For the last two decades, most observers have predicted that either the United States or China will own the 21st century. Early on, this competition was just that, a relatively friendly rivalry between countries that also work together economically. However, in recent years, the actions of the Chinese Communist Party have revealed the true colors of this authoritarian force. They are still our rivals, but they are not our friends and they are not a force for good in the world.
The most obvious example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence continues to expose the Chinese government’s purposeful underreporting of their country’s infection levels as the virus spread from Wuhan. The highest levels of the CCP hid key information about the Coronavirus, such as its transmissibility from person to person, and then spread false information to the rest of the world. That dishonesty cost hundreds of thousands of lives, including more than 100,000 Americans, not to mention the crippling of our economy and the loss of 40 million jobs. Fundamentally, the CCP is more interested in preserving their own power and global status than striving to care for the safety and wellbeing of their own citizens, let alone the rest of the world.
Inside China’s borders, certain segments of their 1 billion citizens are subjected to horrific human rights abuses. The Muslim Uyghur population in the Xinjiang Region of China is the most prominent example. Having a religion, culture, and language that is distinct from the rest of China, Uyghurs have become the focus of massive and brutal assimilation campaigns designed to wipe out any trace of their rich heritage and quash any semblance of resistance to the CCP.
U.S. and UN experts have concluded that up to 1 million Uyghurs have been forcefully detained in what amounts to political detention camps across Xinjiang. Various human rights nonprofits have concluded that inmates at these camps are subjected to rampant episodes of torture, forced labor, and at time extrajudicial murders.
Alarmingly, the Chinese government has spread a shroud of secrecy over the functions of these camps, leaving the international community with only piecemeal and hollow promises about fair treatment of detainees from Beijing. Instead, the anecdotal accounts from former inmates and diligent work of the U.S. intelligence community have painted a far grimmer picture, where an entire group of people are being persecuted for their cultural and religious beliefs by a communist government intent on erasing ethnic differences by violence and force.
America has a moral responsibility to use its position as a global superpower to demand justice for the ethnically persecuted. That’s why an overwhelming majority of the House supported the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act last month, which levies specific sanctions against the CCP officials who are most culpable. This legislation will require the president to submit a list to Congress of senior CCP officials involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Individuals on that list could then be subject to visa bans and U.S. financial asset freezes. I’m proud to have been a cosponsor of this legislation.
China also bullies its smaller neighbors. Hong Kong was once a vibrant, autonomous region, whose population of over 7 million began widespread demonstrations in 2019 over increasing CCP subversion of their judicial system. As protests grew more violent and crackdowns became more disturbing, China formally approved a national security law that empowers the CCP to essentially eliminate any autonomy between the two entities and put Hong Kong firmly under China’s thumb for the first time. On May 27, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress that because of China’s new law, Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from the Chinese mainland.
China’s COVID-19 coverup, their concentration camps, and their forced expansion into formerly free regions makes plain that they are not a force for good on the world stage. They seek to dominate and undermine the freedom and economic prosperity of democratic republics and then lie to the world in order to cover it up. Moving into the 2020s, the United States needs to treat them like the adversary that they are.