With much of the world preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout – and in the U.S. that’s compounded by a presidential election campaign and the outrage and unrest following the killing of George Floyd – deteriorating relations with China are under the radar for many voters.
They shouldn’t be. We are on the verge of Cold War footing – if we aren’t there already.
China has moved aggressively on a wide front to push its agenda – while deflecting criticism for its role in the COVID-19 pandemic – by flexing economic, political and military muscle. In addition to upping its military provocation in regional waters, it has flooded American institutions – including academic – with people tasked with stealing U.S. technology, warns FBI Director Christopher Wray. He calls the Chinese campaign of theft the “greatest threat to our economic vitality” and says the agency has 1,000 open investigations into suspected Chinese economic espionage spanning just about every industry sector.
Having grown weary of protests in Hong Kong, China went back on its promises of autonomy and passed a new security law essentially outlawing dissent in the former British colony. Earlier this week the Chinese government “sanctioned” two U.S. senators who had the temerity to complain about Chinese behavior and criticize mass Chinese detention of up to 1 million Muslim Uighurs.
China has made territorial claims on its border with India, resulting in military clashes, and has expanded its internet censorship that has been hugely successful in stifling internal dissent, getting Zoom to censor talks being held in the U.S., according to the New York Times.
Fortunately, the United States and others have begun to confront China.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump ended Hong Kong’s preferential trade status and imposed sanctions on officials who crack down on rights there. Trump also signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, passed unanimously by Congress, that penalizes banks for doing business with Chinese officials who implement the security law.
Australia is pushing for an international investigation into the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19 – drawing a Chinese boycott on importation of Australian beef.
This week, the United Kingdom banned equipment from controversial Chinese company Huawei – accused of being a security risk for Western customers – from its 5G networks.
A defense white paper adopted this week by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet said China’s push to make territorial claims in regional seas was posing a greater threat to Japan and the region. Japan is now exploring ways to move beyond its conventional defense-only role under the Japan-U.S. security alliance.
The growing tensions are in addition to the realization in the U.S. we must reshore production of things like antibiotics from China.
It is imperative candidates in the upcoming election – from Congress to President – be prepared to give clear answers on what U.S. policy should be. And voters should demand nothing less.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.