New Truman Doctrine Needed to Break the Engagement School

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in the midst of several crises, including a major economic downturn, that have the potential to test the Party’s grip on power. The world has not had such an opportunity since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet, instead of developing a strategy to accelerate the demise of the CCP, there was the recent announcement that U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will be visiting the People’s Republic of China (PRC) ostensibly to assist the PRC’s economy from collapsing. Secretary Raimondo’s visit joins a panoply of high-level Biden administration visitors to the PRC over the past three months, at the very time the CCP’s grip on power could be pried loose—and thus liberate the people of China and the rest of the world.

These recent visits started with current Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June and included the truly bizarre kowtowing visit by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and former U.S. Secretary of State, and the Biden administration’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John F. Kerry. The stated purpose of this cavalcade of visits was to re-establish “dialogue” but are instead unseemly and not appropriate for representatives of the United States. At root, they are an attempt to return to the Old Regime that governed the U.S.’s policy towards the PRC for more than a generation. This was the Kissinger School of Engagement with the PRC, and it saw no downside to the flow of cooperation, investment, and knowledge transfer to the PRC as year-after-year the PRC became stronger and the U.S., in relative terms, became weaker.

The first rule of strategy is do not help your enemy. The recognition of this alone would be sufficient to prevent the Raimondo visit. But that is the rub. The Engagement School does not perceive the CCP to be their enemy. Instead, they view the CCP as a partner in wealth creation, including the creation of their personal wealth. Thus, for the Engagers, a dollar invested in the PRC is well spent as it would provide a higher return. Unfortunately, the costs, including opportunity cost, of not investing in the U.S. was not considered.

Manifestly not considered was the odious nature of the CCP as a form of government, the Engagers did not see the CCP as a barrier to U.S. national security, but a plus. For the Engagers, the CCP’s tyranny ensured there was political stability for profits to be made and their oppression and gross human rights violations directed against the Chinese people have been and continue to be ignored. After decades of benefiting handsomely, Raimondo and many thousands who have profited are in a place to help the CCP out of its jam by lifting Trump’s trade restrictions and keeping trade and capital flowing to the PRC’s entities. Helping their CCP partners is nothing more than a return to business as usual.

The fact the Biden administration seeks to return to the failed—and the almost fatal for the U.S.—policy of engagement reveals that their interest is with the CCP rather than its opponents. That places the Biden administration in opposition to those who seek to free the world from the greatest source of belligerence in international politics and of political tyranny.  Plainly, that is not a place an American administration should ever be. The fact the administration is in such a spot is curious, as is the fact that they seek to aid rather than overthrow the CCP.

If you see the CCP as the enemy, now is the time to maximize pressure upon it in every realm as it is under great stress. Much needs to be done, but most importantly the U.S. response must be organized, focused, inspiring, and educational. In essence, what is needed is a new Truman Doctrine to aid any country, entity, or group fighting the CCP. As a result of Soviet coercion directed against Greece and Turkey, the 1947 Truman Doctrine stated that the U.S. would help any country resist Soviet expansion. The value of a doctrine is that it can clarify the nature of the enemy and the need for all Americans to counter it, task the national security bureaucracy, and work in conjunction with formal allies and informal supporters around the world.

A modern Truman Doctrine would provide an ordering principle for U.S. governmental audiences and the American people, as well as with international audiences, and help the U.S. organize its response to the CCP with a focus and coherence that has been absent with the Biden administration.

A contemporary Truman Doctrine would ensure Taiwan has the capability necessary to provide a conventional deterrent to a PRC invasion. Already a Treaty ally, a new Truman Doctrine would energize the necessity of standing with the Filipinos as they resist the PRC’s recent resurgent aggression at Second Thomas Shoal and provide a path forward to work with the Filipinos to reverse the PRC’s earlier illegal seizure of Filipino territory at Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal.

In the economic realm, such a clear statement would assist the necessary steps of cutting the PRC out of the Wall Street and New York financial markets so the CCP and all PRC entities, including in Hong Kong, receive not a cent, and moving toward ending trade with the PRC.

In the realm of domestic politics, a modern-day Truman Doctrine would provide Americans with an understanding that the PRC is the enemy as well as draw a stark contrast with those who seek to support the enemy and those who want to defeat it.

The issue is clear: which side are you on, America’s or the CCP’s? This is as compelling for every American as it was during the Cold War: freedom and liberty versus control and slavery.

The American people and their foreign policy cannot go on this way. The country is riven by an elite that still seeks to support the CCP and will permit the strategic opportunity presented by their own abuse, misrule, and oppression to pass, versus those who perceive the threat to the United States and will act now to capitalize upon the opportunity provided. Biden seeks to save the CCP in a moment of crisis, while historically presidents announce doctrines, as Biden will not, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has the opportunity to announce the McCarthy Doctrine and seize the moment.

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is Director of China Policy at the Center for Security Policy.  He is the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.

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About James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is a Founding Member of the Committee on Present Danger China and the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.

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