Is a post-coronavirus America finally ready to take the China threat as seriously as the Trump administration does?
As far as Wall Street financiers and K Street lobbyists are concerned, the answer is “probably not.” Major Wall Street firms that have made tens of millions of dollars in commissions by handling the IPOs of state-owned or state-backed firms are eager to continue riding that gravy train. Lobbyists for U.S. companies that do business with China will be descending upon congressional offices (as soon as social distancing rules are relaxed, of course) to urge moderation in responding to what was, in effect, Chinese biowarfare against the United States.
These are the folks who pretty much got their way where China policy was concerned until Trump was elected. That’s why all we got from the Bush and Obama Administrations was tough-sounding—but ultimately toothless—rhetoric, like Obama’s famous Rose Garden warning about cyberespionage to a smirking Xi Jinping.
But now, for the first time, there is a countervailing lobby—ironically created by China itself. It consists of tens of millions of Americans who have been harmed by the Chinese coronavirus. Most Americans are now aware that China deliberately infected the entire world. While the coronavirus may not have been designed as a bioweapon, once it had escaped from the lab China certainly used it as such. Being the target of a bioweapon attack is not something that Americans will easily forget.
The Chinese coronavirus pandemic, in short, is waking up Main Street to the reality of the China threat.
U.S. public opinion has shifted dramatically against China. President Trump will enjoy massive public support as he moves to punish China for its criminal acts against America and the world. Even many of those in Congress who would rather let China off with a slap on the wrist will be forced to go along.
Even now, however, three key American institutions—the mainstream media, the higher education establishment, and the Democratic Party— seem unwilling to engage in a direct confrontation with China.
Corruption and Compromise in the Universities
American universities, especially, have been kowtowing to China for a long time. I know. I was fired by Stanford University in 1985 after I angered China. My offense? Reporting on the human rights abuses, forced abortions, and forced sterilizations that were part of China’s one-child policy. In the decades since, the self-censorship and venality of American universities has gotten worse in direct proportion to the increasing amounts of corrupt (and corrupting) Chinese money that has come pouring in.
About 115 American colleges were on the receiving end of some $900 million in donations, contracts, or both, from sources in mainland China from 2013 to 2019, according to U.S. government data. Harvard University alone hauled in $93 million, much of which went to set up the university’s “China Fund.” The fund “amplifies Harvard’s commitment to China and advances collaborative research on the major challenges facing Greater China, which includes the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.”
You would think American universities would hesitate to take money from Chinese Communist Party oligarchs who made their fortunes by stealing our intellectual property, oppressing their workers, devastating the environment, and cheating on trade. Some of the goods that arrive on our shores are even made by concentration camp inmates, the importation of which is against U.S. law.
Yet, despite the CCP’s history of criminal behavior, our university administrators welcome their representatives—and their money—with open arms. University presidents may wax eloquent about their institutions’ supposed commitment to academic freedom and human rights, but their development departments do not hesitate to solicit money from a Chinese Communist Party that does not allow either.
Of course, the CCP always demands a return on their “investment,” which often compromises the university’s own academic freedom.
In one of the most shameful episodes in modern academic history, Harvard canceled a human rights event in order not to offend President-for-Life Xi Jinping, who was scheduled to meet with Harvard’s president on the same day. It would have been a perfect opportunity for Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, to demonstrate its commitment to academic first principles—instead, they chose to demonstrate that Harvard doesn’t have any, at least not any that are more important than keeping good relations with the Chinese dictator.
The gutless pandering to the panda didn’t stop there. Many of the sons and daughters of the Communist Party elite have been admitted to America’s top universities, despite the inability of university admissions officers to verify independently their test scores and grades.
Xi’s own daughter went to Harvard under an assumed name and was the subject of a glowing New Yorker piece about her experience there. Her matriculation at America’s premier university meant that there was one less spot available for an intelligent and hard-working young woman from America. Not that this would have bothered many on Harvard’s faculty. For most of them, America is nothing more than the country in which the university happens to be located—a mere accident of geography.
Our Servile Press
The American media, if anything, is even worse, now having allowed itself to become useful mouthpieces for Chinese propaganda.
Consider, for example, a recent Politico tweet: “Trump is getting roasted on Chinese Twitter for his virus response, highlighting a broad verdict there: America disastrously faltered while China outperformed.”
What Politico didn’t tell its readers is that Weibo—Chinese Twitter—is heavily censored, and only those views reflecting the Chinese party line survive the censors’ scrutiny. And who can forget that, when President Trump was trying to push back on Chinese disinformation by calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” the media echoed PRC propaganda in calling him “racist” and “xenophobic.”
The American media’s embrace of totalitarian regimes in the name of social progress goes back a long way. When I was at the Claremont Institute in the early 1990s, I wrote an entire book on the subject, China Misperceived: American Illusions and Chinese Reality. In it, I recounted how leftist media outlets in the United States had romanticized Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party from the very beginning, calling them “agrarian reformers” and even “democrats.”
Today it almost seems like we are back in the days of Edgar Snow and Red Star Over China, except the supposed egalitarianism that American leftists so admired about the early Communists is long gone. The “democratically minded reformers” had been Communists all along and, predictably, morphed into a new class of wealth and privilege as soon as they took power. There are far more oligarchs in China than in Russia today. The Chinese version is equally corrupt, but much, much wealthier and, from a human rights standpoint, far more vicious.
In China today we find everything that the Left claims to hate—the environmental destruction, the cultural genocide of entire peoples, the imprisonment of political dissidents, the list goes on and on, and yet they would rather embrace China than admit that Trump has been right on China all along.
The Pro-China Party
The Democratic Party has followed this same progressive path in virtual lockstep, effectively abandoning its working-class base in favor of reflexively defending China out of some perverse inclination to damage Trump.
Finally, there is Joe Biden, who for the past quarter-century has been Communist China’s “enabler in chief.”
The Democrat’s standard-bearer is in an obvious quandary. In order to win in November, he must appeal to independents who now, along with most Americans, have a very jaundiced view of the country that inflicted a plague on them and their families.
Faced with these shifting political winds, Biden has done what politicians always do. He has shifted along with them, in his case tacking sharply to the right. The man who for years questioned the legitimacy of the China threat, who long ago sold out American workers for his family’s financial gain, is now suggesting that Trump has been too soft on China.
This is obviously an act of sheer political desperation. Biden knows that one of the chief issues this fall will be China. He is eager to put his long history of panda-hugging behind him.
But can the former vice president possibly convince anyone who isn’t brain dead that Donald J. Trump, of all people, is weak on China?
Come on, man.