- Contest China’s and Russia’s present dominance in the construction and in the management of nuclear plants beyond their borders.
- Organize free nations to form a consortium of companies, to build safe and secure nuclear plants around the world, which will provide the electricity that future populations will require.
If the West slides into a steep recession, developing nations, deprived of their ability to sell raw materials to the United States and to Europe, and faced with many developmental loans that they will have no ability to repay, may sell whatever they can in national riches to China for cents on the dollar. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will thus be realized surreptitiously and consummately from a communist viewpoint. Yet, it is this avarice that is the PRC’s Achilles’ heel.
America must exploit this weakness by offering African and developing nations an alternative to the BRI. The assembly of such nations to spur contestation must be a central component of a new U.S. national strategy. To effect this, America must exploit China’s susceptibility to client-state erosion. To end-run China, America and its allies must innovate disruptively, support capitalistic principles, and marshal a spectrum of hard and soft power to unseat the PRC from its footholds in developing nations.
Should America continue to be locked down, in some form, for an extended period of time, the unintended consequences will be massive and may inflict more damage than the virus. Developing nations, deprived of revenue from the sale of their commodities and goods to developed nations, will surely suffer catastrophic losses and many deaths due to inadequate income to provide for proper nutrition and healthcare. Such a scarcity in available food, when coupled with sub-Saharan health systems, which in many countries spend one-hundredth as much per capita as does the United States, will yield catastrophic consequences, with countries’ healthcare systems possibly being overwhelmed by both the coronavirus and by other diseases.
The plight of developing nations is perhaps the strongest reason why America must overturn its past relationship with China. Looking forward, by the year 2100, seventeen of the world’s most populous cities, comprising approximately 700 million people, will be in sub-Saharan Africa. If ample electricity is not available, mass migration, war, religious extremism, and new pandemics will result. The cost to the world’s nations will be measured in the tens of trillions of dollars.
If a pestilence as virulent as Ebola spreads globally, it may take the planet decades to recover. The challenges that Africa faces will be replicated across the world. China has exploited this overwhelming need and challenge for its own advantage, thus ensuring its own development, as opposed to its assistance to other nations.
Immense, densely populated urban areas must have electricity for the desalination and the provision of water, precision farming, jobs, governance, and human advancement. America and its allies must offer reliable, scalable alternatives to carbon fuels, which often consist of the open burning of wood or coal in less economically developed countries. Such open, unfiltered sources of energy create massive quantities of black carbon, causing severe pollution and disease, in contrast to modern, coal-fueled, power plants that employ technologies to mitigate pollution.
A range of development projects to include renewable energy, secure thermoelectric plants, and smart electric grids must be proffered as a substitute for the PRC’s model of Loan, Build, Seize; only America and its allies can provide an alternative means of progress for poor countries. Ceding this ground to China or to Russia can only ensure the continued impoverishment of nations that are experiencing the highest birthrates in human history. Poverty and burgeoning, urbanized populations are substrates for future pandemics perhaps far more virulent than COVID-19. Cabinet officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, and Energy, supported by our intelligence community, and by other agencies, must convene interagency groups to develop a set of initiatives to undermine and to replace the BRI.
- Expose the PRC’s greed in its acquisitions of the national assets of developing countries through China’s deployment of its model of Loan, Build, Seize.
- Form an assembly of developing states to oppose China’s tactics of resource and asset acquisition.
- Disrupt the PRC’s usurpation of developing countries by creating new alternatives that suppress recipient corruption and fulfill societal needs through free market principles and innovation.
- Convene cabinet-level meetings, supported by new interagency groups, to establish policies and programs to suppress China’s external, developmental ambitions.
Of all the forces in the world today, only weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), disease, and the PRC can affect meaningfully our nation’s course. It follows, therefore, that these three specters should dominate the efforts of America’s intelligence community. Terrorism (that does not involve potential WMDs), Russia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Iran are secondary in their ability to damage the United States.
If China did, indeed, prohibit internal travel from Wuhan while permitting international flights, such information should have been conveyed immediately to U.S. national authorities, but it remains far from certain that such a transfer of intelligence took place. Updated tasking and bureaucratic structures are required to institute new collection priorities.
The Director of National Intelligence should be charged by the president to study, report, and institute a government-wide recalibration of our intelligence assets to support the reordering of our priorities. Publicly, the Director of National Intelligence must proffer an elaboration of new, allied measures to counteract the virus-related subterfuge propagated by China and its information operations aimed at misdirecting public opinion in free societies.
Counterintelligence must also be a priority. The incipient nature of Chinese appropriation is difficult to contest. Much of it relies on Chinese financial power, coupled with a belligerent type of soft power that is referred to as sharp power. Classical disinformation operations, undertaken using an array of social media platforms, are coupled with ‘or else’ stratagems that relay consequences for countervailing actions, in order to instill passivity that targets the weakest nodes antagonistic to Chinese aims.
The PRC reportedly uses artificial intelligence (AI) to support decision and game theory to prioritize its intelligence efforts. These techniques were developed in the United States, but are not generally employed in decision-making by America’s most senior leaders. This must change.
A support structure for mathematically based decision and game theory must be established in the White House. Consequential decisions and strategies should be the subject of several independent analyses: first, the descriptive and referential analysis; second, the aforementioned AI-supported examination. The Cabinet must be presented with both.
This more rigorous approach to decision-making should be harnessed to support counterintelligence operations directed at the PRC’s penetrative tactics. With AI, there is the potential to counterpunch in near-real-time.
- Reorder America’s intelligence priorities: make the emergence of disease, the PRC, and WMDs the top intelligence targets.
- Require that the DNI undertake the realignment of our nation’s intelligence priorities; this restructuring should be documented in classified and in public reports.
- Direct the DNI to release a public catalogue of measures to be taken by American and allied informational agencies to counteract China’s blatantly false narratives relating to COVID-19.
- Instruct America’s intelligence-related agencies to mount information operations to counter Chinese efforts in this domain.
- Build the capacity to employ AI-supported analyses to support decision-making at the highest levels of government.
Trade and Theft:
Any response to China’s transgressions must hold trade as a central concern. Almost nothing affects the PRC more than changes in trade policy. Trade imbalances and China’s theft of intellectual property must be addressed by using an array of policy levers. Economist Albert Hirschman wrote in 1945 that, “A country trying to make the most out of its strategic position with respect to its own trade will try precisely to create conditions which make the interruption of trade of much greater concern to its trading partners than to itself.” Most cases that allege harmful trade practices involve Section 201 (domestic injury) or Section 301 (unfair foreign practices) of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.
To develop a new paradigm supportive of the American worker and, therefore, inimical to China, resolute action must be taken, for America’s 2019 trade deficit with China reached $345.6 billion. What is not commonly noted is that this trade deficit does not include intellectual property (IP) theft by China and by other nations. Total losses of this type to the U.S. economy far exceed two trillion dollars in the last ten years alone.
Expressing this theft in relatable terms, this sum could have made two million American families instant millionaires. Such loss estimates are conservative: IP theft does incalculable harm in reducing incentives for U.S. companies to invest in research and development, for it makes little sense to invest in something that will be stolen.
Losses to U.S. competitiveness are immense and take many forms: in 2011, 75% of China’s $12 billion domestic software market was satisfied by pirated software, much of it stolen from American companies. Due to this, Chinese PC business-related software spending was 7% of comparable U.S. software spending. This conveys massive competitive advantages to Chinese firms and entrepreneurs.