CCP Appeasement Is a Fool’s Errand

Commentary America’s China policy objectives have been flawed for decades, resulting in the ascendancy of a hyper-aggressive Chinese regime. Have the objectives of U.S. policymakers over the years with respect to China been achieved? Is the Chinese regime more democratic and less belligerent, as so-called “China hands” have argued would be “inevitable” as they pushed free trade, massive Western investments in China, and appeasement policies since the 1970s? Is there less intimidation of China’s neighbors now than there was during the Mao Zedong era? Is China more democratic—by Western definition? Appeasement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has had disastrous results. Let us examine some of the consequences. Background The U.S. relationship with China has flipped several times over the last hundred years: Pro-China before and during World War 2. Adversarial after the CCP took control of the Chinese government in 1949. Wartime enemies during the Korean War. Back to adversarial and a virtual quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after 1952. The surprise “opening” of the PRC to the international system by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1971-1972; and subsequent U.S. and Western appeasement of the PRC in the misguided belief that aggressive CCP behavior could be curtailed or at least lessened over time. The Trump administration’s efforts to return to a more adversarial posture with the realization that the appeasement efforts pushed by the U.S. political elite and multinational corporations had failed to curtail rogue CCP behavior. More on that last part later in this article. When was the CCP’s real animus against the United States truly ignited? It could be argued that the ideological chasm between the communist Chinese and freedom-loving Americans virtually guaranteed an adversarial relationship, but the Korean War certainly fanned the flames. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fought the U.S.-led United Nations coalition to a standstill until the Armistice was signed at Panmunjom in 1953. According to estimates, about 180,000 Chinese were killed (these are PRC numbers; other estimates were as high as 500,000 killed in action), as opposed to 36,000 Americans killed in action, 227,000 South Koreans, and about 3,700 from other U.N. countries. Total Chinese and North Korean casualties (killed in action, wounded, missing, prisoners) were estimated at 1.5 million, with two-thirds of those being Chinese. A column of troops and armor of the U.S. 1st Marine Division move through communist Chinese lines during their successful breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. (Cpl. Peter McDonald, U.S. Marine Corps) While the CCP leadership has never been shy about sacrificing its people to achieve the “glorious goals of communism” over the years, nevertheless, suffering 900,000 casualties in a stalemated war on their periphery had to have left a lasting effect on Mao Zedong and the CCP leadership’s psyche. It could be argued that the Chinese plan for world domination began in earnest after the Korean War. The CCP, if nothing else, retains grudges and long-term animosity for its perceived enemies. It plays the long game, especially against its adversaries. A major milestone in that long game occurred when Mao allowed Nixon and Kissinger to “open China” through secret negotiations in 1971 and ultimately granted a state visit to Nixon at the height of the Vietnam War in 1972. This began the Chinese manipulation of the U.S. political class, which continues to this very day. The U.S. political class was convinced that China could be peacefully brought into the global system through open trade policies and access to world markets and Western technology. In 1979, China was granted temporary Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status, which has been extended continuously to the present day. This was a boon to the Chinese economy, giving China a favored trade status and direct access to the U.S. economy. China was eventually brought into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, as a crowning achievement by the “China hands”—acolytes of Kissinger who facilitated China’s rise, while feathering their own nests through CCP sinecures, awards, and bribes. Observers might wonder when China will have transitioned from a “developing country” to a “developed nation.” After all, China is now “the world’s largest producer of over 220 types of industrial products, including vehicles and computers,” as touted by Beijing’s mouthpiece People’s Daily. But those are certainly not the only “unexpected effects” of the United States’ China policy from 1972 through the present. The Results Economic: Through Western investment and CCP theft of technology and intellectual property, China has become a manufacturing powerhouse and the number two economy in the world. Modernizing China included the implementation of “free trade” policies and the off-shoring

CCP Appeasement Is a Fool’s Errand

Commentary

America’s China policy objectives have been flawed for decades, resulting in the ascendancy of a hyper-aggressive Chinese regime.

Have the objectives of U.S. policymakers over the years with respect to China been achieved? Is the Chinese regime more democratic and less belligerent, as so-called “China hands” have argued would be “inevitable” as they pushed free trade, massive Western investments in China, and appeasement policies since the 1970s? Is there less intimidation of China’s neighbors now than there was during the Mao Zedong era? Is China more democratic—by Western definition?

Appeasement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has had disastrous results. Let us examine some of the consequences.

Background

The U.S. relationship with China has flipped several times over the last hundred years:

  • Pro-China before and during World War 2.
  • Adversarial after the CCP took control of the Chinese government in 1949.
  • Wartime enemies during the Korean War.
  • Back to adversarial and a virtual quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after 1952.
  • The surprise “opening” of the PRC to the international system by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1971-1972; and subsequent U.S. and Western appeasement of the PRC in the misguided belief that aggressive CCP behavior could be curtailed or at least lessened over time.
  • The Trump administration’s efforts to return to a more adversarial posture with the realization that the appeasement efforts pushed by the U.S. political elite and multinational corporations had failed to curtail rogue CCP behavior. More on that last part later in this article.

When was the CCP’s real animus against the United States truly ignited? It could be argued that the ideological chasm between the communist Chinese and freedom-loving Americans virtually guaranteed an adversarial relationship, but the Korean War certainly fanned the flames. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fought the U.S.-led United Nations coalition to a standstill until the Armistice was signed at Panmunjom in 1953. According to estimates, about 180,000 Chinese were killed (these are PRC numbers; other estimates were as high as 500,000 killed in action), as opposed to 36,000 Americans killed in action, 227,000 South Koreans, and about 3,700 from other U.N. countries. Total Chinese and North Korean casualties (killed in action, wounded, missing, prisoners) were estimated at 1.5 million, with two-thirds of those being Chinese.

Epoch Times Photo
A column of troops and armor of the U.S. 1st Marine Division move through communist Chinese lines during their successful breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. (Cpl. Peter McDonald, U.S. Marine Corps)

While the CCP leadership has never been shy about sacrificing its people to achieve the “glorious goals of communism” over the years, nevertheless, suffering 900,000 casualties in a stalemated war on their periphery had to have left a lasting effect on Mao Zedong and the CCP leadership’s psyche. It could be argued that the Chinese plan for world domination began in earnest after the Korean War.

The CCP, if nothing else, retains grudges and long-term animosity for its perceived enemies. It plays the long game, especially against its adversaries.

A major milestone in that long game occurred when Mao allowed Nixon and Kissinger to “open China” through secret negotiations in 1971 and ultimately granted a state visit to Nixon at the height of the Vietnam War in 1972. This began the Chinese manipulation of the U.S. political class, which continues to this very day. The U.S. political class was convinced that China could be peacefully brought into the global system through open trade policies and access to world markets and Western technology.

In 1979, China was granted temporary Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status, which has been extended continuously to the present day. This was a boon to the Chinese economy, giving China a favored trade status and direct access to the U.S. economy. China was eventually brought into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, as a crowning achievement by the “China hands”—acolytes of Kissinger who facilitated China’s rise, while feathering their own nests through CCP sinecures, awards, and bribes.

Observers might wonder when China will have transitioned from a “developing country” to a “developed nation.” After all, China is now “the world’s largest producer of over 220 types of industrial products, including vehicles and computers,” as touted by Beijing’s mouthpiece People’s Daily. But those are certainly not the only “unexpected effects” of the United States’ China policy from 1972 through the present.

The Results

Economic: Through Western investment and CCP theft of technology and intellectual property, China has become a manufacturing powerhouse and the number two economy in the world. Modernizing China included the implementation of “free trade” policies and the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing facilities to the mainland. These policies helped create the “Rust Belt” in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

One dire consequence was the offshoring of virtually the entire U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain to China—a fact made abundantly clear during the spread of COVID-19 over the past 20 months. The Biden administration has come to realize the threat posed by Chinese control of critical supply chains, as noted in Executive Order 19017, America’s Supply Chains.

The U.S. Congress and various think tanks are also examining ways to decouple from China in order to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property, and also address Chinese mercantilist practices by state-owned enterprises that are heavily subsidized by Beijing. The continuing Chinese economic espionage and theft of intellectual property and technology was previously discussed here. None of these CCP practices will be stopped without concrete actions taken by the United States and other nations.

Military: The Chinese regime is pursuing a policy of massive military militarization. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has achieved several important milestones in recent months, several of which have shocked Western observers:

  • The PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) is on the brink of a breakout in nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles with the discovery of 350 new missile silos under construction in Inner Mongolia. A harbinger: China is not bound by strategic arms limitation treaties as are Russia and the United States.
  • Two tests of what could lead to the world’s first Hypersonic Glide Vehicle/Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (HGV/FOBS) were recently completed this fall. Note: The DF-17 Dongfeng medium-range ballistic missile system entered PLARF service in September 2019.
  • The first launch of a carrier-based variant of the Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter was conducted last month, which looks remarkably similar to the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter.
  • The recent launch of a Chinese satellite with potential dual-use capabilities: space debris mitigation (for public consumption) and anti-satellite applications (for military use). It should be noted that China had virtually no satellite launch capabilities until the late 1990s after “tech transfer,” which was authorized by the Clinton administration. China is now launching prestige space missions to Mars and the Moon with great fanfare.
  • The PLA Navy (PLAN) now possesses more ships than the U.S. Navy, with the PLAN shipbuilding expected to continue at a rapid pace for years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Commercial SAR imagery indicates that the third PLAN aircraft carrier is now under construction near Shanghai, the Type-003, which is equivalent in size to the U.S. Ford-class nuclear aircraft carrier.
Epoch Times Photo
A Long March-5 rocket, carrying an orbiter, lander, and rover as part of the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars, lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan Province on July 23, 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

Geopolitical: Chinese aggressiveness on the world scene has increased dramatically under Xi Jinping. Some examples include the following:

Conclusion

U.S. policy with respect to China since 1972 has been a dismal failure–from the U.S. point of view. The objective of integrating China into the world economy has unleashed CCP mercantilism and debt trap diplomacy on the world, as opposed to the democratization and softening of the Chinese regime’s aggression. The CCP would almost certainly consider U.S. policy to have been an unexpected gift that propelled it to the precipice of overtaking the United States in economic, military, and geopolitical affairs. However, the most impactful result of that failed U.S. policy has been the corruption of the U.S. political class, which has made the Chinese regime’s ascendancy a reality. That disastrous result will be described in part 2 of this two-part series.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.