While the free market economy and democracy pose the biggest threats to the Communist Party of China (CPC), Western capital flows allow the People’s Republic of China, or PRC to finance its economic, military, and technological advancement.
Author: Rafał Zgorzelski, PhD
A poll published in December 2019 by the Pew Research Center found that 47% of Poles showed favorable views of the People’s Republic of China, which places Poland among European countries having an exceptionally positive opinion of China. Russians stand out for having the best view of China across all countries surveyed (71% favorable), while in Japan, 85% say they have an unfavorable opinion of China – the most negative among all countries in the poll. It is worth noting that in Poland’s neighboring Czech Republic, China received favorable marks from roughly 27%, which is similar as in the United States where this figure stood at 26%. Negative views of China predominate in both Japan (85%) and Sweden (70%).
Although the data was compiled before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, as the pandemic undoubtedly changed how China is perceived across the globe, the results come as somewhat worrying. They demonstrate both general and desired favorable opinions of Chinese nationals in other countries and insufficient knowledge of the People’s Republic of China, its origins, accomplishments, goals, as well as what communist China is today. Nonetheless, it is difficult to understand this state of affairs in the time of ubiquitous internet access, a medium where one can also find independent and objective information. This happens even if we assume that people having some influence on what to think about contemporary communist China are guests of popular media outlets where they pose as experts and promote various forms of rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China. The presented data indicates the need to undertake wide-ranging information activities to gain a better understanding of some mechanisms of modern communist China or long-term risks and consequences the country might pose to the West, its culture, economy, and geopolitics.
There is just one solution to some information hitches that affect the assessment of contemporary communist China: to get information from reliable sources and have a critical view on their content. This shows a particularly vital attitude in the time of omnipresent information warfare. To gain a better understanding of contemporary communist China, it is worth reading the following two publications: Bob Fu’s God’s Double Agent (published in 2015 in Poland), and Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept –– authored by Robert Spalding and printed in 2019.
The former, authored by Bob Fu, is an autobiography of the icon of the fight for freedom in the People’s Republic of China, a Chinese underground church leader, imprisoned for running a Christian training center, a founder and chairman of ChinaAid, a non-profit religious freedom and human rights organization. The author of the second book, Robert Spalding, retired from the U.S. Air Force as a brigadier general. He is a former China strategist for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, as well as a senior defense official and defense attaché to China. These two works give an insight into what communist China was in the past and is now.
Bob Fu and his wife fled the People’s Republic of China: back then, when China’s one-child policy was still in force, they would have been forced to kill their unborn baby. Born and raised in a small village in communist China’s southeastern Shandong province along the lower reaches of the Yellow River, Fu describes his story of living in a rural community formed following China’s property law in 1958 when private ownership was entirely abolished, and households were organized into state-operated communes. Also, large communal kitchens were a characteristic feature of that time. Bob’s very first experience was starvation, which forced people to eat mud, tanned and softened leather, or dead children and elderly, often killed beforehand. The son of a poor rural accountant, Fu, struggled with poverty and overwhelming fear from the first years of his life while his only joy –– and that of the whole community –– were propaganda movies screened once every few months. Despite these hardships, pain, and suffering, Bob graduated from both elementary and high school and then received an undergraduate degree. In 1991, he entered the university and then started working. During the day, he was a teacher at a party school of the Chinese Communist Party, yet in the evenings and at night, he would read the Gospel or conducted religious activity. He was arrested many times and experienced religious persecution, but he refused to accept the reality he had to live in. Fu opposed pervasive corruption, trying to encourage others to adopt a different lifestyle. In 1989, he was also at Tiananmen Square, where many students died in the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on June 4 when demanding state political reforms and fight against corruption. Fu himself did not take part in the events that China’s authorities were never held accountable for. “We wanted to believe in the ideas of democracy, we wanted to believe in China. We wanted to believe that our government would protect students who only wanted to strive for a better future,” he wrote many years later. Bob’s life took on real meaning due to both Heidi, his future wife, and his discovery of God. However, the Communist Party of China was against the faith, considering Christianity a threat to national security. However, Bob Fu was not discouraged by the adversity of fate, conducting intense religious activity and becoming one of China’s underground church leaders. Fu’s diary is extremely interesting and contains a set of information about the life of ordinary people in the People’s Republic of China.
Robert Spalding’s Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept blends the author’s personal experience with a set of interviews about the Communist Party of China. China’s goals, as Spalding writes in this book, are obvious: gaining control and influence across the planet without resorting to military aggression –– yet by carefully taking control of the world’s shipping businesses, infiltrating corporations and science laboratories, and using American and Western investor money to float the cost of its own companies. As Robert Spalding writes in his book, “war between nation-states in the twenty-first century looks much different than war in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Instead of bombs and bullets, it’s about ones and zeros and dollars and cents: economics, finance, data information, manufacturing, infrastructure, and communications. Control those fronts today, and you can win a war without firing a shot.” According to Spalding, what comes as the biggest threat to China’s authoritarian rule is core American values like freedom of speech. As the author of Stealth War argues in his publication, the People’s Republic of China remains focused on the six spheres of influence –– economy, military, diplomacy, technology, education, and infrastructure –– while using “our [U.S] capital against our interests.” Xi Jinping is pursuing to become a global tech leader to take over the telecoms market and export the totalitarian social control system to other countries.
According to Spalding, the United States and all democratic countries “now face our biggest challenge since World War II–– one with dire implications for the United States and the world at large.” The more Chinese-made goods flood the local market, the more negative impact this exerts on domestic economies. The author also claims that the increase in the production of Chinese-made goods deepens chasms in local business communities, a phenomenon that fosters the interests of the People’s Republic of China. Gen. Spalding also gives an insight into how difficult it was to write his book in the United States, where some experts and businesses enjoy profits from ties with China. Between 2016 and 2017, the general called on a prominent U.S. think tank to analyze the impact that the Communist Party of China had exerted on the U.S. corporate sector. But the institution turned down the offer amid its supervisory board’s close link to Chinese business circles. As a member of the White House National Security Council, in 2017, Spalding tried to draw the attention of many institutions to risks arising from China’s aggressive policies, which some balked at, fearful of cutting off donations or breaking business ties. Among them were also institutions whose mission was to promote democracy, freedom, and human rights. “I was determined to educate America about how China uses the money to influence governments and institutions around the world to shape political and economic benefits,” Spalding explained further in this book. Many U.S. officials, as well as representatives of think tanks and business circles who occupy a leading role on Wall Street, remain, to a large extent, dependent on China. Spalding points to an effective strategy that involves Chinese specialists who understand business data and technology, allowing the country to make strategic acquisitions and obtain key technologies.
In his book, the U.S. Army General quotes an interesting survey The China Toll Deepens by the Economic Policy Institute, or EPI. The U.S.-China trade model cost 3.4 million U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2017, of which 2.5 million were in manufacturing (data available after subtracting the number of jobs lost created in the export). Between 2001 and 2011 alone, growing trade deficits with China reduced the incomes of directly impacted workers by $37 billion per year, the EDI wrote in the report. It is worth noting that the People’s Republic of China solves oversupply problems by using dumping prices and flooding other countries with its goods. “The political leaders and financial elite I’ve mentioned here all share one thing in common: they have been operating under a false assumption that our interactions with China are part of normal free-market competition.” But while the free market economy and democracy are both what poses the biggest threat to the Communist Party of China (CPC), Western capital flows allow the People’s Republic of China to finance its economic, military, and technological advancement. As Spalding points out, China relies upon a doctrine outlined in a 1999 work called Unrestricted Warfare written by two senior colonels in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Qiao Liang, and Wang Xiangsui. The book combines strategy with social theory and remarks on technology. The state no longer needs a mighty army to conquer others; it is economic power that strengthens all areas of a possible attack. “China’s strategic culture,” Robert Spalding writes “is intertwined with Confucius societal notions of hierarchy and harmony and mixed with pragmatic views on how to gain power, wealth, and influence.” The United States is wrong when assuming that building ties with China will bring a political shift in Beijing, Spalding writes. Communist China is open to foreign projects and the global market yet on its own terms. In doing so, the country strategically defeats the United States that –– since President Nixon’s term in office and notably in light of Henry Kissinger’s strategy –– has seen cooperation with the PRC as a way to further destabilize and isolate the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR. Although the Soviet Union collapsed, the People’s Republic of China ruthlessly took advantage of the naivety of the American political and business elite while the strength of Western capital and free trade made Beijing grow richer.
On the other hand, the business serves political purposes, and a cheap labor force ensures the high product competitiveness on global markets. Today, the People’s Republic of China is building railroads and ports to control the world’s shipping routes, while, as Robert Spalding argues, it all starts with building the state economy, or the basis of national security. According to the General, the PRC will try to attract more foreign projects to sustain economic growth but will grab profits since Beijing needs money. Spalding also believes that it is reckless that Western corporations start investing in the People’s Republic of China, where there are violations of accounting practices, while analysts are unable to calculate the value of Chinese companies. In his book, the author paints a whole array of Chinese activities the country has used for unlawful enrichment: corporate espionage, intellectual theft, bribery, placing Chinese students in research institutes, putting bogus offers on Amazon, subsidizing illegal goods, and illegal fishing activities. Citing data from the Journal of Commerce, Robert Spalding notes that in 2017, roughly a total of 200 million containers were transhipped in Chinese ports. Of them, 12 million are shipped each year to the United States, a process that involves four American inspectors who yet have no right to check what is inside the containers. Spalding also writes that the U.S. post office loses $170 million per year as it costs far more to send a 1.4-kilogram package from the White House to the Capitol –– both in Washington yet one being 3.2 kilometers away from another –– than from the White House to Beijing, some 10,502 kilometers away. It is a consequence of the provision set by the Universal Postal Union that sets mail delivery fees for national carriers in 192 countries. Under a 1969 provision to help struggling economies, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to offer a huge discount for packages shipping out of China that weigh less than 2 kilograms.
According to Gen. Spalding, with its One Belt, One Road initiative, China seeks to dominate cargo shipping across the globe. The People’s Republic of China is now pursuing a $1.3 trillion plan with the mission to control the economy, and the world’s most important railways, motorways, and seaports. Spalding provides an overview of how the People’s Republic of China builds its dominant economic position and plans new takeovers. One famous example is the Hambantota Port project in Sri Lanka, where China Harbour Engineering Company inked cash and credit deals during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential tenure. After he lost the election in 2015, China swamped Sri Lanka in debt, refusing to relax loan conditions. In consequence, in 2017, Sri Lanka’s government Sri Lanka signed a deal with China for the control and a 99-year lease on the port and about 6,070 hectares nearby. In 2018, Xi Jinping offered between $60 and 80 billion in financing for Africa. With its activities, China is making efforts to take control of critical infrastructure and exert pressure on other market areas: just to add here that China’s Transsion Holdings overtook Samsung to become Africa’s number one mobile phone supplier. As Spalding aptly points out, the People’s Republic of China has an extremely strong position here: since 2019, it has exported between 90 and 95% of rare-earth metals like dysprosium, neodymium, gadolinium, or ytterbium, and can halt electronics manufacturing anywhere around the globe. China is also the world’s leading manufacturer of chemical fertilizers, cement, and steel. The country used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the U.S. did in the entire twentieth century. Further in his book, Spalding cites data from The Economist, saying that as of 2015, China produced about 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones, and 60% of shoes. What is particularly worrying is that the U.S. Army is dependent on Chinese-made telecommunications gear. According to Spalding, the United States is unable to conduct long-term military operations without China, from where it imports goods and materials in bulk for military purposes: missile propulsion, a metal called lanthanum to produce night-vision goggles, computers, or even video game consoles used by soldiers.
There are other worthwhile issues that Robert Spalding discusses in his publication. For instance, China employs millions of its citizens as internet monitors. In 2013, China’s official state news outlets reported that the Communist Party of China had hired some 2 million “public opinion analysts,” with an extra 10 million of college student volunteers tasked with disseminating Chinese narrative across the globe, also through Twitter –– although officially blocked in China –– and Twitter-like WeChat. There is no higher stake than 5G wireless technology, Spalding writes, “if a Chinese telecom builds and controls a nation’s 5G network, there will be no checks and balances to keep the Chinese company from stealing and mining all the data on that network. Creating a network is a matter of national security, not that of business or technology.” Spading adds that since 2004 the Chinese government has placed Confucius Institutes that served to spread communist propaganda. In 2017, 90 facilities were operating in the United States and more than 500 around the world. Nearly 45 million Chinese immigrants live now in the United States, Spalding writes in the book. In 2017, U.S. colleges admitted 350,000 Chinese students, making up for 32.5% of a total of over 1,000,000 international college students in the United States. As Spalding notes in this work, the Communist Party of China passed on June 28, 2017, the National Intelligence Law giving authorities sweeping powers to monitor and investigate all individuals and companies in the People’s Republic of China and offering intelligence agencies legal ground to carry out their work also outside China. According to the author, the People’s Republic of China is investing mostly in cutting-edge technologies: high-end numerically controlled machines and robots, aerospace equipment, ocean engineering equipment, high-end vessels, high-end rail, energy-efficient, and new-generation vehicles, electrical gear, agricultural machines, biomedical materials, polymers, and leading-edge medical equipment. He also believes that the United States can and should still place in a spotlight values like freedom of speech and religion, free-market principles, and democratic norms while seeking to rebuild national infrastructure, strengthening the military and border security, and increasing competitiveness. In doing so, the United States protects information and digital technologies, focusing on the need to restore control of the budget and the international order.
The cited and discussed publications are a good example of reliable studies on the PRC and will serve as an introduction to an in-depth analysis of the model of the People’s Republic of China. They can also help readers build their opinions on the political system, economic strategy, and geopolitics of the People’s Republic of China.
Fu, B. (2015). Tajny agent Boga, Wydawnictwo Aetos Media, Katowice, p. 399
Spalding, R. (2019). Niewidzialna wojna. Jak Chiny w biały dzień przejęły Wolny Zachód, Wydawnictwo Jeden Świat, Warsaw, p. 252.
 International opinions of China divided, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/12/05/chinas-economic-growth-mostly-welcomed-in-emerging-markets-but-neighbors-wary-of-its-influence/pg_2019-12-05_balance-of-power_2-01/, December 4, 2019.
 God’s Double Agent: The True Story of a Chines Christian’s Fight For Freedom.
Stealth War: How China Took Over When America’s Elites Slept.