SMITH: America Must Contain And Confront China After Its Capture Of Hong Kong

(Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Marion Smith Contributor
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that the U.S. should take an aggressive stance in punishing China over Hong Kong and in containing its further expansion. You can find a counterpoint here, where Walter Lohman, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, argues that the U.S. should take a cautious approach to confronting China over its elimination of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Communist China’s takeover of Hong Kong proves one thing:  The People’s Republic of China is a fundamentally expansionist power. Like the Soviet Union before it, Beijing seeks nothing short of domination – starting with its neighbors, but certainly not stopping there. According to FBI director Christopher Wray, China is intent on becoming “the world’s only superpower — by any means necessary.” That puts China on a collision course with the United States (and also explains why the FBI opens a new counterespionage case investigation involving China every ten hours). These are the early days of a new cold war, and America owes it to its citizens, its allies and the world to strive for victory.

If the first Cold War taught us any lesson, it’s that Communist expansion does not stop on its own. It must be stopped by the free world. The Soviet Union gobbled up territory in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and then worked to spread its Marxist ideology from Africa to the Americas. Virtually all of these conquests were met with U.S.-led efforts to roll back or contain communism’s spread. The reaction to Communist China’s aggression must be no different. The sad state of Hong Kong gives the world a look at the risks posed by an unchecked China to free people everywhere.

Beijing’s eradication of Hong Kong’s autonomy is not China’s first attempt at expansion, nor will it be the last. For more than 75 years, China has pursued the ideological coercion of Tibet, where it has sought to exterminate Tibetan culture and the Buddhist religion. In Xinjiang, the predominantly Muslim Uighur community is in similar danger, as Beijing pursues a campaign of cultural genocide in so-called “re-education camps” and even ethnic genocide through forced abortion and sterilization.

Beyond its borders, China has occupied or built new islands in the South China Sea, promptly militarizing them. Now, with Hong Kong captured, Beijing is likely turning its attention to Taiwan. China has also built military bases and snapped up critical infrastructure and land from Southeast Asia to Africa to the Pacific Islands.

In other words, China’s global ambitions are gaining ground. The takeover of Hong Kong provides the proper opening to respond with strength. China has violated its treaty obligations by abandoning the “One Country, Two Systems” policy to which they agreed as a condition of the territory’s handover from Great Britain in 1997.

This starts with clear thinking. With Taiwan the next likely target of Beijing’s oppression, it is time for the United States to rethink its approach to the “One China” policy, which affirms that there is only one legitimate government representing the territory, people, history and culture of China – the one headquartered in Beijing. Although the U.S. government has followed this policy as a diplomatic gesture towards China since the 1970s era of normalization guided by Henry Kissinger, it is not bound to do so by any treaty.

Any fealty to that misguided “One China” policy should be a reward of good behavior to Beijing, not a given. The Chinese Communist Party has never de jure or de facto controlled the territory of Taiwan — officially known as the Republic of China — and must never do so. Our rejection of the “One China” policy would give us greater standing to oppose any eventual Hong Kong-style crackdown imposed by Beijing upon Taiwan.

Such a step would only be part of a new robust effort to finally stand up to China. The U.S. must also pursue a combination of sanctions, trade penalties and diplomatic maneuvers to isolate and punish the Chinese Communist Party. In the short term, these measures could be organized to respond to the Hong Kong debacle specifically, limiting Beijing’s ability to bleed Hong Kong dry or use it as an access point to hack into and further steal the fruits of Western innovation and expertise.

There must also be a military component. The United States was right to send two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea recently, but this is not sufficient. The U.S. should be looking to build major bases in the region, the likes of which haven’t existed since the sale of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base to the Philippines in the 1990s.

The United States would also be wise to dramatically strengthen arms sales to Taiwan, and even consider stationing U.S. forces there. Beijing officials are already threatening to conquer the island through military force; nothing would deter that like the presence of American troops, missiles, planes and ships.

Such actions would undoubtedly upset Beijing, but keeping China’s rulers happy isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a valid U.S. foreign policy goal. The real goal must be to stop Chinese expansion and aggression, something only American strength can do. The U.S. can either act now, after Hong Kong, or wait for Beijing’s Pacific provocations to reach Hawaii.

Beyond simply stopping China’s expansion, the Cold War offers another important lesson: America must remain open to those fleeing from communism.

The United States was a place of refuge for those fleeing oppression and seeking freedom during the days of the Soviet Union. Americans welcomed millions of refugees from the lands that had fallen under communist domination, from Poland and Ethiopia to Cuba and Vietnam. What was true then can still be true now.

Now that China has captured Hong Kong, America would do well to offer the people of Hong Kong safe harbor here. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have already done so. We must again prioritize refugees fleeing from communist rule. Such a move would show that America stands with those who understand and appreciate our freedoms. It would also bring to our shores those who understand the practical tyranny of America’s new top security threat — the Chinese Communist Party — who could then contribute to our efforts to counter Beijing’s influence.

Hong Kong is the tipping point, one way or another. Now is the time for the United States to push back against Communist China, like the Soviet Union before it, before it further spreads its ideology and tyranny. America’s interests and values demand nothing less than our country’s full resolve and strength.

Marion Smith (@smithmarion) is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.