The Biden administration faces a massive foreign policy vulnerability because it has shown weakness in the face of multiple forms of Communist China’s aggression—and none more serious than espionage.
Chinese espionage and covert influence are likely only to increase as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up, as the U.S. government becomes less and less inclined to take bold action in advance of an election.
One of the sailors was still a Chinese citizen when he enlisted in the Navy, making him a prime target for Chinese intelligence officers, who falsely believe that every individual of Chinese ethnic descent owes a duty of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.
China also sends operatives to penetrate our military bases. They pose as wayward tourists so they can test security procedures and learn how to circumvent defenses in a future crisis.
These reports of human espionage come on the heels of news that Chinese hackers have penetrated the networks of U.S. critical infrastructure, giving China the ability to cripple power, water, and communications to American military bases in a time of crisis.
And just a few days earlier, press reports exposed a web of covert Chinese efforts to influence American politics flowing through left-wing activist groups such as Code Pink.
China’s influence efforts targeting the U.S. are modeled on its successful campaigns in other English-speaking countries.
In Canada, the government has launched an investigation into reports that China’s Ministry of State Security secretly organized campaigns against members of Canada’s Parliament who advocated tough-on-China policies. China funneled money and votes toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in advance of the Canada’s 2021 elections.
And in Australia and New Zealand, China for years has attempted to use its economic clout to influence dozens of politicians and media outlets.
How has the Biden administration reacted? Last year, despite the realities of the espionage threat, Biden’s Justice Department shut down the China Initiative begun during the Trump administration, bowing to pressure from activists who said the initiative was inherently racist and xenophobic.
At the same time, the Biden administration’s efforts to ban TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app, have stalled. For more than two years, the administration has negotiated with TikTok through the interagency process of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States without reaching an agreement to mitigate the app’s enormous potential to influence American politics and blackmail targets of espionage.
Congress could still act, but TikTok is breathing a sigh of relief as the House and Senate face a jam-packed legislative calendar without a consensus on blocking the app.
The dithering has extended beyond TikTok, as the White House spun its wheels for months on action to regulate U.S. investment in advanced technology research in China.
When an executive order arrived in August, it merely kicked off the start of a new deliberative process while the Treasury Department writes regulations that cover only a few industries, leaving most of China’s advanced research untouched. The result? No action before 2025 at the earliest.
All the while, high-ranking U.S. officials have made pilgrimages to Beijing, hoping to secure a change in China’s behavior. Visits by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and, most recently Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (whose emails the Chinese hacked earlier this year) all delayed U.S. responses to China’s aggression while obtaining seemingly little in return.
Through a combination of misguided decisions and inaction, the Biden administration has given up American leadership in the fight against the Chinese Communist Party’s influence. America deserves better.
Michael Ellis is a visiting fellow for law and technology in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
This article was first published by the Daily Signal.