimes against humanity and genocide, this conversation around the world is changing. It’s going to change on the pandemic and a number of different issues. Beijing is going to force the world into cutting ties.
You go back to 1913, people were saying, “There’s no possibility of war between England and Germany, because the economic relations are so tight.” But as Samuel Huntington who wrote “The Clash of Civilizations” said, it doesn’t matter that you have a high level of ties with a country, you can have a war, if those ties are on the downswing. It’s not the level of ties that’s important. It’s the direction. ” Clearly the direction right now is down. China is desperate and arrogant, the worst possible combination of attributes. Xi Jinping will, for one reason or another, do things which will force us to start defending ourselves.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s another whole realm that’s very easy to forget about. I want to talk about this before we finish today, which is this incredible, dramatic shift in the realities of Hong Kong over the past year. You were talking about how we think differently about China— even compared to a year ago—and the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Jekielek: Even a year ago, we knew there were some sort of hardline measures going to be coming into Hong Kong. But I don’t think many people really imagined we could be where we are today. I want to get an update from you about where things stand. Is there anything left of one country, two systems? What is the status of Jimmy Lai? I understand he was just denied bail recently. This is a big issue amidst many, many, but easy to forget given our current realities.
Mr. Chang: Yes, China is busy implementing the national security law which it forced on Hong Kong on June 30 of last year. They’re really going through everything, whether you talk about curriculum in schools, or talking about the plight of Jimmy Lai, who as you point out, if it’s up to Beijing, will never see the light of day. They’re going very fast in terms of throttling freedoms. It is starting to have an effect, because we’re seeing large numbers of people emigrating from Hong Kong.
Also, even in the financial industry, businesses that can move are starting to move. It’s not a big trickle yet, but we’re seeing the beginnings of this flow outward. People are going to understand and treat Hong Kong just as they would Shanghai. It’s not going to have that special status anymore. The people of Hong Kong can reverse this. But at the present moment, it’s not.
I have a good friend, Michael Yon, war correspondent, who says that what he saw in Hong Kong was not just protests, it was an insurgency. He points out that insurgencies can melt away in the face of superior force, but they don’t go away. They come back. That’s going to be China’s problem in Hong Kong.
We’re going to see more resistance at some point. Right now, protesters have gone quiet, but they could very well come back, because the people in Hong Kong don’t want China there. China’s seen as a foreign force. Whether you think the people in Hong Kong are Chinese or not, the people in Hong Kong don’t think they are. They identify themselves as Hong Kong, not China.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, Hong Kong has always been the conduit for foreign direct investment into China, because of its stellar, once upon a time, rule of law, which from the looks of it is gone at this point. At the same time, from what we’re seeing, even if using some numbers that are more realistic than the official numbers, economically, China has done pretty well for itself given the coronavirus, especially compared to the U.S. and others. I don’t know if you agree with that. My question is a broader one. Economically, is money still pumping into China from the West? And why is China doing better than others?
Mr. Chang: Well, money is still flowing into China. We see this, for instance, in the stock market. I think though, China had a great 2020. But if you think about it, societies are only going to recover if they’ve got safe and effective vaccines. The U.S. has two of them, Moderna’s and Pfizer’s. Johnson and Johnson’s is on the way. We are going to be able to vaccinate our way eventually out of this pandemic.
China doesn’t have a vaccine which is that effective. Its vaccines are at best 65 percent effective, maybe even as low as 35 percent, depending on which of the two vaccines we’re talking about. Also, they’ve never been proven safe. That’s why I think that eventually, we will do better than China. Now, China’s economy did not grow the 2.3 percent that they said it did last year. I don’t know what the number is.
But we do know that statistical manipulation has been a part of those numbers, plus outright lying. We know that they’ve taken output out of 2019, in order to make 2020 look better. They’re just up to their usual tricks. But yes, it’s fooling a lot of people in the international business community, and eventually, it’ll catch up to China. It’s not catching up as fast as I’d like, but it will happen.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon, we’re going to finish up momentarily here. I just wanted to sum up with you. What can we expect from the Chinese Communist Party going forward?
Mr. Chang: China is going to try to press what it sees to be an advantage. People say 2020 was a horrible year. Well, 2021 could be even worse, because of what we see in China and the leadership, a couple things. One of them is arrogance. The other I believe is insecurity, a closing window of opportunity. If you look at, for instance, their environment, their economy, their demography, those trends look horrible for China.
Just take one of those that we don’t talk about, demography. China probably has a total fertility rate, which is like 1.0, maybe even less than one. By the end of this century, the country won’t be 1.4 billion people like it is now. It’ll be maybe 400 million, maybe 450 million. In other words, the U.S. is going to be more populous than China at the end of this era.
I’m sure Chinese leaders understand this with plummeting birth rates. They’re going to release their numbers pretty soon. I think it’s going to be a disaster for them, because they’re going to understand that they have a limited time in which to accomplish historic objectives, which means that this is perhaps the most dangerous time in history.
I’m not saying the worst will occur. I’m saying the elements for the worst to occur are in place. It’s going to depend upon how other countries deal with China. If we don’t deal with China effectively, this will be a time where anything can happen, including the worst. That’s why I think it’s the most dangerous time in history, because we have an arrogant, insecure regime, which is intent on accomplishing grand objectives, and they know that they’ve got to do it in a short period.
Mr. Jekielek: Gordon Chang it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.
Mr. Chang: Thank you, Jan. I really appreciate it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.