What Is Missing From America’s China Policy?

COMMENTARY Asia

What Is Missing From America’s China Policy?

Dec 5, 2022 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Michael Cunningham

Research Fellow, China, Asian Studies Center

Michael is a research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center.
Chinese national flags on the Great Hall of the People ahead of the opening meeting of the fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress on March 5, 2022 in Beijing, China. VCG / VCG/ Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Even as America has become less naive about the threats the CCP poses to U.S. national security, too little has been done to combat these threats.

Politicians seem more interested in portraying themselves as tough on China than in doing the necessary work to develop effective solutions to complex problems.

We as a country must muster the will to prioritize national security over political and business interests, and today that will is sorely lacking.

Even as America has become less naive about the threats the Chinese Communist Party poses to U.S. national security, too little has been done to combat these threats. This isn’t because policymakers don’t know how to defend America from the CCP. In many cases, they simply lack the political will to do so.

To be sure, U.S. policy toward China has hardened considerably since the Trump administration. The government no longer actively encourages U.S. businesses to expand in China and contribute to the country’s development. An array of sanctions and entity lists have been released, and Congress is constantly churning out new bills targeting Beijing.

But to date, these actions have proven insufficient. Like using a Band-Aid to treat a broken limb, lawmakers project the image that something is being done to address the problem, but they fail to address its root causes. In many cases, politicians seem more interested in portraying themselves as tough on China than in doing the necessary work to develop effective solutions to complex problems.

For example, few would deny that the U.S. government’s greatest responsibility is to provide for America’s defense. And yet Washington is watching our greatest geopolitical rival rapidly modernize its military while our once-unmatched armed forces increasingly fall behind. Rebuilding the U.S. military will require making tough choices and reallocating funds from wasteful domestic programs, yet no one wants to abandon pet projects.

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Meanwhile, U.S. businesses continue to export sensitive technology to China, and American private equity continues to fund Chinese artificial intelligence companies that supply their country’s military and security services. Too many are more concerned with their bottom line than the safety and security of the U.S. If they’re not willing to change course, members of Congress must do more to force their hand when national security interests are at stake.

America needs to move away from a Band-Aid-style approach to China policy and truly get serious. Some industries with dual-use civilian and military applications need to be more tightly regulated, and policies must be strictly enforced.

Not all long-standing problems will be rectified overnight. This includes complex problems such as securing critical supply chains. Nevertheless, we as a country must muster the will to prioritize national security over political and business interests, and today that will is sorely lacking.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner