Viewing the World Through China’s Lens

By Robert Spalding

iStock illustration

The way we view national security today must change. For far too long we have looked at warfare through a singular lens separate from our daily lives. The comfort of two great oceans, two friendly borders, and the belief we were invincible created slack thinking when it came to the preservation of the republic.

America’s military has been the guardian of freedom since World War I. This great vanguard leveraged technology and the American fighting spirit to bring us through another global conflict and the long, arduous Cold War.

After the Berlin Wall fell, the United States ranked as the preeminent superpower so completely, we made the mistake of thinking America could will our vision of representative government onto the rest of the world. Our belief in our indomitable position led us to forsake our industrial base to enable others to prosper like we had. This belief brought China into our community of nations. We falsely believed that as China gained prosperity, its people would gain freedom from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) thought control.

However, the global community doesn’t view America through an American lens. Our adversaries mistook our benevolence for malevolence.

When 9/11 spurred successive presidential administrations to wage war against a global enemy, the world’s support of the campaign decreased as the fight continued. Rather than rethinking our approach, we trudged on.

We spent trillions, lost our industrial base, forgetting about holding true to the American dream. While we spent treasure in the Middle East, the CCP spent trillions building their infrastructure, industrial base and technological superiority in areas like artificial intelligence.

Chinese officials took what we offered, improved their standing, refined their thought control on their population, and then began the process of strategically dismantling the United States. Today, the CCP has formed a global economic system which shoves America and other democracies out unless they conform to CCP interests. The Belt and Road Initiative tangles through dozens of countries and ensures China’s voice is preeminent at the UN, World Bank and other international forums. It’s not a secret agenda. The Chinese have told our political leaders this very thing.

The CCP has been executing a determined, brilliant long-game of political warfare strategy forged during the Chinese civil war. Using the internet we built, and the bounty of the peace we forged, the Chinese government capitalized on globalization. Rather than using Western-style warfare, it employs the same sly, manipulative tools used to constrict the Chinese people into a subtle, oppressive embrace — money and information. These tools prey on human frailty, fear and greed. Thanks to Silicon Valley technology, the CCP employs these tools on a global scale.

The party’s influence extends well beyond China’s borders. The CCP incentivizes the U.S. corporate sector and influences our political process through its economic power and carefully cultivated relationships.

Apps — much of them based on technology that came via theft from Silicon Valley startups — like WeChat, can both surveil and influence the Chinese people, both inside and outside China. Others, like TikTok, perform a similar function for English-speaking populations. The data collected from such apps — and the nature of the CCP’s IT-based totalitarianism — combine to ensure China collects the most data of any nation in the world. A feat Kai-Fu Lee, AI expert and author, likens to making China the “Saudi Arabia of data.”

China’s goal to become the most powerful nation in artificial intelligence and to use this advantage to build a world order friendly to dictatorships is an effort that stands in stark opposition to the goals of the Atlantic Charter brought to life by Churchill and Roosevelt during World War II. America’s rule of law and respect for civil liberties suddenly becomes a distinct strategic disadvantage, forcing even stalwart democracies to seek alternatives that slowly erode freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

Thus, military weapons America once wielded as a shield against tyranny have become, like the Maginot Line, a symbol reminiscent of a once-great nation.

The question then is how does America survive?

We do what we do best: we innovate. We survive by forging a new future based on liberty and built into the foundations of the interconnected digital world. We reconstruct our once thriving industrial base, freeing America from the influence and chokehold of the CCP’s global supply chain. We protect Americans’ data from being mined and used, by creating a new standard of digital democracy. We advance the protection of critical infrastructure. And of course, we preserve the strength and potential of future generations by educating our children in science and technology.

On this battlefield, we aren’t facing down bombs and bullets. We are fighting with 1s and 0s, dollars and influence. Americans, like those who power the defense industrial base, must wield the tools of industry, science, technology and engineering. We must fire America’s forge, but fashioned for the new digital age.

We need to be bold and craft a new world where data is as protected as the private spaces in our own homes. Encryption becomes as powerful to protecting freedoms in this new age as the guns that gave rise to the Second Amendment were to the last. On this new battlefront, each citizen bears this responsibility.

We choose now how to live with technology that was supposed to create a better world: together we will be free, or together we will be slaves.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spaulding is a former China strategist for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his 26 years of government service, he has served in the White House at the National Security Council, the State Department and as a B-2 stealth bomber pilot. He is the author of Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept and is currently CEO of SEMPRE, a 5G service provider.

Topics: Global Defense Market

Comments (1)

Re: Viewing the World Through China’s Lens

Wow, that is an incredible connection of two dots I never thought of, nor probably ever would have... The idea that perhaps protecting encryption technology for the masses as self-defense, and hence protected under the Constitution's 2nd Amendment is worth a CONSIDERABLE amount of thought... General, I know that you are not Navy, but it you were that would get you a huge Bravo Zulu!!!

Rich Streeter at 1:09 PM
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