From the spy balloon traversing American missile fields to the coronavirus pandemic to the pervasive espionage, pilfering, deceptions, and military buildup, events of recent years have thrown into sharp relief the global threat that China poses. Now what? 

Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.” Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about China? 

A. China has the world’s largest active military.
B. Engagement with China will ease the threat. All we need to do is find common ground.
C. China remains one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. 

A. TRUTH! 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. There are abundant signs that China’s top communist party boss, Xi Jinping, in his quest for global dominance, is prepared to use his rapidly expanding arsenal. China is building a massive navy, developing missiles designed to defeat U.S. air defenses, and has forged a partnership with Russia that includes joint military exercises. Along with threatening the U.S., China has been using its growing military capabilities to bully and threaten neighbors including Japan and Taiwan. 

B. LIE! 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.

Alas, on the big things (and many of the small), there is no common ground. Xi’s and the CCP’s declared aim is to supplant the U.S. and preside over a grim new world order. China’s ruling communist party aims to subjugate Taiwan; they regard it as their right to violate their treaty promises and crush Hong Kong; even the erstwhile common ground of the climate of the planet works out in practice to China demanding America sacrifice today, while China issues worthless promises of jam tomorrow. As for “common ground” on things like healthcare… the PRC is the country that brought us the COVID pandemic, covered it up at the start, imposed extreme lockdown horrors on its own people, and lied about it to the world. None of this is OK. Beijing, accustomed to decades of engagement and appeasement, views U.S. engagement as a weakness to be exploited, not goodwill to be reciprocated.

C. TRUTH! After the brutal slaughter 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.

Bottom Line: 

For roughly half a century, since President Nixon’s 1972 rapprochement with Communist China, the U.S. has pursued engagement—to China’s great benefit, and at growing cost to America. The result has been to reinforce the rise and rapidly expanding reach of an aggressive, totalitarian regime in Beijing, which now threatens our security and freedoms. The time for engagement is over. What we need now is deterrence: the will to stand up to China’s predatory ambitions, and the arsenal and capabilities to make it crystal clear that we mean it.