Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the global threat that China poses. Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about China? 

A. China has the world’s largest active military. 
B. China does not pose a serious threat to the U.S. 
C. China remains one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. 

A. True. The U.S. may still have the world’s most powerful armed forces but China is a growing threat. China has been a nuclear power for decades, and is rapidly modernizing its arsenal and building up its military, including its space program, and an ocean-going navy that just a generation ago was a largely coastal force, negligible in world affairs. 

This military growth is not just for show (although as the Wall Street Journal noted, a massive military parade last year sent a clear message to Washington: that the U.S.’s technological advantage is shrinking fast.). China is developing missiles designed to defeat U.S. air defenses, and has been using its growing military capabilities to bully and threaten Japan and Taiwan, along with increasing its territorial grabs in the South China Sea, threatening the freedom of navigation in vital shipping lines. 

B. False. China poses a grave and growing threat to America and our democratic allies. China’s dictator, President Xi Jinping, aspires to transform China into the world’s dominant power, replacing a U.S.-led global order that values freedom with a soul-crushing system centered on the dictates of China’s ruling Communist Party.

The coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, is a stunningly destructive wakeup call. China has handled this outbreak with a blitz of lies and malign intent, exploiting the widespread misery and chaos to try to advance its predatory ambitions. There are elements here of a new Cold War, made all the more dangerous because China today is intricately entwined with the world economy, and via the central command of the Communist Party leverages those connections to plunder, bully and extort. This is a showdown between freedom and despotism, which America cannot afford to lose.

C. True. After the brutal slaughtering of its own peaceful protesters in the Tiananmen protests of 1989, China has worked to ensure that its atrocities take place without international witnesses. But its human rights abuses and anti-democratic practices continue, with such horrors as brain-washing concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims, the consignment of dissidents to prisons and labor camps, the crushing of the freedoms China promised to Hong Kong and the threats against the thriving Chinese democracy in Taiwan. 

Inside China, the Communist Party maintains a pervasive system of surveillance and control. People are constantly tracked on camera, through spending apps, and in almost every interaction, while the authorities assign them scores for “social credit” – doling out rewards and punishments depending on how faithfully they follow the CCP dictates.