Rogers: We Face a Chinese Future, If We Allow It to Happen

A version of this piece was published in The Messenger Opinion, 17 May 2023

Unless we make a change in 2024 and take the challenge that China represents seriously, we
will lose in this era of strategic competition. We on a path that will see the most profound
geopolitical defeat in our country’s history, not through invasion or by force of arms, but
through the erosion of American power. The consequences of this defeat are ones from which
our country may never recover and never return, but will look longingly at today, which will be
seen as halcyon days by comparison.

A world where China wins is one where America’s fate is not in its own hands. The decisions of
Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party will have far greater impact than those of
Washington. The hands of the president and Congress are tied; their powers circumscribed by
Beijing’s actions on the international stage. This is not idle speculation or alarmism but stated
goal of the Chinese Communist Party. China wants to recapture what it views as its lost position
of greatness after a “century of humiliation”.

A world in which China wins is wholly alien to Americans today.

A world in which China wins will see the dominance of the dollar ended. An increasing number
of countries are accepting the yuan in lieu of the dollar—Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and
Argentina, for example. The relative stability of America’s markets is upended as the dollar is
replaced by the yuan. Interest rates will be far higher than today and the cost of borrowing
money prohibitively expensive. Americans purchasing power at home and abroad will erode.

A world in which China sets the international rules for trade is one in which companies and
businesses do not compete on an even playing field. The Chinese Communist Party will put its
hands on the scales, tipping them in favor of Chinese businesses. The United States has filed
nearly 30 cases with the World Trade Organization about China’s unfair practices, and won
every single one, yet Beijing still refuses to play by the rules.

A China that controls the supply chains for critical minerals and rare earth elements is one that
dominates future industries. Today, Beijing accounts for over 60% of the world’s rare earth
mining and 85% of its processing. The vital components for the green revolution are wholly in
Beijing’s hands, giving it profound leverage while the world works to shift from fossil fuels to
advanced batteries. It can simply turn off the taps whenever it wants, or merely threaten that
very supply to ensure compliance with its interests.

Chinese dominance means its apps and tools are in the hands of every American, affording Beijing unparalleled access to every citizen. With apps like TikTok, which already has 150 million users in America, China can censor what our citizens see, ensuring that only Party approved messages a viewed by Americans—it is ubiquitous stealth censorship and the direct erosion of our democracy. A dominant China will promote those who agree with it and denigrate those who run afoul of the Party’s platform.

A dominant China is one that pushes America out of the Indo-Pacific and bullies its neighbors, and one that retakes Taiwan by force. China now has the world’s largest navy, with 355 ships at sea, and rising. America’s one-time allies will look elsewhere for security and reassurance, pursuing their own defense policies and creating more instability, not less. In this world, America’s military is a paper tiger, hollowed out, and unable to defend our national interests.

This is a future we can avoid if we act today and take the challenge seriously. It means the smart and judicious application of power abroad and the reinvigoration of our democratic republic at home. It means jettisoning the sugar-high politics of confrontation and celebrity and rising above our petty politics.

It means getting our fiscal house in order. In 2022, China held $981 billion of our debt, exposing us to unacceptable levels of risk. We cannot afford to spend as recklessly as we do on outdated and inefficient programs that cost more each year and deliver less to our citizens. Reducing our borrowing from China and strengthening our economy at home will create greater stability in both foreign and domestic markets, giving greater confidence in the dollar and enhancing its competitiveness. This means modernizing government, which will lead to smaller, better, and more efficient government.

This means ending China’s campaign of industrial espionage of the next generation of technology. The scale of this campaign is staggering: right now, the FBI opens a counterespionage case every 10 hours. It means putting a stop to the Chinese Communist Party’s unfettered access to our country’s best and brightest education and research institutions.

It means outcompeting China. This means re-engaging with our allies and partners in international forums. It means mobilizing American business. It means unleashing American innovation, not constraining it for narrow social agendas. It means securing deals with our allies and partners based on the rule of law. In our own hemisphere, China’s reach has rapidly expanded—over 20 countries participate in Beijing’s One Belt, One Road development initiative, and over 15% of Latin America’s exports go to China, up from 1% at the turn of the century. We need to get back out onto the playing field and make American businesses more competitive.

An America in charge of its own destiny is one that limits the unfettered access to and manipulation of our democracy. It means taking a much closer look at investments, apps, and technology from China and being unafraid to use the powers of government protect the American people.

We must win in this contest against China, but more importantly we can if we act now.

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