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China is the Adversary America Needs.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

China is the Adversary America Needs.

Every nation needs to know what they are against.

Pew Research recently published a survey which revealed that 91% of Americans believe there is a very strong or strong conflict between Republicans and Democrats, the highest rate that has been recorded. When the Center first asked the question in 2012, only 47% of Americans saw very strong conflict; today, the number stands at 71%.

The origins of the virus and China’s culpability in covering it up during its initial stages of transmission and the state’s actions during the crisis brings into relief that America, whether it admits it or not, may be back in the throes of another Cold War.

Amidst the outbreak of a deadly virus, however, we have witnessed a remarkable show of unity amongst our nation’s political leaders.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised Trump’s efforts on the crisis and called him “creative and very energetic.” Liberal Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar referred to Trump’s current leadership as “incredible and the right response in this critical time.” These statements are made all the more fascinating when contrasted with what we saw in January, which was the height of political division at the conclusion of the impeachment proceedings.

Today, we have been driven to renewed societal solidarity, the likes of which we have only seen when facing a common enemy. But the confrontation over the coronavirus is only a symptom of a deeper, more pressing conflict. The origins of the virus and China’s culpability in covering it up during its initial stages of transmission and the state’s actions during the crisis brings into relief that America, whether it admits it or not, may be back in the throes of another Cold War.

And in this case, it is China that is the adversary that unites Americans against a common enemy moving forward.

President Xi Jinping.

President Xi Jinping.

THE NEW COLD WAR

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, political polarization in this country has risen to new heights. Much has been written about how this former common ideological enemy set the bounds for our political infighting and how it served as a permanent reminder that there were larger issues than the petty domestic political squabbling of the moment. It was in this ideological adversary that we established, most clearly, who we were as a nation—specifically by recognizing who we were not. The Stalinist legacy of a country built on totalitarian communist rule stood in stark contrast with the American democratic consensus.

The need now is to bring these proxy battles into the light and recognize this conflict for what it is: a new Cold War.

Today, Beijing and Washington have already begun to wage ideological proxy wars in orthodox and unorthodox ways, namely through economic investments in emerging nations and confrontations over spheres of influence. In Oceania, the United States and China compete for regional influence as for years, China has bought out nations’ debts—such as Tonga and Vanuatu—in order to cash in on political power. In Africa, the focus is on trade, as China has invested over 2 trillion dollars in the continent’s economies in an attempted power play. While in Asia, the US and China have used promises of security, including a recent agreement between China and South Korea, to ultimately strengthen diplomatic ties and the regional influence of each state.

The need now is to bring these proxy battles into the light and recognize this conflict for what it is: a new Cold War.

Some reports now indicate that the Chinese government knew about the oncoming coronavirus outbreak as early as October. The state’s clearly documented censorship of doctors and media stopped early discussing this virus, they prevented world health officials from gaining access to Wuhan early on may have cost thousands of lives—and put the world at risk as countries accepted travelers in and out of their borders. The government’s ongoing duplicity during the spread of the virus, and the willingness of leading Chinese Communist party officials to spread disinformation regarding the virus’ origins, suggest that China’s leaders have a reckless disregard for both the truth and human life.

Never before has Chinese communism been presented in such a stark contrast with American ideals. Where we promote transparency, they crush it. Where we defend human rights, they violate them. Where we defend the sovereignty of other nations, they attempt to stifle it. We must finally publicly recognize that the Chinese communist leadership has run too far afoul from the values that we hold dear. No longer can the Chinese government be allowed to place millions of Uighur Muslims in camps, to suppress religious practice across the nation, to censor and arrest political dissidents, and to use heavy-handed tactics to put pressure on surrounding countries—without accountability.

China is the adversary we need—to unite our nation under a common cause and push back against a foreign power that draws its strength through illegitimate processes.

No matter how this pandemic comes to an end, one thing is for certain: the world has been fundamentally changed. Out of the death of this virus must come a reinvigorated sense of American community, highlighted and shaped by a recognition of what we are not.

And, what we are not is a corrupt totalitarian regime that, through deceit and lies to the rest of the world, has allowed this virus to spread.

Written By

Hunter Estes is the Development Manager for the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the state’s non-partisan free market think tank, and he is a Fellow at the Center’s Publius Institute. Follow him on Twitter at: @realhunterestes.

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