OPINION

Red Dawn 2021: Chinese Excursion Into American Life Goes Beyond the Movies.

America's future—Red or Green—is being held hostage by China's technology and energy supremacy.

The 1984 film Red Dawn, directed by John Milius, depicts a dystopian future. An American town is under invasion by Soviet forces during World War III, forcing a group of high school students to lead a meager resistance using their school mascot of ‘Wolverines’ as an identifying moniker and rallying call. The 2012 remake (dir. Dan Bradley) was prescient. Instead of just the USSR, China is also positioned as the aggressor, waging an offensive against the United States who struggles to mount a defense given its own troops were stationed overseas. At least, that’s what the film was originally written to depict. Under pressure from the Chinese government, however, MGM digitally altered the film in post-production to make North Korea the invading army in hopes of being able to release the film in China, which never happened.

[W]ith the new administration’s China-friendly policies, China is making inroads into our critical infrastructure.

The controversy around the Red Dawn remake is part of a broader trend of Chinese excursion into American life. Sure, there aren’t paratroopers or openly-armed soldiers, but America is currently under occupation from China, one fitting of modern, 4th-generational tactics beyond the traditional battlefield. This invasion impacts our economy, our information space, and potentially, modern life as we know it; with the new administration’s China-friendly policies, China is making inroads into our critical infrastructure.

In 2020, as we struggled to withstand the effects of the China Virus pandemic, American consumers began to realize just how much we depend on China for our supply chains and consumer goods—even essential ones like pharmaceuticals and PPE. Unfortunately, American corporations seem not to have had the same realization. They’ve continued to not only provide cover for the Chinese Communist Party to protect profits overseas, but they are openly investing and growing their partnerships, domestic jobs and manufacturing be damned.

It’s not just American corporations—it’s our government too. As one of his first official acts in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis,” a flashy executive decree designed to appease his party’s climate extremists. Tucked away in Executive Order 13990 is an easy-to-miss maneuver that reverses a Trump-era policy put in place less than a year earlier: Executive Order 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System.” Effectively, President Biden suspended Executive Order 13920 for 90 days (until April 20th). With its future now dependent on the joint discretion of the Secretary of Energy and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, it is reasonable to assume the suspension will be permanent.

In May 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13920 in response to the escalating threat posed by foreign-made technologies that were flooding local and state governments. Chinese drone manufacturer and market-dominant Dajiang Innovations (DJI) had just donated at least 100 of its small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to more than 40 U.S. law enforcement and public safety departments and agencies across 22 states under the guise of a “Disaster Relief Program.” (Ironically, these drones were meant to help “with the monitoring of public health issues” brought on by the China Virus pandemic). Not long after, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that these drones may be sending sensitive flight data to their manufacturers in China, where it can be accessed by the Chinese government. According to the DHS warning:

“The United States government has strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access … Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities.”

In December, the U.S. Department of Commerce added 77 firms to its trade blacklist, including Drone maker DJI and China’s top chipmaker, SMIC. “We’re adding SMIC to the Entity List mostly because we need to make sure U.S. intellectual property and manufacturing capabilities are not being used by SMIC’s clients to continue to support the military-civil fusion efforts within China,” a senior official in the U.S. Commerce Department told BBC.

China’s efforts to sabotage, spy, and outright steal American intellectual property have been well-documented.

Executive Order 13920 was also written to tackle a similar threat posed by Chinese technology firms whose products were being used in our nation’s bulk-power grid. “Each year the Federal government spends millions of dollars on a wide range of BPS [Bulk-Power System] components. Current government procurement rules often result in contracts being awarded to the lowest-cost bids, a vulnerability that can be exploited by those with malicious intent,” the Trump administration press brief explained. “Today’s Executive Order prohibits Federal agencies and U.S. persons from acquiring, transferring, or installing BPS equipment in which any foreign country or foreign national has any interest and the transaction poses an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of American citizens.”

On his first day, President Biden suspended that order with his climate order. Biden’s “Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” calls on all Federal agencies to immediately review and take action on any Federal regulation implemented between January 20th, 2017, and January 20th, 2021 that contravenes on the President’s stated objective “to immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis.”

Given the vast array of consumer products made in China (Walmart estimates Chinese suppliers make up 70-80% of its U.S. merchandise, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing), it’s a fair assumption that at least some of the equipment essential to our power grid will be manufactured there, such as electrical transformers. According to a 2014 Department of Energy report, the United States has become highly dependent on importing them, with China operating five times the number of power transformer manufacturers compared to the U.S. In total, over 200 Chinese transformers were brought into the U.S. energy sector in the ten years preceding 2019. (Prior to 2009, there were none.)

China’s efforts to sabotage, spy, and outright steal American intellectual property have been well-documented. Now, our greatest foreign adversary could very well have a direct line to what is quite literally the cornerstone to modern public life for every American: our energy infrastructure, which, factoring in the recent rolling blackouts in Texas, is already far too susceptible. In May of last year, the Energy Department recently took the unprecedented step of seizing a 250-ton Chinese-built transformer upon its arrival at the Port of Houston, transferring it under federal escort to New Mexico for further inspection. The transformer was meant to supply power to Denver, and though federal officials haven’t publicly said why they sent the transformer to a national lab, experts believe the move signaled possible grid-security concerns.

Red Dawn (1984).

Red Dawn (1984).

WHAT “AMERICA-FIRST” MEANS FOR JOE BIDEN

Proponents of the President have pointed to his more recent Executive Order 14017: “America’s Supply Chains” as evidence the current administration will continue the critical work of its predecessor. “The Executive Order launches a comprehensive review of U.S. supply chains and directs federal Departments and Agencies to identify ways to secure U.S. supply chains against a wide range of risks and vulnerabilities,” the White House announced, adding that “Building resilient supply chains will protect the United States from facing shortages of critical products. It will also facilitate needed investments to maintain America’s competitive edge, and strengthen U.S. national security.”

[A] return to the failed globalist policies of the Bush/Obama era—including foreign investments in our critical goods and materials.

There is a key difference, however. Former-President Trump’s prominent Executive Orders on the issue, 13873 and 13953, directly focused on removing all foreign activity in our nation’s supply chains. Executive Order 14017, meanwhile, is rife with virtue-signaling double-speak and makes clear President Biden’s agenda: a return to the failed globalist policies of the Bush/Obama era—including foreign investments in our critical goods and materials.

Take, for example, this excerpt from Executive Order 14017: “Resilient American supply chains will revitalize and rebuild domestic manufacturing capacity, maintain America’s competitive edge in research and development, and create well-paying jobs.” Sounds an awful lot like President Trump, right? Here’s the very next sentence: “They will also support small businesses, promote prosperity, advance the fight against climate change, and encourage economic growth in communities of color and economically distressed areas.” (Because apparently, our competitive edges must also be carbon-neutral and socioeconomically equitable?)

The order continues with this overall theme of “secure and diverse” innovation. At one point, the President directly contradicts the importance he places on a  “world-class American manufacturing base and workforce” by saying, “close cooperation on resilient supply chains with allies and partners who share our values will foster collective economic and national security…”

More examples abound: the insistence on bringing the focus to “the risks posed by climate change to the availability, production, or transportation of critical goods and materials…”, the prioritization of “international engagement” with U.S. allies and partners, and that “recommendations may include sustainably reshoring supply chains and developing domestic supplies, cooperating with allies and partners to identify alternative supply chains…”

However, it’s Sec. 5, subsections (d), (e), and (f) that are the most confusing. Here, President Biden declares that the U.S. must “engage allies and partners to strengthen supply chains” to “insulat[e] supply chain analyses and actions from conflicts of interest” by “reform[ing] domestic and international trade rules and agreements needed to support supply chain resilience.” With all the mention of “diversity,” “allied cooperation,” and “climate” sprinkled throughout, and a year before any of these assessments are due, it’s clear the Biden administration is doing little to protect our infrastructure.

Red Dawn (1984).

Red Dawn (1984).

CHINESE MONOPOLY OVER RARE EARTH MINERALS

President Biden’s China-first climate policy doesn’t just hold our current energy grid hostage; it also puts into jeopardy the green future Democrats are desperately trying to achieve. Unfortunately, China now has the potential to not only control our energy equipment, but they could also block access to minerals vital to building and maintaining our own.

Rare earth elements (REEs), a grouping term for 17 metallic elements on the Periodic Table, are essential components of more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, from hybrid cars to lightbulbs. Each Apple iPhone, for example, relies on multiple REEs: neodymium to make tiny yet powerful magnets that allow iPhone speakers to function; europium in trace amounts to produce red colors on screens; cerium to polish the phones during the manufacturing process.

The good news is lithium is mined on six continents … The bad news? China controls nearly half of the world’s means of production.

Despite being named “rare,” these elements are fairly abundant, including in the U.S., but resistance varies among local communities for these mines given public health concerns and costly production. As a result, few domestic companies exist in the REE production space, the largest of which is MP Materials in California.

Nearly every piece of technology in use today also requires the mineral lithium—everything from cell phones and computers to electric cars. And, as Americans pursue greener options, it’s in high demand. Bloomberg reports, “Starting about two years ago, fears of a lithium shortage almost tripled prices for the metal, to more than $20,000 a ton, in just ten months. The cause was a spike in the market for electric vehicles, which were suddenly competing with laptops and smartphones for lithium-ion batteries. Demand for the metal won’t slacken anytime soon—on the contrary, electric car production is expected to increase more than thirtyfold by 2030…” something virtually guaranteed to happen if California’s ban on gasoline-powered cars stands until then.

The good news is lithium is mined on six continents. “Even if the market triples,” Bloomberg writes, “there are 185 years’ worth of reserves in the ground.” The bad news? China controls nearly half of the world’s means of production.

Boron mining can be a backup to mining lithium directly; Boron can create lithium during a nuclear reaction process. The problem is that China wields considerable influence over our access to that mineral, as well. California boasts the largest Boron mine in the world—located in the aptly named city of Boron, CA. The mine is operated by U.S.-based Borax, but Borax is owned by the Australian Rio Tinto Group. This means the largest supply of boron within our borders is under the parental control of a foreign country that recently joined a free trade agreement with China. Given how China leveraged these trade agreements in the past, this could create an issue should Australia choose to side with them over the U.S.

“[China is] a leader and a capable advocate” on climate change…” — John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Boron, given its capacity for hydrogen storage, will play a key role in any future green energy grid, and there are already hints that China has its eye on Boron-supremacy as well. According to Bloomberg, “In a 15-year plan for new-energy vehicles released on November 2nd, China’s State Council said the country will focus on building the fuel-cell supply chain and developing hydrogen-powered trucks and buses. President Xi Jinping in September set a 2030 deadline for China to begin reducing carbon emissions.”

Stateside, California is also making in-roads on hydrogen power: Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda offer hydrogen fuel cell models in the state, modernizing research General Motors first developed in 1966, with Toyota’s Mirai offering range superior to Tesla’s Model 3, able to refuel in roughly 5 minutes. Admittedly, there are dueling sentiments in the auto industry on these vehicles. But as John Voelcker, the former editor of Green Car Reports, noted last year, “If China suddenly decided its auto industry will adopt hydrogen vehicles, things might change.”

Within a couple of months, that time had come: “Sinopec’s [the d/b/a name for China Petroleum & Chemical Corp] ambitious hydrogen development plan in 2021-2025 will speed up fuel cell penetration significantly,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Jack Lu.

China’s potential control over boron and its related refinements isn’t the only concern. Remember MP Materials? China not only supplies 80% of the REEs imported by the United States, but they also own 10% of MP Materials, which just so happens to also ship 50,000 metric tons back to China for processing, while still also charging a 25% tariff on those imports. (The U.S., in response, not only exempted rare earth minerals from tariffs on Chinese goods, the Pentagon awarded MP an undisclosed grant for processing planning and design work.)

For an economic perspective on what this control means, consider the case from 2011 when China cut off exports of the REE europium oxide: “General Electric noted in a statement that if the rate of inflation over the last 12 months had been applied to a $2 cup of coffee, that coffee would now cost $24.55.” If it seems unlikely they would do so again, consider much more recent rhetoric from China, suggesting they would cut off our supply of antibiotics as trade war leverage, according to a Politico report.

Despite Biden climate envoy John Kerry calling his Chinese counterpart “a leader and a capable advocate” on climate change, continuing, “[we’re] respectful of each other’s efforts thus far,” if China signals a willingness to cut off simple, everyday medicines like ibuprofen and penicillin, it seems a safe assumption they would protect REE supplies, critical to implementing solutions for what the Biden administration has called “an existential crisis,” far more aggressively.

Red Dawn (1984).

Red Dawn (1984).

AMERICA’S FUTURE DEPENDS ON TAKING THE THREAT CHINA POSES SERIOUSLY

The foundation for these restrictions has already been laid. Remarking on a meeting of delegations between the countries in March, former National Security Council chief of staff Fred Fleitz said, “I think China is the biggest threat. I’m worried that they’re going to get more aggressive when they sense weakness.”

“[W]e’re not looking for confrontation…” — President Joe Biden

Chinese Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Yang Jiechi, confirmed that sentiment himself at the same meeting, saying directly to U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, “the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.”

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was even more blunt: “China certainly in the past has not and in the future will not accept the unwarranted accusations from the U.S. side.”

The response from Washington has been much more meager. At a March 25th press conference, in response to Bloomberg’s Justin Sink, President Biden remarked that “we’re not looking for confrontation, although we know there will be steep, steep competition… but we’ll insist that China play by the international rules: fair competition, fair practices, fair trade… The second thing we’re going to do is we’re going to reestablish our alliances. And I’ve been very clear with [President Xi], it’s not anti-Chinese.”

Even though the President is likely correct in wanting to restore spending on science and technology to 2% of GDP, it’ll be awfully hard to prevent China from “becoming the most powerful country in the world” while American tech companies continue to rely on their forced and/or child labor and our energy grid continues to be beholden to a Chinese monopoly with little regard for the current administration’s environmentally focused policies.

Human Events has rightly posed the question of how much more Americans will be willing to pay for “Made in America” products. The problem with asking that question in our current state is many Americans simply don’t have the financial luxury of being able to make such sacrifices. Moreover, the increasing power China has over American energy infrastructure and their perceived weakness of the U.S. means the question could soon become not just “how can we break free of their influence,” but whether or not we will even be able to do so at all.

Just as the 2012 Wolverines fled into the surrounding woods to regroup in Red Dawn, it’s time America regroups, focusing inward to rebuild and regain our energy sovereignty to awaken the Bear we have allowed China to poke in hibernation for far too long.

Written By:

Eric is a writer and percussionist from California.