In October the USA vice president, Mike Pence, very frankly and bluntly expressed the USA’s concerns about China.
The Chinese government, he said, is using political, economic, military and propaganda tools to promote its interests and benefits in the USA and is increasingly trying to “influence and interfere in the domestic policy and politics of this country”.
Mr Pence said that in the past the Chinese welcomed trade with America and that America had sought to help China in various ways. For example, it had “ensured that China became a member of the United Nations”.
He added that, “when American missionaries brought the good news to China’s shores, they were moved by the rich culture of an ancient and vibrant people. And not only did they spread their faith, but those same missionaries founded some of China’s first and finest universities”.
After WW2, however, “the Chinese Communist Party began to pursue authoritarian expansionism”. Americans had fought against Chinese in Korea, leaving a divided Korea (North Korea remains communist).
Things looked up in the 1970s when China and America engaged in business with one another and “American universities began training a new generation of Chinese engineers, business leaders, scholars, and officials”. The USA opened its economy to China and brought China into the World Trade Organisation.
“Previous administrations made this choice in the hope that freedom in China would expand in all of its forms -– not just economically, but politically, with a newfound respect for classical liberal principles, private property, personal liberty, religious freedom — the entire family of human rights.”
China’s unethical practices
That turned out to be an unfulfilled hope. Mr Pence pointed out that over the past couple of decades China’s economy has boomed, due in large part to American investment in China. But its economy has remained firmly under the control of the Chinese Communist Party which has used unethical practices to become more powerful, especially at the cost of the USA. These corrupt practices include taxing goods coming into China from America (thereby discouraging Chinese from buying US goods), quotas (limiting US goods coming into China), currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies that are handed out like candy to foreign investment. These policies have built Beijing’s manufacturing base, at the expense of its competitors -– especially the US. China’s actions contributed to a trade deficit with the United States that last year ran to $375 billion.
Mr Pence added that China has set its sights on controlling 90 percent of the world’s most advanced industries, including robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. To win the commanding heights of the 21st century economy, Beijing has directed its bureaucrats and businesses to obtain American intellectual property by any means necessary.
“Beijing now requires many American businesses to hand over their trade secrets as the cost of doing business in China. It also coordinates and sponsors the acquisition of American firms to gain ownership of their creations. Worst of all, Chinese security agencies have masterminded the wholesale theft of American technology –- including cutting-edge military blueprints. And using that stolen technology, the Chinese Communist Party is turning plowshares into swords on a massive scale.”
China’s military power
Whilst China’s aggressive economic policies have helped turn it into an economic powerhouse, its economic wealth is being channelled into enhancing its military prowess. There are signs that it is seeking to its influence and power throughout the earth and at the same time working to weaken the US influence. Said Mr Pence:
“China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined, and Beijing has prioritized capabilities to erode America’s military advantages on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies. But they will fail.
Beijing is also using its power like never before. Chinese ships routinely patrol around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan. And while China’s leader stood in the Rose Garden at the White House in 2015 and said that his country had, and I quote, “no intention to militarize” the South China Sea, today, Beijing has deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles atop an archipelago of military bases constructed on artificial islands.”
Controlling its own people
But it is not only in relation to the outside world that China is pursuing aggressive economic and military strategies, it is also increasingly controlling and oppressing its own people. Western countries had hoped that, as China’s economy prospered, it would show more freedom to its own people. It seemed that way at first, but now its true colours are becoming evident. It uses the technology it learned from others, especially the US, to monitor the behaviour of its own people. Thousands of surveillance cameras have been installed and its people know that, to quote Orwell, ‘big brother is watching’. They have discovered that if they do anything that the communist party disapproves of, there will be repercussions. Step out of line and you won’t, for example, be able to take the bullet train or be permitted to fly – as many Chinese have discovered to their dismay.
It’s no secret that lately Christians are increasingly being persecuted. A lot of Christian churches have therefore gone underground where Christians are obliged to take great precautions not to be seen worshipping. Mr Pence said,
“Last month, Beijing shut down one of China’s largest underground churches. Across the country, authorities are tearing down crosses, burning bibles, and imprisoning believers. And Beijing has now reached a deal with the Vatican that gives the avowedly atheist Communist Party a direct role in appointing Catholic bishops. For China’s Christians, these are desperate times.”
The persecution is not restricted to Christianity. To quote Mr Pence:
“Beijing is also cracking down on Buddhism. Over the past decade, more than 150 Tibetan Buddhist monks have lit themselves on fire to protest China’s repression of their beliefs and their culture. And in Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned as many as one million Muslim Uyghurs in government camps where they endure around-the-clock brainwashing. Survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uyghur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith.”
China’s ‘debt diplomacy’
Increasingly China is using its wealth to establish a degree of control over other countries by loaning them millions and billions of dollars to build infrastructure. This is welcomed by those countries that are short of money. When they can’t pay it back, they find themselves having to cave in to China’s wishes and its control over these countries.
“Just ask Sri Lanka, which took on massive debt to let Chinese state companies build a port of questionable commercial value. Two years ago, that country could no longer afford its payments, so Beijing pressured Sri Lanka to deliver the new port directly into Chinese hands. It may soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy.”
China also gives money to universities, political parties and candidates but, in return, expects them to support China’s strategic objectives.
Under President Trump’s leadership the US is retaliating. It’s spending more on its military defence. It’s also implementing “tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, with the highest tariffs specifically targeting the advanced industries that Beijing is trying to capture and control”. And it is threatening to increase those tariffs. The result is that China’s markets are suffering.
These actions — exercises in American strength — have had a major impact. China’s largest stock exchange fell by 25 percent in the first nine months of this year, in large part because the US administration has been standing strong against Beijing’s trade practices, said Mr Pence.
“As President Trump has made clear, we don’t want China’s markets to suffer. In fact, we want them to thrive. But the United States wants Beijing to pursue trade policies that are free, fair, and reciprocal. And we will continue to stand and demand that they do.”
Whether China will toe the line and do what’s right is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, its communist regime is doing what it can to undermine support for President Trump, the US agenda and its ideals. As Mr Pence said:
“Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests. It’s employing this power in more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies of this country and to interfere in the politics of the United States. The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials. And worst of all, China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections. To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working; and China wants a different American President.”
We can sympathise with Mr Pence and the USA in the face of Chia’s aggressive and subversive behaviour. However, as pointed out in the previous article placed on this website, Scripture shows that the real warfare is not between east and west; it’s not between countries great or small. The real warfare is between Christ and Satan, between church and world, between Christ the restorer of culture and Satan who corrupts it. Whilst we are critical of China for persecuting those who acknowledge and serve Christ, the King of kings, and for valuing the lives of its citizens so cheaply especially under Mao, we also have reason to be critical of the US and the corrupting influence of a God-denying culture promoted by Hollywood, and for valuing life so cheaply by snuffing out, in the name of freedom, the lives of countless unborn children. Both promote a slavery to sin: China by forcing its residents to embrace godless communism; the US by permitting a ‘freedom’ to engage in all sorts of licentiousness. It’s just that in the US there is still a degree of freedom to serve God openly.
We do not know what the future holds; God knows. He laughs at rulers who, being mere men, elevate themselves as though they are in the position of God and think they can break away from His will (Psalm 2) and control world events. Since the days of the Roman empire there have been attempts by Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and others to rule the world, but God has not allowed them to succeed. Instead, through the fluctuating tensions of world history, Christ has quietly been establishing His eternal kingdom as He gathers, defends and preserves, through His Spirit and Word, His church through the generations. It is a priceless privilege to belong to that church and to know that to Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth, that the future is in His hands, and that He rules, whether people on earth believe it or not.