Victory over the PRC:  Why Engagement Makes War with Beijing More Likely

The United States faces three choices regarding its policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC): continuation of the Biden administration’s Engagement policy, what we term neo-Engagement; Defeat (that is, the U.S. withdrawal from the Indo-Pacific); or Victory, the U.S. total defeat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  In these pages, we have considered each, rejected the Engagement and Defeat positions, and have instead advocated for victory over the CCP.  While victory is the most obvious and rational choice for the U.S., in this article we explore the significant challenges associated with the pursuit of a victory policy over the CCP.

There are two major difficulties.  First, victory requires the defeat of the CCP. This is because the CCP’s ideology targets the U.S. and Western societies for destruction. It is important for Americans to recall that in 2019, the PRC declared “People’s War” against America. Translated from the Communist argot, this means that Communist dictator Xi Jinping is mobilizing the Party and the military with urgency to focus their efforts to destroy the U.S.

Victory over the CCP will be a prodigious task that will require a unified whole of society and a whole of government response, in conjunction with U.S. allies, partners, and people of good will around the world, to include those who yearn for freedom within the PRC, not a small number.  But this coalition must be mobilized, supported, and sustained, and there is a big obstacle—the second problem—that stands in the way.

The second problem is the American elite’s embrace of engagement with the CCP. Almost all of it, from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the Chamber of Commerce, government, media, universities, philanthropic foundations, and even the U.S. military, remains tied to unconstrained neo-Engagement policies.  For the neo-Engagement school, it is as if Moses had brought down an Eleventh Commandant from Mt. Sinai: “Thou Shalt Trade and Invest in the PRC in Perpetuity.”  And no matter the damage to U.S. national security. For neo-Engagement, it does not matter that U.S. trade and investment have been responsible for the PRC’s rise from a nation almost destroyed by Mao Zedong’s disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution to the existential threat it is today to the U.S.

It does not seem to matter to advocates of the Engagement School that their policies have profoundly weakened U.S. national security, destroyed American manufacturing, and introduced great vulnerabilities, some of which the COVID-19 pandemic revealed.

Thus, while U.S. victory logically requires defeating the CCP, it will also require defeating the problem of the Engagement School. This is because how the CCP is defeated is crucially important, and some pathways to the CCP’s defeat are far more preferable for American national security, its allies, and global stability.

The first possibility, which is the worst by far, would be that the CCP falls because of its defeat in war.  While this would yield a U.S. victory, by definition, that outcome would be a human rights catastrophe and carry tremendous dangers for the U.S. and its allies. Such a war would result from a failure of deterrence, the intent of which is to keep war from occurring in the first place.

A second, far more desirable outcome is that the CCP collapses due to the results of the tyranny of its Communist ideology and its decades of misrule and gross abuse of the Chinese people and their economy and society.  This would minimize the profound risks that are inherent in such a war and the unpredictable effects that would inevitably stem from it.  To achieve such a conclusion, it will necessitate cutting off foreign direct investment in the PRC, which comes largely from U.S. trade and investment.

To achieve this means ending the Engagement School once and for all and thus freeing American foreign policy from the headlock it has had on U.S.-PRC relations for the past 50 years.  Terminating the dominance of the Engagement School is thus necessary to yield the end of the CCP without war, as was accomplished by the Reagan Administration against the Soviet Union.

In essence, ending the Engagement School is a matter of national security and must be seen precisely as a matter of national security.

Given the urgency and salience, it nevertheless will be a titanic struggle due to the present dominance of the Engagement School.  To defeat it necessitates calling attention to the strategic realities faced by the U.S.—namely that the enemy of the U.S. is in fact being funded by the U.S.  This insanity must end.  The Engagement School has also given our enemy great access to U.S. decision-makers and favorable policies through its access to both political parties, to K Street lobbyists, and to the major Washington, D.C., law firms.  Again, this madness must end.  The enemy, the CCP, has unrivaled access to U.S. media, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, universities, foundations, and popular culture such as TikTok, and thus to the American public and the American voter.  This should have never occurred, and it must stop.

Instead, Victory must be embraced by the centers of U.S. domestic power that now advance Engagement policies.  To accomplish this will be multifaceted, but a good start is to identify and publicize the great abuses of the CCP so that no U.S. business or tech start-up  would ever want to trade with the PRC or invest in it due to the negative impact of being associated with this odious regime. The CCP should be as politically, legally, socially, and culturally as radioactive as the Apartheid government of South Africa was.  Instead of feting Xi as U.S. elites did during the November 2023 meeting in San Francisco and the March 2024 meeting in Beijing, advocates for the policy of Victory over the CCP must turn the tables and raise the political costs for collaborating with the enemy.

Everything is at stake. If deterrence fails and a Sino-American war results, the stark, brutal, and true costs of the Engagement School will be realized.  Of course, this will be no comfort to the dead American servicemembers and civilians and the profound damage to the American homeland.

This is why the greatest act of statesmanship is to avoid this outcome while defeating the enemy.  That demands breaking the grip of the Engagement School, regardless that the challenge resembles a David versus Goliath struggle.

Given the Biden regime’s neo-Engagement policies, the preferable peaceful victory over the CCP must wait for a U.S. presidential administration that will confront the PRC and defend the U.S. against the CCP’s People’s War. There is only one candidate at this point who has a demonstrated track record of confronting the PRC—Donald Trump. Electing Trump is the necessary first step, but it is only the first step on a long and hard road to defending America. Trump’s leadership and willingness to forge a coalition in Congress and with the American people can break the headlock the Engagement School—Wall Street, K Street, the law firms, media, universities, Silicon Valley, and Congress, State, Defense, and the Intelligence Community—have had on American foreign policy towards the PRC for decades.

Once the Engagement School’s stranglehold is ended, the road to a peaceful victory over the CCP is open.  “We win, they lose” is what President Reagan said, referring to his solution to the Cold War: a U.S. victory and a Soviet defeat.  President Trump must say the same.

James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer are the authors of Embracing Communist China: America’s Greatest Strategic Failure.

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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.

Photo: flags of USA and China painted on cracked wall