President-elect Joe Biden has selected seasoned professionals for the top jobs on his foreign policy and national security team, with some positions — most notably the defense secretary — yet to be announced. But while the men and women selected so far have admirable government experience and diverse backgrounds, they suffer from a limited range of views on China.
In nominating Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security, and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence — and in appointing Jake Sullivan as his national security adviser and former Secretary of State John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate — Biden has drawn on mainstream Democrats who will aim to strengthen U.S. alliances and address transnational challenges like climate change.
Yet, regarding the most serious long-term challenge to U.S. security — the People’s Republic of China — Biden and his national security and foreign policy team seem to have only partly discarded Biden’s earlier stance of seeming nonchalance to the challenge. Even as late as last year, the former vice president notably downplayed the notion that China competes with the United States, though his recent rhetoric regarding Beijing has become firmer.
Biden and his team now acknowledge the threat of growing Chinese military power and Beijing’s increasing bullying of its neighbors. They also stress the importance of countering China’s campaign to control major international institutions like the United Nations. And they emphasize the need to strengthen U.S. competitiveness to counterbalance China’s efforts to achieve global economic primacy.
But Biden and his team continue to neglect other dimensions of the Chinese challenge, such as the imperative to better protect U.S. supply chain security from Chinese predations.
For example, Blinken told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in September: “Trying to fully decouple, as some have suggested, from China …. is unrealistic and ultimately counter-productive.”
Blinken is striking out at a straw man. Nobody envisions the complete decoupling of U.S.-China trade, but selective shielding of critical areas of the U.S. economy from China’s full-court press for global economic supremacy is essential.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has set the goal of becoming the world’s leading military power by mid-century. To this end, Xi’s regime has pursued a Military-Civil Fusion Strategy that obliges Chinese companies and nationals to steal foreign trade secrets for the People’s Liberation Army. The aim is “to make any technology accessible to anyone” under China’s jurisdiction “available to support the regime’s ambitions,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in October.
The United States has been a prime target of this espionage campaign. Since 2015, the U.S. Justice Department has indicted hundreds of Chinese and U.S. citizens for violating U.S. export controls, sanctions and other laws prohibiting the transfer of sensitive security technologies to China.
Despite years of promises, including those made personally by Chinese President Xi to U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Trump, Chinese theft of U.S. and other foreign intellectual property continues to run rampant.
U.S. companies investing in China still experience insider theft of their secrets through comprehensive human and cyber penetration. Chinese firms, think tanks, universities and other entities are constructing connections with U.S. partners to recruit their employees and misappropriate their knowledge for Chinese ends.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has warned that the American people “are the victims of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.”
The FBI has identified and thwarted a…