Reuters is reporting top leaders in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping, have been briefed by the Ministry of State that there is rising anti-China sentiment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to sources, the briefing concluded that global disapproval of China is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. This would appear to be accurate if you look at public opinion and the actions being taken by many governments.
A recent Pew poll in the U.S. shows rising disapproval of China among members of both political parties. A full 66% say they disapprove of China. In addition to the concerns fueled by the pandemic, human rights, trade, and job losses are also among the respondents’ concerns. In an even more surprising statistic, you can almost see glimmers of a belief in American exceptionalism. A full 91% say it is better for the world if the U.S. is the leading power.
As reports emerge of the Trump administration accelerating the process of removing critical supply chains from China, Japan is actually paying companies to leave. Australia has called for an investigation into the origins of the virus and China retaliated with economic threats. Carnegie Europe issued a report on the Chinese activities to pressure other governments. One member of the German parliament summed up the effort China was making on the continent:
“China is shooting itself in the foot,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a leading German Greens party member of the European Parliament. “All the kind of goodwill it tried to build up over the past thirty years since Tiananmen Square has gone down the drain in the past three months,” he told Carnegie Europe.
The behavior of the regime is threatening future Chinese direct investment and expansion of the country’s 5G technology on the continent as well as in the United States. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulled out of its 5G commitment with Huawei after receiving contaminated test kits. Other Western democracies are also taking note after America’s warnings regarding the Chinese technology. It is also threatening the One Belt, One Road project China was funding to create land-based trade routes directly into the heart of Europe. Heck, even Sweden got in on the action, booting the only remaining Confucius Institute from the country.
Skepticism regarding the behavior and intentions of China seem to be escalating as the pandemic continues. In recent weeks, the rhetoric of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become increasingly critical of China. He has criticized the early lack of transparency regarding the virus and the continued lack of cooperation with the CDC and Western scientists. More recently, he disclosed that intelligence information points to the virus originating from poor safety procedures at one of the government labs located in Wuhan.
The president has echoed these sentiments in several interviews. Beijing has shot back at Pompeo, calling the idea the virus came from a lab insane. However, they also called the idea it came from a wet market inaccurate. A Chinese minister said the country has no concept of such markets where wild game is sold. Meanwhile, they have engaged in coordinated disinformation campaigns accusing the United States Army and Italy of starting the virus.
Now reports indicate the Chinese government delayed notifying the WHO about the novel virus while they hoarded medical supplies. They increased imports and withheld exports according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security. The Chinese efforts at “mask diplomacy,” or coming to the aid of countries facing the disaster they caused, have largely failed. Countries around the world have rejected shipments of medical supplies that were defective or contaminated. In some cases, China even tried to exact agreements in exchange for the medical supplies.
Reportedly, the brief to Chinese leaders was to warn them of a worst-case scenario. The fear is the wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic that could lead to armed confrontation. This is doubtful unless China fires first. President Trump is far more likely to use economic tools, such as tariffs, new auditing requirements for Chinese companies that list on U.S. stock exchanges, and limits on Chinese foreign direct investment. The president has thus far seemed reluctant to respond militarily unless American lives are taken.
China’s response to this global criticism is rather stunning. Per Reuters:
In its statement, China’s foreign ministry called for cooperation, saying, “the sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations” serve the interests of both countries and the international community.
It added: “any words or actions that engage in political manipulation or stigmatization under the pretext of the pandemic, including taking the opportunity to sow discord between countries, are not conducive to international cooperation against the pandemic.”
The first part of that statement sounds dangerously close to Joe Biden waxing about the need for “economic intercourse.” Something the American public in general seems to be increasingly skeptical of. The second half is simply ridiculous given their own disinformation campaigns related to the pandemic.
China has been blunt. By 2050 they intend to replace America as the global leader. It is time we take them at their word and begin to treat them as we would have treated the U.S.S.R. after World War II. The untold investment of American wealth without any conditions related to human rights has been the norm since President Bill Clinton authorized it by Executive Order. It is time to end the subversion of Western democracies to an authoritarian state.
How we decouple from China and loosen their grip on the rest of the world must be a central issue in November. The media will attempt to avoid it because Joe Biden’s record on China is to position them as a developing nation that is not a threat to the United States. If the last three months have taught us anything, it’s that Biden’s view is simply not true. And President Trump has been talking about the economic and national security threat from China for a decade. Let’s hope the 66% of Americans who have an unfavorable view of China really examine the record and make the right choice.