Freedom Will Win Over the Tyranny of the Chinese Regime

Commentary Josef Stalin once queried, “how many divisions has the Pope?” as a way to belittle Pius XII’s influence in contrast to the might of the Red Army. That was easy to do from his position at the end of World War II. Yet religion in Poland, East Germany, the Soviet Union itself, and among the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, all contributed in their own ways to the demise of Stalin’s empire. Religion, like U.S. ideology, was a strategic asymmetry in the struggle against the Soviet Union. A strategic asymmetry is the identification of areas of comparative advantage in a competitive relationship. Advantages may be economic, military, political, ideological, or social, which produce greater capability, capacity, or efficiency sufficient to change or maintain a balance of power between peer competitors. In the present contest with China, U.S. ideology may play an analogous role. To win the competition with China, the ideology of the United States must be used in this struggle, as it was in the Cold War and in the World Wars. The ideology of the United States undergirds U.S. power and is superior because first, it allows more people to live a life free to think and decide as they wish; second, while it has flaws, it can correct them as the civil rights movement demonstrated; and third, Washington’s ideology makes it a valuable ally. Its free and open political principles make the United States a more valuable and dependable ally. In contrast to China, U.S. decision-making is transparent to allies, it has a dynamic and inclusive society, and has a long history of protecting the interests of allies and treating them as equal partners. Unfortunately, in the face of the direct challenge from China, the United States is often caught flat-footed. The United States has been complacent and overconfident about its place in the world. In addition, Americans are often reluctant to talk about ideology and, even in policy circles, to understand its ability to inspire and its importance in peer competition. The core ideology of the United States is a composite of political liberty, free-market capitalism, and the rule of law—as exemplified by the right to openly dissent. In contrast, China’s ideology is inchoate and dangerous: tyranny, a nascent Maoism in “Xi Jinping Thought,” and suppression of rights, most particularly political, religious, and civil. A future that is free and open cannot be guaranteed by the United States alone, but it cannot be achieved at all without U.S. leadership. Were today’s China to supplant the United States, the international order would look very different and for a very long time. A news program report on CCP leader Xi Jinping’s appearance at a U.S.-led climate summit is seen on a giant screen in Beijing on April 23, 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images) The United States has largely been absent from the fight. It has failed to match Beijing’s growing ideological power, captured by the “common destiny of mankind” rhetoric. The common destiny of mankind will be tyranny if the Chinese regime gets its way. Washington’s failure has been strategic, certainly, but more disturbingly, there has been incoherence and ineffectiveness in its ability to define the threat. The United States must employ its ideology into the struggle with China. How it will be done will be informed by successful campaigns from the past, in World Wars I and II and the Cold War, and it will take many forms: protecting freedoms, honoring alliances, and reminding states of the value of U.S. power and the international order it created. The good news for the United States and for the world is that Beijing’s tyranny opens major advantages for the United States. First, it provides the United States with the ability to explain the ultimate reason for the struggle: freedom is legitimate and superior to the tyranny of the Chinese regime, but freedom must be defended. Our ideology unifies the American and like-minded people around the world. The United States must contrast its dynamic, innovative, free society, one able to correct its flaws, with the increasingly wealthy but ethnocentric, racist, and closed society of the Chinese. The West went through a civil rights movement to create cultures of anti-racism throughout their societies. In China, the idea of a civil rights movement that would aid ethnic, religious, or other minorities and undermine the power of the Chinese regime is unthinkable—and that stark recognition essentially captures the profound differences between the two societies. U.S. ideology may serve to undermine the legitimacy of the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule in the minds of the Chinese people. Second, as a free and open society, it allows the United States to offer a better alliance partnership with African states than China, whose presence in Africa is all too often defined by racism and abuse of people around the world. If the United States continues to neglect the ideolog

Freedom Will Win Over the Tyranny of the Chinese Regime

Commentary

Josef Stalin once queried, “how many divisions has the Pope?” as a way to belittle Pius XII’s influence in contrast to the might of the Red Army. That was easy to do from his position at the end of World War II.

Yet religion in Poland, East Germany, the Soviet Union itself, and among the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, all contributed in their own ways to the demise of Stalin’s empire. Religion, like U.S. ideology, was a strategic asymmetry in the struggle against the Soviet Union.

A strategic asymmetry is the identification of areas of comparative advantage in a competitive relationship. Advantages may be economic, military, political, ideological, or social, which produce greater capability, capacity, or efficiency sufficient to change or maintain a balance of power between peer competitors.

In the present contest with China, U.S. ideology may play an analogous role. To win the competition with China, the ideology of the United States must be used in this struggle, as it was in the Cold War and in the World Wars.

The ideology of the United States undergirds U.S. power and is superior because first, it allows more people to live a life free to think and decide as they wish; second, while it has flaws, it can correct them as the civil rights movement demonstrated; and third, Washington’s ideology makes it a valuable ally.

Its free and open political principles make the United States a more valuable and dependable ally. In contrast to China, U.S. decision-making is transparent to allies, it has a dynamic and inclusive society, and has a long history of protecting the interests of allies and treating them as equal partners.

Unfortunately, in the face of the direct challenge from China, the United States is often caught flat-footed. The United States has been complacent and overconfident about its place in the world. In addition, Americans are often reluctant to talk about ideology and, even in policy circles, to understand its ability to inspire and its importance in peer competition.

The core ideology of the United States is a composite of political liberty, free-market capitalism, and the rule of law—as exemplified by the right to openly dissent. In contrast, China’s ideology is inchoate and dangerous: tyranny, a nascent Maoism in “Xi Jinping Thought,” and suppression of rights, most particularly political, religious, and civil.

A future that is free and open cannot be guaranteed by the United States alone, but it cannot be achieved at all without U.S. leadership. Were today’s China to supplant the United States, the international order would look very different and for a very long time.

Epoch Times Photo
A news program report on CCP leader Xi Jinping’s appearance at a U.S.-led climate summit is seen on a giant screen in Beijing on April 23, 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States has largely been absent from the fight. It has failed to match Beijing’s growing ideological power, captured by the “common destiny of mankind” rhetoric. The common destiny of mankind will be tyranny if the Chinese regime gets its way. Washington’s failure has been strategic, certainly, but more disturbingly, there has been incoherence and ineffectiveness in its ability to define the threat.

The United States must employ its ideology into the struggle with China. How it will be done will be informed by successful campaigns from the past, in World Wars I and II and the Cold War, and it will take many forms: protecting freedoms, honoring alliances, and reminding states of the value of U.S. power and the international order it created. The good news for the United States and for the world is that Beijing’s tyranny opens major advantages for the United States.

First, it provides the United States with the ability to explain the ultimate reason for the struggle: freedom is legitimate and superior to the tyranny of the Chinese regime, but freedom must be defended. Our ideology unifies the American and like-minded people around the world. The United States must contrast its dynamic, innovative, free society, one able to correct its flaws, with the increasingly wealthy but ethnocentric, racist, and closed society of the Chinese.

The West went through a civil rights movement to create cultures of anti-racism throughout their societies. In China, the idea of a civil rights movement that would aid ethnic, religious, or other minorities and undermine the power of the Chinese regime is unthinkable—and that stark recognition essentially captures the profound differences between the two societies. U.S. ideology may serve to undermine the legitimacy of the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule in the minds of the Chinese people.

Second, as a free and open society, it allows the United States to offer a better alliance partnership with African states than China, whose presence in Africa is all too often defined by racism and abuse of people around the world.

If the United States continues to neglect the ideological component in its statecraft, it will be increasingly hard-pressed to maintain its position as the dominant state in international politics. If the United States loses its dominant position, then communist China will fill the vacuum. China’s rise means that what the CCP believes, and how it conceives of the world and its place in it, is supremely important to understand.

China sees the world with it as its core, and all others in a subordinate position. The United States must define and execute a strategy that prevents this outcome. Its ideology is one of its greatest weapons.

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


Follow

Bradley A. Thayer is a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger: China and is the co-author of “How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.”