How China’s Aggression Has Backfired — Helen Raleigh
How China’s Aggression Has Backfired — Helen Raleigh
She pursued freedom and prosperity … and found both. Helen Raleigh made her way from China to America with less than $100 to her name. But through a combination of hard work and grit, she attained two master’s degrees and began a rewarding career in writing and public speaking. Raleigh discusses China’s ambitions, strategies, influence and growth with host Charles Mizrahi.
- An Introduction to Helen Raleigh (00:00:00)
- The Chinese Government (00:04:56)
- A Wake-Up Call (00:08:10)
- The Communist Party End Game (00:15:27)
- A Great Awakening (00:21:02)
- Short Term vs. Long Term (00:28:17)
- Credit Where It’s Due (00:32:05)
- Chinese Aggression Has Backfired (00:36:46)
- The South China Sea (00:43:52)
Helen Raleigh is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker. Her writing has appeared in The Federalist — where she’s a senior contributor— The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and National Review. In addition, Raleigh has authored several books, including her award-winning autobiography: Confucius Never Said.
Raleigh was born in China and has had firsthand experience with the dramatic cultural and political changes in modern Chinese history. Her latest book, Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired, examines how the Chinese Communist Party has aggressively expanded its global influence.
- Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired
- Confucius Never Said
Before You Leave:
HELEN RALEIGH: China is losing its demographic dividend. The workforce is shrinking while the rest of the population is quickly aging. So, it’s that demographic challenge that has forced the hand of the government to abandon Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “hide your strength, bide your time.” Now, they’re saying: “We’re not going to beat our time because we don’t have a whole lot of time. So, we need to be as aggressive as possible and get as much we can now.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Helen Raleigh. Helen is a recognized American entrepreneur, writer and speaker. She’s a senior contributor to The Federalist. Her writings have also appeared in various national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and National Review. She’s the author of several books, including her award-winning autobiography: Confucius Never Said.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Helen was born in China and has firsthand experience with the dramatic cultural and political changes in modern Chinese history. Her latest book, Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired, shows how communist China — like the COVID-19 virus that began there — has spread its influence aggressively around the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I recently sat down with Helen to talk about China’s ambitions, strategies, influence and growth.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Helen Raleigh, thank you so much for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it.
HELEN RALEIGH: Thank you for having me, Charles.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I’ve read a lot of books, articles and a whole bunch of things on the internet about China. But what I find really interesting — and I think my listeners will as well — is your perspective. You grew up in China. You tell us about growing up in the country, coming here a couple of decades ago, and what you’re seeing now. I want to thank you for sharing that perspective with us. I think it’s so important now — especially as China continues to become a superpower and gets stronger.
HELEN RALEIGH: Yeah, I would love to do that. I find it’s important — as I mentioned the a foreword of this new book, Backlash — to have a perspective from someone who has experienced both cultures. There are so many things that get lost in translation. We do have an establishment in foreign policy in this country. They have been consistently wrong. They have been constantly failing upward. So, it’s important that you have a unique and honest perspective about China.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Helen, in your opinion, what’s the No. 1 thing that Americans are misinformed about regarding China?
HELEN RALEIGH: Americans, but also [other] people outside of China, have a black-and-white, binary view about China. China is complicated. When you talk about China, it’s very important to make a distinction. Are we talking about the ruling Communist Party or the Chinese people? When it comes to the ruling Communist Party, there are a lot of misunderstandings about the nature of the party and what it’s aiming for.
HELEN RALEIGH: I think that it was those misunderstandings that influenced the foreign policies — not just in the United States, but also with our Western democracy allies. And it’s those misinformed ideas and illusions — the wishful thinking — that direct Iran’s policies toward China. When it comes to the Chinese people, even though the majority of us may look alike, we are just as diverse as people of any other countries. I’m not just talking about a skin colors or languages. [I’m] also [talking about] different ideas.
HELEN RALEIGH: People always ask me: “What do Chinese people think about that?” I say: “Well, it’s very difficult to say if there’s a uniformed opinion about it.” In addition, you can’t really trust popular polls in China because you’ll always wonder — in a totalitarian regime — if people are really telling the truth to the pollsters.
HELEN RALEIGH: When it comes China, I think that it’s important to put every topic in context — and not just in a historical context, but also its contemporary political context. [We should] understand the different points of view from both the Chinese people — with their diverse opinions — as well as the Communist Party.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s an excellent point. Let’s focus on the Chinese government. What are we getting so wrong that you say: “My gosh, these Westerners don’t get what China is all about”?
HELEN RALEIGH: I mentioned it in my book. We — and foreign policy leaders, political leaders and business people — assume that as long as the West continues to engage with China economically, then the Chinese Communist Party will eventually recognize the benefit of economic growth. They will embrace political freedom. They will become more like us. They will embrace freedom of speech and voting rights. That’s fundamentally wrong. But that’s the illusion that has guided three decades of foreign policy since the 1970s — when Nixon visited China. That has been guiding our policies with China.
HELEN RALEIGH: Even after 1989 and Tiananmen Square, most western countries — including the United States — refused to sanction China severely because they believed that as long as we continued engaging economically, they would change politically. What they didn’t understand is that the Communist Party —
HELEN RALEIGH: If you look at the party charters — the Marxist or Leninist ideas — they will never become like us. They deeply resent us. They resent the liberty, ideology and fundamental values that Western democracy was founded upon. They’re deeply hostile to those things. The only reason that the Chinese Communist Party embraced economic reform in the 1980s was because it was forced into it.
HELEN RALEIGH: Mao died in 1976. But in a 30-year time span, from 1949 — the founding of communist China — to 1979, the Communist Party ran China into the ground. The economy was at the brink of total bankruptcy. So, they had no choice. The Communist Party members were pragmatic people. They knew when to hide their strength and bide their time.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, that’s what they did in 1980. They recognized that in order to maintain governance or power, they had to embrace some change. But as you can tell, 30 years of economic engagement not only failed to [influence] the Communist Party to embrace liberal values but also enriched its authoritarian regime. It’s now doing everything it can to undermine the liberal world order and impose its version of governance — not just inside of China but also to the rest of the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s a great point. When China started to crack down on Hong Kong, many Westerners couldn’t understand where it was coming from. “Well, they gave us their word. They signed an agreement. Hong Kong was going to be run separately and without interference.” But China went into Hong Kong and eradicated its freedom in a heartbeat.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right. And I think that Hong Kong is a classic example. That was a wake-up call — which I mentioned in my book. I think the two events that happened last year — Hong Kong and the coronavirus pandemic — were two wake-up calls for people and governments worldwide.
HELEN RALEIGH: We can talk about what happened with the Uyghur Muslims, but it happened deep inside of China. Many people don’t even know the difference between Uyghur Muslims versus the Han — and the whole culture and history behind that.
HELEN RALEIGH: But Hong Kong is such an international city and financial harbor. And what happened in Hong Kong — day by day and minute by minute — was exposed right in front of us. And there are also so many foreign businesspeople in Hong Kong.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, we witnessed Hong Kong’s descent from one of the freest places in the world to just another Chinese city. You can’t commemorate June 4 in Hong Kong anymore. Journalists are censored. Pro-democracy activists are censored or arrested. None of this was happening in Hong Kong prior to last year. And it all happened within less than three decades. We saw what happened in Hong Kong.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What I found so amazing about watching what China did in Hong Kong was that it was totally exposed. You saw it play out. [They] put in a puppet government, starting arrests, a crackdown on civil liberties, a crackdown on wealthy people — who were calling out — and rioting. And the world just watched it. It was a perfect playbook. If you knew about China and its communist government, nothing should have surprised you. Yet, it did. Why is that?
HELEN RALEIGH: It is based on the illusion. They didn’t understand the true nature of the Communist Party. That’s why it’s important to read books like Backlash. It actually shows you the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party. If you go back and read about Marxist Leninism in other books — and the Communist Party charter — it is against liberal values. It’s fundamentally hostile to liberal values.
HELEN RALEIGH: Therefore, there’s no amount of economic engagement that will ever change that. It’s just a matter of time. The party is so pragmatic. It knows when to fold. When it signed an agreement with United Kingdom in the 1980s about the transition of Hong Kong’s control to mainland China, it promised in the international treaty that it would keep Hong Kong’s political and individual freedom for at least 50 years. They couldn’t even do that!
HELEN RALEIGH: In the 20 years since the signing of treaty, you’ve heard China’s foreign ministry openly say: “Well, it’s a historical document. It’s irrelevant anymore.” This is not the first time. And it’s not going to be the last time that the Communist Party will promise something that it has no intention of keeping.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: In 1983, Ronald Reagan had his speechwriter write his now-famous speech in which he refers to the Soviet Union as: “the evil empire.” I think it was crossed out three or four times. They didn’t want him to say that. And Ronald Reagan kept coming back. No, I’m going to call the Soviets what they are. They are an evil empire, and they are the focus of evil in the modern world. It took one person with courage to constantly say that. Are you seeing that anywhere in the world today? Is anybody saying that about China?
HELEN RALEIGH: A little bit, but not enough. The West would have never won the Cold War against communism in the 1980s if not for leaders like Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the Pope — who recognized the true nature of communism, spoke up about it and were determined to crush it.
HELEN RALEIGH: And for now, we really like that kind of leadership. I saw it in the Trump administration. I know a lot of people do not like him, but I think that foreign policy — especially in the last two years of his term — was one of his strong suits. And maybe it wasn’t because of him, but he did surround himself with the right people.
HELEN RALEIGH: Secretary Pompeo was one of my favorite cabinet members during the Trump administration. He was almost Reaganistic. He always spoke about the Chinese Communist Party in very direct terms. He always made a distinction between the party and the people. And he always called out a party as it was.
HELEN RALEIGH: He’s probably the most hated person by the Chinese government. But that just shows you how much his words and actions challenged them. The Trump administration brought a new sense of realism back into American foreign policy.
HELEN RALEIGH: And you can even see a continuation in the Biden administration. It came into power, and it was going to override anything that Trump [did]. Anything Trump was for, they’re against. They were going to erase every Trump policy.
HELEN RALEIGH: But when it comes to foreign policy, you can see that there’s some continuation when it comes to China. If you go to Capitol Hill today, you’ll see that the only issue that the left and right can agree on is China. They may still disagree about the right approach or the policies that we should put in place. But there’s a consensus from both the left and right that China is a threat. It’s a threat to liberal world order. It’s a threat to the liberal values we cherish, and we need to do something about it. There’s wide disagreement about what that something is, but at least there’s agreement.
HELEN RALEIGH: We need more people like President Reagan and Secretary Pompeo to speak up in very realistic terms and nail down what the Communist Party stands for.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What does the Communist Party stand for? Tear the screen back. What is the Chinese government’s ultimate aim? Is it evil? What’s its ultimate end game? Tell me about that.
HELEN RALEIGH: It’s about power. It’s about raw power. It’s actually less ideological. That’s why they’re so flexible and pragmatic. It’s about anything that they can do to grab and maintain power. That’s the essence of socialism and communism. It’s not about everybody having everything. It’s not about equality. It’s about a small group of people grasping as much power as they can and maintaining it.
HELEN RALEIGH: That’s why, if you look at recent history, any country that implemented socialism — whether it was the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia or Vietnam — always ended up in a dictatorship. That’s because it’s always about grabbing and maintaining power — and doing anything to get power.
HELEN RALEIGH: That’s why the Communist Party is deeply hostile to the liberal world order and values. Our values of equality — everybody is equal in front of law — the freedom of expression and our right to bear arms are a direct challenge to them. It challenges their maintenance and power. That is why they’re so hostile. And they will never change.
HELEN RALEIGH: For the Chinese Communist Party— especially under its current leadership —doesn’t just want power in Asia. It wants world power. It’s not necessarily going to be like the old terms. They’re not going to be like Alexander the Great — conquering the world. Nowadays, in the digital age, you can exercise tremendous power without having to send soldiers across borders.
HELEN RALEIGH: China has amassed enormous economic power. And it’s developing its technology industry as well. So, there are other ways for what I call “digital Leninism” — digital socialism that helps [the country] grasp and control power and build this alternative world order that’s China-centered rather than the liberal world order that we have enjoyed since WWII.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I hope that Americans see how vulnerable we are to China and the supply lines. We found out that most of our medicines, pharmaceuticals, masks and so on and so forth … you could just click on Amazon, and you couldn’t get so many things because they were being shipped from China. How is that going to change?
HELEN RALEIGH: Well, it depends. Does the West — especially the United States — have the willpower to change? And how are we going to approach it? In today’s global economy, it’s very difficult to completely decouple from another country — especially a country with economic power that’s basically the manufacturer. We have so many economic ties with China.
HELEN RALEIGH: As a free market believer, I don’t think a company decoupling is really necessary. But we do face a serious choice. There are some industries that are so strategic. You mentioned pharmaceuticals — the defense industry or any technology that has dual uses. They can be used both for civilian and military purposes. They are strategic industries that we need to be very careful [with].
HELEN RALEIGH: More U.S. companies need to recognize the fundamental value difference. American companies like Apple and Google became successful in a free market system. But now, they’re kowtowing to China because they’re vying for huge market access. But sooner or later, they’ll have to recognize that their business models will not thrive in authoritarian regime and illiberal society.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right now, they don’t. Right now, they are willing to do anything to have access to a market for short-term profit. And not only are they aiding the authoritarian regime in China, but they are also practicing illiberal business behaviors here in the United States. They censor books and cancel conservative radios. At the same time, they lecture us about racial equality and all those other social problems that the United States faces.
HELEN RALEIGH: There’s a famous saying. This is the only time I would quote Vladimir Lenin. He famously said that the capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them. I often use that when I talk about American businesses’ short-sightedness. They do not recognize that what they’re actually doing — in exchange for short-term profit — is actively selling a rope so that the Communist Party can not only hang them but also kill the liberal world order along the way.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, there needs to be a greater awakening about that. I think that, on the people level, there’s an awakening. Again, that’s based on witnessing Hong Kong and our own experience with the pandemic. But at the corporate level — at our elite-class level — that awakening is not there yet.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: In some cases, I don’t think that there’s an alternative. For example, friends of mine are big manufacturers, and they have 70% to 90% of their production in China. They told me that during the coronavirus last year, they were looking to move to Vietnam and other countries. But they said that China’s capacity for manufacturing is unequaled anywhere else in the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, even if they wanted to move their operations to Vietnam, Cambodia or India, they were physically unable. They would go to sell Walmart or other retailers, and they were not going to deal with price increases because for these other countries, you cannot get the labor prices that you get in China. You can’t get the delivery. You can’t get the shipping. You just can’t get it. So, if I’m a CEO of a company that makes widgets in China, and I agree with everything you said, what am I to do? I still want to stay competitive and in business.
HELEN RALEIGH: Yes, I see that. But I have a couple of things that I would say to you if you were a CEO. No. 1: China did not have that manufacturing power 30 years ago. It took time to build it. Western businesses’ investments and technology helped build it. So, if you can build it in China, you can build it somewhere else, too.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Hang on a second. You don’t have a labor force as big as China anywhere else in the world that’s willing to work for those kinds of wages. So, what do we do about that?
HELEN RALEIGH: Actually, China’s labor cost is increasing. You don’t get the cheapest labor in China anymore. Vietnam and Cambodia actually offer much cheaper labor than China.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You are correct. But they do not have the capacity to produce what China can.
HELEN RALEIGH: You build the capacity. That’s one thing. The second thing is that in terms of certain industries, you build alternatives. For example, let’s talk about rare earths for a little bit. China is dominating rare earths production — and not because it has the biggest depositories. It’s because it has the most of processing capacities. And that capacity was built by American businesses’ investment in technology. Before that, American businesses used to have the biggest capacity for processing rare earths.
HELEN RALEIGH: Rare earth minerals are very important. We use them every day. Our phones, electric cars, magnets and everything. China has been using its control of production of rare earths to coerce our countries and bend them to its political will. Japan has a long history with China. In the last few decades, Japan recognized that it wouldn’t be good for its own national security if it continued to rely on China as a provider of rare earths.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, Japan has instituted national policies. It did several things. No. 1: The country invested in technologies to create alternatives. It also increased innovations to reduce the usage of rare earths in its products. A decade later — right now — unlike any other countries in the world, if China had a sanctioned embargo on rare earths to Japan, Japan’s economy could totally survive. It took them 10 years to get there, but they got there. So, it can be done. Too many CEOs are saying that it cannot be done because they’re focusing on what they’re going to report to their shareholders next quarter.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. I hear you. It’s a good point. They’re playing the long game, and we’re playing the short game. We’re looking to get goods out during the next quarter and be the cheapest supplier over a short period of time to keep our supply chains booming. And very few are willing to take the long-term perspective — which you’re saying it’s going to take in terms of cost, patience and time to build this out.
HELEN RALEIGH: Yes. Right before we talked, I was just finishing an article about the solar industry. There’s a dirty secret in our clean energy push because the majority of the solar materials — especially key components — come from China. And it comes from Xinjiang, which heavily relies on forced/slave laborers.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, are we going to sit back knowing that we can enjoy clean energy because it was built on the backs of slave laborers? Are we going to pat ourselves on our backs? Or, are we going to take a stand and say: “Maybe there are different technologies that we can use to get clean energy.” Or, we can build up America’s solar industry from raw material to components without having to rely on China’s slave labor. There’s always a choice to make. It’s too bad that too many companies choose not to make that choice right now.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Well, they’re forced into a position … The choice is always there. You’re right. I shouldn’t say that there’s no choice. There is a choice, but there’s a cost for that choice. It means losing market share. It means having your competitor sell to areas of the marketplace that you can’t because of price, delivery or manufacturing capabilities. So, you have to take it on the chin. And a lot of shareholders — I’d say the majority — don’t take a long-term view. Most CEOs are mismatched. If they want to take a long-term view, they really can’t because they have to produce quarterly results.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right. But it’s really a short-term cost versus long-term. So, first of all, confronting China in today’s day and age always comes with a cost. That’s why the Chinese government is using its economic power as a weapon to try and force other countries to bend to their will. Too many countries and businesses are free to decipher a cost. But you also have to look at the long term.
HELEN RALEIGH: Over the long term, we’re dependent on China for basic pharmaceuticals. We are dependent on it for data, technology and basic supplies for solar. What’s that going to do to our national security? Do we even have the ability to live on our own or protect ourselves? What’s that cost going to be like?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right.
HELEN RALEIGH: So, there’s no cost of freeway to deal with China right now. And that’s the result of our own policy failure.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. Cyber security, identity theft and defense — it’s all one purpose. I do hear that. It seems to me that we have to get together as a nation, have foresight and take it on the chin for a while. That will cause short-term dislocations, but the long-term benefits are going to weigh out … We have to do it anyway. It has to be done. If not today, it’s going to be done tomorrow. Is that what you’re saying?
HELEN RALEIGH: Yes, if we choose not to do anything now, China is going to force us to act — to accept what they stand for 10 or 20 years from now. It’s going to be very soon. They’re already on their way there. There’s no getting away from it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s amazing. The pragmatic, long-term game plan that the Chinese government had for the past 30 years by moving to capitalism — and not just doing it OK but exceedingly well — helped it become a superpower in a generation or so. It’s absolutely staggering.
HELEN RALEIGH: Yes, but that should inspire us to know that we are able to take short-term pain. Capitalism was birthed here in the United States and the United Kingdom. We knew how capitalism worked, but we were losing our grasp of free markets for a while.
HELEN RALEIGH: But we know how it works, and it’s worked wonders for us, too. Now, we just need to get back to doing what we know best. I still believe in a free market. Free market principles work so much better than authoritarianism. Freedom works so much better than force. We just have to be willing to make a short-term sacrifice. And you’re right. It takes a national effort. In China, it’s a national effort. The Chinese government — the Communist Party — has taken on a whole other economy and government approach.
HELEN RALEIGH: Basically, everything they do — from education, technology, economic policies, national defense policies and space policies — is about moving the country toward its goal. We need a similar effort. I don’t know how it can be done. I will leave that to the policy-makers. We need to get back the national spirit of when we went to the moon. We definitely need that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It is absolutely amazing. When the Chinese government gets behind something, it’s like an unstoppable force. Everything converges on a fine point, and it plows forward. It’s amazing.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right. But I think that most of the credit goes to the Chinese people. Chinese people are industrious, intelligent and hard workers. I don’t know if you’ve watched my PragerU videos, but the whole idea of economic reform — opening up the economy — originated from a group of illiterate farmers who were so desperate that they decided to make a change. And they did it at the risk of losing their lives and everything they had. So, let’s give the credit to the Chinese people.
HELEN RALEIGH: The Chinese government was forced into that situation because they actually ran the economy to the ground. And their economic policies and political movement were responsible for at least 40 million deaths in 30 years. So, let’s not give it too much credit. The credit of the economic miracle really goes to the billion or more Chinese people who are so industrious, intelligent and hardworking.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, fair enough. So, you grew up in China. You grew up in a communist country. You knew hunger. You knew what it was like to be hungry. You knew what it was like to not have [things]. How do you see Americans — especially young Americans — romanticizing socialism today? You grew up and saw how terrible it was and the costs it took out of family life, the population … the millions of deaths. The value of human life really had no value.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right. The situation that you described is an example of the failure of our education system. We do not teach our kids real history — especially given that there are few restrictions. People can find information on the internet. There are ways to have free speech. So, there’s tons of information that people want to seek. But we do not educate our kids. We do not educate them about the true evil of socialism. We do not teach them what is good about free market capitalism.
HELEN RALEIGH: Today’s kids, when I share my story with them, say: “But there’s a different kind of socialism. We’re talking about the kind in Denmark. We’re talking about the one in Switzerland. We’re not talking about the one in China or the Soviet Union.” And then, you have to educate them. What’s happening in Denmark and Sweden is not really socialism. They do not meet the socialism definition. So, you have to go from there. It takes a lot of education.
HELEN RALEIGH: But I am hopeful. When you talk about 100 million people dying under communism, those are big numbers. Those numbers do not make sense for most people. They’re too big to comprehend.
HELEN RALEIGH: But for people like me, when we start talking about personal stories, we share our personal suffering. That moves people more because they can relate it to something like: “my dad suffered because he was sent to a concentration camp,” or “my great grandfather suffered because he owned the land that his landlord took away.” When you can personalize the suffering and put faces to it, it’s more convincing than when you talk about the big numbers — like 100 million people dying.
HELEN RALEIGH: I think messaging is also important. Education is important. It’s something that we need to talk about more and have better messaging [about]. We shouldn’t shrink away. We should not throw in the towel and say: “They just don’t get it. There’s no hope.” No, there’s always hope. But we have to fight for it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The subtitle of your book is: “How Chinese Aggression Has Backfired.” Share with me how it has backfired. Because the way I see it, it’s looking pretty good.
HELEN RALEIGH: Yes, it depends on how you look at it. They’re generally still looking good — especially since we’ve changed administrations. But there’s some backfire. I mention it in the second half of my book. I give plenty of examples. For example, the former Trump administration — especially in its second half — signed several human rights acts for Uyghur and Hong Kong [residents], closed one of the Chinese embassies and sanctioned the senior Chinese party officials.
HELEN RALEIGH: None of this had ever happened before. It was the first time in history. Back then, we had someone in the White House who was waiting to confront China — regardless of the cost. So, that’s what happened.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What I find so amazing — you brought it up, and I think it’s such a great point — is that under Trump, I think there were still five million or so Uyghurs in concentration camps. They are Muslims. And Trump was painted as anti-Muslim. At the same time, he’s signing legislation against China for what they’re doing to the Uyghurs. He tried to get public recognition and human rights for them. Iran, among other countries, was signing deals with China. And Trump was painted as anti-Muslim. I find the irony in that glaring.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right, an additional example of the backlash is the United States leadership. We saw Australia — which is one of our allies — lead the push to demand the WHO to do investigation on the coronavirus’ origin. Australia has taken a lot of heat from China. Beef and wine were subject to sanctions, but Australia held to it.
HELEN RALEIGH: And then you look at the United Kingdom. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration urged the United Kingdom not to hire Huawei — which is a Chinese telecom giant —to build 5G network because of data security issues. But it was cheap. It’s as you said about CEOs thinking about shareholder value. Even Boris Johnson — who was a conservative party leader — said: “We’re going to use Huawei because it’s cheap.”
HELEN RALEIGH: He disregarded warnings from the Trump administration. He was going to go ahead. As late as last January, he was going to go ahead and hire Huawei to build a 5G network — even though the Trump administration warned him that if he did that, [the U.S.] would stop sharing intelligence with the U.K. And Johnson said: “I’m going to do it no matter what because it’s cheap and necessary.”
HELEN RALEIGH: But after witnessing the coronavirus pandemic break out — and what China did to Hong Kong — the United Kingdom has a special interest with Hong Kong — the Johnson administration announced that it had dropped Huawei from its 5G network contractors last May.
HELEN RALEIGH: To me, that’s a significant move. That’s also backlash. And now, you look at public opinion. To me, that’s the biggest backlash. Last year, when Pew Research did a worldwide poll, the public opinions of China — especially Chinese leadership — dropped to 75%. That’s why I’m saying. People are waking up. Maybe their elite class or political leaders are not fully there yet, but the people are waking up. People recognize this. To me, that’s the biggest backlash.
HELEN RALEIGH: We’re starting to see more countries speak out about Uyghur issues after United States called it genocide. The Trump administration was the first government that did that. And now, you have several other countries following and saying: “Yeah, this is genocide.” Now, you have more countries — including the EU and Canada — sanctioning senior Chinese party officials because of what they did to the Uyghurs. It’s not a big wave yet. Again, that’s because of the costs coming from China. But you definitely see those green shoes.
HELEN RALEIGH: You have to give credit where credit is due. It’s because the Trump administration took a lead on that — regardless of cost from the trade war, closing embassies and signing the Human Rights Act for the Uyghurs in the Hong Kong [citizens]. With all the serious actions that you saw — at least our allies joined us and began to act as well. That’s why America’s leadership is so important in this regard.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I remember seeing a study that showed China was losing a lot of credibility with the EU and was less trusted among EU partners.
HELEN RALEIGH: Right, the EU is an interesting case study. At the beginning of this year, the EU signed a giant, comprehensive investment deal with China. Again, it ignored the warnings from both the Trump administration and the Biden administration. But now, given all the exposure — all the new revelations of the forced labor issues with the Uyghurs was the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong.
HELEN RALEIGH: And now, the EU is actually talking about it. It is not going to rectify that treaty deal that they just signed back in January. So, it is happening, but it takes a lot of backbone and courage — especially for politicians — to not only say: “This is the value we stand for” but also use their actions to prove it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You’re spot on. You’ve made me more optimistic. I’m happier after speaking with you. That’s great. There are two things that I want to quickly talk about. The South China Sea. That, to me, is a flash point for World War III. Am I off on that?
HELEN RALEIGH: No. I actually talk about that in my book. I said that if the United States and China were going to go to war, one likely place would be in Taiwan — which is in the South China Sea. Or, it’ll happen in the South China Sea because the U.S. Navy and the Chinese navy have already seen close contact over the years.
HELEN RALEIGH: What is China doing in the South China Sea? I have an entire chapter about the South China Sea in my book. It’s complicated. There’s a lot of history in there. Basically, the South China Sea was another U.S. policy failure. Under the Obama administration, China started building an artificial island in the South China Sea. First, it built one. The United States did not reject it. Then, China built two.
HELEN RALEIGH: The United States stood by. The Obama stood by as China built more and more. So, within three years, China reclaimed over 3,000 acres of artificial land. Now, not only is all that land militarized but China has also established an administrative district on the island. China basically has this attitude: “If I build it, it’s mine. Not only is it mine, but it has always been mine. It has historically always been mine.”
HELEN RALEIGH: Now, China claims that it controls 90% of the South China Sea. It’s always theirs. The South China Sea is such an important, strategic body of water — not only because of international trade but because of the huge deposits of minerals, energy, oil and gas. Also, there are so many Southeast Asian countries — including our allies, like the Philippines and Japan — that depend on that body of water for their livelihood. So, yes, it’s another flash point. And our policy failure has caused it to become in a flashpoint, unfortunately.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’s going to happen? How do you see that playing out? China keeps — pun intended — testing the waters. They have flyovers in Taiwan. They’ve started sending military ships through certain areas to expand their borders. Basically, this is Brinkmanship 101. This is how you do it. You send the warship through. You go into another territory. You go to the airspace. You see where the pushback is coming from. Where do you see this ending? Is the United States going to have to send aircraft carriers and hope that the Chinese government stands down?
HELEN RALEIGH: Well, yes and no. Basically, this is like a staring contest. See who’s going to blink first. The United States will have to make it clear to the Chinese that it will never blink first. It has all the firepower it needs to maintain the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. And the United States has a legal obligation to provide to Taiwan, according to the Taiwan [Relations] Act. So, the United States Government has to make that clear.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Knowing the Chinese government the way you do, do you think that it would blink first?
HELEN RALEIGH: It depends. We have to separate Taiwan from the rest of the South China Sea. I think that for the rest of the South China Sea, the stakes are higher in terms of naval war. China’s navy has been quickly developing in the last decade. But in terms of hardware power, they’re still not quite there against the U.S. Navy.
HELEN RALEIGH: But when it comes to Taiwan, that’s a different story. It’s always been the Communist Party’s objective to take over Taiwan. And the military will take it over. Initially, it was trying to take it over through economic means. In the last several decades, it intentionally deepened economic ties with the mainland and Taiwan. By now, they’ve realized that’s a failure because Taiwan now has a government that’s democratically elected. And it’s historically more for its independence than reuniting with China.
HELEN RALEIGH: After what happened in Hong Kong, more Taiwanese — especially the younger generation — do not identify as Chinese anymore. They mostly just want a status quo — which basically means: “We don’t have to declare independence, but we don’t want to be part of you. We want to be like Hong Kong.”
HELEN RALEIGH: Now, the Communist Party recognizes that its economic engagement has been a failure. So, now it’s more inclined to use military means. What do we see? This daily airplane flies over, and the Chinese navy carriers sail by. Those are just its ways to exhaust Thailand’s defense. So, hopefully, the Taiwanese will say: “We’ll just surrender,” without actually fighting. The United States can help Taiwan enhance its defense.
HELEN RALEIGH: And again, the U.S. should make it clear that it will not stand by if China does something with Taiwan. This has to be a calculation from both sides to see how much the costs are going to be — and what’s worth it when it comes to Taiwan. I think it’s worth it —
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Especially now — when we do still have a technological edge in terms of hardware, software and the military. From what I’ve been reading, that’s kind of going to be equal in a few more years. And then China will have the upper hand. While we have the edge, we should press it. Is that what you’re saying?
HELEN RALEIGH: No, I didn’t say we should press it. What I’m saying is that we should make it clear that the cost is so high for the military to take over Taiwan, that it shouldn’t do so. And one thing that I want to mention about Taiwan is that it’s not just our ally. But also think about it from a technology perspective. Taiwan Semiconductor is one of the largest and most important semiconductor suppliers.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think it’s the largest. It’s the largest.
HELEN RALEIGH: That’s what I’m saying. China wants to take over Taiwan not just for territory, but also for that company — because China’s semiconductor industry is still decades behind in terms of technology advancement. So, if China took over Taiwan Semiconductor, it would jumpstart its technology industry by light years. And it’s the same thing for the United States. We have to take all of those things into consideration. There are a lot of the chess pieces in play.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. What scares me is that China is willing to play the long game. And the long game wins in these kinds of conflicts. We have to have the resolve and foresight to say: “It’s a short-term pain, but if we don’t do this, they’ll win over the long term.”
HELEN RALEIGH: Right. I do want to emphasize one thing about the long game. The Chinese Communist Party is good at both long games and short ones. In the opening of my book, I mention why we see the Chinese government acting so aggressively — especially under the current leadership. It’s attacking other countries. That’s because China is facing internal challenges — which is its demographic crisis.
HELEN RALEIGH: China is losing its demographic dividend. The workforce is shrinking, while the rest of the population is quickly aging. So, it’s that demographic challenge that has forced the hand of the government to abandon Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “hide your strength, bide your time. Now, they’re saying: “We’re not going to beat our time because we don’t have a whole lot of time. So, we need to be as aggressive as possible and get as much as we can now.”
HELEN RALEIGH: So, that’s why I don’t just want to emphasize the long game. It’s the long game to take China to the current state, but it may be very eager to play a short game. We have to be good at both.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s great insight. Zero population growth, and the fact that its workforce is going to be declining drastically over the next years … The problem with the one child policy that’s now coming into play … Wow, they have so many things to deal with. Helen, I’m so glad that you took the time. You’ve really enlightened me and my listeners.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The book is: Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired. Go out and get this book. It is an eye-opener. By the way, you write really well! Even if I was in China for 25 years, I could never write in Mandarin or Chinese. It’s fascinating. It’s a testament to how smart the Chinese people are. I was thinking: Has your book been sent to policymakers or members of Congress? Have you been doing that, or has anyone thought about doing that?
HELEN RALEIGH: Well, I cannot discuss that openly, but I hope that some of them will read my book.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Oh, OK, great. Buy the book. Send it to your congressman. Send it to your senator. Buy it on Amazon. It’s $20 and well worth it. First of all, it’ll give the policymakers good insight into what’s actually going on. Because like I said, you have a very balanced view. You’re not an alarmist. I like the way that you take a very even-handed, logical and pragmatic approach. You lay out a plan of how we can stop this. Great job, Helen. You’ve done an absolutely great job.
HELEN RALEIGH: Thank you, Charles.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Helen Raleigh, thank you so much for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome! If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple Podcasts. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.
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