Interview with Princeton Professor Fan Yalun: The West underestimated the CCP's ruthlessness and determination to rule


Chinese armed police soldiers on duty under surveillance cameras on the streets of Shanghai. (January 20, 2022)


U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said he would make a public speech in the coming weeks on strategies to deal with China's rise. Aaron Friedberg, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, said in a recent interview with VOA that past engagement policies with China failed because the US and Western elites misread China. He believes the new strategy should reduce engagement with China, including a partial decoupling of the Chinese economy.

In his new book, Getting China Wrong, Van Yalon points out that the main reason for the frustration with the arrangements for engagement with China is that the United States and the West did not understand China's Leninist system and called it "weak." Gave CCP's adjustment ability, creativity, and methodology. Furthermore, savage and heartless, he misunderstood the CCP's assurance of maintaining local political control and neglected to understand the degree and reality of the CCP's desire for worldwide revision."

Screenshot of Aaron Friedberg, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, being interviewed by VOA Skype

Van Allen is skeptical of a stable and fruitful relationship between Western democracies and such regimes. "The CCP's Leninist zero-sum view of politics, their long-standing ambitions, the depth of their hostility to the West, and their present confidence in their growing power, combine to mean that, at least in the True 'peaceful coexistence is impossible for the foreseeable future. 

Van Allen advocated a tougher policy toward China, arguing that such a policy would not only not increase the risk of war, but could help reduce it. "My biggest worry for the next five to 10 years is not that the U.S. and the West will do too much or anger China, but that we are doing too little, or appear to be doing too little, so that Chinese leaders may be mistaken," he said. Sentencing them to be able to successfully use force to change the status quo."

The following are excerpts from the interview:

Reporter: "Misreading China" is the title of your book. How did we misunderstand China?

Fan Allen: I think the main mistake or misunderstanding of policymakers in the United States, as well as policymakers in other democracies, is to underestimate the resilience and determination of the Chinese Communist Party to hold political power alone. The West used to believe that engagement with China, especially economic engagement with China, would gradually change China's economic system and eventually China's political system. But as they say, they underestimate the Chinese Communist Party's determination to ensure that doesn't happen.

Reporter: Some comments attribute the negative shift in China's domestic and foreign affairs to the current leader, Xi Jinping, who has concentrated power and sought long-term or lifelong rule. They began to miss the era of Hu Jintao or Jiang Zemin, thinking that those eras might have been better. How do you see this view?

Fan Allen: I think things are accelerating and deteriorating in multiple ways, or becoming more apparent in multiple ways, whether it's the repressive nature of the CCP regime, the concentration of power, expanding the use of mercantilist economic policies, or A tougher or aggressive foreign policy. But I think all of these trends were visible before Xi Jinping came to power, and most of them began to emerge late in Hu Jintao's second term.

But I also believe that these developments are long-term consistent with the fundamental nature of the Chinese Communist Party and its original goals. I don't think Xi Jinping has seriously deviated from the original goals of the founders of the CCP. I think he worked very hard to achieve these goals, to make the Chinese system work the way the founders of the Communist Party wanted.

File photo: Statues of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong at a market in Beijing (September 19, 2017)

Reporter: You refer to Xi Jinping as a "revivalist" in your book. Does that mean it's a problem with the system, not an individual leader?

Van Allen: Yes, I think so. I think the most important aspect of that system is that it is a Leninist political system. It is organized around a political party that concentrates all power in its own hands and claims to have the right to control all aspects of economic, social, political life, free from any restrictions or constraints by any external force or factor, and without independent courts, without a legislature with any meaningful powers. Such is the nature of this system, whose purpose is to rule forever and indefinitely. In that sense, I think what we're seeing is a continuation and a revival, an attempt to revive that system and keep that system going indefinitely into the future.

Now, Xi Jinping's approach could end up weakening China, with potentially unintended consequences. But it was obvious what he wanted to do.

Reporter: Now that China has not become a liberal and democratic country, what should the United States do next? Is disengagement possible and realistic? What strategy should be adopted in the future?

Fan Allen: First of all, I think the United States and other major democracies have to admit that their previous policies have failed, admitting that, at least for now, they have little or no influence over the evolution of the Chinese system. China is moving in the opposite direction of what they had hoped.

Second, we need to recognize that our short-term goals must be defensive. We opened our society and economy to China, and China used this to put us at a disadvantage. We need to take steps to limit China's ability to continue to do so. We also need to strengthen our military position and work with allies and like-minded partners to strive to maintain a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific to contain China's aggressive behavior as it expands its military capabilities... We have already begun to act Over the past few years, a lot has been done, but not to the extent needed.

China's foreign policies are a reflection of the characteristics of its domestic regime, and I don't think these policies will change much, certainly not under the continued power of Xi Jinping in the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. But even as Xi is replaced by someone else, the momentum for these policies has built. I think for some time to come, we're going to be facing a very tough and very difficult China.

File photo: Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army stand in front of a big screen playing Xi Jinping's speech on October 1, 2019

Reporter: You say in your book that a tougher and firmer policy toward China will not increase the risk of war, and can help reduce it. However, you also mentioned in your book that China has long had such a mentality that the United States or so-called foreign powers are trying to contain China. So does this tougher approach contribute to this mentality in China, leading China to take greater risks or take more aggressive actions?

Van Allen: That's a very good question, let me try to answer it this way. First of all, I do think the Chinese leaders feel that way. They also try to mobilize domestic political support by using the West's accusations of besieging China or trying to confuse and interfere with Western countries. They have this perception and concern. But even when the United States and Western countries were as open and friendly as possible to China in the 1990s and early 2000s, trying to integrate China into the international system, they had this view.

My conclusion from this is that the United States or its allies can't pursue policies that eliminate this insecurity without capitulating to the Chinese regime. They can't make the CCP feel safe, and they shouldn't try, because beyond a certain point it's dangerous. The Chinese leadership does have those fears and concerns, but I don't think there's much we can do to reduce those concerns.

My biggest worry for the next 5 to 10 years is not that the US and the West will do too much or anger China, but that we are doing too little or appearing to be not doing enough to allow Chinese leaders to misjudge that they can successfully Use force to change the status quo. They'll probably find out they're wrong, but we're already in conflict by then. So I hope we take a tougher stance, develop our power, strengthen our defenses, and try to continue to contain China's aggressive behavior. I think that's the main task at the moment.

Reporter: You argue in your book that we should pursue partial disengagement economically. How far can this partial decoupling go?

Fan Allen: This process is not mainly driven by the United States, certainly not entirely. In fact, for some time, China has been pursuing policies aimed at reducing and partially disengaging its dependence on the U.S. economy and the economies of other advanced democracies for strategic reasons, to reduce China's vulnerability to stress, as its leaders say, making China technologically independent.

So I think we've already started down the path of further decoupling. I don't think there will be a full decoupling unless we have a conflict with China or China does something like Russia did with Ukraine. . . But gone are the days when we were open to Chinese imports, exporting technology to China in bulk, or grabbing technology from China without strong opposition.

Reporter: In terms of checking and balancing China, the Biden administration attaches great importance to coordination and cooperation with allies and partners. The example of Russia shows that such coordination can be formed in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But divisions remain between the U.S. and its allies, as well as U.S. allies, and it remains to be seen how long such efforts to isolate Russia will last. So if it is China, how far can the coordinated efforts to check and balance China go?

Fan Allen: For China, the first thing I want to say is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to have a wake-up call for people in Europe and Asia. I have a feeling that the idea that Russia or China would invade another country or entity (like Taiwan) is pretty abstract to most people, and many people simply don't believe it will happen. Now we see that this can happen.

If something like this happens, it is a very real question of whether it is possible to impose comprehensive economic sanctions on China similar to those imposed on Russia. Sanctions against Russia are now inadequate because some European countries are dependent on Russian energy. China is likely to be in a stronger position because many of the world's economies depend on China for a variety of products, not just one product. I am afraid that Chinese leaders may believe that it is for this reason that Western countries will not impose severe sanctions on them in the end. If they were so sure, they were more likely to use force.

Perhaps more importantly, what can they do to convince Chinese leaders that, no matter what they want to think, if they do act aggressively, the West will implement coordinated economic measures that will damage their economy And may threaten the stability of their political system? I'm not sure if we can do it, but I think we need to think hard about how to do it, and how to convince China.

U.S. Navy photos show the guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson passing through the Taiwan Strait. (April 26, 2022)

Reporter: Speaking of Taiwan, John Bolton, the former US national security adviser, said that the US should have troops stationed in Taiwan. In addition, some U.S. lawmakers have called for an end to strategic ambiguity over Taiwan. You also mentioned in your book the importance of the United States' support and defense of Taiwan in the event of China's invasion of Taiwan. So what do you think of Bolton and other MPs' views? Do you think it is necessary to adjust the Taiwan policy?

Fan Yalun: First let me say that if China uses force against Taiwan, especially if it succeeds in occupying and conquering Taiwan, it will have disastrous consequences for the people of Taiwan, but also for the peace and stability of the entire Pacific region. sexual consequences. This will threaten our allies as well as Japan and South Korea. From our perspective, this will change the strategic landscape in a very negative way, ultimately putting China in a stronger position to coerce other countries and challenge our alliances. I think that's what China wants to do for a long time, and it's something we need to try to prevent.

In my opinion, what we do is more important than what we say. If we say tomorrow we're going to end strategic ambiguity but do nothing, it won't make it better, it might make it worse. So I think the question is how can we convince Chinese leaders and military planners that the U.S. and its key regional allies are going to intervene and step in quickly to help Taiwan defeat at least initially in an effective way stage of intrusion attempts.

Reporter: Finally let's go back to the CCP system and its goals and ambitions. It is widely believed that China's goal is to replace the United States as the regional and even global leader, reshaping the existing international order to make it more conducive to Chinese rule. Do you think China can achieve such a goal?

Van Allen: They are trying to build their alternative system, consisting of various institutions that they lead. What I think is emerging is that they may be more focused on being or being seen as a dominant force in the developing world. There are many reasons, but they argue that the developing world has a large world population, including many countries, and if part of the economy grows healthily, it can be the driving force of the world economy and help China maintain its growth. They have no hope of winning our support, nor do they want to do it in Europe or Japan.

They want to weaken and alienate us, enhance their power in a world we don't pay enough attention to and use that as a backdrop to amplify their own.

They are the largest trading partners of many countries in the world. What they want is to occupy what they call the commanding heights of technology, to be the dominant force in technology and innovation, because they believe that all kinds of power in the 21st century, military and political, are derived from it. This is very clear. They want to replace us in that field. They put a lot of resources into it, but we haven't done enough to prevent them from taking advantage of us to outsmart us.

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