How likely is war with China? And what can we do to prevent it? Bryan Burack and Jeff Smith get into what’s going on with China in military terms, and how we can deter bad things from happening.
John Popp: From The Heritage Foundation, this is Heritage Explains.
Mark Guiney: It's safe to say that Benjamin Franklin is a pretty famous guy in American history. He's well known as a publisher of newspapers and books, an inventor of stoves, bifocals, and lightning rods, and being a founding father of the country. But he was also the father of another innovation, one that we take for granted. In 1730 in Franklin's native Philadelphia, there was a fire on a ship at the city's wharf. The fire spread to the buildings on land, burning down several warehouses as well as homes. This event started Franklin thinking about what could be done to prevent such a disaster from happening again. At this time, cities often had what were called fire societies, which were paid membership services. They would fight fires that occurred at the houses of businesses of their members. But Franklin proposed a bold new idea, a volunteer fire brigade that would respond to fires affecting any citizens.
In 1736, he established the Union Fire Company, the first all-volunteer firefighting company in the colonies. What Franklin did was take the resources of willing volunteers and marshal them into a strong defense. Sure, there were buckets and horses and hoses and willing individuals in Philadelphia at this time, but he organized these components into an effective machine designed to fight fires at the beginning, to prevent them from becoming neighborhood wide or citywide disasters. It was not enough to have individual citizens fight individual fires going on right now. It was essential to have a coordinated effort to keep disaster from happening in the first place. There's a lesson here for modern day Americans. The threat of military action from the Chinese Communist Party is certainly a daunting one. Today on Heritage Explains, we're going to talk about the likelihood of war. Today on Heritage Explains, we're going to talk about the likelihood of war with China and why, like Franklin, we should use deterrence as a strategy and we'll begin, as we always do, by talking to someone who knows.
Bryan Burack: My name is Bryan Burack. I am the Senior Policy Advisor in the Asian Study Center handling China and the Indo-Pacific.
Guiney: You have a law degree from George Mason, you have a master's degree in Chinese studies from Valparaiso University and you were at Furman University before that. What started you on China?
Burack: It's been a obsession of my adult life. The actual thing that got the ball rolling was my grandfather was a New York City police detective. He was interested in national security matters. He was actually one of the founding members of the FBI terrorist task force in New York. So he was always interested in the world and he was fascinated with China in the early 2000s and that was when I was making decisions about what I wanted to do with my life and he inspired me to focus on the national security threats associated with China. That seemed very important even back then and it was interesting to watch the pre-2008 Beijing Olympics, China before Xi Jinping came to power. It was a very different place even then, very interesting and then since then, it's only confirmed our worst suspicions in many ways about the scale of the threat and the challenge that's before us.
Guiney: What is the general state of play when it comes to our military readiness for China?
Burack: We're in a difficult moment right now and I think that the stability and security that has endured in the Indo-Pacific in the decades following World War II is really starting to change and shift in ways that we need to be attentive to and really adapt to. For many years the United States was a pretty much unchallenged guarantor of security throughout the region. We sacrificed many American lives in order to build the system that has gone on to provide prosperity for billions of people subsequently and now we have a near peer challenger that is starting to really make many of our national security leaders question can we actually continue to maintain this sort of guarantee that we've insured for many years? We have a number of challenges. The PLA, the People's Liberation Army, which is the arm [inaudible 00:04:47] of the Communist Party of China, is now thought by many to be able to prevail in an actual conflict with the United States.
There are increasingly real threats that such a conflict could result in the coming years. At the same time, we have significant limitations on our own strength that are really coming home to roost. We have an aging navy that is now surpassed a number of holes by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy, and their Coast Guard, which is similarly threatening. We have significant limitations in our own domestic production, particularly in munitions, so we're unsure of the extent to which we can arm our friends and which we can arm ourselves in the case of a conflict. We have sign some significant challenges right now that really need to be addressed.
Guiney: I've heard about the mismatch with the Navy in the past with the Army. What's driving that mismatch? Is it a question of absolute numbers? Is it a question of technology? Is it a question of strategy? Where are we weak?
Burack: It's a little bit of all of those things. I think in terms of numbers, that is absolutely a piece of it. We've allowed for the attrition of the United States industrial economy in a number of regards. One of the most severe is in ship building. We really have no meaningful capacity to build surface vessels to the extent that we need to. There's also a investment side of the equation wherein, in across various aspects of our national security, budgeting, spending and strategy, we have really failed to prioritize the Indo-Pacific to the extent that is required under great power competition. Before we even get to military conflict, we have other tools of state craft as a country, right? We have these sort of foreign aid and investment agencies that we spend a significant amount of money on every year as a country, and we expect those to be contributing to our national security and our foreign policy goals, obviously.
The problem is that even though since the Obama administration we've said as a country where we're pivoting to the Indo-Pacific, this is now our primary national security foreign policy concern, and more recently the national security strategies of the United States have identified the Indo-Pacific as our primary theater of military competition, if you actually look at the numbers, it doesn't really bear out in reality. Unfortunately we continue to spend significantly less than 10% of all of our civilian side foreign policy spending in the Indo-Pacific region. It's incredibly lopsided away from what we're identifying as our strategic priority.
Then in terms of strategy, there's an element of that as well. The report clearly identifies the proper approach to be deterrents by denial. In other words, if there is a realistic risk that we would lose a confrontation and obviously under the assumption that we don't want to have to actually fight the Chinese at all because it would be a disaster and a humanitarian and economic tragedy on an unforeseen scale, we should prevent that conflict from ever occurring. The way we do that is by being smart now and making the investments who need to so that we prohibit the PLA from ever taking a provocative act that would result in a conflict.
Guiney: What do you think is the likelihood of some sort of conflict like that? Are we actively worried about it? What do we think is possible there?
Burack: I think that there are numerous well-founded and informed ideas about the likelihood of a conflict from a number of really smart national security leaders in Washington and elsewhere. I think that we miss the forest for the trees in many of these cases. Even if the risk of a US-CHINA conflict is a minority percentage chance, we should still be doing everything that we need to do to protect ourselves and to prevent such a disaster from ever occurring. That's not to say that the risk of the United States and China fighting a war in the Taiwan Straight or elsewhere is greater than 50% or is almost certain or what have you, but it's a realistic enough problem that we really need to get smart and serious about it.
We've heard a number of informed people start to talk about timelines. I think my sense is that most of the cabinet secretaries, intelligence leaders, et cetera, seem to think that 2027 is a pretty critical timeline. That seems well-founded. I don't think that Xi Jinping has destroyed the communist party's secession norms and established himself as the most unchallenged leader since Mazadon for no reason, so I think that we do need to be getting serious about it. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's a foregone conclusion or that it's almost certain to happen, but it's serious enough that we need to be really paying attention to it.
Guiney: The phrase deterrence by denial, the idea that we are deterring war by denying what?
Burack: The idea being that the act that you're seeking to deter would be so costly that it would essentially be pointless for the provocateur to take. This is where the report says that should be the paradigm in which we're approaching our national security objectives in the Indo-Pacific, but we should also be meaningfully prepared to win a conflict if it did occur, and those two things go hand in hand.
Guiney: So my understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that the Chinese Communist Party is aggressive but quite risk averse. They don't like exposing themselves to risk. They're willing to play a long game and by having ... not necessarily that we would build up weapons with the intent of having an armed conflict, but that military buildup, that being ready to have, that increases that risk and would deter any sort of armed conflict between the Chinese Communist Party in the United States. Is that a fair analysis?
Burack: Yeah, you're saying making preparations on the United States side. I think that's right. In terms of the CCP being a risk averse actor, that's historically true, but there are certainly historical predicates of the taking interventions abroad in pretty serious way as we see in Vietnam, the Korean War, et cetera. If you factor that sort of history along with the importance that the CCP places on Taiwan as a legitimizer of its own rule, and the fact that Xi Jinping now has fewer and fewer breaks on his ambitions and the factual data we have over the last several years and months of the changing status quo and the Taiwan Strait, it's the PLA being willing to do more and to do different things than they've done previously, it adds up into a pretty concerning cocktail.
Xi Jinping has been the nail in the coffin to the hypothesis that China would liberalize and come into harmony with the systems that have existed after World War II that have created a stable world without great power conflict. He has broken the norms that have endured subsequent to Mazadon regarding the Chinese Communist Party's stewardship of the country in which they would, rather than forming a personality cult around any particular person, they would have a collective system where they would rotate leadership after a period of time.
Guiney: But Xi Jinping has decided that he's not going to follow that model. To be clear, Xi Jinping is the president of China, but he's also basically a dictator, right? Is that how we should understand him?
Burack: Yeah, and I think that most of the smart folks who study PRC elite politics, and I'm not counting myself among those for the record, would say that that's actually his least important job. More importantly, he's the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and potentially even more importantly, he's the chairman of the Central Military Commission, which is the element of the party in charge of the military. So he has three jobs. He has now destroyed officially the term limits for the presidency or the state chairmanship of China. The other two jobs don't necessarily have particular time limits, but they were rotated as a matter of practice. We now see leadership has been concentrated in one person, and this person has a record of being sort of myopically focused on legacy and the communist party's centenary goals, or at least 200 year goals, the first of which the CCP has already said it has met, second of which will come in 2049. The second centenary goal, 2049, is the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Guiney: Is there anything in those goals we would be concerned about?
Burack: I think so, and I think that the official phraseology is in communist speak, but I've always thought of the second centenary goal as the sort of ultimate meeting of the CCPs ambition to become the preeminent power on earth.
Guiney: We hear a lot about Taiwan when we talk about this conversation. For people who may not be familiar with the issue, why is Taiwan important to the question of China?
Burack: It's important for a number of reasons. For the CCP, they have staked out what they call reunification with Taiwan as one of the core elements of their legitimacy for their totalitarian rule. Obviously the Chinese Communist Party has never governed Taiwan, and Taiwan was never a part of the people's Republic of China state, which didn't come into existence until the end of the Chinese Civil War, but they phrased it as reunification. For the United States, it's important for a number of other reasons, and one of the biggest is that it is a really key cog in the way that the global economy works, including the American economy.
There is an incredible amount of economic reliance on Taiwan right now that we have and many other countries have that derives from the fact that they have really dominant position in the production of semiconductors. They're also a large agricultural importer from the United States, and the conflict over Taiwan would hurt our economy in other ways too, but the semiconductor issue has really gotten a lot of attention and it means a number of things. It means that any conflict in that area would cause global and very severe economic disruptions, but it also means that if the CCP ever gained control of Taiwan, they would be able to exert massive economic coercion over the United States because all of our industries rely on those supply chains.
Guiney: Are there any other areas like Taiwan that we are similarly concerned about in the Indo-Pacific?
Burack: I think Taiwan is the most acute point of friction, and it is the likeliest cause of potential conflict between China and whatever other constellation of powers that be, the United States and the United States and allies, whoever. But there are other areas to be concerned about as well. Obviously a lot of attention has been paid to South China Sea properly, because we see the PRC extending territorial claims that are baseless under international law over a thousand miles away from its actual shores, and the majority of the PRC's other borders, both maritime and on land, we see territorial conflict with China's neighbors, particularly acute in the South Asia region and on the Indian and Bhutanese borders. Any of those could potentially cause an exigency. In fact, in regards to the China India border, they already have broken a sort of 40 year precedent and experienced casualties in those border standoffs that have occurred recently.
Guiney: Vis-a-vis Taiwan and India and these other places, what would we actually be doing? What should we be doing to support these nations?
Burack: There are a number of things that we can and should do, and thankfully, some of which we're already doing. Unfortunately, we could be doing a much better job. In the case of Taiwan, which has, I think, properly gotten the most attention, we have a backlog of foreign military sales cases that is about $20 billion at this point. The FMS process, foreign military sales processes, has been to date the primary and almost the only way that we've secured Taiwan's defense since we broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Essentially Taiwan purchases arms from the United States government. This system is now arguably breaking down and not functioning properly anymore because our industrial production in the United States of these systems is completely failing to keep pace with the level of demand, so we're in a situation where we have agreed as a government to sell Taiwan certain things and we are unable to deliver them until years down the line in many cases outside the window that we're most concerned about of time, of risk. Some of the sales to
Taiwan that have already been completed will not actually be delivered until 2029 in some cases.
So thinking about that, there are other tools that we could begin to deploy to start a bridge that gap, and the report talks about some of them. One of them is what defense secretary Austin referenced recently, which is the use of presidential drawdown authority, which Congress has now authorized but has yet to appropriate money for. That is one way that we could use to surge arms into places where they're most needed, particularly Taiwan, and that's the authority that we've seen used regarding Ukraine as well. There are other things that we can do, training, exercising, some of which are scaling up with Taiwan. We are, I think, beginning to deepen our defense cooperation with India, both in regards to the territorial standoffs they've had along their boarder with China, but also just for more global regional concerns.
We're starting to see that effort develop through the Quad and other mechanisms, which is welcome, but really I think the most urgent and challenging part of that equation focuses on the production of munitions and the need to get munitions onto Taiwan as soon as possible because we're not going to be able to re-arm them during a conflict.
Guiney: We've seen the case recently globally of this massive nation taking over a smaller nation in the case of Russia and Ukraine, and we've seen Ukraine really managed to put up an offensive. In the case of China-Taiwan, China is such a massive country, Taiwan is such a small country. Is their hope for them if such a thing would happen, even if we're able to equip them in a best case scenario, or are we looking to deter?
Burack: My sense of what the smartest national security folks in town believe is that it's not a hopeless case. We can do it, but we need to get serious and make the right moves now and be smart about how we prioritize our decisions and deploy the resources that we have available. I don't think it's a hopeless case because it's about more than just how many soldiers, planes and boats the PLA has versus how many Taiwan can field, et cetera. There are a number of dimensions to that. It's a particularly hard place to invade, thankfully, for our democratic friends in Taiwan. But there's also a normative dimension to all of this and that what we saw post the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the world coalescing together and identifying this as something that's wrong and against the sovereignty of a state. That situation is going to be trickier regarding Taiwan because obviously very few nations have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The CCP has been very successful in the United Nations at marginalizing Taiwan, including by distorting what the United Nations says about China and Taiwan to encourage other states to consider Taiwan to be a province of the People's Republic of China, which is a misreading and exaggeration of the document that allowed for China to enter the UN. We can push back on the military side in terms of hard power, but there's also a soft power element of it that we can use to increase the cost of a CCP invasion, namely increasing Taiwan's international space, standing with them as a democratic friend and partner, and that will increase costs as well towards any military provocation.
Guiney: There's another element to this, which is the idea of nuclear power or nuclear weaponry. Can you tell us about the state of play there?
Burack: I think what we've seen over the last short period of time is a really dramatic nuclear buildup in the PRC that seems to have taken our national security establishment by surprise. My understanding is that it's potentially the largest and fastest nuclear buildup in history, so we're rapidly seeing the PRC approach, the number of launchers and weapons that we have by ourselves, and obviously we have other hostile parties out there around the world as well. We're facing this kind of nuclear overmatch where we're looking out around the world and seeing how many nuclear weapons our enemies can bring to bear. It's a particularly concerning dimension of all of this. At the same time, at the PRC has leapt ahead and developed a number of systems that we really don't have. For years we were bound by the INF Treaty. China went ahead and developed all kinds of missiles that we are prohibited from developing and deploying under that treaty.
We're significantly overmatched in terms of short and medium range ballistic missiles in the Indo-Pacific region. They've also had a very robust and successful hypersonics program, which we've seen demonstrated with at least one test that's publicly known.
Guiney: Can you discuss what that was for people who may not have seen that when it happened?
Burack: They've demonstrated hypersonic missile technologies that are not currently part of the US arsenal, the most prominent of which was something that happened, I believe, last year, in which a Chinese hypersonic missile circumnavigated the earth, performed a number of maneuvers that would be designed to evade anti missile defenses and struck quite near its target location, demonstrating a pretty advanced type of technology that we really don't have any capability of defending against. It really does raise the question in a conflict, what could our possible response be to this type of system that could evade all of our missile defenses, could be armed with conventional or nuclear munitions?
Guiney: In other words, this is a weapon that travels so fast and so high that we would be unable to detect it before it was too late.
Burack: Fast, high, and it can maneuver as well in ways that are difficult to ... I'm not enough of an aerospace as a physicist person to understand how it works, but my understanding is that the maneuverability matters as well.
Guiney: In terms of solutions, looking at all of this, what should we be thinking about broadly when we're talking about countering the Chinese military threat?
Burack: I think a few things that the report really hits thoroughly because they're really important. The first is this sort of naval power element of it. That's going to be so critical, and it's a really big challenge that's going to require a lot of investment and attention and effort to fix. In any potential military scenario, including those that we're facing today, well before a conflict, just in terms of steady state, freedom of navigation preservation and ongoing operations in Indo-Pacific, we really need to have a robust surface presence on the sea. The other is prioritization. Thinking about when we are making obligations to other theaters, the controversy recently has surrounded the European theater and increasing investments and obligations we're making there, but there are other draws as well on our time, attention, and resources, understanding is Congress appropriately informed about the trade-offs that are being made and what kind of compromises are we making?
There was a situation late last year wherein we were retiring certain planes that were operating from Okinawa and there was congressional concern because it wasn't immediately apparent how they would be replaced. That situation has been resolved, but being attentive to the reduction or threats to our current level of presence in the Indo-Pacific Theater, it's very important. The munitions production issue is obviously incredibly important. That's going to take time to resolve. It's going to take probably a long-term acquisition approach, and it's going to take a different level of short term actions that need to be taken. We've seen Congress and the Defense Secretary now start to talk about tools that we can use to arm Taiwan in the short term. Seeing that process through ensuring that Congress actually gets it done is going to be super important.
Then in terms of outside the military space, what other national security tools do we have to bear that we're not using properly and appropriately and sort of prioritizing that as well and making sure that we're using all the tools we have in our toolbox so we're not solely relying on expensive military hardware to solve foreign policy problems.
Guiney: This is a question we've asked a lot of guests, so I'm interested to hear your take on it. Are you optimistic for our future regarding China?
Burack: Well, I go back and forth. I think we have the strength. We're still the greatest and most powerful country on earth. We have much better friends and allies than our adversary does. We have justice and right on our side. What gets frustrating is when we just fail to do the things that we can and should be doing due to political compromises and inability to make hard decisions and inability to be able to withstand pain that comes with addressing our self-defeating reliance on our communist adversary. These are all things that we can do, and sometimes we just need to grit our teeth and do it and unfortunately, some days we do okay and we pass a 40-year national security reform for the US-Taiwan relationship, and some days we don't do as good and we fail to deliver weapons on time. We can do it, and we just need to stay on top of these things.
Guiney: Bryan Burack, thank you so much.
Burack: My pleasure. Hope this was helpful.
Guiney: Absolutely. So deterrence is the name of the game, and as Brian says, Taiwan is the flashpoint for where war with China could begin, so that's where that deterrence should be focused. But there are also other locations to focus on. Fortunately, we got a guy who knows something about those other locations.
Jeff Smith, welcome back.
Jeff Smith: It's good to be here, Mark.
Guiney: I got to ask you a question. So having this conversation with Bryan Burack earlier, the idea of nuclear war with China is now looming over me, but it's looming over you all the time. I guess my question is how do you remain calm, just generally speaking?
Smith: With a lot of yoga, breathing exercises, fitness.
Guiney: Wiping out skinny guys at Flag Football, as director of the Asian Studies program at Heritage, Jeff has a lot of knowledge not only of Taiwan, but what's called the Quad, four other nations in the Indo-Pacific region of the world that have critical military relationships with one another and with China; India, Japan, Australia, and the United States.
Smith: Brian is rightly concerned because the possibility of a China-US conflict is growing. That doesn't mean it's likely, but when you're talking about a major conflict between two nuclear arm powers that would devastate the global economy, that could result in some kind of nuclear exchange, that would certainly produce catastrophic human loss of life, even an incremental increase in the probability should be deeply concerning. Even if it was 1% a year ago when we're at five or 10 or 15 now, that's still very concerning. The good news is I do think there are paths forward to avoid conflict. By no means do I think it's inevitable and if we think about what could produce a China-US conflict, I think most experts would identify the Taiwan Straight As the principle flashpoint and some Chinese invasion or attempt to seize Taiwan.
Guiney: Preventing that, if we can prevent that, then we can prevent some larger conflict.
Smith: It certainly improves our odds and the way we do that is by increasing deterrence in the Taiwan Strait, increasing Taiwan's own ability to defend itself, improving our own posture in the Indo-Pacific, and making sure that the Chinese Communist Party remains convinced that any attempt to seize Taiwan would result in catastrophe for China and for the Chinese Communist Party. So long as they are deathly afraid of that prospect, I think we can avoid conflict. Problem is some of the trends are moving in the wrong direction, and that is that the people's liberation army and their Navy have been growing in quality and quantity and so the military balance has been shifting. There are also concerns about miscalculation, escalation and the potential that China sees a shrinking window for a Taiwan invasion.
The thinking goes that even if the Chinese leadership isn't 100% convinced that they could succeed, if they believe that their best chance is now, they may still take a chance. So we have to be prepared as of yesterday for the possibility that the Chinese do launch a misadventure and produce some horrific conflict. Does that mean it's likely to happen tomorrow? No. Is it possible? Yes. Given the stakes, we must be prepared.
Guiney: The best defense is a good offense.
Smith: In some ways, yes.
Guiney: Brian's area focus is China and Taiwan specifically, but your area focuses India and what's called the Quad. Can you explain what the Quad is and then talk about how China moves in that sphere of influence?
Smith: The Quad is a interesting grouping of four Indo-Pacific democracies, and you see different bilateral, trilateral, multilateral groupings of countries for varieties of reasons. But this is a specific group of countries that first got together in 2007, and assistant secretary level, sort of mid-ranking officials from the four countries got together and began talking about issues of mutual concern. China was one of those issues. All four countries being located in the Indo-Pacific, all four being democracies, all four being increasingly alarmed by China's rise. It essentially represents only four capitals, but if we're talking about the Indo-Pacific, that represents half of the population of the Indo-Pacific, half of the GDP of the Indo-Pacific, and over half of the military spending of the Indo-Pacific. We're talking about a very powerful and significant group of countries.
But this is 2007, this is 15 years ago now, and at the time, there was not nearly the same degree of consensus about China. There was beginning thoughts that China was going to be a growing problem and maybe we need to collaborate more to hedge against the risks of China's rise. But there was not nearly the same degree of consensus on the scope of the threat and how the four democracies should respond. There was also pressure on China and from domestic interest groups not to form this grouping. "Oh, you're promoting a sort of Cold War balance of power politics. That's really not what's happening here. China's not a threat to anyone, and you should stop your warmongering." There was a change of government in Japan and then a change of government in Australia, and the Australian foreign minister standing next to his Chinese counterpart got up at a podium at a press conference and said, "Eh, we're not doing the Quad anymore."
So this initiative collapses in 2008. The US maintains good bilateral relationships with all these countries anyway, but it wasn't until 2017 that these rising concerns about China begin getting much more acute. Particularly under Xi Jinping, China is getting more aggressive abroad and more repressive at home. India's now grappling with new crises at the China India border. Australia's grappling with Chinese influence operations inside Australia, economic coercion tactics. Japan has its own disputes with China over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, and those begin heating up. Of course in the United States, we have a growing list of concerns over Chinese espionage efforts infiltration into the US, what they're doing in the South China Sea with the militarized islands, freedom of navigation. So in 2017, under the Trump administration, the four countries decide to get the gang back together again and begin meeting regularly with officials from all four countries.
With time, it grows from sort of a mid-level official meeting to foreign minister Secretary of State level, and then most recently up to the president, prime minister level. So the Quad is now meeting annually at the leader level, which is very important. It shows how important the four governments view this forum. We've also begun doing quad naval exercises again for the first time in over a decade where the four navies get together at the Malabar naval exercises and begin practicing complex naval operations together, like anti-submarine warfare tactics. Then behind the scenes, they're cooperating on a range of things from cybersecurity to maritime domain awareness, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief. There's now a Quad tech fellowship program where we're cooperating on cybersecurity technology and giving out university fellowships to cross pollinate among the countries and universities.
We've been a big supporter of the Quad heritage. We were advocating for the governments to get the gang back together again for years, and we're very pleased to see this initiative moving forward and, frankly, it getting bipartisan support. It was the Trump administration that brought this back together, but the Biden administration recognized this is such a important and influential group, we've got to keep going with it. Same thing, India, Australia, Japan, they have a change in government and the support remains consistent because they know how important it is for their foreign policy and national security interests.
Guiney: So it's a success story. It's a positive trend that we're seeing.
Smith: Yes, with the Quad.
Guiney: Has the Chinese government responded to the Quad at all? They were unhappy in 2007, they got their way. 2017, how has that been going?
Smith: They've got a mixed messaging approach to the Quad, but they definitely have tried to use propaganda to suggest, as they did in 2007, that this is an outdated sort of Cold War mindset and it's contributing to tensions in the region rather than providing security and India, don't let yourself get dragged into these American and Western conflicts. They've thrown a bunch of narratives at the wall to see what might stick, and they've found no success because these four countries are not particularly interested in heating Chinese propaganda at the moment.
There's been a bit of a paradigm shift in all four countries and growing resistance to Chinese coercion tactics, a growing willingness to say no. All four countries, interestingly, were among the first to ban Huawei from operating in their 5G networks, even though China was threatening everybody with consequences. All four countries have opposed China's Belt and Road Initiative or refuse to take part in it or endorse it, and so you're kind of seeing the Quad lay down these markers on these big geopolitical issues and be willing to stand up to Beijing, whether it's over economic coercion or these territorial disputes. The Japanese are not backing down from Chinese incursions into the East China Sea, and the Indians have stood firm in their border dispute with China, even engaging in violent confrontations with the Chinese leading to casualties from hand to hand combat up in the Himalayas. It
Guiney: It would be safe to say that among Heritage's policy prescriptions for dealing with China is the power of friendship.
Smith: Yes. In fact, that's one of our great advantages vis-a-vis China, which is that we have friends and allies and they don't. They have Russia and they have North Korea and they have Pakistan, sort of a rogues gallery of-
Guiney: What a crowd.
Smith: Even there, those relationships are much more transactional and based on overlapping, sometimes fleeting, interests. In all of those relationships, there's also a lot of mistrust behind the scenes. They don't have Australia type relationships. Japan, the UK. We've been partners or allies for decades, have gone to war together, have deep people to people ties, and that's a huge United States advantage that we have to leverage in order to offset some of China's own advantages.
Guiney: I feel like Benjamin Franklin would've understood this last point that Jeff made. On one day in 1730, he watched a catastrophic fire sweep through his hometown. It ate up people's livelihoods, it endangered their lives. It undid weeks and months and years of hard labor. In finding the solution, Franklin knew that he had a few raw materials to work with. He had his own formidable skill and intelligence, the platform to push his ideas through his newspaper, but he had a third ingredient. He had the willingness of Americans to help their neighbors and friends. That is really the thing that makes a nation work, the willingness of ordinary people to stand together under a common banner and recognize that they have a responsibility to preserve justice and freedom for their fellow man.
In regards to the Chinese Communist Party, this is a weapon we have to put in our own arsenal and here at The Heritage Foundation, that's what we try to do every day. Thanks to you for listening to Heritage Explains. We want to know what you think about the new format, about the stories we're telling about the voices that you're hearing. Send us an email at [email protected] to let us know what you think. If you want to help out the show, be sure to subscribe to Heritage Explains wherever you get your podcast. Be ready for our show next week where we talk about holding China accountable with Dr. Jim Carafano. It's a great show. You're not going to want to miss it. We'll see you next time.
Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It's written and produced by Mark Guiney, Lauren Evans, and John Popp. Production assistance by Alexa Walker and Jeff Smith.