Why the ‘Longer Telegram’ Won’t Solve the China Challenge

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Why the ‘Longer Telegram’ Won’t Solve the China Challenge

Last week, “a former senior government official” published his own version of the X article, but this time with a focus on modern-day China. Its recommendations on how to handle Beijing could be a recipe for trouble. 

The “Longer Telegram” concludes with a metric for the success of its strategy: “That, by midcentury, the United States and its major allies continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power; that China has been deterred from taking Taiwan militarily, and from initiating any other form of military action to achieve its regional objectives; that the rules-based liberal international order has been consolidated, strengthened, and expanded, rolling back against the growing illiberalism of the present time; that Xi has been replaced by a more moderate party leadership; and that the Chinese people themselves have come to question and challenge the Communist Party’s century-long proposition that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined to an authoritarian future.” Some elements of this scenario are eminently plausible, such as a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan dilemma and political liberalization in China. But other elements have a sense of “back to the future” that seems less likely. It may be time to explore other options and metrics for success, including the possibility of mutual understanding with China.

Paul Heer is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the National Interest and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia from 2007 to 2015. He is the author of Mr. X and the Pacific: George F. Kennan and American Policy in East Asia (Cornell University Press, 2018).

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