President Biden’s initiated bilateral summit with Xi Jinping this week in San Francisco, as both attend the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ meeting, provides considerable risks for the United States’ national security. Ironically, the risks should be all on Xi’s side as his increasing paranoia and purging of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has warped the Party and government, coupled with the collapse of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economy and other major social, demographic problems that place Xi in a uniquely vulnerable position. In reality, Xi should be treated as the supplicant in dire need of continued U.S. investment and trade as a lifeline for the continuation of his dictatorship and the brutal rule of his illegitimate Party.
Unfortunately, as reflected in Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s remarks last week which embraced economic engagement with the CCP, what is likely to occur in the Xi-Biden summit is the lamentable continuation of the warm embrace Biden administration officials have provided the CCP—where investment and trade will continue to be erroneously sold as being the only path forward for global security. In the military realm, the same spirit of engagement is being promoted by team Biden. For instance, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force General C.Q. Brown stated during his visit to Tokyo that he is hopeful that military-to-military engagement with the PRC’s will resume. The new Chairman justified this hope as being “hugely important” for ensuring “there is no miscalculation” between the PRC and USA. What the General failed to provide was any evidence that the CCP would alter their behavior simply by talking to their American counterparts. A worrisome assumption given a 40-year track record to the contrary.
Which makes the pursuit of the resumption of mil-to-mil engagement all the more surprising given that the PRC specifically ended such engagements in protest of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taiwan. For Chairman Brown, it appears he believes that if mil-to-mil can be restored he would have accomplished a victory akin to Saratoga, San Juan Hill, or the Battle of the Bulge.
Regrettably, Chairman Brown noted that he does not believe Xi will resort to force to seize Taiwan but will rely on other means. This can only be characterized as an “own goal” as this statement can only aid the PRC’s political warfare campaign by injecting more doubt among U.S. partners and allies regarding U.S. willpower. It was a perfect occasion to state that the U.S. will resist aggression in all its forms, including kinetic war.
Furthermore, Chairman Brown’s remark stands in stark contrast to warnings from other U.S. military leaders regarding the danger Taipei faces imminently. It is important to recall former U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral Philip Davidson’s warning in 2021 that the PRC would attack Taiwan by 2027. U.S. Air Mobility Command Commander, General Mike Minihan provided another strategic warning, a leaked January 2023 memo that the PRC would attack Taiwan in 2025. U.S. allies and partners must be scratching their heads at the mixed messages stemming from Washington. They are on the front line and are cognizant that the Biden administration’s apparent weaknesses will only entice a war by Beijing.
While the Biden administration seeks to convey to the PRC that it is its Best Friend Forever (BFF), the PRC is providing shaping signals of its own. For instance, the aircraft carrier Shandong transited the Taiwan Strait in an important signal to Taipei, Tokyo, and Washington, after conducting operations east of Taiwan with nearly dozen other Chinese warships. Additionally, there has been a surge of Chinese Coast Guard vessels at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. This expanding presence threatens to strangle the Filipino military and evict our allies in Manila from their sovereign territory.
In contrast to the Biden administration’s actions and statements, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida this past week concluded a visit to the Philippines to further enhance a closer military-to-military relationship with Manila, including funding for the construction of Filipino Coast Guard ships. All of which makes Washington’s supplications to Beijing stand out as bizarre, especially given the Chinese Coast Guard fleet is executing the similar bullying tactics against Japanese territory in the East China Sea. This naked aggression is not new, as it matches the same types of aggression used by Japan, Germany, or the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s—to use military force to threaten and intimidate their adversaries, even up to the point of a metal-on-metal confrontation.
Recent comments by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Paparo, presently the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, and whom the Biden administration has nominated to be the next Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, stand in stark contrast to the “official narrative” from Washington. Admiral Paparo’s unambiguous warning is clear—that PRC military pilots and crews are “increasingly provocative” against U.S. and allied forces as ordered by their seniors in the PLA and CCP. This statement of unvarnished truth by Admiral Paparo is backed up by recent actions by the PRC where PLA air forces have conducted dangerous intercepts of a U.S. Air Force B-52 and Canadian helicopters in the South China Sea. All of which is to demonstrate that the CCP is increasingly reliant on the use of military power to implement their grand strategy.
The fundamental rule of strategy is to not aid your enemy. The Biden administration rejects the principles of strategy in its determination to keep Xi’s dictatorship afloat and to sustain the tyranny of the CCP. This twisted and obscene belief that U.S. prosperity is tied to the PRC’s invites Beijing’s aggression, which will cause a war akin to World War II. Biden’s policy, like Obama and others before him, is the path of ruin for U.S. national security, for our allies and their national security interests, and will lead to the death of U.S. servicemembers and of the American civilian population.
The bilateral summit meeting should be seen as worse than appeasement as it represents an almost suicidal effort for supporting one’s primary existential enemy. Tremors often precede cataclysmic earthquakes and so provide an indication of what is to come. In San Francisco, the American people have had a warning before the cataclysm of kinetic war. They should demand a response to this forewarning and compel the Biden administration to alter course as the earthquake may come far sooner and with greater effect than the great power wars of the last century.
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.